Little kitchen addition

My favorite appliance has become her favorite appliance.

Today, Hannah was playing in her little kitchen when she turned around and announced to us, “I need CrockPot.”

We laughed, but she was totally serious and repeated her statement emphatically. Luckily, I remembered something we had tossed in a box headed to Goodwill and ran to retrieve it – the “Little Dipper” that came with our large CrockPot. It is small, has an attached bowl and a plastic lid, perfect for kids, right? We tucked the cord behind the kitchen, and voila

Hannah has a CrockPot, and she is delighted. I’m so proud.


Today was my due date. Last spring, we lost a baby at only six weeks along. It was an incredibly painful experience, physically and emotionally, and it’s still a little surreal that it happened at all.

I had been so excited when we found out the due date – right by Thanksgiving, what a symbol of all we had to be thankful for. But here’s the day, and there’s no baby.

In everything, give thanks. I Thes. 5:18

Give thanks? No, thanks.

Of course, I’m incredibly thankful for Hannah and so many other things. But I’m pretty sure there’s an asterisk in my Bible that says, “Give thanks* … *except in the hard stuff, or the stuff that makes you sad, or the things you don’t understand.”

Oh wait, there’s no asterisk, no escape clause.

I guess I could start by being thankful for the gift of life, however short it might be. And I’m thankful for the many amazing friends who said, “I’ve been there. It’s awful, but you’ll get through it.” And those who prayed, hugged, shed tears and sent flowers. I was so encouraged by their kindness and comforted by their shared grief for the loss of a life.

So there’s no new baby this Thanksgiving, but there is hope. There is an increased thankfulness for our support system, and a greater appreciation for each life created. And with hope and thanks we move forward.

There’s a song by Aaron Schust that has been encouraging lately: My Hope is in You.


Mystery box

One of the resources we have found lately is Vision Forum. They have a variety of products that line up with our values of family and faith, and since they’re right down the road in San Antonio, shipping is fast.

One of their fun offerings is the Daily Deal. Each day one of their products is offered at 40-50% off. Last week, they were doing some clearance clean-out and offered a Mystery Box as the Daily Deal. For $30, you could get a box of items worth $100 retail. The catch – you don’t know what you’re getting! Vision Forum sells everything from Christian books to gardening kits to hatchets to classical music to handwriting curriculums, so any combination of things they chose to toss in a box was possible. I couldn’t resist the Mystery Box (and I had a $10 off coupon!) so with a few clicks, a box of unknown items was on its way to our doorstep.

What fun! We knew it would be unlikely that every item enclosed would be applicable or interesting, but we knew it would be a bargain nonetheless, especially including the entertainment value of ordering mysterious things online.

We opened it as soon as it arrived. Our Mystery Box contents: a book on Puritans, a book for stay-at-home moms, a book of short stories for girls, a political adventure novel, a historically styled girl’s nightgown and a butterfly garden.

We calculated, and it is indeed a retail value of $100. I am excited about most of the books. The adventure novel teaser mentions something about a senator and a lady in a coma which sounds kind of corny to me. The nightgown is way too big for Hannah, but it will find its way into the dress up box. I’m really excited about the butterfly garden. We had those when I was teaching preschool, and the kids thought it was amazing.

So that was our random fun for the week. :)

There are lots of sales and blog giveaways going on for Vision Forum for Black Friday, so check them out if you have the chance:

Generation Cedar

Life in a Shoe

Grown-up problems

My heart is heavy. As I get closer to 30, and most of my friends are past that point, I’m having somewhat of a Peter Pan moment. I don’t want to grow up; grown-ups have too many problems. Real adult problems.

These were the things that I’ve always known can happen, things that sometimes used to affect my friends’ parents, but now they’re affecting my friends. And I don’t like it.

I have friends who have had multiple miscarriages, friends who have been divorced, friends who have gotten cancer, friends whose husbands had affairs, friends whose husbands have been deployed…

These are not things relegated to a storyline in a book or movie any more. These things are affecting people I know and love.

I guess I had somewhat bought into the lie of “We’re young and invincible! We’re in charge of our destinies! Just stay in school and don’t do drugs and everything will be ok.” And even “If you’re a good enough person, hard things won’t happen to you.”

I have learned from watching my friends go through hard stuff. Most of them are Christians and have acknowledged the complete suckiness of their situations but have also shown faithfulness, trust, patience and hope. I admire their strength as they face some seriously difficult life seasons. My heart hurts for them, and I always feel at a loss of what to say or do to show support or encouragement.

Getting older stinks.

However, while getting older, I see friends have these adult problems, but I have also gotten to see friends make exciting decisions and rejoice with grown-up situations. I have friends who were surprised with twins after being told getting pregnant would be difficult, friends who are missionaries, friends who started successful businesses.

I know the highs and lows are just part of life, and there are (hopefully) a lot more to come. In this season of Thanksgiving, I am praying for a truly thankful heart for the gifts with which I am surrounded. I’m praying for protection over my family and loved ones and for words of encouragement for those who are in a difficult season.

God is good.

Thankful for a rainy day

It rained! This has become more of a big deal than I ever thought it would. So when Hannah said she wanted to go outside to play, I said, “Sure!”

