Recipe Success

Having access to endless recipes is one of my favorite things about the internet. This week, the internet has rescued me not once, but three times, and each time was a yummy success.

Apple Cider on Halloween

Apple Cider. Halloween 2013.

1. Friday night, Josh and I attended our Schoenstatt Couples Group. The host asked us to bring snacks and libations. The libations were easy – my new spiked apple cider creation is my very favorite drink and perfect for this time of year. I created it on halloween and have made it for myself several times since. It’s simply store-bought apple cider, warmed up, and spiked with Southern Comfort. It is so yummy and festive. It couldn’t be easier to make, and I had the ingredients on hand, so I made a thermos of it to take to our gathering.

The snack was a different matter. My pantry shelves were quite bare, and I certainly wasn’t going to haul all the kids to the grocery, so I had to get creative with what I had. I wanted to make something seasonal, but the only “seasonal” ingredient I had on hand was half a can of pumpkin left over in the fridge from some other recipe. Google to the rescue. After a few minutes of searching I settled on Pumpkin Brownies. I had never heard of this magical delicacy. Who knew you could mix chocolate and pumpkin? Well, it turns out you can, and it’s quite yummy. This recipe was easy, I had all the ingredients on hand, and it came out so pretty (who doesn’t love a beautifully swirled dessert?!) It was definitely a hit because there wasn’t a single crumb left in my baking dish by the end of the night.

2. Saturday night, we went to a friend’s house for dinner. She made a turkey and potatoes and asked us to bring a couple of sides. At Josh’s suggestion, I made my go-to “zesty corn,” which he doesn’t even eat, but he knows it’s easy and makes a pretty presentation. It’s just corn, red & green bell peppers, and a jalapeño cooked with some butter, salt, oregano, and cilantro. For my second dish, I again turned to google. I had a bunch of cauliflower in the fridge so I went with this cauliflower gratin. I’ve never attempted to make my cauliflower creamy or cheesy but it was AAAMAZING. It came out golden brown and bubbly and was so rich and delicious. I plan to use this recipe again on Thanksgiving!

3. Tonight I’m taking dinner to a new mama. She just welcomed twins to her family and she has a one year old and a two year old. The ladies in my homsechool co-op are so good about taking meals to new mamas. Someone always sets up a CareCalendar and we all take turns bringing dishes. I almost always take a variation of this Rosemary Chicken. It’s one dish meal and it’s so easy to make. I usually make two of them. One for the mama and one for us. I throw ours in the oven when I head out the door to deliver the meal, and we come home to dinner ready to eat. I keep disposable aluminum pans on hand and, whenever a new CareCalendar gets posted, I’m ready to go. I just pick a date and get ready to make Rosemary Chicken. I can’t remember how exactly I stumbled across this recipe, but it was the result of a google search, and it has been successful many times.

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I’m sad to say, I didn’t take pictures of any of these yummy dishes. That’s really strange because I take pictures of EVERYTHING. It’s just what I do. I have a terrible memory, so I take millions of pictures. I want to make sure I don’t forget any of the precious times I share with my family and friends. But, somehow, I didn’t photograph any of these yummy accomplishments. You’ll just have to take my word for how beautifully delicious they were. You’ll have to settle for a picture of the apple cider at our halloween party from last year and these cute pictures of my kitchen helpers.

What were your small successes this week? Share them over at Small Success Thursday!

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Success in the Midst of Chaos

Life is so busy these days.

Honestly, I feel naive to even say that. By this point in my life, I’ve come to realize that life is busy. Period. Different seasons have different feels. Some seasons have more peace than others. But all seasons of life are busy in their own way. Life is, was, and always will be busy.

So, yes, my life is busy. But it’s also one of those times that feels unpleasantly busy. When that happens, I tend to scale back wherever I can. This week I skipped our co-op and a rosary group that I really enjoy. Perhaps that was counterproductive, as I love the time I spend with those ladies, but not having to get all five littles out the door and monitor their behavior at both of those events was a huge relief for me.

Busyness (Despite several online dictionaries’ assurance, I’m still not convinced that’s how busyness should be spelled.) aside, we’ve accomplished quite a bit around the house. Since we’re going to be moving within the month, which is not something we had planned, we have quite a bit to tackle around here. Lucky for me, my stress projects have put a very positive dent in all that needs to be done. This week we have also:

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My sweet Andy helping paint our kitchen when we moved in back in 2010.

