Monday, May 4, 2015

Fade From Your Heart...It's Time to Write Again

I was looking through old posts today. It was great, but somewhat of a kick in the pants.

I used to blog. I used to write every day. I used to take pictures of my kids. I used to be funny.

Now I have 2-3 blog posts a week-if I'm on a roll. I rarely write more than a day or two a week. I take pictures of food and I use stock photos for just about anything that isn't food. And, maybe I never was as funny as I thought I was...(snort)

BMW age 12-1/2. Doing the braces and peach fuzz thing. Almost as tall as me.

I started a business that consumes more mental time than I anticipated. I work on a computer-typing away-for 5 to 6 hours straight one day each week. I often feel like I am preparing for my work day, working, or catching up on life after my work day. Which leaves me little enough time to buckle down and do the hard work of writing.

Lately, there has been maybe one hard work writing post each week, and then my recipe post, which actually is pretty easy to whip out.

And that makes me sad. It also makes me sad as I look at my Blogger side bar and see almost 2 dozen blogs that used to be my favorites to read, no longer being written. For ill or for nil, life has moved on, and so, too often, have the bloggers from blogging.

Like I said-sad. Because I do love writing. I love the practice of it. I determined last fall that I would scale back to 3 posts a week in order to focus on quality rather than quantity. But, too often lately, when faced with writing a blog post (quality or not) or reading a book-I've picked the book. (sheepish confession time...I've read about a dozen Lisa Mansell novels in the past month. Gulp.)

You know, it really takes effort to keep the most important thing the most important thing.

My business is important and it does require work. It requires lots of food photos, and time to input information, and time to work out bugs. And I don't regret either starting She Plans Dinner, or the time and effort I have put into it to grow it.

Freckles-11...out of his braces and into a retainer. Still lot of freckles. 

Also important is life-kids, homeschooling, marriage, running, triathlons, cleaning and cooking. Even reading to feed my soul.

And sometimes the important things even look like taking time to write amid all the other busyness of life.

I've been fighting a cold all week. It has been kicking my booty. I was going to take a nap this afternoon. But the weather is so gorgeous. I couldn't stand to waste it. I decided to haul out my camera (switch out the food lens for the normal lens) and take pictures of my kids.

LC-7. Whoa! She has changed a lot this year. No more a little girl, but a big girl. Tall and skinny as a whip!

And then write. Write what's on my heart. Write about how hard it's been to strike my balance lately. And write what God's Word reminded me of almost a month ago.

Which is a story in and of itself...

The kids always have a verse to learn from BSF. I usually teach it to them using my lesson because I don't have a NIV Bible, which is BSF's preferred translation. Around spring break, this is the verse I taught them.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. (Deuteronomy 4:9)

And Meres...3 (almost 4 in June. which she is pretty excited about). She makes me smile. It is funny because almost every time she crosses my path I think, "I love that girl." She is a bundle of mischief and energy, but I love her to death!

Funny thing is, after we'd been working on it for 2 weeks, I realized while sitting in my small group, that I'd taught them the wrong verse. I taught them the lesson focus verse and not the memory verse.

But, you know what? I am pretty sure that this verse is the one God wanted me to learn. It's got the lessons that my heart needed to hear.

Moses was talking in this verse about teaching the law to the next generation. Passing on God's Words. 

Notice the words...


Watch closely.

So you do not forget.



As I was debating between a nap and writing this afternoon God reminded me of this post that I have had in draft form for the past month. 

Doing the important things in life requires time, diligence, consistency, hard work. 

And if you aren't careful, the things you consider important start to slip. They start to fade from your heart. You forget. 

I don't want to forget. I don't want to forget the hard and diligent work of pouring the Word of God into my children, and their children. 

This blog actually presents a very tangible way to not forget or fade. It is a record of my journey, and of God's faithfulness, and of my family. The hard work and diligence of writing is one way that I can be careful, watch, and teach these things to my kids.

I really still don't know what blogging is going to look like on a weekly basis. Because I still want to write quality that honors God and encourages and challenges all of you. But, the M-W-F thing is not working. I don't have time to write on Mondays and Tuesdays. They are too full of life and work. But, I think I can make work of writing in order to have posts for M-TH-F. And, I think that is what I am going to try to do. Write on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Let the scrubbing sit for a while. Let the other computer matters fade into the back ground. They will still be there when I get done.

This girl is going to work at her writing, so the the important doesn't get forgotten or fade away.

Have a magnificent Monday!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Caprese Italian Sandwiches

I have had an awful spring cold this week. At first I was tempted to think it was allergies. But, no, this is more than that. Achy body. Coughing. Drainage. I spent an entire day in bed, just popping out long enough to feed my family and fold laundry. It was rotten. The girls are both joining me in the misery. We are unified in coughing and blowing and going to bed early.

