Monthly Archives: October 2015

Unwrapping the Gifts of Fall

Like a lot of other people, I love this time of year.  It is a time of indulgence for all five of my senses.

I love to see the brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges that take over the landscape as the leaves begin to change.  I love to see the pumpkins resting on the porches, waiting for their faces to be made up.

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I love the way that the crisp air feels when I am out for a leisurely walk on a beautiful autumn evening.  I love that it is cool enough that I need a sweatshirt, but not so cold that I need a winter coat.   I love the feel of a warm cup of apple cider on my cool hands after I have been out in the crisp air for a bit too long.

I love the fall candles that smell like apple pie, and pumpkin spice, and cinnamon rolls, and everything that is yummy and sweet.  I love the smell of the fire burning in the fire pit.

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I love the taste of all things pumpkin.  I love the Thanksgiving feast of a golden turkey and perfectly mashed potatoes covered in a pool of gravy, nestled next to green bean casserole, and stuffing that melts in your mouth.  Not to forget the rolls that are hanging onto the plate for dear life because there is barely enough room for them. You know the rolls. The ones that are a little hard on the outside, but soft and squishy on the inside, with butter dripping over the sides and onto the plate, or maybe the tablecloth if they are really hanging on the edge.

I love the sound of leaves crunching under the feet of my children as they scurry to their next destination.  I love to hear the wind howling at night while a fire crackles in the fireplace.

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Fall is a cozy, inviting time of year.

It is a time of year when people gather together.  We gather around campfires, and to watch our favorite teams on TV. We gather together at tailgates, and at chili cook-offs.  We gather to enjoy the comfort of friends and family.  We gather to unwrap the gifts that this time of year brings.

And, as we unwrap each of these gifts, we are reminded to give thanks to the one who has given them.

Fall is a time of thankfulness and reflection.  As October is coming to an end and November is approaching, I am reminded to give thanks to our God for all of the beautiful gifts of this season.

I am reminded not just to give Him thanks today, but to give Him thanks always.  All that we have is from Him.  Each of these beautiful gifts that our senses unwrap are all from our Creator.

As it says in the Anglican hymn written by Mrs. Cecil Alexander:

1.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

2.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

All things bright …

3.
The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky;−

All things bright …

4.
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,−
He made them every one:

All things bright …

5.
The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;−

All things bright …

6.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

All things bright …

(Amen)

Thank you God for the gift of this season and all of the joy that it brings.  May my lips always tell, “How great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.”

 

 

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Mexican Pasta Recipe and A Fabulous Book….What More Could You Ask For?

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For those of you who have known me for a long time, seeing the title “recipe” may seem a bit alarming.

I have always been a huge fan of food.  All kinds.  This may seem like a weird thing to say.  Isn’t everyone a fan of food?  I’m not sure if everyone is, or isn’t, but what I do know is that I am a huge, huge fan. The word picky would never be used to describe me.  I love food so much that when I was a kid, I would sit down at the table and ask if there was enough for seconds before I had even taken a bite of the meal.  That may not have been the healthiest relationship to have with food, but you get my drift.

Loving food has never been the problem.  Cooking has been.  Cooking was something that I did out of necessity, not because it brought me joy.  I liked the end result of cooking, but not the act of cooking itself.

When I was in college, I would open a can of creamed corn, chop some veggies, add it to the creamed corn and call it corn chowder.  Gross.

But slowly.  Very. Very. Slowly. Something in me has started to change.

This mundane task that was merely a means to get food on the table has now become something that I actually enjoy.

A catalyst for this new found enjoyment of cooking was a book that I read titled, “Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes” by Shauna Niequist.  This book has wonderful stories and amazing recipes that compliment the stories. It is all around fabulous. The recipes are healthy and delicious and have become some of my family’s very favorites.  It is a book that I highly recommend.

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I have always been a very strict recipe follower.  I would not stray an inch from the instructions and I would never dream of trying to come up with something of my own.  Other than those tragic culinary years of college.

But as I said, something in me has started to change.

It started with me having the courage to tweak recipes, which Shauna does recommend. Thank you Shauna.  She advises trying the recipe just as it is written the first time and then taking liberties with it from that point on.  She suggests making it your own.  I love spice and I am learning that making a recipe my own usually involves a lot of onion, garlic and heat.

This recipe that I am about to share is my first real attempt at creating my own dish.

I was just starting to get comfortable with the idea of tweaking recipes and had no aspirations of creating my own dish.  But as stated by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This recipe was created out of necessity.  I had to get dinner on the table and I hadn’t been to the grocery.  We had already gone out to eat that week and I knew that the budget-friendly thing to do was to work with what we had in the house.  I was stuck with the food that we had.  After looking through the freezer and refrigerator, I came up with a plan.  Mexican Pasta was made.  And enjoyed. By all.  It was a happy mama moment.  I did it!  I came up with a meal on my own, and thankfully it was much better than corn chowder.

