(instant)joy: Easy Beef Dip

One of the hardest things I’ve encountered as a wife and mom is finding easy to prepare meals that everyone likes that are healthy and do not come in hot dog form.

And if I ever find one, I will share it with you. *grin*

But I have come pretty close! Allow me to share this incredibly easy, practically instant recipe I found that has become a family favourite.

(Please excuse the lack of photos today – as soon as I’m done posting this, I’m off to get it ready for us for supper tonight. I didn’t think you needed a picture of a raw hunk of beef!)

What you need:

  • slow cooker
  • beef roast appropriate to the size of your family (if you want, you could make a big one and freeze half for later)
  • dry french onion soup mix – one package
  • box beef broth (I use no sodium to make up for the french onion soup mix)
  • optional can of beef consomme (I use it if I remember to pick it up, but I don’t really miss it if I don’t)
  • water
  • buns (toasted if desired)

What you do:

  • Place roast in slow cooker 7 to 8 hours before you plan on eating supper. It can be totally frozen.
  • Pour in beef broth, beef consomme (if using), and french onion soup mix. Add enough water to cover the roast half way.
  • Cook on low for 7 hours. Turn off your slow cooker and let stand for half an hour.
  • Pull the roast apart with two forks – it should easily fall apart.
  • Strain out the onions and save the broth for au jus dipping sauce.
  • Pile beef on buns, serve with au jus on the side, along with your favourite side dishes (we love homemade fries and/or fresh veggies).

See?  Easy peasy. I love that I can throw this together in just a few minutes and go about my day while our supper is cooking. Plus, the house smells yummy all afternoon. I love that.

What is your favourite easy supper to serve your family?

Five Minute Friday: Encouragment

Five minutes. To write. To silence the inner critic. To build community.

*****

It was so easy to be a cheerleader for my kids when they were little. Every little accomplishment, every little milestone, they deserved to be applauded. And it gave them the confidence to keep pushing, to keep moving, to keep growing.

But when did it become easier to criticize than encourage? This thought puzzles me constantly. Why do I, their biggest fan, find myself picking on the things they do wrong instead of applauding the things they do right?

I’m working on this, this cheering for my kids. Most days I can do it effortlessly.

But then the quarreling gets the better of me. Or the messes. Or the pushing back as they try to expand their boundaries just one more inch.

Yesterday I was telling my husband how I think I may have finally gotten over the hump of acknowledging how much closer our teenager is to being an adult. That it’s finally starting to feel just a bit easier to give her the freedom to blossom. And I find that in my shift of attitude, I can encourage her more freely.

I can applaud her accomplishments that aren’t so little, cheer her through her milestones even as I grieve knowing that each one takes her a little further from me. I can let her know I believe in her and she believes me. There once was a day where I know she didn’t, where she thought I only saw the negatives.

I want her, I want all of our kids, to have the confidence to keep pushing, to keep moving, to keep growing.

Because I really am their biggest fan.

*****

Thanks(Giving) Jar

My teenager is a genius.

Yesterday Em came to me and asked me for a spare jar. When I asked her what she was planning (she’s always planning, my girl is. She’s so creative!), she told me she was going to write one thing she was thankful for on a slip of paper every day for the entire year, and read them all December 31st.
I love that. And as I mulled it over in my mind for what I could do, The Thanks(Giving) Jar* was born.
It’s simple, really. As my daughter, I’ll be writing down one thing I am thankful for every day for the year. All those little things I take for granted. Like socks. And heat. And other mundane things. But I didn’t want to leave it at that – I wanted to put my gratitude into action. So I’ve also decided to add a coin with each slip of paper and at the end of the year take that money and give it to a ministry that provides for those who don’t have all those things I tend to take for granted.

I’ll also be inviting the other members of our home to do the same – I think our kids can definitely stand to remember that we are so incredibly blessed!

I’m so excited about this! And I really hope it is something you will consider doing with your family, too!

Of course, my printer is out of ink, so I can’t print off the pretty little label I made and add it to my jar, but just as soon as I can, I will share a picture of it with you.

Even better, here are some labels for you to print for yourself, if you’d like! I included four, just in case you have other members of your family would like their own jar. You know, those siblings who refuse to share anything. Not that I would know anything about that sort of thing. *cough*

*Edited to add: I changed the name slightly after the original post went live. Sometimes it takes me a few days to really shape an idea into exactly the way I want it! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Bacon Honey-Mustard Chicken Nachos

First of all, above all else, I am NOT a food blogger. I can’t even pretend to be.

But seriously? These nachos totally told me to write an entire post about them. I kid you not.

I was perusing Pinterest for meal planning inspiration today, specifically for chicken dishes. I saw this yummy looking dish while on Six Sisters’ Stuff, and knew immediately I had to try it.

