Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Do Everything...

On my short car ride into the office this morning, I balanced the steering-wheel with my knee, while taking sips of my hot chai latte, fumbling through the radio stations with my free hand.  Dangerous multi-tasking at its finest.

As the numbers on the stations grew higher, nearing the brink of starting at the beginning, I paused on the local contemporary Christian station...a station I rarely listen to.  Not because I don't like it, but sometimes its the same songs on a loop.  I prepared to pass, but paused when the announcer introduced the next song by Steven Curtis Chapman titled, "Do Everything."  I sort of laughed to myself and quietly made a snide remark, "I do everything...I'm a mom!"   As I listened to the first verse I realized I was hooked by the words:

You’re picking up toys on the living room floor
for the 15th time today
Matching up socks and sweeping up lost
Cheerios that got away
You put a baby on your hip and color on your lips
and head out the door
And while I may not know you I bet I know you
Wonder sometimes does it matter at all
Well let me remind you it all matters just as long as you

Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you
Cause He made you to do
Every little thing that you do to bring a smile to His face
And tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

I don't know if it was the fact that I didn't fall asleep until after 2am or that B and I had a little argument intense moment of fellowship last night, but my eyes started burning and I couldn't stop the tears from spilling over.   The words of the song spoke encouragement into this over-tired mama.  I have been stretched in so many directions, and I've wondered about my effectiveness. 

But, this morning, alone in my car, listening to a song I had never heard before, I couldn't help but be reminded that I didn't miss a step somewhere along the way.  There wasn't a path I was supposed to take that led to bigger and better things.  There wasn't an opportunity that I should have taken that would have changed my life forever and allowed me to make my mark on the world. 

Being a wife, a mom, a youth leader, and a homeschool teacher was all in HIS plan.  The world fools us into believing that if we're not out there making it big or making a name for ourselves, then we are not making an impact.  I haven't taken a backseat to life, nor am I sitting on the sidelines.

I am in the trenches.  I'm doing the small things...making lunches...  listening to imaginative stories...detangling little curls...giving hugs...wiping tears and noses...singing songs...sharing about Jesus and His unending love...and yes...even picking up cheerios off of the floor.

It all matters.
Being there for our friends, husbands, children and family matters.
Doing all that we do with a cheerful heart as unto the Lord matters.
Being grace, mercy, love and compassion matters.

Doing every seemingly little thing because it is what HE created us to do matters.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:17

Monday, September 19, 2011

Where's The Beef: Chili Edition...

So, last Monday I shared with you a Quinoa recipe that our family loves...did you try it?  If you did, I'd love to know your thoughts and any changes you made to suit your tastes!

This weekend it was pretty chilly in the mid-west, so it seemed fitting to stick a pot of chili on the stove and let it simmer down.  In the past, I've used a pretty standard chili recipe, one that includes ground beef. Well, in keeping with our new family changes, I sought out to find a meatless chili recipe (vegetarian if you will) that would satisfy and not leave us feeling like something *ahem* was missing.

Chili is one of those subjective things...everyone has their own tried and true version, and no two chilis are alike.  I found that to be true while searching for the 'perfect' meatless chili.  Several came close, but I found that nothing truly seemed to fit the bill.  I ended up sort of shooting from the hip and came up with this recipe that we really loved!

I chose not to add a meat substitute, and instead used a combination of beans as the protein.  After that, I used traditional chili seasonings, but the two surprise ingredients were bay leaves and shredded carrot.  Both seemed to take the chili to the next level flavor-wise.  As with any chili, slow simmering seems to be the key to having a super-yummy pot of chili!  I cooked mine for about 2 hours on low. 

Sorry friends, no pictures of a superb bowl of chili...I took one and then decided that in general chili probably isn't meant to be photographed ha!