So here is my recipe making it’s culinary debut.  Mexican Pasta.  Maybe not the healthiest meal,  but good nonetheless.  Healthier recipes will come later.  I can only tackle one giant at a time.

Mexican Pasta

Ingredients:

1 box of penne pasta (or a gluten-free pasta alternative)

1 small can of green chiles

1 can of red enchilada sauce (I used Muir Glen Organic Mild Red Chile)

1 box of cream cheese

1/2 of an onion

1-2 cloves of garlic (I love garlic, so I used two)

1/2 of a jar of Trader Joes Cowboy Caviar (or another chunky black bean and corn salsa) – optional

1 lb of ground beef

Taco Seasoning

*When I originally made this recipe I had a half a pound of ground taco meat that was frozen in the freezer.  When I made it again, I cooked a pound of hamburger but only used half of the taco meat and froze the other half.  You could use all of the taco meat in the pasta, but I recommend using the meat for two meals.  Use half in the pasta and freeze the other half for later.

Directions: 

Cook ground beef.  Add your favorite taco seasoning according to package instructions.

Cook penne pasta according to directions.

In a separate skillet, sauté onion.  I prefer to sauté my vegetables with coconut oil, but feel free to use whatever oil you typically use.  After the onions have sautéed for a bit and are translucent and their sweet smell has filled the house, add garlic and sauté for a couple minutes more.  Next, add the can of diced green chiles.  Sauté for a few more minutes.

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Add the enchilada sauce to the green chile and onion mixture.  If you are fortunate enough to have a Trader Joes nearby, I recommend using some of the Cowboy Caviar.  This is delicious and adds a little extra something to the dish.  If you do not have a Trader Joes, you could substitute another chunky black bean and corn salsa.  The Cowboy Caviar is very chunky and a little sweet.  It is awesome!  I only use about a half of the jar of salsa when I make this dish.  Let this simmer for a few minutes on the stove.

 

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Once this has simmered, add the cream cheese.  I recommend cutting the cream cheese into cubes and placing them into the sauce.  Once the cream cheese is melted, add the taco meat.

 

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Next, add the cooked penne to the sauce.

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Now you are ready to enjoy your Mexican Pasta!  I serve this with bowls of cheddar cheese, sour cream, taco sauce, olives, green onions, fresh cilantro, on the table and let everyone choose their own toppings.

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I hope you enjoy this tasty meal!

 

 

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Your Friends Will Come and Go

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“Your friends will come and go, but you will always have each other.”

This is something that I heard often when I was younger.  Whenever my younger sister and I would argue, my mom’s voice could be heard repeating these words.  She would usually preface it with the importance of being kind to one another and then would end with this statement.

“Your friends will come and go, but you will always have each other.”

These words are the same words that her mother spoke to her. These are the words that she spoke to my sister and I.  And, these are the words I speak to my children. They were drilled into my little brain and have remained at the forefront for all of these years.

I used to think this was just another one of those crazy things that parents say to their kids. Like, “Close the door! You weren’t raised in a barn!”, “You are who you hang with”, and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”   And one of my personal faves, “Remember! Nothing good ever happens after midnight!” (I probably should have paid better attention to that one.)

I used to think some of these sayings were ridiculous.  Of course friends don’t come and go. Do you see this BFF necklace I’m wearing?  The last ‘F’ means forever, remember?  Silly woman.

Well, turns out that silly woman that I love dearly wasn’t silly at all. She was right.

These sayings that I once considered nonsense are actually beautiful little nuggets of wisdom that I have carried close to my heart.

These things that I once swore would never come out of my mouth are now echoing through the halls of our home in the same manner that they did when I was a child.  It has happened.  I sound just like my mother.  And now my kids give me the same crazy looks that I gave my mom years ago.

But someday, they will probably find themselves saying the same things to their children.  Because they are true.

“Your friends will come and go, but you will always have each other.”

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Friends do come and go.  Not necessarily because of dissension, but because that is the natural ebb and flow of relationships.  Life changes. Circumstances change. People change. Relationships change.

This used to be really hard for me.  I wanted all of my relationships to stay the same forever.  I was holding tight to those BFF necklaces.  I have learned over the years that just isn’t possible. It isn’t that you stop caring for these people.  On the contrary.  Many friends whom I am no longer as close to, hold very special places in my heart.  I am who I am today, in part, because of these relationships.  They were at one time ginormous parts of my life and I carry my memories of them fondly with me.  We may not be as close, but that does not mean that we do not still care about each other.   That doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t be thrilled to see each other. Life has just taken us in different directions.