I was only a wee bit disappointed when I realized it wasn’t a nacho dish. For some reason, when I saw the photo, I started craving nachos. Maybe it’s all that gooey, yummy cheese. And bacon.

I heart cheese. And bacon.

So, I thought, why not make it my own recipe and turn it into Bacon Honey-Mustard Chicken Nachos!

I altered this recipe only slightly, so all credit goes to Six Sisters’ Stuff. Like I said. Not a food blogger.

1. Season 3 to 4 chicken breasts with seasoning salt (mine is MSG-free) and brown 3 to 5 minutes per side in a tablespoon(ish) of hot oil in a frying pan. (I like to flatten mine first so they’re fairly uniform in thickness. Plus, it’s a great way to get out any pent up aggression after being cooped up in the house for 10 days during the coldest Christmas break ever.) Place in a baking dish.

Clearly I am also not a food photographer. Tastes better than it looks!

2. Mix up 1/4 cup mustard, 1/3 cup of honey, 2 tbsp of plain, non-fat yogurt (Greek is best – it’s so thick and creamy!), 1/2 tbsp onion powder. Pour over chicken breasts and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 mins, or until chicken is cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, cook up 6 pieces of bacon via your favourite method. I prefer grilling mine on my new Griddler, or on a broiling rack in the oven so all the fat more or less drains away. But you can fry yours if you prefer. Make sure your bacon is nice and crispy because you want to crumble it up later.

Let’s see that bacon again. Yum.
It helps if you have a 22 month old sneaking cheese while you work.

4. Grate 2 cups of cheddar/colby cheese. (I like to use a mixture of Old Cheddar and Mozzarella.) Set aside.

5. After chicken is done in the oven, let it cool for a few minutes and then chop or shred it up. (I’m a shred kind of gal. Also, I only ended up using one of the chicken breasts for us, you could use more if you prefer meatier nachos. My hubby loves sandwiches, so we just set aside the rest for him. Come to think of it, you could totally take some chicken, some bacon, put it on a toasted bun, top it with some cheese, lettuce and tomato… yum. Or be healthy and make a salad with greens, tomatoes, and more bacon. Bacon can so be healthy!)

6. Place a whole bunch of nachos in a baking dish (that’s an actual measurement. I learned it in Home Ec.) and top with the chicken, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheese. Bake at 450F until the cheese melts and is bubbly. (You probably could do this step under the broiler, but I never do because I, um, tend to burn my food under the broiler. And set ovens on fire.)

7. Serve with your favourite nacho sides and enjoy!

They’ve got a bit of a sweet tang to balance out the smokey savory of the bacon. I can’t wait to finish them off!

Thank you, Six Sisters’ for the inspiration!

7 Tips For Creating Your Personalized Cleaning Routine

Ahhhh.

I am reveling in some much needed peace and quiet right now. The older kiddos have been at school all day, the toddler is napping, and even though my hubs is home today thanks to that darn windchill and our car not starting (it’s minus 50 Celsius with the windchill in Saskatchewan today. Don’t even try to imagine how cold that is!), I’ve actually had a few moments all to myself.

I took a nap. It was lovely.

Of course, I did manage to get my house back to rights beforehand. What is it about six people being home for two weeks straight during the coldest Christmas holiday ever that makes housework futile? Oh, wait. I think I just answered my question!

Just before Christmas, I nailed down a cleaning routine that actually works for me. I’ve tried to conform to other cleaning schedules for years, and I just haven’t been able to make it work. But then I wised up and decided to just do it my way. And it worked! My house is actually (usually) clean again!

I know I’m not alone, so here are my tips to help you make your own cleaning schedule – one that you will actually do!

1. Commit to making your home a haven.  No amount of planning is going to help if you aren’t first committed to following through with it. I personally believe that God has called me to be home for this season not just to look after our kids, but to also create a place that is safe and inviting for them to return to at the end of their day. A place they want to be in. But I didn’t always feel this way – I could really resent having to do housework if I let myself! Having this change in my attitude has really helped me look at keeping our home as a daily gift for my family. And for me, too.

2. Make a list of all the things you want done daily. Then weekly. Then monthly. And finally seasonally. If you know you aren’t going to dust every single day, then don’t put it on your daily list!

3. Divide your weekly list into daily tasks. We have seven days in a week to get all our work done, so let’s use them! Determine if you are an all or nothing kind of gal, who likes to get all those weekly chores done in one big cleaning spree, or if you’d rather spread them out throughout the week. Decide which days you will do your weekly tasks, and try to group similar items together. For instance, I take Mondays to wash floors and dust, Tuesdays to deep clean the bathrooms, Wednesdays to clean the kitchen, Thursdays to tackle the living room/family room, and Fridays to do all my banking, meal planning, etc.