Other than that, it has been a wonderful spring week. My cherry tree blossomed. And I've been enjoying the fresh and and glorious sunshine through my open bedroom window.

On the business front, I have had an amazing month! I picked up about 550 subscribers via the Ultimate Bundle. These were all comped subscriptions, but it is still great for getting the word out. Plus, I made more money on subscriptions than any month yet. Which is awesome. It's paying for babysitters, and lunch, and leaving something left over. Pretty cool. I've invested a lot of time and money into She Plans Dinner over the past 15 months. It is great to see it taking off.

Btw, there might just be a Mother's Day sale in the works for next week. I've heard something about BOGO... I love being the boss, and being able to set my own sales. Seriously?! Who doesn't love sales?!

Anyway. Today's recipe. It's one of those recipes that I saw, and knew it was going to be amazing. How couldn't it be? 

Grilled sausages on chewy hoagie buns? Topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil? Simple and delicious! Perfect for summer grilling. And for spring. And for every time in between.

We all loved them!

Caprese Italian Sandwiches (aka: Caprese Sausages)
4 to 6 Italian Sausage links
4 to 6 hoagie buns
2 roma tomatoes
1/4 cup diced mozzarella cheese (1/2” cubes)
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

-Preheat grill to medium heat. Grill sausages about 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned and
cooked through.
-Chop the roma tomatoes. Dice the mozzarella cheese. Chop the basil.
-Drizzle each sausage with a little oil and vinegar. Top with the tomatoes, basil and cheese.

Happy May Day!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Intimacy of Prayer

Have you ever noticed how prayer and supplication are soul baring practices? At least, they should be. Both are terribly intimate exercises.

God knows our darkest, deepest thoughts. He knows the thoughts that we barely admit to ourselves, let alone to someone else.

Yet, prayer is about consciously voicing those thoughts to God. Our needs, dreams, desires, heart breaks. It's admitting our fallibility. It's admitting our ugliness and sinfulness-to ourselves and to God. Even though God already knows it all.

It's being honest. Vulnerable. No facades.

Prayer is getting down dirty to the nitty-gritty. To the real. That's why it is a discipline. Why it is hard work. It is moving past the surface requests, the rote phrases, the patterns. It is showing up empty handed before the God of the Universe.

Prayer is wrestling with God until we can say-no holds barred-Thy will be done. And really mean it.

Praying is a very intimate practice. Thus, it can be very hard to pray with someone-whether a friend or a spouse or a group. At least, I find it hard. It is hard to let down your guard when someone else can hear you. When they can see your tears and heart and struggles. Conversely, it almost feels like you are eavesdropping on someone else's private conversation when you are listening to them bare their heart to God.

It is much easier to settle on the surface requests. Safety. Provision. Tangible needs.

Maybe this is why so much group prayer has so little power. Because we aren't being honest with ourselves, let alone with anyone else, what our true needs are. We settle at praying for the surface stuff that really isn't rocking our world.

Is that _______ what's really keeping you up at night? Didn't think so!

The digging down and getting real with someone else (besides God) listening in? Well, that is awfully vulnerable and hard.

Confessing sin with someone listening? That's hard. Praying about character development with someone listening? That is humbling. Admitting that you are at the end of your rope and resources? That is vulnerable territory right there.

There is room in public prayer for genuine, hard work praying. There is room for this kind of praying when we cultivate safe places for honesty and vulnerability. A safe place for grace, vulnerability, no judgement, and discretion. Then, and only then, will we get far more real than only asking for prayer about things that have little bearing on our lives. Then we will be honest about our needs and pray fervently and earnestly for our own and others' needs.

We will vulnerably ask for prayer for strong marriages. For our love to increase. For pure hearts.
We will vulnerably ask for prayer for wisdom in parenting. For eyes to see what we should see. For grace and forgiveness for faults. For mercy and for consistency.
We will vulnerably ask for prayer for relationship issues. For humility and teachability. 

I'm really in a rough spot right now, I don't know what to do, and I need prayer for direction. I need prayer for God's love to fill my heart. I need prayer for a forgiving heart.

This vulnerable honest soul baring praying should also include praying with our spouses. We must pray with our spouses. Why? Prayer knits our heart together with the one we are praying with and for. It takes work to set aside the time to pray. It takes work to pray about the real. But, the result is worth the work. 

How are you working towards really praying with others?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Shredded BBQ Chicken Burgers

Well, we had 3 days last weekend that were flirting with 70, and sunny. And then we had a day with snow. Snow!!! Crazy!

I have a great almost summer recipe for you today. Shredded BBQ Chicken Burgers.

The chicken is gluten-free, and can be served on gluten-free buns. Leave off the cheese, and it is dairy-free too. It's very adaptable on the serving end. And it is delicious too!