1. Painted both boys’ rooms. Ben’s room was covered in crayon, not because I allow my children to color on the walls, but because Ben always finds a way to cut or color or spread toothpaste or glitter on things that shouldn’t be cut, colored, toothpasted, or glittered. Andy and Jack’s room was just gross. There was like this gray funk over all the walls. It must be a growing boy thing. Both rooms are now beautiful and neutral. Hopefully they will remain that way for the next month.

2. I cleaned the grout in the master bath. Seriously – do other people struggle with grout like I do?? It’s just gets so nasty. Is there some secret to keeping it clean? Or an easier method to clean it? Toothbrushes and magic erasers are the best methods I’ve found. Needless to say, there will definitely be no grout in the new house after we renovate. I hate grout! It is my house cleaning nemesis. Fortunately, all the grout in my house is almost clean. All I have left to tackle is the kitchen.

And somehow, in the midst of all the chaos of everything else going on…

3. …I had a really great little visit with one of my confirmandi. Well…he’s not a confirmand anymore – he was confirmed last spring, but I don’t know how else to refer to him. Anyone have a cute way to refer to the kiddos they’ve sponsored for Confirmation? Anyway, he texted because he’s having a tough time and wanted to chat. He came over Monday afternoon and we had a great little visit while my kiddos ran around like lunatics. Even though it was a great visit, he needs some prayer. Would you mind offering a quick prayer for him?…………….Thanks!! :)

So that’s it for me. Small successes in the midst of crazy, busy, chaos. But, hey, that’s life right? Share your small successes over at Small Success Thursday. Make it a great day!

SST: A Busy Week

It has been such a busy week at our house! Here’s what I managed to pull off:

1. We had a halloween party. We had 12 people over for trick-or-treating, fire-pitting, worm-cake-eating, and other general halloween fun. 2014-10-31 11.37.25

2. We celebrated Leila’s 2nd birthday! (I’m in constant disbelief about how quickly time flies by.) We didn’t do anything fancy, just an intimate family celebration, but I think it was perfect. She had a cupcake cake and Frozen decorations.

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3. I gave an hour long talk to the R.C.I.A. group at our parish about baptism. One of the men who has been on the R.C.I.A. team for many years said it was the most comprehensive presentation on the topic he had ever heard! :)

4. I baked some yummy bread with our rotting bananas. I know we’re not supposed to be eating bread, but it was a matter of not wasting food, right? :) In all seriousness, I hate wasting food, so I portioned and froze most of the overly ripe bananas for smoothies, but I couldn’t resist the urge to make this yummy banana pumpkin bread with chocolate chips. The kids devoured one loaf with their lunch yesterday and the other loaf for breakfast this morning.

2014-11-05 11.48.12That’s it for me. What are your small successes this week? Join in the fun over at Small Success Thursday!

Stress Projects

KeepCalmStudio.com-[Crown]-Keep-Calm-And-Complete-A-Stress-ProjectI have been super stressed out this week. On top of some smaller stressors that I’ve been dealing with, my hubby and I are making a major decision. We’re considering an opportunity that would cause some major stress, but also (hopefully) bring great rewards. I’m terrible at making decisions of any kind, but it’s way worse when the decisions are important. As we pour over pros and cons and would-bes and could-bes and should-bes, my stress level has reached heights I haven’t seen since I quit working outside of the home.

I’m not so great at coping with stress, so, at first glance, I thought I was going to have to sit out this week over at Small Success Thursday. I realized that it’s weeks like these that particularly call for a recognition of one’s small successes, and, after some thought, I discovered the silver lining to my stress.

I don’t handle stress well. I get really irritable and short-fused. To try prevent myself from attacking my family while they sleep, (I’m exaggerating – no need to call C.P.S.) I scale back on everything that I possibly can scale back on to deal with the task at hand. School gets turned down to the bare minimum: reading, math, and catechism. I make really easy meals. I don’t do the laundry. I don’t do a lot of playing with the kids. I just go into crisis mode and deal with the task at hand.

At some point I get really frustrated because I can see all that I’m putting to the side, yet I also realize that I’m not making any visible progress on whatever is causing all the stress. Then I start doing projects. I choose things that I know I can do well and see through to completion. I do this to compensate for the inadequacies I’m feeling in regards to my daily routine and other areas of my life.

