A Big Bowl of Self Care

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Wait, are those brussels sprouts in that picture?

You read the words “self care” and probably thought I was going to suggest you grab a big bowl of ice cream, right?

I’m certainly no stranger to dishing out a bowl of Bluebell after a hard day, but lately I’m thinking about self care a little differently. I’m looking at how I can put good stuff in my body, so that my body works at its best…which makes me feel happy and want to go  around spreading good vibes everywhere I go. I think of it as trickle down self care. I treat myself well so that I have the energy, joy, and stamina to treat others well.

So, how do we get more good stuff into our bodies? By eating more plants, that’s how. Even though we know we are supposed to eat our veggies, chances are you aren’t getting the recommended five servings every day. I know on most days I don’t unless I really try.

I have started tracking the days I eat five servings of fruits and vegetables in my bullet journal. If I eat my veggies I get to color in a little box in my habit tracker. It’s amazing the power that coloring in that box has over me. It totally changes my eating choices. If I’m making scrambled eggs for breakfast, I’ll throw in some leftover roasted broccoli from the night before just to get in a serving of vegetables right off the bat. Add a handful of blueberries as a side and I get to count that as a serving of fruit. Boom! I’ve had two out of five of my servings before I’ve even gotten dressed. #killingit

Left to my own devices, I will mindlessly choose to eat nothing but baked goods and proteins all day long. I mean, yum, right? But now that I’m tracking my fruits and veggies, I’m making sure to squeeze some plants into every meal.

So, here’s how you get massive amounts of plants in your body and have fun doing it.

SELF-CARE VEGGIE BOWL

Crank your oven up to 425 degrees.

You take a sheet pan, preferably it is really beat up and crusty from all the other times you have roasted veggies on it.

Then you chop up:

  • a shallot or any onion you have on hand
  • butternut squash (I cheated and bought an already-chopped up butternut squash because hacking my way through a rock-hard gourd and dealing with squash guts at lunchtime is a deal-breaker.)
  • And brussels sprouts (which do have an “s” on the end of “brussel.” I googled it so that we can all just relax and keep reading.)

Next you grab your olive oil and you drizzle a few good glugs of oil all over the veggies, which at this point are on your cruddy old sheet pan as shown in picture below. Glug, glug, glug goes the olive oil all over the veggies. Add some salt and pepper, give it a little toss with your hands, and you are good to put it in the oven for 30 minutes or so. Every 10 minutes, give the veggies a little stir so that they get evenly caramelized. You can even talk to them while you are in there stirring, and say little encouraging words about how good they are looking. That’s what I like to do.

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Meanwhile…on top of the oven…make your balsamic drizzle. Balsamic drizzle sounds super fancy and foodie-like, but it is very simple to make. All you do is take 1/4 of a cup of balsamic vinegar and put it in a small sauce pan, add a tablespoon of honey to the vinegar and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture for about ten minutes so that it can reduce to a nice syrupy consistency.

If you like watching things boil like I do, check out my video below!

 

 

Feel free to share that video on all the social media.

Then, it’s just a hop, skip and a few parmesan shavings to turn your veggies and drizzle into a delicious feast for the senses. I combined my vegetables with Israeli couscous, toasted pumpkin seeds, Craisins, and parmesan shavings and then added a drizzle of the balsamic reduction. Then I ate it in front of my computer, which wasn’t very self-care-y of me, but this stuff doesn’t blog itself.

You could also combine your veggies with quinoa, farro, spelt, nothing, you make the rules here.

The Israeli couscous, craisin, pumpkin seed, parmesan shavings combo was delicious. And I feel super after eating it. Specifically, I feel satisfied, energized, just the right amount of full, and clear-headed. These are the signs that tell me what I’m eating is treating me right and giving my body what it needs to be happy. When I feel better after I eat something, I know it is good food for me. I mean, forget following a special diet that you read about in a book. Just pay attention to how food makes you feel. Eat the things that make you feel good! Easy. Your body knows what it needs.

So much of what I eat (pizza, cookies, hamburgers), is good as I’m tasting it, but then I feel terrible after I eat it. This bowl was delicious and made me feel like a million bucks.