She ran around, splashed in the puddles, laid on the wet driveway and informed me she was swimming. After a while, she got a little cold and joined me in the garage for a snack. We just enjoyed watching the rain.

We could hear happy birds everywhere, and a giant raccoon ran across the road. We also found this little guy in the yard.

He was so cool I had to run inside for my good camera.

Then we headed inside to change into dry clothes. Hannah has been talking about the snail ever since.

How I freeze stuff

I declared that I am not cooking this week. But there is still a little work in turning giant ice cubes of soup into an edible meal. How I thaw and reheat my frozen food depends on how I froze it to begin with.

Some foods, I make and freeze in bulk. These are usually single-ingredient items such as chicken stock and beans. I freeze the chicken stock in plastic containers which I can thaw in the fridge on the day I need them. I do the beans in freezer bags and freeze them flat so they stack nicely and are easy to find.

For baked meals such as casseroles or enchiladas, I purposely originally cook them in a foil-lined metal pan. After cooking, I put in the fridge for a while to cool, then put the entire pan in the freezer. When it is completely frozen, I pull the foil (and food) out of the pan, wrap it in more foil, then put it in a gallon freezer bag. This is much easier than trying to freeze an actual pan, and they stack nicely as well.

When I want to eat one of these, I put it in the fridge the day before to thaw. Then I just put it in a pan and reheat it in my toaster oven. You could probably bake it from frozen, but that would take some serious time in the oven.

For large amounts of soup (no picture), I use a gallon freezer bag. The day I want to eat it, I thaw it in the fridge for a few hours so it will come out of the bag easier. Then I put it in the CrockPot or reheat it on the stove.

I like to freeze smaller amounts of leftovers for Brett to take for lunch. Many items like soup, I put in a plastic container. I recently made some burritos and then individually wrapped them in foil.

They’ll thaw slightly in his lunchbox and he can just throw them in the microwave at lunch.

There are awesome freezer-cooking gurus who have super-organized freezers with bins and labels and tracking sheets. That’s not me, but hopefully I’ll be able to develop a system better than, “Just throw it in there.” Recently, Brett wanted to take a burrito for lunch but couldn’t find them. So freezer organization is on my long-term to-do list. Or if anyone wants to come do it for me … I’ll trade you some frozen meals! :)

Thankful for the freezer

I’m taking the week off cooking. I truly enjoy making meals, but it’s a really crazy week – scheduled activities each day plus I’ll be gone two evenings doing fun stuff with friends.

So I’m not cooking. I looked in my freezer and calculated that my stockpile of meals will keep us well-fed for a week with little more effort than thawing and re-heating. Some of the stuff has been in the freezer for a while anyway and needs to get eaten.

Our menu:

I’ll just get some salad and bread to go with the pasta and soup, and we’ll be good! That’ll be great for the grocery budget this week, too. I like to freeze recipes that can be a complete meal in themselves like soup or casseroles that have protein and veggies. And all these meals were made from scratch, taking only a little extra time weeks/months ago to prepare.

So this busy week I am thankful for my freezer – it’s putting something on the plates so I can take something off mine.

Dinner tonight – Turkey

Turkey breasts were on sale this week, so I thought I’d get us in the Thanksgiving spirit and have some early bird.

My meal:

This may look like a big, time-consuming meal, but I planned ahead to get everything done. The only work for the turkey was at 9am, then it was doing its own thing all day. I made the cake and mashed potatoes while Hannah was napping. I also used the bagged pre-cut broccoli florets and pre-sliced portobello mushrooms (both on sale) which cut down prep time.

The slow cooker turkey recipe was so easy! I ended up overcooking it a bit, but with the gravy it was delicious. Brett didn’t talk for a while, he just made happy eating noises.

Our lives were changed when we discovered roasted broccoli, and we eat ridiculous amounts of it. And it’s really easy – just coat florets in olive oil and salt and pepper. Put on baking sheet and roast for 20ish minutes at 450ish degrees. Crazy good.

I made up the carrot and potato mash. I cooked the carrots then I cooked the potatoes then I mashed them up with some butter and milk. They were very flavorful, and the carrots give a major health boost to normal mashed potatoes.

Hannah is not eating broccoli or mashed potatoes at the moment, but she tried everything and liked the turkey. There was a wishbone in the turkey breast, so we taught her what to do with it.

I think she got the good end.

The empty cart

Shopping with a toddler is a strategic game. I have to play offense and defense. Most common is defense – putting shoes back on, saying no, putting items back on the shelves, saying no, blocking from grabbing more items. Most of the offense is distraction techniques to keep a good mood going – look at the baby, there’s a dog on that package, let’s find the diapers.

After dropping Hannah off at preschool, I swung by Target for a few items. My time of freedom! Quiet shopping!

I was lonely.

I missed my little helper pointing out every animal on every package we passed. I missed her excitement about every baby we’d see (and there were a lot). I even kind of missed putting her shoes back on after she rips them off at the very sight of the shoe section saying “I on! I try!” I missed asking, “What do we need at the store?” to which she always replies, “I need applesauce.”

I was even actually buying applesauce. She would have been so happy.

So if I really need something urgently, I’ll continue to make quick trips to the store while she’s at school, but I think I like our usual team-shopping better.