I don’t go through this process intentionally. In fact, I’ve never even thought through this process before today. But this is how I operate under stress. Always.

I know that in reality this process is just a really poor coping skill. But my poor coping skill has a silver lining: I get things crossed off my to-do list that I would never otherwise tackle. I will forevermore refer to this maladaptive coping skill as my stress projects. So what did I take on this week?

1. I cleaned the grout in the hall bathroom, foyer, and laundry room. We have light grout and a lot of people in our house. I’m embarrassed to say, it gets dirty – really, really filthy. But now, thanks to my stress projects, it’s clean in several rooms of my house!

2. I weeded a lot of the front yard. We have a tiny lot, but this year it was absolutely overtaken by roadside aster. Embarrassingly overtaken. It looked like a carpet of little white flowers. But, in one of my efforts to avoid the tasks at hand while simultaneously making myself feel accomplished, I got out in the yard and tackled the weed problem – or at least a big chunk of it. We’d tried putting some weed and feed on it last month, but it didn’t work. Thus, my efforts were needed, but not something I normally would have taken on willingly. It looks so much better now!

3. I made festive halloween treats to send to work with my hubby. Back in the day, I used to make treats for my hubby to take to work with him from time to time. Thanks to work and grad school and multiple pregnancies, I haven’t done it in years. As I was working on the treats, I actually asked Josh what made me decide to make them. (Not because I was complaining but because I really couldn’t recall what gave me the idea to do it.) I didn’t realize it at the time, but it, too, was a stress project. A super cute stress project, if I may say so myself!

I’m so grateful for Small Success Thursdays. I really was feeling like a failure this week, knowing how grumpy I’ve been and seeing all that I haven’t done. Because of SST, I actually stepped back and realized that, while I may have come up short in a lot of areas, I succeeded in some areas too!

SST: He Traveled & I Survived

Since I have my computer back at my disposal, I thought I’d join back up with the ladies at Small Success Thursday. Admittedly, I’m not their most faithful participant, but it’s a linkup I really enjoy nonetheless.

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View from Hubby’s plane.

This will probably seem like extra small potatoes to many women out there, but my husband had a business trip this week, so I was at home with the kiddos. This is a rarity for our family, one that I dread. I know many women whose husbands travel regularly, and, of course, there are military wives whose husbands are gone for very long stretches. (THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH for YOUR sacrifice! I recognize that the military families sacrifice just as much as the soldiers who are sent off to serve.) I suppose it’s because my husband’s absence is such an anomaly that I struggle with successfully making it through his trip. I rely heavily on Josh both logistically and emotionally, so it’s a big change for me when he’s gone. Regardless of the reasons why I struggle, the fact remains that I do. So my small success is that I survived his trip, and it was actually the best I’ve ever done in his absence.

1. We ate at home the whole time he was gone. I don’t know why, but I have ZERO motivation to cook when my husband is away. It doesn’t make sense because there are 5 little mouths around the table in addition to mine and his, but, somehow, cooking seems pointless when he is away. Because of this, I usually get fast food or order pizza when he is away. But this time I didn’t. I made dinner all three meals plus snacks for his whole trip! (FULL DISCLOSURE: One night I made a take and bake pizza, but, hey, I still put it in the oven.

Halfway point of hubby's trip. Getting ready to take the kiddos on a field trip. "I think I can. I think I can..."

Halfway point of hubby’s trip. Getting ready to take the kiddos on a field trip. “I think I can. I think I can…”

2. I had the sense to meal plan before he left to ensure we would eat at home the whole time he was gone. Hence, the take and bake pizza. I bought it at Aldi before he flew out because I knew I would likely need a super easy meal one night. I’m not a meal planner, so having this foresight was a big accomplishment for me.

My pre-trip meal planning and shopping also meant that I didn’t have to go to the store while he was gone. Double success!

3. I drove on the crazy DFW roads in the crazy DFW traffic to and from the airport AND to and from Flower Mound, a town about 35 minutes away from us, with all of the kiddos in the car. Ever since I was in a car accident back in 2011, I’ve had some major anxiety issues behind the wheel. I’ve been working on them, and this is the biggest success I’ve had on the roads. I got a bit nervous driving at the airport, but, overall, I was cool, calm, and collected. I was so proud of myself!