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So next time you are having a rough day or a good day, or just a normal day, treat yo’ self to good food. Give yourself a big old plant-based hug and give your body what it needs to thrive. Then let all that those good feelings spill over to the people around you. Because your bowl runneth over.

Love,

E


The Velveteen Van: How My Minivan Became Real

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

-From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

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The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my all-time favorite books when I was a kid. As a devoted stuffed animal lover, I totally related to the message that love takes a toll on the beloved. Balding fur, eyeballs hanging on by a thread, and deflated stuffing are simply signs of how much something has meant to you.

As an adult, this passage from The Velveteen Rabbit still rings true. Now when I read these words I nod my head in agreement, wipe a tear from my eye, and think of…

My minivan.

My minivan has been puked on. And not in a contained way. Puke has found its way into the crevice between the seats that fold down for extra storage, and into the seatbelt buckle. There is that space where you insert the metal part of the seatbelt so that it makes that satisfying clicking sound. There has been puke in that thing.

My kids are older now, but my minivan had car seats strapped into it for so many years that there are lines in the seats that can never be erased. Those lines are like lines on a map, charting my kids’ journeys from babyhood to adolescence.

Before we moved back to our hometown of Austin, our van used to carry the five of us across the country twice a year so that we could visit family. During those epic drives our van was like a little house on wheels where we would watch movies, eat meals, sleep, yell at each other, change diapers, and where I would unsuccessfully try to nurse babies who were strapped into a car seat. Those of you who can do that are my heroes.

Now our minivan carries us back and forth to muddy soccer games, tennis lessons, basketball games, high school carpool, camping trips, garden workdays, and sweaty workouts. On a good day our dog gets to come along for the ride.

Feed a wet dog a bunch of chocolate ice cream, then when he pukes it up, bake everything in the 108-degree Texas heat and you get the idea of what our minivan smells like. I try to do something about the smell sometimes. I stuck an almost-used-up volcano candle in the floor storage compartment to try to trick people into thinking our minivan was actually Anthropologie.

There are layers of smells in there is what I am trying to say. And maybe I’m also complain bragging a little about my floor storage compartment. Sorry. But it is pretty cool.

We have shared countless meals in the van, dropped sippy cups of milk that rolled under the seat to be found six months later. There are lights that come unhinged when I open the back, dangling there like dead bodies.

Recently we considered trading in our van for something a little snazzier. I couldn’t bear the thought of buying yet another minivan as I have been driving a van for 10 years now. I didn’t want to drive a huge SUV because I think it would just make me feel like I was in a drug cartel or the secret service. Also because the environment. When you have three kids who like to go places with their friends, that pretty much requires that you need either a minivan or a giant SUV or one of those shuttles you take to the remote parking lot in the airport.

Thinking about trading in my car for a new, shinier thing sounded like a dream come true at first, but ultimately I decided that, while others might not get it, I love my minivan. It will be paid off soon. All those memories and smells, I’ll be driving those around for free.

We can take that money we save on a car payment and put it toward college, which is coming in less than four years. I have a feeling the closer college gets, the less I will mind my stinky, well-worn ride, which is becoming less minivan and more time-capsule as the years pile up.

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Maybe there’s still a sippy cup trapped somewhere in that thing. If I’m lucky.


Like a Mother

When I had my first child, I remember it hitting me for the first time that everyone had come into the world a helpless, adorable baby. And that everyone had a mama who went through nine months of body-morphing, magical weirdness and the pain of childbirth in order to bring that person into the world. I know it’s sad that it took having a baby of my own for this to dawn on me, but I can be slow and a little self-absorbed.

After my daughter was born, I couldn’t pass a homeless person without thinking about that person as a baby–a baby with a mama who had probably loved him or her dearly and fiercely at one point.

I couldn’t stand in line at Starbucks without seeing the baby-ness in everyone. Once you start seeing people this way, those crazy specific drink orders seem less annoying in their toddler-like pickiness, and become more endearing.

Everyone becomes more endearing if you search for their baby-ness—that fragile infant inside of them who is scared and needy and so hungry for food and love and acceptance…and could probably use a nap.

