Thanksgiving Preparations

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday. I seem to either feel thankful and happy and exceptionally blessed, or I don’t. I know, logically, that I have plenty to be thankful for. We are all healthy. We have a roof over our heads. All of our needs are met. I just don’t feel myself riding high on a wave of gratitude. I find myself, more than anything, missing the rhythm and traditions we’ve built over the last few years in our last home. I’m going through the motions: making a grocery list, timing out the best way to prepare for Thursday to prevent feeling overwhelmed, and trying to think of ways to keep the kids occupied and entertained over the next week while they are out of school. But this year, we don’t have the friends we’ve been celebrating with these past few Thanksgiving holidays, the friends we most love celebrating with, eating with, drinking with, laughing with, watching football with, arguing with. It feels strange, planning for just the four of us.

Family doesn’t often come to us for Thanksgiving, and we don’t generally have the time or the money to commit to traveling a long distance for such a short period of time. For the last little while, I’ve at least had “Friendsgiving” to distract me from that, but this year, I’m feeling a little lost and lonely. And I’m feeling guilty for not being 100% satisfied with what I have. This is Thanksgiving, after all. I’m supposed to feel thankful, especially when I have so much more than so many people. When life brings us to hard places, gratitude doesn’t immediately follow. Yet, the Bible says to give thanks in all things. That means all the good things and all the bad things, all the blessings and all the messes, all the joy and all the pain. I just need to figure out a way to focus on those positives instead of the negatives that so often occupy my thoughts.

I believe that I will get there. I’ll get swept up in the grocery shopping and the preparations. I’ll force my children to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with me, and I’ll bake more desserts than side dishes. I’ll pray that we don’t catch the turkey pot on fire again. We’ll call our friends and family, and we’ll make the best of our celebration, no matter how small.

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Blue Apron – Dinner is served!

I feel like I’m pretty late to this party, but we just tried out Blue Apron for the first time last week. Where has this been all my adult life???

When life gets busy, I am notorious for completely foregoing meal planning and grocery shopping. Instead of a big, once-a-week trip, I end up at the store every other day, trying to scramble together enough food to last just a few more days, just until I can sit down and make that list. The last couple of months? I’ve been crazy busy with work. It’s wonderful, but it wreaks havoc on my housewife skills.

Enter Blue Apron. These ads have been popping up on websites that I frequent for a long time now. I’ve made it to the main page before changing my mind on several occasions. I finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a try, because honestly? I wasn’t sure when I’d manage to finally make a grocery list. With Blue Apron, I can choose the meals I want delivered based on my family’s preferences. I can skip a week if we’re not going to need the meals or if we’ll be out of town. And there’s no commitment. I can cancel whenever I want if this isn’t working for us.

I started out with two meals a week, to serve a family of four. If after a few weeks, the kids aren’t eating any of it, I’ll switch to the meals that serve two.

My first box was scheduled to be delivered last Thursday, according to my delivery email. It arrived on Wednesday…while I was on a field trip with my son. Everything comes really well insulated and iced down, but I learned an important lesson. Track the delivery. Don’t rely on the date in the email. If it had been the dead of summer or I’d been gone longer, this might have been a problem.

The first recipe we tried was for Barbacoa Lamb & Beef Tacos, with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Brussels Sprouts. Have you ever seen a honeynut squash? They’re adorable! I never knew there was such a thing. The other important thing to know? You’d better have a lot of prep bowls. I felt like I kept getting out more bowls! There was a lot of chopping involved for this first recipe. It took me longer than the anticipated 15 minutes. I don’t know if “Prep Time: 15 minutes” is printed on every recipe card, but that’s what both of the cards I received this week say. I’m not a professional chef or anything (I know – shocking!), so it takes me…not twice that amount of time, but definitely longer.

I was really impressed with these tacos, though. They even looked (pretty much) like the photo on the recipe card when all was said and done.

Last night, I cooked my second meal – Pan-Seared Chicken with Roasted Fall Vegetables and Butter-Caper Sauce. I did manage the chopping in closer to 15 minutes on this recipe, probably because there weren’t as many squash to peel and chop. Or onions.

Once again, it looks like the picture! I know that’s an odd thing to obsess about. It happens so rarely that I’m really excited to have pulled it off twice in one week!

Overall, I love this service. At least twice a week, I know I’ll have delicious meals that all I have to do is follow instructions, to break up to monotony of cooking the same meals that I know by heart over and over and over… Don’t get me wrong, we obviously love those meals, but it’s nice to try something new every once in a while. This is definitely a game changer.

