Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pioneer Woman U-mazing mashed potatoes

As I write today the doors and windows are flung open and the sun is shining.

It's November. The day before Thanksgiving.

We live in Idaho...where it's cold.

Do you see the significance of this for my Texas lovin' heart? Yes, it's a big deal.

My fridge is stuffed to the brim with all my Southern Thanksgiving favorites just waiting to be popped into the oven tomorrow. It's all I can do to keep my fingers out of the cornbread dressing and chocolate chess pie. Oh my!

I've been at it all morning, but just had to stop and tell y'all about the Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. I seriously think they have changed my life. They are U-MAZING!! Of course they are made with copious amounts of butter, a whole brick of cream cheese AND half & half. Yep, they're that good. The best part is you make them ahead, add more butter to the top and bake them on Thanksgiving. No more last minute stress trying to get the potatoes finished, make the gravy and carve the turkey all at once. Yah for me!

Since the Pioneer Woman takes such great pics of every step of the cooking process, here's a link to her's. I promise you will thank me. You may even stop in the middle of your Thanksgiving dinner to drop me a note of gratitude for such an amazing recipe.

You're welcome and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May your turkey be moist, your gravy without lumps and the desserts plentiful.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Losing the art of reflection - a major disadvantage of technology

Technology has its advantages, many of which I admit are helpful. Information at our fingertips, keeping up with far away family and friends and giving the average person a voice can all be positive if used correctly.

One serious downside I've noticed is people's seeming inability to just be still. To be alone with our thoughts for even a moment. Sitting at the dentist office recently and I looked around to see every other person in the waiting room with their noses stuck to their phones. What use to be a few quiet moments to catch your breath between appointments, to close your eyes and reflect or pray or even strike up a conversation with the person next to you - these moments are gone; swallowed up by electronic sound bytes vying for our attention.

There are many things wrong with this scenario, but what hit me that day was how our love of technology has caused us to lose the ability to think introspectively; to take a look at our hearts, or better yet, allow the Lord to do so. Hopping on to play a round of Candy Crush, or text a friend about weekend plans is far easier than trying to think through what's been bugging us. It's easier to lose ourselves in the world of Facebook than to ask tough questions about why we responded the way we did to our spouse that morning. Technology at our fingertips is stripping us of the ability and desire to just be quiet. For some of us quiet is scary, so we keep our minds busy with the unimportant.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." Psalm 139:23

Stillness and quiet reflection is a difficult discipline, but one we must not ignore. No matter how hard we try to deflect, ignore or downplay, the junk in our lives is still there. The only way to get rid of it is to walk through it. Maybe it's time to put down the phone and listen to the One who already knows our hearts and is waiting to walk us through all the messy parts. 
  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Giving thanks through trials

This time of year "thanks" is all the buzz word. We're reminded of the importance of thankfulness, of turning our hearts toward gratitude in an effort to refocus on the important. We try desperately to prepare our hearts for the upcoming holiday season, wanting this year to be different.

Listing our thanks, putting pen to paper in an effort to recognize our blessings certainly makes us more aware. Some things come easily, no effort required to give thanks. Family, friends, a job we love, a home to share, a full pantry. These are easy. Smiles on our faces, we lift our hands and say, "Thank you Lord!"

But what about the "blessings" that don't come so easily? What about the ones that look nothing like blessings at all, but instead come wrapped in messiness and pain? Lamentations 3:37 reminds us that nothing happens unless the Lord allows it. If we believe the Lord's plans for us are for good and not for evil and that nothing will happen to us that He will not use, then isn't it safe to say that the pain is also a gift? A messy blessing bestowed on us by the Giver of all good things? Is it possible to move from viewing our struggle as simple a source of pain to part of His plan to show us more of himself?

I don't want to simply thank Him when it's easy. To stand before the Creator of the Universe listing off my thanks like a Christmas wish list, but to kneel in reverance in the midst of pain. To stand, hands raised and tears streaming because I know nothing we experience is ever wasted. Nothing we go through cannot be used by the One who allows it to happen. 

The only way I've found to live out this type of gratitude is knowing where to keep my focus. Eyes on my circumstances leads to fear, worry and despair. In a moment's time it will suck me under. That's all it takes and before I know it I am consumed with everything but thanksgiving. Eyes on my Savior means there is no room for despair, no time for worry. How can I marvel at his faithfulness while allowing fear to consume me? The two can't exsist together. Focusing on God's goodness opens my eyes in a new way to my circumstances and I begin to see Him in it all. In every single ugly, gut wrenching detail. And I give thanks.

Thanks for the niceties makes us feel warm and fuzzy. Thanks for the heartbreaking, the unexpected, the stuff that leaves you reeling...that type of understanding brings you to a whole new level of gratitude and allows you to see God in ways you never expected. Warm and fuzzy is nice, but hearing the heartbeat of Jesus and feeling Him holding your hand trumps warm and fuzzy any day.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Caramel Macchiato candy corn - yes please!