When I went back to work after nine years of being at home with my kids, my boss figured out what made me tick pretty quickly. I was overwhelmed by the job I had been tasked with, which required that I project manage the publishing of twenty-something online educational modules. Each module was in a different stage of development and there were a million details to remember. It felt like I was solely responsible for remembering each and every one. I must have looked at my boss with big eyes one day. Sensing my anxiety, she told me something that has always stayed with me. She said that I needed to think about those modules as my babies. Each one was on a different schedule and each one needed different things at different times, but she knew that I could handle it. She knew I would be okay because I knew how to be a mama. All I needed to do was be a mama to those modules.

I know that sounds weird, but for someone who felt insecure in the workplace, but totally confident in my ability to be a mom, that advice really resonated. I mommed those modules so hard. I got on top of that job and convinced our agency that we needed another person to help because the amount of work it took to be a good mama to those modules was not a part-time job by any stretch. Those modules needed two mamas. So we hired another person and together we took very good care of our module babies.

Mamas are heroic. Mamas get their hands dirty. They get up before everyone and are wiping down counters and prepping for tomorrow when everyone else is done for the day. They drive forgotten lunches to school. They know when someone hasn’t really washed their hands in the bathroom. They can sense when someone has had a bad day the minute they walk off the bus. Mamas can’t sleep if one of their babies is hurting or sick. They have a Spidey sense that jolts them awake the second a baby cries out in the night.

We are able to do all this stuff not because we are superhuman, but because we care so much. The heroic things we do to care for our families are just a by-product of the intense love we feel. We can’t help it.

My challenge for myself and anyone reading this (whether you are a mama or not) is to apply those mama superpowers to everything–everyone you encounter and the work you do in the world. Care so much that you can’t look the other way when someone is hurting. Care so much that you simply have to stop what you are doing and help someone in need. Care so much that you can’t not march at that rally, cheer at your friend’s race, volunteer to help kids learn to read, teach that Sunday School class, bring someone a meal. Do it because you love the world too much not to.

Be a mama to everything. Be a mama to yourself. Have you eaten any vegetables today? Do you need to get some rest? Are you hustling too much to please others and forgetting to fill your own cup? There is a baby inside of you too and that baby needs rest and food and a little tucking in. Caring for others when you are not caring for yourself is like taking a tired, hungry toddler to Target—you could do it, but it probably won’t go well.

Are you anxious? Stressed? Stretched too thin? Worried? Feeling shame about that thing you said or didn’t say, or that thing you ate or didn’t eat? Try to imagine what you would say to your own baby girl if she felt those things. You are okay. You are more than okay, you are amazing! Look at all the things you do so well. You are so much more than this thing you are focusing on. You are valuable and worthy of all the love and kindness in the world. Stop beating yourself up, baby girl. Now, say those things to yourself.

Our world is a mess. It needs us to love on it and clean it up. Our world needs one of those crazy cleaning sessions you do when company is coming in an hour and you are suddenly a force of cleaning wizardry. It needs us to smile at strangers and look at them with light and joy in our eyes, to let that person with his blinker on merge. For the love of God, let the people merge! It needs us to pay for the coffee of the person in line behind us, to feed someone who is hungry, to walk with someone who is hurting, to listen to someone who needs to talk.

Be a mama to everything. And let others be a mama to you. See how it changes you and filters everything you see through a curtain of gauzy love that brings you to tears with how much goodness there is in the world, how much kindness and humor and joy.

In some ways the world is a place only a mother could love. So let’s go love it. Like a mother.


But First Tacos

but first tacos

Photo credit: 5thandGraceCo

 

You know how they say put the oxygen mask on yourself first? Well, the same is true for tacos. You can’t be a good you on an empty tummy. But it’s hard to find time to feed yourself in the midst of the tornado that is getting everyone out the door each morning.

Well I have a solution for all you hangry mamas out there!

This is going to sound like a pretty obvious tip, but it took me a while to figure this out and since I have started doing this one thing, I save a good 30 minutes making and cleaning up breakfast everyday. That’s like a good 3 and a half hours a week!

Are you ready for me to reveal my tip?