While some of my friendships have changed over the years, there are some that have become almost like siblings. These friends are rare gems. They love every part of you. They see your beauty and they see your flaws and they love you for both.  These friends may be close or they may be miles away, but you know that they are there.  They evolve and grow as you evolve and grow.  They know your deepest secrets. They know the mundane details of your life. They are like family.  You may not talk to them, or see them regularly, but when you do it is like you were never apart.

This is how my it is with my siblings.  They are more than just my siblings. They are my best friends. My relationships with my siblings have remained constant.  We are, and always have been, there for each other.  We may not always see eye to eye, but we have learned over the years that just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean that we don’t love each other.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I called any of my siblings and said, “I need you here. Now.” They would come. And I would do the same for them.

And, I want this for my children.  I want them to grow up knowing that they always have each other.  As their mom, I want to reinforce how important their relationships with each other are.  Just like my mom did with me. I want to help them to love each other well.  I want them to speak kindly to each other and about each other, to respect one another and to stick up for one another when necessary.

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Two of our daughters share a room.  Last night, I heard them laughing and talking after we had put them to bed.  Normally I would try to get them to settle down, but not last night.  They were having so much fun that I didn’t even mind that they were supposed to be in bed sleeping.  I thought as long as their joy stays in the room and doesn’t walk out into the living room where I am trying to rest, then it’s Ok.  They were building memories and I was relaxing. It was a win-win.

They eventually settled down and drifted off and when I woke up and went into their room this morning I found something that made my heart sing.  There was a string tied between their two beds.  Hanging from the string was a bucket filled with notes.

I was very touched to see this bucket of notes that they had been passing in the night.  And I could hear the voice of my mom saying, “your friends will come and go, but you will always have each other.”  And my heart was filled with joy.

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What’s Next?

What’s next?

I feel like we are plagued by this question too often.  It comes in different forms, but the meaning is the same.

What’s next?

You are single.  Are you dating anyone?

You are dating.  When are you going to get married?

You get married.  When are you having children?

You have a child.  Are you going to have more?

And my current what’s next question.

You stay at home and your kids are all going to be in school soon.  What are you going to do then?

What’s next?  It’s a never-ending question.

I understand the premise of the question.  I think the intentions behind the question are good. It is natural to wonder what someone will be doing next.

I know that I regularly ask people this question in one form or another.  It is very common in our society to ask someone these things.  To wonder what’s next.

But here is the problem with what’s next…..

I believe it has the potential to make people feel like where they are in their lives is inadequate. Like they should be doing more.  Striving for more.  Like where they are is not enough. Like what is next in their life will somehow complete them.

But the truth is…..

Some people remain single for their entire lives.

Some people do not have children.

Some people have one child and not any more.

And all of this is Ok.

When we are constantly thinking about what is next, then it may become hard to see the beauty in where we are.  Having goals, plans and dreaming of the future that we desire are not bad things in and of themselves. But if not careful, these desires can consume us.  They can rob us from the joys of our present circumstances. If we are always longing for what is ahead then we can be blind to what surrounds us now.

We may get stuck in the thought pattern that goes something like this, “when ______ happens, then I will feel content.”

In other words….

When I get my promotion, then I will be happy in my job.

When I have kids, then my life will feel complete.

Or, the what’s next could be rooted in the next material possession.

When I get a new car, then I will be happy.

When I remodel my kitchen, then I will feel good about my house.

And so on and so forth.

If we put too much hope in the next phase of life, then we can have overly high expectations of what that season may hold.  We may end up disappointed to find out that we are not completed by our material possessions, our next promotion, our spouse, our children, our grandchildren, or our retirement.  We may be discouraged when we discover that these things we have dreamed of actually take a great deal of work and commitment.  Sometimes these things may make life more complicated.

I have been thinking of my what’s next lately and have decided it’s Ok not to know.  I don’t know what I am going to do when the kids are all in school.  I don’t know where I will work.  Or when I will work.  Or if I will work at all…..outside of the home that is…..

I don’t know the answer to my what’s next and that is Ok.  I will take it one day at a time and see what happens.   If I try to figure it out too far in advance, it normally causes me a lot of anxiety and doesn’t end up the way I thought it would anyways.

My hope is to embrace where I am.  Now.  Knowing that my circumstances do not define me. God defines me.  His love for me defines me.  He loves me now.  Just where I am.

So, what’s next?  Make dinner.  Play with the kids.  Lay on the couch and read a book.  Go to bed and wake up to a fresh cup of coffee, loaded with entirely too much creamer.

That’s what’s next.

 

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