Fall is here. Sweaters, football, hayrides, apple cider and such. Granted all those things are awesome, but THIS is my new favorite thing. 

I mean favorite fall thing EVER! It actually tastes like a caramel macchiato AND it's a whole lot cheaper than Starbucks when you want a quick fix! 



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Homeschool curriculum - what if it's not working?



There are certain curricula that seems to be the "holy grail" or gold standard among homeschoolers. You know, the ones that get mentioned every time someone asks, "So, what do you use for science (or math, or latin...)?" While I'm incredibly thankful for the plethora of things we have to choose from these days, what if the gold standard just isn't working for your family? What if (gasp!) you really just don't like it? Do you keep plodding along, or put on the brakes and reevaluate?

We've used a popular science curriculum for several years now and it worked fine for our oldest. He's more of a "by the book" sort of learner. While I can't say he loved it, he did learn a lot. Enter son #2. Different kid, different learning style. Whole different ball of wax. Trying to make the popular science curriculum work for him has been a painful disaster for us both. He's an incredibly bright kid. He just doesn't learn best through the standard textbook approach. Time for mom to stop trying to put that square peg in the round hole.

As homeschool moms we take the task of choosing curriculum very seriously. After all, it's not a cheap investment. We want something that's going to get the job done, stay within our budget AND instill a life long love of learning...that's a very tall order.

So what do you do if the curriculum you purchased just isn't working? 

1. Stop! You've heard the definition of insanity - doing something over and over and expecting different results. There's no reason to continue on with something that you've already recognized isn't working. Pitch it and start over. Breathe here ladies! It will be OK...I promise.

2. Research. Post your questions to on-line forums or blogs. Chat with other moms whose kids have similar learning styles. If your child is old enough, ask them why they think it's not working. Get their input on what they might like to use instead. Pray...and keep breathing.

3. Regroup and charge ahead again! Once you've found something new to use, don't focus on how much of the school year's already gone or stress over switching things up midstream. Instead, focus on the fact that the new curriculum will give your student the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. 

So we're setting aside the "holy grail" of science curriculum for something I think will work great for him. And therein lies the beauty of homeschooling. We do what works best for the STUDENT. A novel concept don't you think? 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Salted caramel chocolate chip cookies

Happy fall y'all! In honor of the first day of fall I treated myself to a pumpkin spice latte and a couple of these amazing salted caramel chocolate chip cookies. They're like an explosion of chocolaty, caramelly, salty fall goodness!

The original recipe I found on Pinterest had too many steps and involved chilling the dough. Ain't nobody got time for that! I wanted cookies ASAP! No time for chilling! So I used my tried and true world's best chocolate chip cookie recipe with a couple of tweaks. 

I added caramel pieces along with the chocolate chips. I would suggest buying the nicely chopped little caramel pieces you find on the baking aisle at your local grocery store. Again, I wanted cookies ASAP with no time for a trip to the store, so I took some caramels I had and chopped them up. Yes, I was desperate, but it worked.

As soon as I pulled them out of the oven I dusted them with a smidge of crushed sea salt. It tasted like a salted caramel mocha people! Oh my goodness. 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick of butter
3/4 cup of butter flavored Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 t vanilla
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt, baking soda and baking powder
1 bag chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup caramel pieces
Sea salt

Mix ingredients (I just throw the wet ingredients in my KitchenAid, then add the dry and blend. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour...you should be able to pick it up without it sticking to everything)

Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes

Remove from oven and dust with sea salt.

Cool one minute and remove to rack (unless your family is eating them right off the cookie sheet!)

Excuse me while I wipe the crumbs off my keyboard.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stinky feet - a sweet reminder

I was enjoying a lovely Saturday afternoon nap today when my two oldest came blowing in from their Saturday job refereeing flag football. After a brief hello, I drifted off to sleep again. Waking up a bit later I was overcome by the smell of a what I was sure was a long dead animal. What the heck?

Using my amazing motherly powers of investigation and deduction, I began hunting for the source of the horrific scent. It didn't take long to realize it was coming from two pair of teen shoes recently disgarded across the room. Oh, my heavenly heck! Seriously! Grabbing my Costco sized bottle of Febreeze I was able to disarm the smelly bombs before more nostrils were offended. Besides the Bible, large quantities of Febreeze is one of the most essential things a mom of teen boys needs in her arsenal. That's truth ladies.

While the smell may have burned my nose hairs and caused blurry vision, it was also a beautiful reminder of my reality.

My sons are hard workers, getting up early to be at the fields by 8:00 a.m.

They're willing to give up their Saturdays when they'd rather sleep in after a busy week.
 
They're healthy and able to work.

They're growing up and I am blessed to witness it.
 
The may be big and stinky, but that's nothing a hot shower can't fix. More importantly they're really, really amazing young men and that makes the smell totally worth it...as long as I don't run out of Febreeze.
 
 

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