Category Archives: Family

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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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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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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Moving Day (is tomorrow)

On the surface, a move looks like fun. Especially when you’re moving from a cold, small-ish place to a warmer, larger place. The reality, though, is that we’re leaving a lot of friends behind who have come to feel like family to us. We spend holidays together. We celebrate birthdays together. We get together for a drink at the end of a long, horrible week. We get together, because we’re bored. While I am SO thankful that we do already have friends where we’re headed, it’s going to be really sad to leave people behind.

I have loved our time here in Minot, North Dakota. That might sound crazy, especially since there are a whole lot of folks who avoid this place like the plague, but I have. It’s sad to leave home. Again.

I’ll leave you with a fun collage of our 3+ years here…and go cry myself to sleep. I hope our paths cross again, friends!

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Internet Official

Did it happen?

I guess now that we’ve signed a lease on a house in our next hometown, and with packers showing up in less than a month, this is as good a time as any to make our next move Internet official.

That’s right, we’re on the move. This time, we’re headed to New Mexico! Maybe I’ll remember to blog more often now that I’ll have a new house to decorate and a new city to explore. Maybe. I make no promises.

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Seven.

DSC_0152This cute little thing celebrated her seventh birthday today. Seven! I am officially a big kid mom.

We had her birthday party last weekend at the indoor pool. The kids had a lot of fun.

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Neely’s party theme was “Teen Beach Movie” this year. I cannot take any credit for the cake this time around. I took a photo to Cookies For You and handed over my credit card. I wanted a low-stress party without spending days working on a cake. I didn’t realize that driving the darn thing home was going to give me an anxiety attack.

For today, of course, we had to make cupcakes for Neely’s class. I think you get kicked out of first grade and shunned by all the other children if you don’t bring treats on your birthday. I baked, and Neely decorated. She’s a great helper.

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See? A cupcake masterpiece.

After school, there were two last birthday requests to fulfill. 1) A trip to the zoo. 2) Dinner at McDonald’s. (no photographs needed)

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We brought half the kids from our street along with us. The zoo was pretty empty, so they had a blast running around like they owned the place. I think every animal has a name now.

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Aren’t they a good-looking bunch?

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We’ll probably keep them.

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One more for the road – me and my girl. It’s nice to have a friend to man the camera every once in a while.

Happy seventh, Neely Bug!

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Back to School: 2015 Edition

After what may have been the shortest summer ever, my kids started school again this week. It’s always a bittersweet day. Combine the excitement of a new year, new teacher, and new friends with the sadness of losing the ability to wake on your own every morning, ride bikes, and eat popsicles all day with the glorious anticipation of finally having five consecutive minutes without a child asking me for something (usually the aforementioned popsicles) and you get the first day of school.

Neely climbed into bed with me sometime the night before, so when 7:00am came and her alarm started playing…well, it wasn’t very helpful. At 7:15am, I threw back the blackout curtains, opened the blinds, and watched the vampire burn. (I’ve discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns on Pivot. Sue me.) Anyway, she grumpily clomped down the stairs in search of a darker spot and decided the kitchen floor was good enough. That’s when I decided to take the first of the first day of school pictures.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 8.35.04 PMThe worst part of the school year is getting this little darling out of bed each morning. Last year, I kept hoping it would get easier. It didn’t. She’s just not a morning person. Ah, well.

Everyone did manage to get dressed, eat breakfast, have lunch packed, and do their chores on time. They even left me enough time to take MORE pictures. (bwoah-ha-ha-ha…)

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My first grader. She perked up pretty well.

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My fourth grader. He’s my early riser. This little man has been up at 7:00am every day, all summer long. He gets himself dressed and makes his bed without being asked. Thank goodness one of them makes mornings easier.

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Of course, I had to take a sweet pic of the two kiddos together. And then this happened…

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I literally laughed out loud when I found those in the camera. I remember telling them to act silly and snapping a few pictures really quickly, but I was so intent on putting the camera away and getting everyone to school on time that I didn’t realize what I’d gotten.

In case you were wondering, they both have had a great first week so far. They like their teachers. They have friends in their classes. The love riding bikes and scooters to school and home with all their Rockridge friends. I have high hopes for this year. I’m glad it’s all beginning well.

 

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