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Vegetarian Chili

1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 small green pepper finely diced
1 garlic clove minced
2 carrots shredded
1  4oz can diced green chilis
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp corriander
1/4 pkg of chili seasoning 
(I used William's no salt added only because I was out of chili powder...
otherwise I would have done about 2-3 tablespoons of chili powder to taste)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper if desired
2  14.5oz cans of tomatoes 
(I used salt-free petite diced) 
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas) drained and rinsed
1 can blackbeans drained
(I didn't rinse the black beans) 
1 can light red kidney beans drained and rinsed

In a large stockpot, saute onion and green pepper in a little olive oil until vegetables are softened.  Add chopped garlic and cook only until fragrant.  Add carrot, green chilis and all of the seasonings and cook for about a minute.  Add tomatoes and beans and let simmer on low for about an hour to two hours.  If the chili is thicker than you like, you can add a little vegetable broth or water (1/4 cup at a time) until desired consistency is reached.  Adjust seasonings, remove bay leaves and serve.

I topped my bowl with a squeeze of lime juice, cheese, sour cream and a few chips.

Next time I might saute a diced jalapeno pepper with the veggies and skip the cayenne pepper.

Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thrifty Thursday...

It's been a while since I've done a Thrifty Thursday post my friends!  And I have to tell you that I've been itching to go thrifting and find good deals!  Well, I scratched that itch last Thursday evening with some dear friends, and get this...it was free!   

My sweet friends, Nicole and Julia, hosted a clothing and accessory exchange party.  Oh my was it a thrifter's Heaven. 

The idea was for each lady to bring to the party at least 15 clothing or accessory items from her closet, set them out on display and then everyone could go around and 'shop' from the displays.  Isn't that brilliant?  There were so many scarves treasures that I was practically giddy:

Seriously...a whole table full of scarves?!  Pure Heaven...


What is so outstanding about this idea is that it can translate into so many other areas!  What about a children's clothing swap?  Or maybe a housewares/home decor party.  A children's book and toy swap would be a great way to clear out toys your children have outgrown and replace them with 'new-to-your-family' items.  A book swap would be super-fun for avid readers, the list goes on and on.  

The beauty of this is that any items that are left over from the party can be donated to your local clothing closet, thrift store, or ministry for those who have been displaced from their homes.  I love that you are not only re-purposing items, but also giving to those in need.

As you can tell, I'm still riding off of the high from this party *sigh*  
I hope you all will gather your friends, set out some yummy snacks  and create an exchange party all your own!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Being Present...

I've always had this notion that the little Mr. has the soul of an 80-year-old-man.  He just gets things about life that I'm certain didn't come from us.  He puts up with me as his crazy, unorganized, flighty mama and often times, I think he's wiser than me.

I'm always running around with about five pots on the burner trying to juggle my many hats...and sometimes I'm oblivious to the fact that I'm rushing my time with my wee ones.  In the moment I think to myself, "We've got to hurry this up.  I still have to clean the house and get things ready for tomorrow."  In the evenings I find myself speeding through storytime and our devotional, tucking the kiddos in bed, giving quick kisses and hugs and then turning out the lights.  All the while I'm thinking to myself, "I have so much to do...how am I going to get it all done before bed?!"  Once they're in bed and asleep, then I'm usually hit with the delayed realization that I didn't spend quality time with them.  Instead, I checked them off my mental list.  That feels really horrible.

Last night, I started rushing things again.  I was speed reading through our story, and began to rush cuddles, when the little Mr. stopped me.  He squeezed me really tight and said, "Mommy, how 'bout you rock me before bed tonight?  'Cause someday I'll grow big and say no." 

First, there is no way on this earth I am going to refuse a request like that.  Second, I realized my little guy is far wiser than me.  I know God was tugging his little heart, and using my sweet son to speak words of wisdom into my own heart...  "Don't rush time with your children.  Show them they matter and give them your attention and physical love.  They need to see your love, grace and mercy.  Teach them about Me and My ways."

I picked him up, held him and rocked him, cherishing that moment with him in my arms and remembering all the late nights I spent with him as a baby, pleading with God to not let him grow up too fast.  All the while I was rocking him, my sweet Miss was chanting, "Me Nest! Me Nest! Me Nest!"  while jumping on her bed.  I tucked the Mr. in then grabbed her up and rocked her too...it was wonderful to snuggle that sweet girl and feel her tiny arms around my neck as we rocked back and forth.  She kept kissing my cheeks and brushing my hair away from my face...just like I do to her.

Sometimes I need my children's wisdom to put me in my proper place...the role of their mommy.  Not the housekeeper.  Not the youth assistant at church.  Not the blogger.  Not the homeschool mom busy preparing lesson plans.