4. Divide your monthly list into weekly tasks. Each month has at least four weeks, so plan what monthly chores you will do in week one, week two, week three, and week four. Again, group similar items together. And keep your list for each week small, three to four jobs maximum!

5. Determine which months you will do your seasonal jobs, like cleaning the oven, flipping mattresses, etc. Write them in your calendar.

6. Find a system for keeping track of your chores that works for you. Some people (myself included) have a household binder with their sheets inserted into page protectors. Others like to schedule them into Google calendar or their smartphones. I’m sure if you look hard enough, you could probably even find an app for that! As techy as I am, when it comes to my to-do lists, I still prefer pen and paper. Especially if I can cross something off. That’s so satisfying!

7. Enlist your kids’ help. And your spouse’s. Whenever and wherever. Enough said.

The first few weeks are always a lot more work when you first start out, but once you get through them, your house will seem to clean itself. Or at least the work will get done that much sooner!

What tips do you have for making cleaning routines easier?

 

On #mothergood

I’ve been thinking some more on this whole concept of mothergood. So much so, I want to declare it a movement. Even if it’s just me moving.

When I think about what it means to mothergood, it’s more than just being supermom. In fact, it’s NOT being supermom at all. It’s not about having the perfect home or perfect kids. Rather, it is about finding joy in being a mom, about serving our families in the way God has equipped us to without worrying about what others are doing and if we measure up to those standards, about raising our kids to be followers and lovers of Jesus.

If I could, I’d take all the books and articles and pins that make us moms feel less than, that make us feel like we are failing because we aren’t doing all those things someone else says we should do, and I would toss them out with last week’s leftovers that no one wanted even when they were fresh. I’m tired of striving to do, when God has called us to be.

Be women who love Him with all our hearts and souls and minds. And when we don’t, be women who come to Him with repentance.

Be mothers who love our kids with the kind of love He offers us – unconditional, just, true. The kind of love that offers itself even in moments of incredible trial, that drives us to our knees in prayer and praise when we really just want to give up.

Be women less concerned with what the world tells us and more with what God tells us. Women with eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, the One who died while we were still sinners because of His great love for us.

We mothergood when we follow the One who is good. When we say no to the joy stealers and yes to the Joy-Giver.

Our kids won’t be perfect, but then neither will we. But the glory we will bring Him will cover over our failings like nothing else.

I want to mothergood.

On fear and getting out of His way

I initiated this blogging break to get some rest and some perspective. Rest I’ve gotten plenty of. Perspective? It’s coming. But it is frustrating me in its slowness.

This week the things I have been reading are converging into a singular topic, and I am so glad. Things are starting to make sense. However, as things become more in focus, I can feel that old, familiar panic rising up in me again.

Several years ago, when I first started teaching preschool, I gave up all my online ministry involvement so I could focus all my energy on my new calling. At least, in part that’s why I did it. The truth is, and it took me four years to admit this, I also left off writing because I was afraid.

I didn’t feel like I belonged. I didn’t feel like I measured up. I felt inadequate and like a fraud and so I shut down my computer and tried not to look back.

Regrets? Um, yeah.

So now, as God begins to lead me down this path again (at least, I think that’s what He is doing), I am tempted to hightail it out of here. It just occurred to me that another reason for this blogging break has been also been fear.

Fear of getting in His way. Fear of taking over and making this all about me.

I am acutely aware that I have a tendency to do these things, no matter what it is I am doing. I struggle with wanting all the glory and all the attention and all the applause for myself, even though really truly deep down I want to see that go to Him. The One who equips me and enables me and puts me here in the first place.

It fills me with such awe that He would take a risk like that. That knowing my self-centeredness and my fear He would still ask me to serve Him.

So I am going to work really hard to obey Him. Even though it scares me. Even though some days it is the very last thing I want to do.

Instead of running away, I’m going to just run.

The 5 Love Languages of Children

Last year was a tough year.

Not that anything overly bad happened – on the surface, in fact, our live looked pretty blessed. We had a healthy baby, we were settling in to our lesser finances a little more comfortably, and our marriage was strong.

But last winter we suddenly found ourselves struggling with one of our children. It was hard and it was often ugly and by the end of most days we were exhausted and depleted and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Through much prayer we were able to get through the worst of it. But as my head cleared in the aftermath, I realized that as parents we had a long way to go in repairing our family dynamic, not just with our one child, but with all of our kids.

I love our kids. I happen to think they are fantastic, smart, funny, kind, and pretty great. They’re my favourite kids by far. And I thought I was doing a good enough job letting them know they were loved, until I started to see patterns of behaviour that indicated otherwise.

It was extremely good timing that I received The 5 Love Languages of Children to review. I had heard of the book before, so I was eager to read it.

It was eye-opening to say the least.