We all loved these burgers. Look at the colors and the layers. Barbecue chicken topping guacamole, and topped by cheese. All layered onto chewy hoagie buns! Amazing!

The sauce is very tangy. It pairs nicely against the guacamole.

Shredded BBQ Chicken Burgers
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1/4 cup ketchup
2-1/2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp sweet paprika
2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1-1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
4 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
8 to 12 hoagie buns
1 recipe guacamole
1 to 2 cups (4-8 oz) shredded colby jack cheese

-Slice the onion, and place in slow cooker with ketchup, vinegar, sugar, tomato paste, paprika, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
-Wash, skin, and pat dry the chicken thighs. Place in the slow cooker with the sauce, and cover with the sauce.
-Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 5-6 hours.
-Prepare guacamole.
-Once the chicken is done, shred the chicken in the crock pot, using two forks.
-On each bun, layer a heaping spoonful of guacamole, shredded chicken, and shredded cheese.
-Serve sandwiches with tortilla chips and remaining guacamole and salsa.

3 avocados
2 limes
1 tsp salt
1/2 red onion
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro
2 roma tomatoes
2-3 cloves garlic

-Peel and pit avocados. Mash in a small bowl.
-Dice onion, juice limes, mince garlic and chop tomatoes. Add to avocado.
-Wash and chop cilantro. Add to bowl with the salt.
-Refrigerate for 1 hour or serve immediately.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Focusing on the Heart of Homemaking

I've been pondering homemaking a lot this past week, because of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. Homemaking is a subject close to my heart. Homemaking is an art form. It is a high calling. It is about so much more than just cooking and cleaning and decorating.

Homemaking is making a home. And what is a home? It is the place you live. But, more than that-it is the place you belong. 

Sophie Hudson puts it another way-home is where your people are. 

Making a home is making a place of refuge, safety, vulnerability, joy, and real. Home is where your heart is. We use the idea of heart to describe what we love most. We use this idea to describe our essence-the truest, deepest, most important part of us.

Our homes allow us to be our heart. Our true selves. In comfort and safety, without fear of rejection.

And, that is why I really like this Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. Yes, it contains books on the nuts and bolts of homemaking. There are cookbooks and organizing books. There are books about saving money and saving time.

But, there are also books that focus on the heart of homemaking. Relationships and heart. There are faith books, marriage books, and parenting books. Books that focus the insides so that the outsides will align properly into a home of heart.

Here are 10 books that caught my eye, and that I am looking forward to reading.

-Live for Him: A Grace Filled Look at Planning by Leigh Ann Dutton ($6).
-Strengthening the Heart of a Homemaker by Kristen Smith ($7.95)
-50 Frugal Dates by Jenny Martin ($2.99)
-The Connection Principal by Chuck Taylor ($3.99)
-Worth the Fight by Kayse Pratt ($4.99)
-From Grouchy to Great by Ruth Schwek ($4.99)
-The Woven Heart by Erin Odum ($8)
-Simply Dressed by Victoria Osborn ($6.99)
-25 Days to a Happier Home by Alison Wood ($9.99)
-Be Happy by Kimberlee Stokes ($7.95)

Which of these titles look interesting to you?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Do I Run?

Or do tris?
So, I know I've over-used this photo, but I love it.
It is not me at my prettiest, but at my strongest.

Someone asked me recently why I run. It's hard and it's hard for me. It's exhausting. It happens in the freezing cold, and it the blistering heat. It makes joints and muscles ache. It's generally unpleasant.

And, let me tell you-it's not pretty. If you'd only see me. The lack of good form. The huffing and puffing. The gross dripping (well, to be honest-pouring) sweat. The stretching. The walking. The if she goes any slower she is going to stop -ness of it all.

I could single-handedly start my own horrid reality television show...So You Think You Can Run???

In my case, there is very little running like the wind. In fact, I sound more like a windy politician. Seriously, when I am really going, my breathing is very heavy. It sounds like I am going to die. No joke.

So, why do I run?

I run because I love the races. The adrenaline. The crowds. The mileage all kicking in to make you run faster and better. I run to cross finish lines and beat personal records.

I run because it reminds me that I am stronger than I'd like to give myself credit for. I can go farther and endure more than I'd like to think. It is a reminder for the junk and hard experiences of life. If you can run 15.5 miles, you can endure a whole lot. Even child birth. At least, that's what I told myself through Meres' labor. (it didn't really help. Other than that I knew I shall not die...)

I run because it places me in a community. Not an official community. An unwritten one. The runner community. All of us who are slogging it out mile after mile after mile. Whether moms or dads, men or women. Whatever challenges we are facing, we are runners running separately but together.

I run to keep myself in shape. Not to lose weight. I have yet to lose much weight while in training. But, it definitely trims my figure. Pounds convert from fat to muscle. Things settle into better, less obvious spots. My running habit allows me to keep my chocolate and bread habits. Though I do strive for moderation-in the bread and chocolate departments.

