Thursday, April 26, 2012

Choosing Coffee over Sleep to Find Rest

I have this theory on life and busyness, that only the dead or infirm aren't busy, so I might as well find a way to like being busy and be thankful about it.  I know that's sort of a weird way of looking at it, but it really does work for me.

Even with that excellent theory on busyness I still have a lot to learn when it comes to finding the right balance of work, rest, and play.  As much as I've tried to make it work, I've discovered that a Mars bar isn't the answer to finding that equilibrium.  At least, not always. 

Not recommended for finding peace
I'm more certain that anything of value that has happened and will happen in our lives, will only happen if we do it on purpose. 

Even the mundane needs to be tackled with purpose:

Dishes don't wash themselves. Neither do clothes, or kids, for that matter.

If I could invent something that could do all three at once, then I'd really have it made.

But wishful inventing aside, I've also learned that more importantly, the big things in life don't happen by accident either, even if they are bigger and more important:

Relationships don't grow by accident.

Important conversations don't happen without forethought.

Rest doesn't happen unless I plan for it.

In fact, Captain Chaos, Master Disaster and the Evil Baron VonBusyness, are the only things that take over here without any help at all from me. I easily become their sidekick, increasing the mayhem in every area of my life if I am not mindful! I am trying to reign in these Super Villains to bring rest and reduce the life-sucking busyness that comes in their wake by making intentional space for rest in our lives. 

Family Matters has challenged bloggers to write about what they do to bring rest to their hurried homes.  Dr. Kimmel has even written a book with 101 ideas on this very subject called: Little House on the Freeway.  (on sale for April!) I think it's time I added this one to our home library, because every time I make a new place for rest in our lives I am always better for it.  

One habit that helps keep the Triumvirate of Aforementioned Evil at bay in our home is the coffee time Josh and I have together every morning.  We choose to wake up an hour before the kids are allowed to get out of their rooms every morning.  We don't have an agenda for these meetings except that they must be caffeine infused and without kids.  Some days we just stare out at the world in front of us and beg the caffeine to do it's thing before the kids all bust our of their rooms to get their day started. But at least we are together. Other days we feel more awake and have a chance to talk about the business, our schedules, or our struggles. It is one of my favourite times of day. 

It understand that it doesn't make sense to say that losing out on an hours sleep would lead to more rest, but we've found it to be true. And it's not like it didn't require some serious training of each of our kids,(think months, not days) for them to stay put each morning. But it has been totally worth it. I think it helps us remember what the important things are in our life when we do this so consistently.  It gives us time to plan our days out so that we can schedule time for important conversations and events with our kids and with each other.

The greatest evidence I have of the peace this habit brings to our home is the lack of rest I feel on the days we miss out on this time together.  So even though I may quietly curse that alarm clock when it goes off every morning at 6, I will force my feet to the floor and greet the day with gusto...right after Josh makes me a coffee.

Things I Love Thursday - Second Installment

Two weeks in a row with TILT - Things I Love Thursday.  Will wonders never cease?

I have this weird obsession with trying to find alternate uses for things.  If I was trying to be noble I would say it's because I just long to bring out the hidden talent in everything and everyone.  Or I just like to find workable solutions that are less expensive. Whether I am noble or just cheap, it's what I do.  Dollar stores and Ikea are my favourite places to do this.

You see tablecloth, I see curtains.  You see spice rack from Ikea, I see a rack for any other place other than your spice cupboard.  You see dessert, I see breakfast, lunch or supper.

I'm probably not the first person to do it, but I found these jumbo clothespins at the dollar store, and thought they would be a great solution to the boot issue in my shoe bins.

Maybe you don't have boot issues, but I really love wearing boots, so over the years I've accumulated a few pairs.  Let's blame it on being vertically challenged. My boots were a disaster in our shoe bins: they take up a lot of space and they are always getting mushed and bent.  Boot mushing is not cool.

I  used these inexpensive pins over my regular hangers, and they do a marvelous job of keeping my boots in order. If they are hung as pictured, they don't mark the boots - probably in part because they are inexpensive clips to begin with :)  

The added bonus is that it's still really easy to do my yearly vacuum of my clothes closet.  