To know that each of my children have their own love languages, their own ways of needing to be shown love has indeed been life-changing. Not because I had to do anything drastically different in how I love my kids, but because it has caused me to pay more attention, to be more intentional in filling up my kids’ love tanks in ways that are meaningful to them.

One responds best to hugs and other affectionate touch. One responds best to encouraging and affirming words. And yet another to being helped and spending quality time.

I had become lazy in my parenting, I will admit, trying a one-sized-fits-all approach to four very different children. Understanding why that wasn’t working and making small changes has made all the difference.

There is less fighting, less stress, and more willingness to cooperate and listen. And not just from the kids, but from me as well.

Not only that, but it has helped me better understand my own love language and that of my husband’s, making me more understanding and patient on the days that I feel like being anything but.

And that is a very good thing.

This book has been provided courtesy of Northfield Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. for my honest review.  Available at your favourite bookseller, including Amazon.ca.

Just call me Mom

I’ve been working my way through Restless – You Were Made For More, by Jennie Allen. First of all, let me just say if you haven’t read this book, you seriously need to. Even if you think you know what you were made to do, this book will get you thinking about what God really has made you to do.

I’ve been operating under the premise this past year that I was supposed to fulfill one of two past callings. Because one isn’t an option at this point, I decided to pursue the second. All without truly consulting God about any of it. I figured that if I had done it before, it made sense that I could just step right back into it. I told Him what I was up to, and then proceeded to struggle and agonize for the next twelve months.

Good times.

What I didn’t do was pay attention when I heard God call me to leave off working and running a daycare to be fully present as a stay-at-home-mom. God knows that I get distracted easily, and I also have a tendency toward avoidance when things get hard. But I assumed that His directions to sacrifice a meager paycheque had more to do with trust (a recurrent issue in my life) and nothing at all to do with purpose. After all, I had that calling to pursue. Staying at home made perfect geographical sense.

Turns out, I missed the point. While reading Restless, I fully expected to get all fired up to be more than just a mom. Turns out, I’ve instead started to become fired up to be just a mom. And I hold this quote responsible:

So whether our role is to mother or start a business or sponsor a child or sweep a floor or run a bank or teach little people to read, we don’t want to miss it. His Spirit will pour us into need, and who are we to judge where and what is the greatest need? This isn’t as much about what or where; this is about getting over ourselves and just doing it. (emphasis mine)

I realized I was so caught up in trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, that I was missing exactly what I was supposed to be doing!

I believe one hundred percent, even on the days that the bank balance scares me and the school fees are mounting and it is still another week until payday, on the days laundry gets old and I just want to go somewhere, that God has asked me to be home, fully present, for this season. To set aside the things that distract me and pour into the need right in front of me.

Here I was looking for some big calling and He has just handed me the biggest one.

When community hurts

Several years ago, I was in love with community. I was deep in the throes of it in my church, where I live, and in online ministry. I loved every thing about it – the feeling of belonging, the feeling of being able contribute and serve others, of knowing that there were people to care for us if we needed it.  I was passionate about it because I believed in it and I knew we were created for it.

But then I was hurt by it.

In some of the darkest days of my life, when I needed community the most, it began to fail. Suddenly, the people I thought I could count on were hard to find. The ones I needed to sit with me and hold my hand and pray with me and tell me we’d get through this because we would do it together. The wonderful thing about God is that though most of the people I counted on let me down, He placed others in my life to pick up the pieces temporarily. Those people were a beautiful gift and kept me holding on to hope.

But like I said, it was temporary.

When the days got brighter, I thought the people who had pulled away out of fear or perhaps simply awkwardness would come back. That things would go back to the way they were before. I missed them, and even though I was hurt, I wanted to move on and get things back to normal.

I sit here today feeling so isolated, so lost, so alone.

I do have a few lovely and wonderful friends and I appreciate them so incredibly much. They are the ones who did not leave, who model what true and real community really is. Because of them, I still believe in it. I am still passionate about it. I still want it for me and for you.

Most days, though, I feel like I am on the fringes, gazing longingly at groups of people laughing, hugging, sharing their joys and upsets, wishing I was part of it, wishing I could laugh and hug and be joyful or sad with them. I feel like the outsider, the one no one knows or no one wants to invite over. I feel like something is wrong with me, that repels people rather than draws them in.

It is so hard, this feeling like you don’t belong anywhere. It makes you want to hide while at the same time you desperately want to fit in. You want to give your heart and help another but shy away because you are afraid of being trampled.

But I am slowly starting to dip my toes in again. Because even though past experience has taught me that the risks are high, the fact is I am shriveling without it. We need each other in order to flourish. We need to meet together, we need to build one another up. We need to encourage each other all the more.

More than that, I need to build others up. I need to encourage. I need to serve. I need to offer help and hope.

It is the water my soul thirsts for.

Thank you for being my community.