Not Award-Winning Chili

chili-bowl-wordsAnyone else get tired of browsing Pinterest and coming across so many versions of “Award-Winning Chili” and “Best Chili Ever”? Let me make it easy for you. Just make this one. I entered it in a chili competition, and it did not win. But want to know what? People really liked it. Really liked it.

Fall is the perfect time for a hearty bowl of protein and veggies. And beer. Yep, all of that is in here. Top with Fritos and cheese.

Not Award-Winning Chili

  • 2 lbs. ground beef, browned
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced or pressed
  • 1 large (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large (30 oz) can pinto beans
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 1/2 can pumpkin purée
  • 1 can/bottle (12 oz) beer
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt

Combine in large slow cooker and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.

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The Summer Bucket List is Done

Yes, I said done. Not completed. There are some boxes left, but no one seems to care. It’s November, so I need to wrap this up.

Highlights since my last update:

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We tackled the giant 24″ pizza from local Original Pizza. We decided not to take on the project alone and called in my sister and her family – polished it off! Even though the slices were so big they didn’t fit on the plates. :)

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Hannah got free Royals tickets as her Perfect Attendance Award, so we got to go to a game. Too bad they didn’t play as well this year, but it’s still a fun experience. Hannah polished off a giant hot dog, and Brett and I shared super nachos out of a helmet. Side note: big thumbs up for our new ear protection. Hannah can be sound-sensitive, so these really help. They also hopefully blocked out the foul-mouthed drunk people behind us.

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Since we included big and little summer adventures, root beer floats were checked off. Yum!

So we didn’t make it to Union Station, mini golf, or the marble factory, but that just gives us a head start on next summer’s list!

Pregnancy, Loss, and Faith: The Joke of Family Planning and the Lie I’d Believed

About three years ago, I went to party and was chatting with some new acquaintances. As moms, of course, the topic quickly turned to our kids. When I told one lady that I had two girls who were three years apart, she said, “You planned that so well. Good for you!”

I laughed in her face. I know that was NOT the godly response, but I couldn’t help it.

Planned? Ha. Almost nothing about our first two went according to our plan. Our first was an adoption with a majorly unexpected twist that ended up basically the opposite of our plan. Then when we decided to grow our family, we had a miscarriage. Nope, that wasn’t in the plan, either. Then instead of getting pregnant again quickly, we had a long wait.

I could tell you a lot of things about that time… the dumb things people said to me, the feeling that everyone in the world was pregnant except me, the awesome friends who cried and prayed with me… but there was my heart.

For the first time in my faith journey, I looked at my life, my plans, and then looked at God and said, “This isn’t fair.”

It wasn’t fair because I’d been a good girl. I grew up in church, I followed the rules, I didn’t have sex before marriage, I was in Bible study, I was doing all the things right.

But God wasn’t holding up His end of the deal, right? It wasn’t fair.

Unconsciously, I’d fallen for the lie of the prosperity gospel. The idea that if you’re good enough and pray enough and try really hard, God will shower you with all the good things.

But it’s a lie. Nowhere in the Bible does it paint life like that. John 16 says: In the world you WILL have trouble. James 1 says: WHEN you encounter trials. It’s not a conditional situation dependent on your behavior, it’s reality.

The world, even the “Christian” world spreads these lies, though. Think about the memes you see everywhere. “If you just let go of it, God will make it happen.” “Pray often enough, try hard enough, have more faith, dream big enough… and God will bless you.” And by bless you, of course that means give you whatever you want. That sounds fair to me, I like fair.

But life isn’t fair. Miscarriage isn’t fair. Infertility isn’t fair. Cancer isn’t fair.

But God is good. How? Through the troubles He warned us would come, He provides peace and hope, and He put us in community to remind us we are not alone in hard things.

So what am I trying to say? This: Family planning is a joke.

You might laugh and say, “Yeah, she’s pregnant with her fourth kid. Obviously she thinks family planning is a joke.”

No, this is not about birth control and family size and whatever. What I mean is MY family planning was a joke. I realized I had fallen for the lie that the success or failure of pregnancy reflected the success or failure of my faith. Without knowing it, I’d written up a contract where I did a pretty good job at following His rules, and then He made my plans work out.

But it’s so different. Because of grace.

Him giving me a baby does not depend on what rules I follow or how much I pray or how good I try to be.

And Him giving me salvation does not depend on what rules I follow or how much I pray or how good I try to be. His work on the cross, not my work or good intentions.

And that gave me a peace. It didn’t take away the ache or the grief or the longing. I am still heartbroken over our miscarriage even though it was five years ago. It was hard to wait. It was hard to accept that my plan doesn’t prevail. But I learned life isn’t a tally sheet of my goods and bads. Instead there’s hope. Even in loss, even when my plan fails, there is hope in Christ.

(This was originally shared with my MOPS group to recognize October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month)

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What Spice Mom am I?

 It started as I was reading a Facebook post. Someone described a super spiritual crafty activity she was accomplishing with her small child. The following comments were things like “I’m going to do that, too!” and “That sounds so great, I’m totally interested!”

I really wanted to add, “Yeah, me too!” But I stopped. The chances of that activity ever getting completed in my house are truly very small. I had a little pity party moment of how I’m so busy with three kids now, I just can’t do things like these moms of one or two.

Then I was honest with myself.

Those things aren’t ME. I don’t hate Jesus or hate crafts or hate spending time with my kids, I just don’t get around to it. I didn’t do those things even when I had one kid. If there’s something crafty in our house, it was probably done with one of the grandmas or was from their Kiwi Crates.