If anyone is interested in trying out Blue Apron, let me know! I have two free meal offers that I can send to friends.🙂

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History or Hysteria

It’s here. Election Day 2016. Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump comes to a close. I don’t know what your social media accounts look like, but if mine is any indication, the world might end if the “wrong person” is elected. Who is the wrong person? Well, that depends entirely on who you ask.

People are freaking out. I haven’t witnessed this level of panic since Y2K. It’s unreal.

As for me? I believe in the Bible. While I don’t claim to have its entirety memorized or be a great scholar, I have yet to find a place where it says, “When America elects fill in the blank for President, I’m closing up shop. This mess is DONE.” This outcome is already known by the only one that matters, by my God, who is in control.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10

Yes, this outcome will affect me, you, all of us who call ourselves Americans, but I do trust that God can use anything, anyone for good, for His glory, to further His plan.

For that reason, I’m actually feeling calm today. Yes, today is important. Whether this is “the most important election in history” remains to be seen. When will we even know that? In 5 years? 20 years? 50 years? Whatever will be, will be. We’ll all vote today and make our contribution, but regardless of who is chosen as the next POTUS, the earth will keep on turning.

Come tomorrow, wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to being a team? I don’t think, realistically, that it will be that easy, but isn’t it a lovely dream?

“For in Him we live and move and exist.” –Acts 17:28

Pumpkins – From the Patch to the Oven (and everything in between)

  1. Find the most sincere pumpkin patch in your area. For us, this was McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty, New Mexico. dsc_0248 dsc_0258 dsc_0260 dsc_0266
  2. Bring your pumpkins home and sit them on the porch for a couple of weeks. You know, to “ripen.” Ha!
  3. On All Hallow’s Eve, set up shop in the back yard and carve! Be sure to save as many seeds as you can, a process which is guaranteed to make your children say “Eeeew!” and beg to wash their hands 1,096 times. dsc_0286 dsc_0288 dsc_0290 dsc_0293
  4. Place the pumpkins back on the front porch to hold court. dsc_0296 dsc_0297
  5. Put all those glorious pumpkin seeds in a colander. Wash the yucky pumpkin guts off, and spread on a dish towel to dry overnight.
  6. Depending on how many seeds you have, dump those babies onto a baking sheet (or two).img_2604
  7. Melt some butter, and grab your favorite seasonings. I made one pan with just butter and salt, and the other pan with this Tajin deliciousness.img_2606 img_2607
  8. Pour butter over your little pile of seeds, spread them out in a single layer in your pan, then sprinkle with seasoning.img_2609 img_2610
  9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. If you have your pans on separate shelves like I did, I also like to switch them at the halfway point.
  10. Once your seeds are nice and toasty, let them cool, then serve as the perfect Halloween snack! I always like to have a little something salty on hand, when the candy bingeing starts to get old.  img_2612
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Halloween Cookie Extravaganza!

I went on a bit of a baking binge this week. It was partially driven by the fact that I’d volunteered to donate treats to the school for Spooky Story Night, and also by the fact that I went 10 days without an oven.

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If you want to make something quick and easy this Halloween, try out these Gooey Monster Eye Cookies. I found the small candy eyes in the baking section of my grocery store, and the larger candy eyes came from Hobby Lobby.

Gooey Monster Cookies

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 egg

green gel food coloring

powdered sugar

candy eyeballs

  1. In a stand mixer, combine butter, vanilla, egg, and cream cheese. Beat until fluffy.
  2. Add cake mix and stir until combined.
  3. Add food coloring. Once the mixture reaches the desired color, chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Roll dough into 1 and 1/2-inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and push candy eyes into cookies while warm.

The original recipe comes from Lil’ Luna’s blog.

These cookies are really gooey and delicious. The next time I make them, I’ll probably try using white cake mix instead of yellow. I wanted more of a Mike Wazowski green, and what I ended up with was a bit more Oscar the Grouch.

My second cookie project of the week was a bit more involved. OK, it was a lot more involved.

I have a good friend who is a cookie master. I tried decorating sugar cookies myself years ago for Neely’s Hello Kitty birthday party, and the results were horrible. Helene saved the day! Since then, she’s shared her cookie-making secrets with me and taught me a thing or two about royal icing.

img_2586This was my first attempt all on my own. I definitely have room for improvement, but all things considered, I’m really happy with how these turned out. I may not have been able to cook dinner for my family for two days with cookie accoutrements spread all over the kitchen, but I have desserts for days!