You sure?

Okay. Here it is. All I do is make a bunch of bacon and scrambled eggs at one time and then reheat them throughout the week to have an easy, delicious breakfast ready in seconds. I know, not exactly earth shattering in its originality, but I have been making breakfast for a long, long time and it just recently occurred to me to do this. So it made me think maybe others have not discovered this little nugget of efficiency.

I like to put my eggs and bacon on a corn tortilla and plop a little salsa or guacamole on top. One time I had leftover pork chops (the ones from my 30-day meal plan), and so I sliced up one of those bad boys and put it on top of my eggs instead of bacon. Whoa. It was good. You could also make a big batch of frozen hash browns and add those to the mix. I am happy with just simple bacon and eggs, but sometimes I add a little grated cheese if I am feeling fancy.

Here’s how I make bacon the super easy, no muss, no fuss way. 

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  1. Cover a large sheet pan with heavy duty foil.
  2. Set an oven-safe cooling rack on top of it.
  3. Line your bacon up on the cooling rack so that the grease can drip down onto the foil-lined pan.
  4. Bake at 420 for 10-20 minutes, depending on how you like your bacon. I like mine crispy, so I leave it in there longer. *Confession: I have a tendency to burn bacon. It’s my one flaw.
  5. Let things cool down before trying to dispose of the foil. Letting the grease cool down and solidify a little makes clean up less likely to give you a third degree burn.

 

 

While the bacon’s cooking, make your eggs:

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  1. Crack however many eggs you think you’ll need into a bowl. I usually do six at a time.
  2. Over low heat, melt a tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan. I also give the pan a little spritz of cooking spray for good measure.
  3. While the butter is melting, whisk your eggs until they are all mixed together and are basically one solid color.

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I mean, look at that action shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour eggs into the pan and gently start to lift and fold them gently with a rubber spatula. Lift and fold. Lift and fold.

The goal is to not let any eggs stay in one spot too long and get brown.

Brown scrambled eggs=gross scrambled eggs.

Don’t forget to add a little salt and pepper. I think it’s easier to season the eggs once they’re in the pan. You can get a better idea of how much salt and pepper you really need when they’re all spread out as opposed to when they’re in a bowl.

Keep cooking on low heat until they are as done as you like em. The big thing to remember is slow and low is the key to cooking eggs. Slow and low…that is the tempo. You want to lovingly coax them into luscious scrambledness. This cannot be rushed.

Let your eggs cool and pack them up for easy living all week.

Once you’ve got your eggs and bacon at the ready, you can have a quick, yummy, filling breakfast in minutes with no mess to clean up. Like I said, I like to make a taco by microwaving a tortilla with a little cheese topped with eggs and bacon. I microwave it for about 45 seconds and then I eat it standing up over my kitchen sink like an animal.

You could also toast an english muffin, microwave the eggs and bacon separately and then build a little breakfast sandwich. Yum. Or just eat them as eggs and bacon with a little toast. Feel free to mix it up. Add some veggies. Slice up some avocado. Once you have your base of eggs and bacon, you can do with them as you choose and it really doesn’t add much time to the equation.

Side note: Supposedly the way you like your eggs says something about your personality.

So, if you could only eat eggs one way forever, which way would you choose?

Did you say scrambled, like me? Here’s what that means, according to the internet: 

You’re a loyal friend to the end! Conservative, but always friendly and inclusive of others –– not the life of the party, but always at the party. Sometimes really bland, but whatever — people still like you so who cares.

Yay.

I don’t care if I’m a little boring. You over-easy people can have your wild parties and mucousy eggs. I’m scrambled eggs for life.

So sometimes, you will find yourself in the position I was in today. My bacon and egg stash had run dry, and I didn’t have time to make more. What could I eat…what could I eat….

Well, necessity really is the mother of invention because today I invented what I believe to be the next big thing…

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Yep, that’s a waffle taco. And it was delicious. And there was fruit, y’all, so it was healthy.