So if I’m not Crafty Spice, what am I? Crafty Spice seems to be the ideal these days. That or Healthy Spice. Posting things like “Look at my kindergartner and the Valentines she crocheted out of recycled sweaters!” or “Here we are at the Farmer’s Market again – these kids just can’t get enough organic parsnips!” or maybe “My two-yr-old can spell all the books of the Bible with Cheerios!”

I don’t want to spend my time searching Pinterest for the next activity to turn my kids into geniuses. Some people love that, and that’s awesome. Just like some people love running for extensive lengths of time; I do not. These things are not bad, they are just not what I like to do.

What do I like to do? What do the girls want to do with me?

So I decided. I’m SitOutsideWhileMyKidsPlay Spice.

Two in Texas: Mother-daughter trip to Austin

It’s been almost two years since we moved back “north,” and it was time for a trip back to Austin. Hannah’s memories were definitely getting fuzzy, so it was good timing to go back and catch up with people and places. 

Saturday, we flew in and rented a car. Hannah picked a blue one because it’s her favorite color (yay, Hertz Gold members get to pick whatever car they want!). Then we spent the afternoon and evening with the friends we spent the most time with when we lived in Austin. It was fun to see how much everyone had grown, and it felt like Meghan and I picked up where we left off. Hannah was happy to see her friends but seemed particularly excited about getting to know their backyard chickens. Yummy taco dinner followed by frozen yogurt and park playing. Great evening!


Sunday, we went to our “old” church, and I was hit with an emotional deja vu. Just a weird feeling to be doing those familiar things after two years away. We had lunch at La Madeleine, a favorite spot of Meghan and I, and Hannah liked the door handles. 


Then shopping. These came home with me. They have sunflowers on them which I thought was the perfect tie-in of my Texas and Kansas roots. 


After checking into the hotel and some pool time, we met Hannah’s birthmom at Hula Hut. That’s a fun Austin restaurant where you actually sit on a big deck over the lake. We had a good time catching up, watching fishing, and feeding turtles. 

Thanks to technology, I was able to easily join a virtual meeting that evening for my new adventure as a contributor for the Kansas City Moms Blog. I could hop on a conference call while Hannah watched the Olympics, both of us comfy in our hotel beds. 

Monday was a long day in the car. We’re big fans of the show Fixer Upper, so I couldn’t resist taking a day to drive up to Waco to visit the Magnolia Silos. It’s a store started by Chip and Joanna, the Fixer Upper people, but it’s much more than a store. (More on that in another post)


On our way back into Austin, we stopped by to hang out with our cousins. Technically, the kids are third cousins, but it all counts. 


Monday night we hit up Torchy’s Tacos for the best tacos ever. With a side of chips and green chile queso. 


Each evening ended with more Olympics. I was thankful to have something fun on TV for our extra down time instead of trying to flip channels to find anything decent. 

Tuesday morning we joined Meghan and kiddos at the YMCA for playtime. We sent the kids running laps on the indoor track, then they enjoyed the outdoor playscape shaded by live oak trees. While we chatted about life – new eras for us as we are now elementary moms! 

By the end of the trip, we were so ready to be home! I love my big girl, of course, but it was a long time to be just the two of us. And the feeling was mutual. The final plane ride involved someone yelling, “Get away! You have peanut breath!” So that was delightful. But the whole experience was so great that I definitely want to start the one-on-one trip as a tradition with each girl. 

And in the meantime, a few Austin ex-pat friends and I in the KC area are considering a Torchy’s franchise. 

Sloppy Joes: Four Hacks to Survive (and enjoy!) Dinner

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I avoided making Sloppy Joes for a long time. Because I have kids. I know – they’re supposed to be a kid food, but they’re… well, sloppy. Not a big fan.

But when Amy at New Nostalgia posted her Sloppy Joe recipe, I had to give it a shot. She’s a trustworthy source and uses quality ingredients – no cans of mystery sauce here! And this tasty recipe was a winner with my family. Five out of five eat this up. But here are a couple “hacks” I’ve developed to make this a winner on the logistical side, as well.

1 – Lentils

The recipe calls for 1.5 lbs ground beef, but I have 1 lb. portions from the 1/4 cow we got last year. So to fill in the extra half pound, I use lentils. This is also a budget-helping tip for stretching any ground beef recipe because lentils are far cheaper than meat (also high in protein, fiber, and iron).

I put half a cup green lentils in one cup water and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer around 20 minutes. After cooking my 1 lb. ground beef, I just add the lentils and keep following the recipe. And the kids haven’t even noticed yet!

2 – Hot Dog Buns

This was an accidental discovery. I’d forgotten to buy hamburger buns and only had hot dog buns on hand. Turns out, they’re perfect for little hands! Hot dog buns are easier to hold than round hamburger buns, plus they have one side closed which means fewer directions for the meat to fall out.


3 – No Shirt

This only applies to those at the table under age two. Tomato-based sauces are my laundry enemy. Just forget the bib, they’ll just get ripped off and the sauce gets everywhere anyway. Bare skin is easier to wipe down at the end, and even better if you just meal plan Sloppy Joes for bath night.

4 – Leftovers

I like to remix leftovers – and this recipe makes plenty for leftovers. So I didn’t toss that sloppy goodness back in a bun for Night Two. Meet the Cheesy Joe Tots.

This was as easy as making tater tots, covering them in the Sloppy Joe mix, and then topping with cheese. Yum!

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So don’t be afraid of Sloppy Joes any more. With these four hacks, you’re on your way to a happy and healthy family dinner. Life is a little sloppy, bring it on.

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