Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Menu

Okay friends, I am in a major cooking rut! Major! Like, as in, I need help!

Here's the thing... it's FALL, which is my favorite time to cook and I always have tons of great fall recipes, but for some reason, right now I am just stuck!

So many things sound good, delicious really! I just can't get myself to actually make them! I'm not sure if I really don't have time or if I'm just so overwhelmed from work combined with parenting that I don't have the energy or what my problem is. This time of year is especially challenging at home with Cliff so busy on the farm and the stress of how the harvest is going. I do get impatient for the harvest season (followed by hunting season) to end so that we can return to the normalcy of two parents putting the kids to bed, cleaning up dinner, etc. In the meantime, we eat a LOT of macaroni and cheese! Just this week, Gavin actually told me "I actually don't really like macaroni and cheese" when I asked him to finish his dinner. Poor kid! It used to be his favorite food (back when it was a treat!), but that was the third time in a week that we had macaroni and cheese for dinner. Oh goodness!

So... I'm looking for fresh ideas for QUICK meals. Something I can have ready in 30 minutes or less or that can go in the crockpot without a lot of effort. I do have some favorites that I will share with you as well!

I have tried the whole make-enough-for-two-meals-and-freeze-half approach and the sad truth is that I never make the second half because in general thawing and cooking things that have been frozen kind of scares me for some weird reason! I have no idea why, I just never think it will taste good!

I love crock pot chicken tacos and they're so easy, but  I just made white chicken chili last weekend, which has much the same flavor and many of the same ingredients as the tacos, so I'm holding off with those for a bit.

So...   Here's what's on my menu / idea list for the next couple of weeks. Want any of these recipes? I love to share! The new recipes that I haven't tried yet have links below! If you get to making them before I do, please share your critique in the comments!

Meal Option 1
Hamburgers with potato chips and pickles (because I have six ready-to-cook burgers in a baggie in the freezer from this summer when I mixed up too much hamburger!  ...and because I NEVER buy potato chips, and they sound SO good and summery!)

Meal Option 2
Greek Yellow Squash Pizza from Kate and CookieandKate with a regular flatbread crust. (new recipe)

Gluten-free socca pizza (made with an easy chickpea flour crust) -

Meal Option 3 - crockpot
Sausage and Bean Soup made with turkey sausage, which makes it WAY less heavy / greasy (an old favorite) and
Sweet Potato Corn Cakes with garlic cilantro dipping sauce (new recipe from Beth at Budget Bites)

Sweet Potato Corn Cakes

Meal Option 4
Potato Corn Chowder (my favorite original recipe)
Crusty bread or Pecan Nut Thins with Fig & Olive Goat Cheese (my new fave goat cheese)

Meal Option 5 - crockpot
Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin with Oriental Stuffing (two old favorites that we love over and over and over again).

Meal Option 6 - crockpot
Chicken Enchiladas or Tacos with Yellow Saffron Rice

Meal Option 7 - crockpot
My favorite ground beef Chili with Colby cheese and garlic bagel thins on the side.

What are you making these days? Anything quick that I can whip up in 30 minutes or less between getting home from work with kids in tow and sitting down to eat?  Please share in comments!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Then and Now

I FINALLY downloaded some photos off my phone and iPad that have been out there for over a year and was a little surprised to see how much things have changed in that short period of time!

I thought it would be a little bit fun to share a few "then and nows" from the last year or so.

In her lifejacket on the boat at the lakehouse...

Exactly one year apart, at Beaver Valley Camp for the annual get-together (steak fry or pig roast)...

First day of Pre-k and first day of Kindergarten, one year apart...

Almost the same little smirk, a year apart...

Me and the kids at Hoffman Park...

The most recent picture I have (below) doesn't have Cliff in it, because he was busy farming, but it's a good one of the kids and shows just how much Addison has grown. She suddenly has tons of hair! Gavin does too - he really needs a haircut! :) One of these days we'll get a family picture with all four of us! The last time we took one was in May and that was a quick-before-the-sun-goes-down everybody sit and smile kind of thing! For now though, I do love this one below. Wish I could photoshop Cliff into it!
These guys are so much fun (MOST of the time) and I love to see them grow and change and learn.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

God and Me

I'm just going to write for a minute about God and me.

I look at this sunset over our farm and I see God. I listen to my kids belly laughs and I hear God. I feel the warm sunlight on my skin on a crisp fall day and I feel God. I feel the sting of tears starting to flow and my throat tightening as I try to sing Hymns telling of Jesus's birth in church on Christmas Eve and I know God. I know God. I know God is here with me every day, watching over me, guiding me, protecting me, and yet, I question everything about God.

I question how God can "allow" his children to be abused and starving and alone and hurting. I question how God can take a three-year old boy from his family who loves him more than anything, who wanted only him and did everything for him in love and who are now hurting so much because they are missing their little boy, who went up to Heaven. I just don't understand it. I know we are to trust God, but can I just say, that is SO hard! It is easy to trust God when you live happily in your fancy brick house on your 1-acre lot in suburban USA and you and your spouse each have an operational vehicle and your kids are safetly dropped off at school each day and you have a steady income, and you shop at Target and your sun rises and sets each day the same as it did the day before and the same as it will the day after. That's easy.  But... How do you tell a momma who is holding her child's lifeless body to trust God? How do you tell a parent who is grieving the most devastating loss of their child to trust God? How do you tell a Dad who just lost his job, is about to lose his house, and doesn't know how he will feed his children tomorrow, to trust God? How do you tell a couple who have grieved the losses of 6 unborn babies to trust God?  Really. I am asking this because I don't know the answer.