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Run – Week One Disney Princess Half Marathon Training

This week marked the beginning (officially) of my training for the 2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon! While I’d love to be able to say that I pulled it all off flawlessly, I can’t.

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The last couple of weeks have been CRAZY around here. My busy season for work is in full swing. I’m still trying to finish a Halloween costume. I had a field trip to attend, and I’d volunteered to donate treats for an event at the school. That would have been more than enough to do, but then, we had several things break down in the house and on my car. It feels like I’ve spent all my time either driving back and forth to the service center or waiting on repair men at home, trying to squeeze the other things I need to do in between. Oh, and the day after I picked up my car for the second time? I totally backed into another mom after school.

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I was supposed to have done a 45-minute maintenance run on Monday and Wednesday, and a 3-mile long run on Friday. What I actually did? I managed one 45-minute maintenance run on Tuesday and a 5-mile run on Friday. I guess I technically just skipped one maintenance run, and I ran too far for the long run. I’m not too terribly heartbroken. Next week will be better. It has to be.

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A new race on the calendar!

As many of you know, registration for the 2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World opened up to the general public last week. I’ve wanted to repeat this race since I first participated in 2013, but I haven’t had the opportunity. All the stars have aligned, and I will be going back in 2017!

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What’s really fun is, once I put it out there on the Internet that I’m registered, I learned that a lot of people I know are running. AND I recruited a friend to come and make it her very first half marathon! AND she is inviting everyone she knows to come along, too. If I’m honest, so am I. “Come! Run with me!” “Come! Be my cheerleader!” I’m pretty excited. I just can’t seem to help myself.

Once the kids are back to school (in less than a month?!), I’ll have to get serious about running again. We haven’t broken up completely, but I haven’t trained for any kind of long distance since January. Of last year. I’ve lifted weights and done a lot of other things, but I haven’t run farther than three or four miles in quite some time. It will definitely be a challenge with the hills and altitude that I have to contend with now.

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I snapped this photo one morning while walking Hank. It’s a little tricky to tell, but our neighborhood is nestled right up next to the mountains. There’s a running/biking path…at the bottom of the hill. No matter what I do, the last mile back to my house? Straight up. I may need to leave the neighborhood to find a path that won’t try to kill me.

Regardless, this is happening. I’ll have another one of these beauties to add to my collection come February! Now, to figure out my costume….

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Summer Rainbow

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I meant to share this right after it happened, but I set the camera aside and promptly forgot about it. One of our first nights in Albuquerque, we had this great storm with hail and lightning and all kinds of good stuff. It lasted about an hour, and when it was over with, we were treated to this beautiful double rainbow. The photo was a fun surprise to find when I finally did get the camera out again!

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Our New Home

We made it. We traveled 1,232 miles through five states over the course of four days. Only one animal and 52,723 bugs were harmed. One child got altitude sickness in a hotel room. (Have you ever cleaned that kind of mess up with only a dish cloth and a mini bottle of Palmolive?) Both cars sustained hail damage an hour from our final destination. We showed up to a dirty rental home. We’ve unpacked 150+ boxes. We’ve almost put everything away that came out of those boxes, after discovering that we’re a little too big for our house (oops!) and renting a storage unit. We’ve donated and recycled and throw away more things than I can even wrap my head around.

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We haven’t met many new people yet. We do have a few old friends in the area that we’ve seen, and we’re hoping to find the kids in the neighborhood at the pool this summer.

Despite the minor setbacks, I’m entering that honeymoon period where I’m in love with my new home, and since Neely has been watching a lot of Annie, this song comes to mind…

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The Best (Worst) Mother’s Day Photo Ever

I was finally able to find the cable to connect my camera to the computer, and when I uploaded the photos, I found something I just knew you’d all love.

At some point, I ruined my kids for having their photo taken. On Mother’s Day, after a lovely brunch with friends at Elevation at the Minot Country Club, I had the bright idea to try and snap a quick picture with my children. It’s probably because I’d already scrolled through 223 of my friends’ photos on Facebook and Instagram with their well-dressed, smiley-faced kids happily posing with their mothers, looking like they all love one another dearly.

This is how the other half lives. One of my children is hiding. The other is trying to escape. And oh, my goodness, my hair. The North Dakota wind has it looking really beautiful. It’s definitely the best/worst Mother’s Day photo I’ve ever had taken. Enjoy!

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