I needed that reminder to slow down and not leave my children in the wake of my busy life.  I will never forget a quote from the wise mother of a sweet friend of mine, "Don't think of it as 18 years with your children...think of it as 18 summers."  Our time with our children is infinitely short, and as I'm sure many of you have heard from seasoned mothers, "goes far too quickly." 

 I am challenged to play the game I don't think I have time for.  Comb Barbie's hair while the dishes are piled high.  Laugh and jump on the couch when the rug needs vaccuming.  Read 'just one more story' when we've already read 10.  Answer the question I explained yesterday with patience today.

I just want to be completely present.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Incorporating Meatless Meals...

Yikes...it's mid-September and I haven't posted since August?  Well, you probably don't want to read my laundry list of excuses, so let's just jump into the post shall we?

When B got laid off last year, I was seeking ways to cut expenses from our budget.  I poured over every category, nixing and trimming until finally I reached our food budget.  I was racking my brain to think of ways to shave down that number...but it seemed impossible to cut that number down any further since we already used coupons, didn't drink pop or alcohol, and didn't buy much processed food.  

After thinking for a bit, the only logical solution seemed to be to cut back on some of the items that seemed to cost the most...meat being one of them.
I confess I wasn't thrilled with this idea.  I love chicken, roast, steak and a good juicy hamburger with the trimmings.  Did I mention bacon?  Oh man...I. Love. Bacon.  I really didn't like the idea of swapping my chicken for lentils.  I wasn't sure I was ready to go meatless several times a week and use an alternate source of protein.

But, after some research and tapping into some blogs and websites that promote meatless meals, I armed myself with recipes and headed to the grocery store to buy the staples for a meatless pantry:

(a tad expensive, but goes a LONG way)
*Lentils and Dried Beans
(black, red, chickpeas *or garbanzo beans depending on where you're from*)
*Brown Rice
*Whole Wheat Pasta
*Instant Polenta
*Lots of fruits and vegetables
*Nuts and natural nut butters
*Dried fruit (used sparingly)
*Wheat Germ
*Quick Cooking Barley
*Rolled Oats

That's not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.  You can imagine my family's surprise when our first meatless meal was served and there was no animal protein.  No chicken.  No beef.  Zero. Zilch. Nada.  As a matter of fact, our protein for the evening (14g) was coming from a grain.  Quinoa to be exact.  And it was delicious!  The kids ate all that was on their plates, and B declared it to be wonderful!  

We ate meatless several times a week for nine months.  Once B got a new job, we found ourselves continuing to eat this way and enjoying it.  

After incorporating meatless meals for a while, B and I started noticing some beneficial physical changes...very little bloating, more energy, and better digestion.  I have been managing depression since my college days, and I noticed a change in my hormones and mood.  It was a refreshing feeling.

We are by no means vegetarians, but we are certainly beginning to understand the health benefits of at least cutting back some, if not all animal protein.  Maybe one day we'll say good-bye to animal protein, but for now, we still enjoy eating meat and fish on occasion.

I thought I would share with you the recipe for a yummy quinoa dish that just happened to be our very first meatless meal and see if you enjoy it as much as we did.  You can see my version below, tweaked to suit our family's taste, but you can find the original recipe here: 101Cookbooks


2 Cups Cooked Quinoa 
(follow the cooking instructions for the original recipe)
1/4 Cup chopped red onion
1 Cup fresh or frozen corn 
(if frozen, I cook in the microwave a bit before adding)
1 Cup steamed broccoli florets
1 Cup fresh spinach (I do more like 2 cups)
1/3 Cup pesto
1/4 Cup sundried tomatoes**
       Feta cheese 
*I skip the tofu called for in the original recipe.  You could certainly add chicken if you like, 
although it's equally good without it.*
In large skillet, saute the red onion in a bit of olive oil until soft.  Add corn, quinoa and broccoli, stir until hot and sizzling.  Stir in spinach, sundried tomatoes and pesto (add more pesto if needed).
Serve topped with feta cheese alongside a salad, crusty bread and fruit.

**I sometimes use finely diced tomatoes instead of sundried and have liked it just as well.  I've also tossed in a handful of slivered almonds for a little crunch.