I'm obsessive about cleanliness.

Now, I just happened to buy two packages of clothespins, I could keep them in case one of the original pins breaks, or I could find me a new pair of boots.  Choices, choices.

There you have it - an inexpensive TILT post for you to try out!

What's your best dollar store find?  Share it on your own blog and link to it in the comments section below, or just share your great idea in the comment section if you don't have a blog  - let's hear about what you love.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Being Enough

Last night was rich:

The butterhorns were rich.

The cheese-laden spinach and artichoke dip was rich.

Best of all the beauty of laughter and the release of shared burdens and ideas and encouragement were so, so rich.

There were many themes that came up last night as a lovely group of moms who share similar journeys came together to encourage one another.  Quickly we became a safe place where we could say "sometimes this is hard" and then leave that thought to pursue goodness and encouragement and joy.  To remember that we can choose our responses and try new things, no matter where we are in our journey.  To be together and build community and a sense that we are not alone!

We talked about many things.  And a theme that kept being brought up was one of struggling to believe that we were enough.  The constant drain of trying to prove ourselves to others, to our inner critic seemed so strong.  

How often do we listen to the voice that with it's velvety deceit whisper to our hearts 'You really should have more to show for your life"  "You need to do this alone to prove you are capable" "To ask for help is to admit weakness."  "If you rest, you are lazy" "Receiving help makes you a burden to others."  "The only worthy woman is a weary woman."

Each and every one of them lies.  You know where lies come from, right?

How many lies do we tell ourselves and others that start with "I'll be fine." When what we really need is to rally the troops, our community, our safe-place people and say - "I can do this, but I can't do this alone!"

Lets start with grace.  Grace first for ourselves and then for others.  Grace to be different.  Grace to try something the same.  Grace that is strong and fearless without being homogeneous and bland.  Grace that admits to weakness but doesn't believe it defines us. Grace that looks in the face of the Accuser and says with growing confidence:  I'm not going to listen.  I'm going to make space for rest.  I'm going to try new things, because I can do anything, ANYTHING God wants me to.  I'm going to ask for help. I'm going to be a help.  I'm going to encourage.  I'm going to embrace my weaknesses, and admit to having them because God's strength is PERFECT...not just okay, in my weakness.  I'm going to listen to the small, still voice of God. The one that isn't joking when He says...I love you. I will give you rest.  Rest for your weary, scattered, tired and lonely souls.  

The small still voice.  I'm learning that if I am always doing, and always trying to top myself with what I can accomplish I drown out that still small voice.

So make time for stillness.  Because God is there.  It's not wasted or pointless to rest. It's absolutely vital to the growth of joy and confidence.

And take that lie that you are alone and helpless, and kick it to the curb. Be brave and reach out.  

There is strength in community.  

Strength in being vulnerable.  

Strength in being different.  

Strength in being truly you.

You. Are. Enough.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Where Addictions Begin

Ok, I understand that I am so late to the cupcake craze that they are probably out of style.  That's just the way I roll with almost everything.

But how could you not love these?
Idea taken from What's New Cupcake? - a great book!
At Brennan's request Morgan made these for his birthday dessert.  I sense a new trend in birthday treats for her brothers, and can't wait to see what she does next! Tyson's birthday is on Tuesday, you can just bet he will find something fun for her to make on his behalf!

The whole thing is candy and cake...for serious.

Lunch and Dessert, together at last!  Happy Birthday to all of us! :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time to Celebrate

Tonight's a big night around here.  A first time birthday sleepover for the birthday boy tonight.

Officially Mom, I would like to apologize for every sleepover I made you host for me.  I understand now how difficult it must have been to get all excited to anticipate kids who've eaten too much sugar, and have had too little sleep in the days following the excitement.

But, ooooh the excitement.  Bren can hardly contain himself, and that does make it worth it...almost.

I am well armed with all-you-can-make-and-eat pizza, enough fruits and veggies to satisfy my inner health critic, chips, pop, birthday cake popcorn and, at the request of the birthday boy, an ice cream cake. I just hope there is enough, Bren can out-eat everyone in our house right now, and that's saying something!