All you do to make this amazing handful of self care is toast a blueberry waffle. Swipe on a scant amount of Nutella. Just the tiniest amount. Like, so little, it doesn’t even register on My Fitness Pal. It’s like you basically didn’t even eat any Nutella at all. Pile on some blueberries and fold it in half. Voila! You have made an entirely different, but equally yummy breakfast taco.

So, what do y’all like to eat for breakfast? I would love to hear if you can top my waffle taco. It gets a ten out of ten for both easiness and deliciousness, but it needs a better name. Maybe we should call it… Wacco? Taffle? I need your thoughts on this.

Love,

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 


One Meal Plan and Done: A Month of Easy Family Dinners

Something happens after you turn 40. Well, a lot happens, much of which I won’t go into now, but one thing that I have noticed now that I’m 43 is that I think about time so much more than I used to.

Once you get up on top of that 40 hill, you can see clearly. You were climbing, climbing, climbing for the first four decades of your life, and now you’re up on top looking out over everything and going, wow, this is amazing! My life is pretty awesome! I still feel good (hopefully)! And I’m not clawing my way up this mountain trying to prove myself anymore. I’m here. I’m enough. And I have perspective. I can see ahead of me and behind me. I can use the tools that got me here to keep getting better and stronger and driving forward. But not because I’m hustling for others’ approval, because I now can see what’s important, what I care about most.

I love being in my 40s. I’ll take the gray hairs and the weird lines on my neck and creaky knees if it means I can have that mountaintop view of life. No contest.

I’m not nearly as concerned with appearance or external success as I used to be, but what I am a tiny bit obsessed with now is time and how I use it. I now see time as a finite thing. I of course knew that before I turned 40, but now I feel it. I hear it like a jungle drum beating constantly in the distance. There is only so much time to do the things I want to do, and it makes me hyper-aware of what I’m doing with each minute.

So what does this have to do with meal planning? I thought there were going to be recipes, you’re saying to yourself.

Planning a month of meals at a time saves me time. Not just a few hours here and there, but exponential amounts of time. That’s time that I can use to train for a marathon, write a novel, garden, volunteer at school, be a good friend, sister, aunt, wife, daughter, mom. You know, big stuff from my life list that is way more fun and important than going to the grocery store.

Also meal planning saves us money. Since I started sticking to a meal plan, I only go to the grocery store once a week. (Every time you walk into the grocery store, you buy more than just what you came for, so staying away as much as possible means you spend less.) But the big way we save money is by not eating out. We can easily blow $50 feeding our family of 5 by eating out. And that’s fine if it’s a treat that we are all excited to enjoy. But if we spend that kind of money just because I forgot for the third time in a week that I can’t drive and make dinner at the same time…then that is not a treat. That just hurts.

But really my main motivator is saving time. I want hungry people to be fed, family dinners to be a priority, and I refuse to spend hours upon hours making this happen every week.

So before I reveal my arsenal of dinners, I have a few tips:

Tip #1: Use Google sheets to create your meal plan, then add your grocery lists as additional tabs at the bottom of your sheet. 

You can see in the screenshot below I have created a Google sheet with my dinners plugged into a calendar. Then, at the bottom of my meal spreadsheet calendar thing, I have different tabs for each week’s grocery list. This is where things get really nerdy and amazing. I can just re-use these grocery lists each week for the rest of my life if I want to. Or I can copy and paste and tweak them if I want to change up the rotation a bit. And I can always see and edit them, because I can access my Google drive from my phone. OMG, I know.

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Here’s my week 1 grocery list. It includes stuff other than just what I need for dinners obviously. I needed cilantro twice apparently. But only once did I need it to be capitalized.

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Tip #2: Add your meals to your digital calendar.

Once you’ve got the above setup, you can add your dinners to your Google calendar or whatever calendar you use. This will help you see that, oops, Back to School night is on Tuesday and it’s not a good night for that super complicated recipe you clipped out of Food and Wine magazine.

So without further ado, I am sharing a month’s worth of dinners my whole family will happily eat. I am breaking these dinners up into categories so that you can plug them into your specific schedule. For example, if you know you have a crazy driving day on Wednesdays, pick a meal from the slow-cooker category. You will feel like a genius when you roll into your driveway at 6:30 with a hot meal ready to be dished out to hungry loved ones.