That’s it for me. What are your small successes this week? Join in the fun over at Catholicmom.com!

SST # 8: I’m Baaack

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330I haven’t written a “small success” post in quiet a while. In all honesty, I kind of forgot about them. I was reading through my Feedly RSS feed (another thing I haven’t done in a while) and saw another blogger’s “small success” post. I was so excited. And then I got even more excited when I realized it was Thursday. So, here I am, back in the small success saddle.

I (almost) hate to do this, but my small success isn’t very small at all – I GRADUATED! Yes, I did! As of May 31, I have a Masters of Theological Studies from Ave Maria University’s Institute of Pastoral Theology!! Can you believe it? I’m still in disbelief. I posted pics and a video of the big moment over at our family blog if you want to see. I really love the concept of reflecting on the small successes that I so often overlook in my daily life, but it would be impossible to look back on the past week and not rejoice over my graduation. Three long years have finally come to a gloriously triumphant close.

If I took my graduate school experience as a whole, I think the greatest “small success” that I achieved in my time as a student is learning to love God with my mind. We all know that we’re called to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind. (Mt 22:37) The heart and soul have never been a problem for me. Well…execution is often a problem for me. I fall and fail in loving God with my whole heart and soul many times a day. But the concept of loving God with my heart and soul makes sense to me. I understand how to do that. I always have. My mind is another story.

I never really stopped to think about it until I was immersed in this deep sea of intellectual information: history, philosophy, anthropology, laws, doctrine, documents. Somehow, despite being surrounding with what appeared on the surface to be just a bunch of facts and things to memorize, my heart was burning, longing for more. From my very first moment in the classroom, I became one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Lk 24) My entire graduate education became this three year long retreat* where I came to know God in a new and exciting way.

For the very first time, God wasn’t just a feel-good, heart thing for me. I was finally able to connect faith and reason and use them together, as they are intended to be. I’ve always been taught that faith and reason go hand in hand, but now I’ve actually experienced it. Now, I know what it means to love God with my mind. Because of this, I was really sad when I realized that graduation was quickly approaching. I didn’t want to loose this newfound intellectual relationship I had discovered with the Lord. Especially since I had realized that I had barely scratched the surface of all there is to learn about him. Now that I have graduated, I come away from my time as a student with a deep desire to further discover God with my mind, and the skills to know how to do so. Now comes the daily journey, on which I will often fall and fail, to love God daily with my whole mind, as I have finally learned to do.

 


* I have to admit, doing the assignments was far from retreat-like. I slaved and toiled and stressed and procrastinated and drove my family crazy. But, while I was in class, and even when I was on a roll with any particular assignment, it was very much retreat-like in that I was connecting with God in ways that were new and real for me. Just like those disciples heading to Emmaus, my heart was burning.

SST # 7: Very Small Successes

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330It’s been one of those weeks. You know the kind. The kind in which everything goes wrong. Even the things that always go right – those things you can sort of take for granted. Yeah, they went wrong too.

I know it’s weeks like this when reflecting on small successes is extra important. But it’s also incredibly hard to do. So here’s what I came up with:

1. I took the boys to tennis. Last week I accidentally fell asleep on the couch with Sophie and we sleep through tennis. My boys didn’t notice until my husband got home. Then I fibbed and told them it got rained out since it had been drizzling on and off all day. This week, despite all the other yuckiness, we made it to tennis. And I didn’t lie to my kids.

2014-04-02 18.41.502. We instituted a new, super effective consequence for the big boys.  The boys are starting to take advantage of me being pinned to the couch nursing. Their behavior gets a little bit wilder and a little less desirable every day. There’s not much I can do from the couch besides yell at them. I’ve definitely been known to do that, but I hate it. So now we’re writing lines. They have to write a page front and back of whatever line I feed them. They dislike it, so it’s fended off some bad behavior, but (big bonus for me) it keeps them still and quiet for a bit while they complete their assignment. On top of that, they’re writing about how they should have behaved, so I can pretend they’re learning virtue in the process.

3.  I took a shower most days this week. If you’re not a mom, that probably sounds really weird to you. If you’ve raised little ones, I know you know exactly what I mean.

That’s it for me. What about you? Share your small successes at Catholicmom.com.