The fun thing I got done today, that I meant to get done 6 months ago, is this great birthday wreath.  I originally saw it on another blog somewhere in the blogosphere , so I can't take credit for the great idea.  It was ridiculous how simple it was to make.  I bought a wire wreath frame from the local craft store, hacked up some ribbon and tied it in knots around the frame and then just started tying on un-blown/deflated balloons all over it - no glue gun required!  I added a small picture frame I got at a thrift store, smacked it with black  craft ink and added embossing sparkles.
Come on in...we're having  a party for this guy!

Would you like a statistic? I thought so.  Sparkles make birthday wreaths 22% better - totally worth it, especially if you already have the supplies in your house.

I love it!  And the best part is it is easy to re-use it while always keeping it personal to the birthday boy or girl because of the picture in the frame - Huzzah!

Well, I best be off - I have fruit kebabs to assemble, pizza dough to make,veggies to chop, and this to conquer:

Yes, the Laudry Monster is back with a vengeance.  Wreath making will do that.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pictures and Poetry

The last two weeks in pictures.  And maybe a couple of words, cause I won't be silenced.

First Hockey Game and Egg Poems
In our family, we don't play hockey, so much as just watch it.  It's much less expensive than actually playing the sport, plus you can eat snacks while you do it.

We share some portion (again, with the mathematical specifics) of a season of AHL tickets, and it was Keaton's turn to go to his first game with Josh.  Dude lasted a whole 10 minutes before he was bored and wanted to come home.  However, our intensive snack training paid off and he stayed till the end of the second period because of popcorn.

 Score one for Mom and Dad!

While they were away, the other kids and I decorated eggs for Easter.  I'm not ashamed to say my initial reason for doing this was solely out of guilt.  I like decorating eggs, but letting other creatures have free reign with intensely colour-saturated water, oil and vinegar, gives me the no feeling.   But, because my kids need to have some other memories of me, aside from folding laundry and checking facebook, we decorated eggs.  And for the record, the guilt and the no feeling does go away and fun takes over once I get off my tuchus and say yes!


Makes This:

Or was it the other way around?

You're's both.

I wrote a poem just now to honour the occasion:

Colouring Easter eggs makes quite a mess
Why we all do it is anyone's guess
When it was done
The kids said they had fun
And my inside voice managed not to escape.

*Hint:  It's always more fun to NOT rhyme the last line of a limerick, no matter what your English teacher told you.*

Choosing What To Remember
I like remembering moments like these.

Even if the reason they happened was so that I can get one last cram session in with the kids before our portfolios were due.   I am learning  to be more organized so that less cramming is necessary, but it's like learning a foreign language for me.  I will never think and dream in the language of Organized Land, but I will hopefully learn enough phrases that my kids won't have to suffer for having a mother who diagnosed with chronic Flybytheseatofyourpantsitis.

Spring is Here, Kinda, ,Sorta
Water guns and rain jackets.  It's April in BC.

Hope your Monday makes you feel this good:  footloose and fancy free.

And if Monday makes you feel kind of out of focus and like you're suspended in mid air, then this picture is also for you.

Make it a good one!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

A while back I was thinking.

Yes, that is a complete statement.

And while I was thinking, this thought came to mind.  "I want chocolate."  

That comes to mind almost every time I think. 

The second thought that follows right after that is usually "Why did Fox have to cancel Firefly?"

In case you wondered, there is never going to be a reasonable explanation for that one.

But it's the third thought that I had that I wanted to share with you, and it goes something like this:

"Maybe someone in blogland would like to know some favourite things that make my life easier or better?"  

And maybe that is or isn't true, but I know I love getting good ideas and  I've been thinking about it for quite sometime now - and I wanted to call it Things I Love Thursdays, which means I would kind of be committed to posting on Thursdays, or at least I should be committed to that, and you can guess how often I think of things on a Tuesday or Friday, and this is getting to be quite a run-on sentence so I'll stop now.

Silly though it may be, here is my first favourite thing.

Maybe I should set it up first?  