So here’s what’s for dinner at my house this month:

Slow-cooker/Instant Pot Meals

Make-Ahead Dinners

  • Spaghetti with meat sauce: Brown 1 lb ground beef and 1 lb ground mild italian sausage. Drain fat. Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic and cook with ground meat for 30 seconds. Add half a cup of wine (any wine or no wine is fine) and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated.  Add 24-oz jar of Rao’s marinara sauce + 1 8 0z can of (unseasoned) tomato sauce + 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning + tablespoon of sugar + salt and pepper to taste. Let everything simmer for as long as you have. Add water if sauce seems too thick. Serve with pasta and any veggie your kids will eat!
  • Lasagna (Make extra spaghetti sauce and freeze half for lasagna night. Woo! I use whatever recipe comes on the box of lasagna noodles.)
  • Chicken and dumplings (Make your own stock with a whole chicken or use a rotisserie chicken with store-bought stock. You are your own boss!) I have concocted what I believe to be the perfect chicken and dumplings recipe. Sorry, I need to figure out how to share recipes on WordPress. Once I do that I will share that in another post. Stay tuned!

Sheet Pan Dinners

  • Sausage with Roasted Vegetables: slice up your favorite sausage (I like Pederson’s), add chunks of red onion, and veggies, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast for 20ish minutes on 425.
  • Sheet Pan Meatballs with Crispy Turmeric Chickpeas

Dinners You Can Make With Your Eyes Closed*

  • Crispy Tacos=ground beef + Old El Paso seasoning + Crispy taco shells + fixings
  • Fish Tacos=frozen battered fish fillets + southwestern salad in a bag + tortillas + fixings
  • Grilled Chicken=I actually make this in a pan, not on the grill. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and season salt on the chicken. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Cook on medium high heat on both sides until done. For extra thick chicken breasts, consider cutting them in half lengthwise to make them thinner. Better seasoning to chicken ratio that way. And they’ll cook faster.
  • BBQ Chicken=See above method for grilled chicken but add barbecue sauce to chicken at the end and throw it in a 425 degree oven to let it caramelize a little.
  • Homemade Pizza**=buy a ball of fresh dough from a pizza place near you and flip and toss it around like you made that thing yourself. Or make it yourself using this recipe that is super easy, but just takes some time for the dough to rise. For anyone still reading this, you are awesome, and please know that an envelope of yeast is equal to 2 and 1/4 teaspoons.
  • Baked potato night. The potato is your canvas. Get creative. Expert moms have baked potato night after BBQ chicken night and put leftover BBQ chicken on their potatoes. Just sayin.
  • Quesadillas=tortilla, cheese, other tortilla. Put them in a pan and melt the cheese. We are a simple folk and don’t need anything else but a little guacamole to make this a meal. But you will likely have extra pulled chicken or pulled pork sitting around at some point, so just think about that. Don’t cook more. Cook smart!

Dinners You Can Outsource. For us Sunday night is usually Daddy-grills night. Yay!

  • Grilled hamburgers
  • Grilled hotdogs
  • Grilled anything. I don’t care because I am not cooking!

Fancy-ish Dinners that Make You Feel Special

*Don’t do that. Just saying these are really easy meals.

**We eat pizza once a week, which is how this meal plan stretches to be a month’s worth of dinners.

It’s a little embarrassing how excited my month-long meal plan makes me, but I don’t care. I will shout about my meal plan from the top of my 40-something hill.

This kind of stuff used to seem unimportant, like if I had nothing else to do I might get into meal planning if I felt like it. Now I see how much of an impact doing a little planning can have on the rest of my life. I estimate that I used to spend at least 3-5 hours a week planning what to make for dinner. Between looking online for recipes, making lists, and going to the grocery store multiple times a week, the time really adds up. Now, that I have a system that works, I spend only the time it takes to go to the grocery store one time once a week. The rest is already done. It blows my mind.

How do you get dinner on the table every night? Do you have any tips or tricks that keep the meal train chugging along? Please share!

Love,

Elizabeth

 

 


What are you going to create?