I run to keep my moods in check. The exercise makes me happy (when it is over with). The views as I'm running remind me of all I have to be thankful for. Sunrises and flowers are high on that list. Running is so very centering for me.

I run because it is being proactive. It is being active. It is taking the bull by the horns and not settling.

I run to have time to think and pray. Many problems are pondered as I take one step and then another. Many people are brought before the throne of grace as I pass various landmark triggers which bring them to mind.

I run because I am a girl. I run because I couldn't, but now I can.

And, why do I write these posts? Well, to encourage you. But, also, so that when I am running my 16 mile training run tomorrow and am greatly questioning my sanity, I can pull all these reasons out of my cap, and keep on moving.=)

Why do you run?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Curried Cauliflower Soup and Immersion Blenders

How have you been? How was your week?

It has been gloriously spring here in the Mitten. I am so excited about that fact. The warmth. The sunshine. I took myself and a book outside a couple of afternoons to just soak up the rays. It's been forever. Winter always feels forever long here. Always winter-never Christmas...

The daffodils bloomed. Sunday they were still plump green pods. Monday morning, there were fields of yellow and yellow & white flowers stretching their heads to the sunshine. The trees are getting fuzzier and fuzzier looking, and the bushes have tiny leaves.

All the spring green is abounding.

Windows are open. Doors are open. We are letting the outside-in and the inside-out. 

Four more weeks of school! Yes! I am as excited as the kids. Probably more so. The days are flying, not dragging. But, I can't wait to be out on my bicycle feeling the wind on my face, without necessary time limits in order to get my kids educated.

The girls are totally digging the Mama Mia soundtrack. They listen to it every day during quiet time. No, it really isn't quiet, but it works. Meres knows most of the lyrics. Not sure if that makes me proud or if it makes me cringe...

I was reminded this week of how much I love visual order. Clean lines. No clutter. Since I've thoroughly cleaned our upstairs, I've been so happy walking up the stairs. I love how the view of the boys' room that greets me is orderly and picked up. It is no longer toys scattered amongst piles of junk. Literal junk! Same with the girls' room. I look in their room, and the corner that used to be a pile of stuff is now empty. It just looks better. What else can I say? Clean lines equals less stress. Way less stress.

Now to do the living room and dining room and kitchen...

Well, this is probably the last soup recipe I will share with you until the fall. But, I think it is still worth a share. Soup will still hit the spot on these in between, rainy days. 

I took a major gamble on this soup. I am not a fan of cauliflower. That could actually be read: I never cook/eat cauliflower unless it is in California Blend casserole, and smothered with Velveeta and cream soups and buttery cracker crumbs.

Though the same will never be said of Brussel Sprouts. I will never eat them. I will never cook them. I will never serve them in my house. Ever. If my kids want them, they can find someone else to serve them those disgusting orbs of yucky-ness. 

Just sayin'.

But, back to this soup. It was very good. My kids even liked it. Look at all those vegetables! Besides the cauliflower, there is celery, onion, spinach and tomatoes. The garbanzo beans provide a bit of texture after the blending, which is a good thing.

I used sweet curry powder. I guess, if you wanted a real kick, you could use hot curry powder, or a combination of the two.

I bought an immersion blender for this soup. It is the third soup recipe I make that is creamed, and the convenience and price of the blender I purchased made it a good buy. Do you realize the time and effort you save by sticking a blender in the soup, instead of having to blend multiple batches. It's crazy time saving!

Curried Cauliflower Soup w/Melted Spinach
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
4 stalks celery
2 carrots
4 cloves garlic
4 tsp grated ginger
4 Tbsp sweet curry powder
2 heads cauliflower
kosher salt
6 cups skim milk
4 oz (1/2 cup) nonfat cream cheese
3 cups chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
6 cups baby spinach
black pepper
2 cups (1 pint) cherry tomatoes

-Prepare vegetables. Chop onion and celery. Peel and dice carrot. Mince garlic. Grate ginger.
-In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and ginger. Sauté until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
-Cut cauliflower into florets.
-Add the curry powder, reduce heat to low, and cook until the vegetables are soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
-Add the cauliflower florets, salt to taste, and 1 cup of water. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, and raise the heat to medium high. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 6 to 8 minutes.
-In a blender, combine the milk with the cream cheese and vegetable mixture. (May have to do a couple batches depending on the size of your blender. Divide ingredients accordingly.) Alternately, use an immersion blender and puree soup right in the pot.
-Return the pureed soup to the pot and warm it gently over low heat. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Add the chickpeas and baby spinach. Stir until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
-Spoon into bowls and garnish with halved cherry tomatoes. For a complete meal, serve with salad and crusty bread.

Have a fantastic weekend! And make sure to check back Monday! There is a great surprise coming!