Making soup bases from scratch is time consuming, and really not feasible unless you are regularly cooking large roasts or birds.  Buying consomme/ soup broth in a can or tetra pack is expensive.  Powdered soup bases are kind of disgusting and usually full of junk I'd rather not eat.  So, when I saw this little gem, Better than Bouillon in the spice isle at Costco a few months back, I was willing to give it a try.

Things I love:

1) The price - it's around $6.50 per jar, and each jar makes about 19L (20 Q) of soup stock.  If I recall correctly, getting a 1 L box of soup stock for less than $2 is usually a pretty good price, and this is way less than that.  Way less is my favourite kind of math answer.  Did I mention I'm teaching my kids? 

2) The contents:  I can pronounce everything on the ingredient label. I am ok with the "maltodextrin" additive.  It's not at the top of the ingredient list, and it's not a chemical based additive (I believe it's a sugar derived from starchy vegetables: corn, potato etc.)  It is reduced sodium, so while it's still has a lot, it's a better alternative to what's out there, plus I usually use a little less per cup than suggested, so that would reduce it even further.

3) The size:  It needs to be kept in the fridge once opened, but the jar is not too big. It's smaller than a pint jar and takes up far less space than boxed (tetra) soup stocks.

4) The taste:  It's great- tastes like "real" soup base, not powdered shmatteh.

Here's an exciting action shot of me adding the soup base to what will be Shepherd's Pie.  I can hear your shock and awe at how this is going to revolutionize your  Lifes?

I am sorry my picture taking abilities stink.  Anyone want to get me a better camera and teach me how to use it?

It should be noted that I have received nothing at all for letting my teeny tiny blog audience know about this product.  Superior Touch/Better than Bouillon doesn't even know I exist.  

So there you go - my first  Things I Love Thursday  post.

Let me know what you think if you do decide to try it!  Or, feel free to write about something different that you love (in any category, not just kitchen far!) and link back to this post.  

Good things should be shared!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Don't Feel Like It Dinners

I know all of you follow your meal plans flawlessly, and never get to 5:00 pm and think,

"Crap! (or whatever profane or euphemistic emphatic expressions you regularly use) I have nothing on the go for dinner!"  but sometimes I do.

And while this usually leads to the usuals: breakfast-for-dinner, nachos and cheese, or take out , I wanted something quick, but different than usual.

So I went flipping through a few of my old Martha Stewart Food mags,  combined ideas from a couple of recipes (in the April 2009 edition) and came up with this:  Egg Parmesan-ish.    It was according to Josh and the older kids, fabulous, and even my pickiest eaters ate it without complaint, though a bit of coaxing to get started was needed!

The other great thing was that it only took five minutes to get it into the oven.  Then it baked all on it's own for 25 minutes.  Depending on your parental guilt level, you could use that time to make a salad or veg tray to compliment this excellent dish (I didn't) clean your kitchen, de-lint you dryer, fold some laundry or do something life-impacting like watch TV with your kids. Alternately if you have no guilt, you can stare into space until your timer goes and enjoy the nothingness.

At any rate it fit the cheap, fast and easy (I'll say it for you:  just like me!) requirements I needed for dinner that  night.  It will definitely go on my Last Minute Menu for the future!

Egg Parmesan-ish
Prep Time : 5 min if you’re me, 10 if you’re more careful and tidier
Dinner served in:  30 min
Yield:  6-8 portions

10-12 large eggs (I used 10, the pan could have accommodated 12 no problem)
2 cups favourite pasta sauce
Can of crushed tomatoes (15 oz)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp rosemary
1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup, and ½ cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried basil
Saucepan for heating sauce, barpan/rimmed cookie sheet for baking

·         Preheat oven to 350° F
·         Preheat saucepan, add oil.  When heated add garlic, basil and rosemary.  Heat until fragrant
·         Add pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and first amount of parmesan cheese.  Stir to combine and heat through
·         Dump 2/3 of this into your bar pan and Spread to cover the bottom.

·         Crack 10-12 eggs, in a perfect poly hexagonal design to ensure proper baking.  For serious?  I’m not Martha, just crack away .

Crack as imperfectly as you'd like!

·         Blob the remaining sauce over the eggs

·         Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese

Sprinkle, then Smack!