I was prepping for teaching Adam and Eve to 4th grade boys in Sunday School, and I came across this video by Rob Bell that totally shifted my perspective about this story.
I have always had a hard time with Adam and Eve. It’s not a fun story. God makes this beautiful, perfect thing in one chapter and in the next humans have completely ruined it forever. It is not how I like to see the world, or people, or God.
We are Adam and Eve. We have been given this beautiful, perfect life. What are we going to do with it? We have a choice. We can choose to create something good or something destructive. It’s a new day, a new week, a new month and you have a choice. What do you choose to create?

How to Win at Back to School

back to school conceptual creativity cube

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are two types of moms out there—the ones who never want summer to end, and the ones who start planning for the fall in July. As much as I’d like to believe I am an endless summer fun mom, I am decidedly not. I like structure, a quiet house, and people learning things from professional teachers. My kids actually really like school too. We are all much happier once school starts.

I want to share a few things I’ve picked up along the way that help us live our best back to school lives.

Treat Back-to-School like it’s New Year’s. Have the whole family come up with resolutions (goals) for the school year. Whether it’s learning a new instrument, trying out for a new sport, making straight A’s…harness those New School Year vibes and make some goals. Talk to your kids about coming up with goals that are within their control (tryout for the soccer team vs. make the soccer team) and that are measurable (read all 20 Bluebonnet books by December vs get better at reading). Don’t forget to make goals for yourself and share your goals with your kids. Somehow my kids did not realize I was writing a novel until I shared recently that my New School Year goal was to finish my novel by January. It was motivating to share that goal with the kids and get their encouragement.

Think about setting three big goals in three different categories (personal, professional, family). Be real about what you can do each day to accomplish those goals. This translates to looking at how much time you have and how much time it takes to accomplish your goals. When I really looked at what it would take to finish my novel by January, that translated to writing 10 pages a week, which meant I needed to carve out two hours a day every weekday for that goal. And I needed to do that at a time of day when I’m not totally brain dead. Which leads me to my next tip…

Make a schedule and be realistic about where your time is going. Look at drop off times, pick up times, soccer practice, after-school tutoring, gymnastics, church youth group. Write down everything you will be doing in a week in some sort of calendar—you could make one yourself, bullet journal style, or use a printed Google calendar set to a weekly view. But I would recommend using paper and pencil to write down a master calendar with what is happening every day at what time. Don’t forget to add the driving time. The amount of time I spend driving is always a shock to me. And it is a huge reminder about why it’s so hard to figure out family dinners during the school year. So much of my time between 4-6 is spent in the car on weekdays. This year I actually wrote down what time we need to eat dinner each day to accommodate all of our activities. The timing of everything then led to my next tip…

Make a weekly meal plan that aligns with your driving schedule. Refer to your weekly schedule. If you have to be in the car during prime dinner-making hours every Tuesday, then that is not a good night to make a dinner that requires a lot of time and babysitting. Plan to make a slow-cooker meal on days when you know you will be out all afternoon. I love to wing it in the kitchen, so this has been a hard lesson for me to learn, but, man, once I started doing this, I felt like I had cracked the dinner code. I actually went next level this month and made a month-long meal plan, which I’m going to share in my next post. Stay tuned for that.

And while I am loving having a plan, and I think plans are super helpful, I do want to add that they should serve you and not the other way around. Which brings me to my last and probably most important tip…

Be flexible. The older my children get (I have a freshman, 7th grader and 4th grader), the more I learn that parenting is not about enforcing my will and plans on them but about listening to their needs and desires and adjusting as necessary. I try to plan my time and schedule as much as I can so that I can be available for those last-minute crises that pop up, or to host spur-of-the moment study sessions or playdates or trips to get a frappuccino  when they’ve had a bad day. I am so not perfect at this. I screw this stuff up all the time, but my intent is to be able to provide a soft place for my kids to fall when life is hard. And it’s impossible to do that if you are super rigid about sticking to a routine at all costs.

So that’s how we not only survive, but THRIVE now that school is in session. I’m sure there are a lot of other new school year tips and tricks out there that I haven’t thought of. I’d love to hear what works for your family!

Happy New School Year!

Love,

Elizabeth