Every night as I tuck my kids in to their warm beds at night, with full tummies, in our safe house, overflowing with love, and surrounded by our fertile farm soil, I pray to God to keep them safe and warm and as raw as this sounds, I pray that they wake up in the morning. Yes, I pray to God every night, that my children wake up each morning. I do. I have this fear that my kids won't get to grow up. Some people tell me it's an irrational fear and others tell me that all parents have this fear. I think it's somewhere in between. I don't necessarily believe that it is irrational, and yet I don't think it is the same as the sense of caution that most parents have. I'm not one of those parents that follows their kids around the playground holding their hands or the parent that is constantly saying "be careful, watch out, you'll fall". Kids do fall, they do play hard, and they do get hurt and I'm no stranger to that. I really do give my kids the freedom to play and learn and explore. But I worry. I worry about a driver who might not be paying attention while my kid is riding his bike up the road, I worry about a dangerous fall from playground equipment that is just a little too high, I worry about a terminal illness coming out of nowhere in a child who has always been healthy. These are the times when people say "you just need to trust God" and I do pray that God keeps my kids safe, but here's the thing? The people I know who have lost their little kids? They are God-loving, good people who trusted that God would take care of them. I have a hard time with that. I really do. I know I would have a very hard time trusting and worshipping God after what some people I know have been through. God didn't say "I will make life easy for you" or "I will not let you be hurt".  God said to trust him.

I believe in God, I know God, I try so hard to trust God, but I really struggle with it. I do.

So...  I'm working on some things. I'm trying to listen to God more carefully, to be more open to Him, and to surround myself with Him.

I don't make it to Church every Sunday. I don't read the Bible, although I did try to read it cover to cover once! I don't have a favorite scripture verse and I can't even name all the books. For that matter, I don't even think I could name all twelve disciples. Eep. I know. My Momma will wonder when she reads this what good that Catholic education did for me!   :)  

But I do know God. I try to lead my Children toward God by my example. I try to show them how to be good people, to act with love and kindness, and to accept all people, ALL people. This is slightly different than what I was tought in the Catholic church growing up. I was not taught to accept all people, even if those words were said, they were not lived by all of the people of our church. I hope that through my example, I do teach my kids to accept people. I struggle with it still.

I said I am working on some things. I'm leery to declare what exactly I'm working on, because you won't be able to see my success from the outside. I guess that's what makes it all the more incredible and important. It's just something internal, something immeasurable.

I'm re-reading a book I really enjoyed, Rick Warren's A Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? I didn't read that book the way it was intended back when I did read it, but I got out of it what I needed at the time. One thing from the book that really stuck with me wasn't actually written by the author Rick Warren at all, but is a poem by Russell Kelfer that Rick Warren included in the book. Two things in this poem really stood out to me as I doubted myself and my confidence and who I was really supposed to be at the time. "You're part of an intricate plan." That struck me. I am part of God's intricate plan. I don't understand his plan and I don't need to. I just need to understand and believe that I am part of his plan and I am the way he meant me to be. I'm not failing and I'm not missing something I'm supposed to be doing. "You're just what he wanted to make." I'm just the way he wanted me to be. I am part of his plan.

For some reason, the idea that I am exactly what God intended has always been hard for me to grasp. I've always thought that I should be smarter, funnier, more outgoing, more athletic, and most importantly, more spiritual. I always felt like everyone else had a better understanding of God and a better relationship with God than I did. I always believed that I was missing something. I believed that when my friends at summer camp would pray to God, that they heard his voice respond to them just like I can hear your voice. I thought there must be something wrong with me that I never could hear God's voice. I'm not all there yet, I'm thinking and praying and learning and working through this relationship with God, but I AM thinking and praying and learning and working through it and that's something.
Like a much-needed rain in the dessert, a book club / Bible study has landed in my lap recently. I talked with a couple of friends in the last two years about getting a group of my peers together to talk about how God's teachings apply to our lives today, in today's world. I wasn't necessarily interested in studying the Bible, but moreso in talking about how we as women, as mothers, daughters, wives, living in this decade, can apply God's word and Jesus's teachings to our own lives, in this modern day world, which is such a different place than the worlds that existed when the different parts of Bible were recorded. Then shortly after I picked up that book again,  A Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?  I got an email from a friend inviting me to join a Bible Study, that turned out to be more of a Christian book club, focusing on just one book,  The Search for Significance: Getting a Glimpse of Your True Worth Through God's Eyes. Honestly? I believe God knew just what I needed and when I needed it and brought it right to me!
The group meets once per month and we study a couple of chapters at a time, so rather than a traditional book club that might meet once or twice on one book and then move onto another, the focus of this group is solely on this book and our relationship with ourselves and seeing our true worth through God's eyes. It's popular, let me tell you. I think there are close to 30 people, which to be honest with you, is a little much for me. I prefer a group of 6-8 and although my tendency is to say this is too many people and I have a lot going on and I don't know if it's the right group for me, I definitely felt God in that room and heard him speaking through some of the other people there and know that it IS in fact the place for me. I belong there. So I will be participating and I am reading and I am learning and growing with God already.
So... no, I'm not the leader of the Sunday school program and I can't recite a favorite Bible verse and I don't go to Church every Sunday, but I do hear God and I see God and I feel God when I see the sunset over our farm, when I watch my kids sleeping peacefully, when I feel the warm rain pouring down on me, when I try to sing Amazing Grace and can't because of the lump in my throat, and I continue to seek God. I always thought that I was already supposed to know God and the more I seek God the more I believe that what God really wants is not for us to KNOW him, but to WANT to know him, to seek him. I don't know if I'm right, but I am who God made me to be, and that's pretty awesome.
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