·         Smack that bad boy in the oven and ignore it for a good 20 minutes.  I needed 25 minutes to ensure the egg whites were cooked

Pretty Good for something that's been dumped, cracked, sprinkled and smacked!
Post Recipe Thoughts:
·         If I had had spinach, that would have been a great addition to the sauce.  Maybe with Feta cheese?
·         It was a bit saucy for my liking, although that was easily remedied when serving. I may cut back by  ½ a cup on the pasta sauce next time, or I could add more eggs - if you haven't noticed, it's not really a rocket-science recipe. 
·         If you would like me to state the obvious:  remove from the oven when done.  Turn off your oven.  Clean up your kitchen.  Kiss your spouse.  Love your kids.  Then End.  Amen.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Right Now

Right now

...I love hearing Josh read to the big kids.  They are falling in love with the Shire, and maybe I am too. kitchen is a mess, a good, solid, after mess.

...I can't decide if I am feeling sick, or hungry.

...I always choose to try "hungry" first.  Nothing is worse than dry heaves

....I realize that sometimes I overshare.

...My dishwasher sounds comforting.  Perhaps the sound of me not doing work is what's comforting?

...I am excited to be gathering material for a funny on purpose segment at our church's womens' event this fall

...I think trying to use apostrophes for possesive plurals is surprisingly intimidating. I hope I did it right.

...I am, shockingly, quite nervous about trying to be funny on purpose.  I guess the worst that can happen is that they won't ever ask me again :)  If all else fails, I'll just start singing like Ethel Merman.

...I'm wondering how many 30-somethings, or even 40-somethings even know who Ethel Merman is...I might need to reconsider.

...I am thankful, so thankful, that my sister has spent almost two more weeks growing her baby, and that she has been able to do it at home for the past week.  The problems remain, but bedrest is helping.  Thank you God.

...I am feeling loved by my brother who bought me flowers for Easter.  What a great guy.

...I am thankful for my other sister who calls me often on her way to work, just to say hi.

...I am amazed by my Mom, who never seems to tire from helping all of us kids.  May we rise up and call her blessed - many times over!

...I made a great I-don't-feel-like-cooking supper tonight, will post pics and a sort-of recipe soon!

...I miss my family in Botswana.  My transporter inventing isn't going as quickly as I would like.

...I miss my family in Manitoba.  My lottery winning isn't going as well as I'd like.  I hear you can't win if you don't play, so that's a bit of a problem.

...I miss my family in Chilliwack, even.  Do you sense a theme?

...I am excited for friends who are going on a huge life changing adventure.  I think they are brave.  I am proud of them, in so many ways:  for their faith, for their adventurousness, for the way they raise their many things.  And when they move, I will add them to list of people I miss.

...I wonder if I ever wrote a book, what the subject would be.

...I wonder if that last sentence should have had a question mark. Clearly I am plagued by grammatical uncertainties.

...I am thankful that we have a whole host of friends who are like family.  So many good memories, so many more to come.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Truth In Labeling

I bought these fun pillows for my living room last week.  If you're keeping track, yes, I've decided that I like to change my couch pillows with the seasons. It's less expensive than buying new couches.
Spring for $7, yes please!
I should add that my husband is in love with pillows, he just loves the way they tuck in behind him when he sits down on the couch.  If there's one thing he asks for it's "Please, can we have some more pillows in our home."  And because I am such a great Proverbs 31 wife, I oblige.

What was that sarcastic font called again?

Back to the pillows.

They are technically classified as "outdoor pillows", as in, it said so on a bright red tag attached to each one.  Leaving Proverbs 31 for a moment, I decided it would be alright to disobey and use them inside.  First, I removed the paper "outdoor pillow" tag, then I ripped off the "do not remove upon penalty of death" tag, cause really, I'm so gangsta.  Then I removed this label:

So...they're telling me it's an outdoor pillow that can't get wet, or cold, and is afraid of the dark? Sounds like a great outdoor pillow to me.

Isn't that like labeling something peanut-free and then saying in the fine print do not ingest if you are allergic to nuts?

or like vacationing in an RV with satellite TV, air conditioning,  and a dishwasher and calling it camping?

I thought so.