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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Blessings and Fulfillment

Yesterday was busy and fulfilling.  I can’t help revel in the fact that God has blessed our family so much and I get to take care of these amazing guys!

Little Cainan was feeling under the weather so I decided to keep him home with me—something that would not have been a simple decision were I still working.   Most of my plans for the day were home based but I did need to run a quick errand to the store after dropping off Asher.  Cainan tagged along and was in a pleasant mood.  In the car on the way home he asked for some music and when Bruno Mars rang out through the speakers singing “Just the Way You Are” Cainan asked if it was a song about God (we listed to a lot of Christian music and he likes songs with God in them).  I was explaining to him that Mars was singing about a woman he loved, that he felt she is beautiful just the way she is and doesn’t need to change anything.  She is perfect to him.  Cainan nodded and said, “Just like you, Mommy.  I love you just the way you are.  You're perfect and Daddy, too and Asher.”

Could anything make a mother’s heart happier or more proud? It’s wonderful to see that our sons are growing to be so considerate and loving.  I thank God every day for having these boys in my life and blessing me with motherhood.  We continued on our way home and he rested up so he could go back to school today.  

Asher, on the other hand, was a whirlwind yesterday.  He’s enjoying kindergarten so much.  After picking him up from school I had my hands full with keeping him occupied.  We worked on his homework, then I had him draw a special Fall/Halloween picture that we made into a placemat, then he was busy building a Lego city…

While he was occupied in the house, I stepped outside for something and tiny bit of movement on the ground caught my attention.   A big, fat, uniquely colored caterpillar was crawling for all it’s worth across a patch of dirt in our yard.  I yelled for Asher to come outside and grabbed his caterpillar basket (a cylindrical, netted, hanging basket we got for the purpose of watching caterpillars cocoon and hatch into butterflies).  He plucked the big guy from the ground and put him in the basket.  We peered closer at the caterpillar and noticed it had two little dots on its head that made it look like it had eyes and a dark and light band toward the back of its head.  I jumped on the internet and together we were able to identify the thing as a Papilio rutulus, which will turn into a Western Tiger Swallowtail.  
I was so excited! I’ve never caught a real butterfly caterpillar in the wild before.  All the little brown and green caterpillars Asher’s been so diligent in collecting this summer seem to turn into some variety of moth or just die…  This guy’s actually going to be a butterfly!  So he’s in the basket with plenty of fresh vegetables to eat and a bushy tree branch for him to attach to when the time comes.  I really hope he makes it. 

Asher was so excited, he came back inside the house and drew a picture of the caterpillar.  He did a really great job too!  I’m really impressed with how much his drawing and coloring skills have taken off in the last month.  It’s become one of his favorite past times of late.

We finished off our satisfying day the best way.  Joe came home and we had a fantastic family dinner with his parents, my mom and my grandpa over to join us.  I’d prepared a slow cooked pot roast that came out spectacularly, along with carrots, potatoes, fresh corn on the cob and super ripe garden tomatoes.  We even got to spend some time laughing with friends later in the evening.

I’m grateful for all the blessing I have but days like yesterday just fill my heart to its bursting point.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thai Lettuce Cups

At the request of a friend, I was going to post my recipe for the Thai Lettuce Cups we enjoyed a couple weeks ago.  They were so yummy, the kids loved them and they are a great healthy meal.  The only problem is, when I made them a few weeks ago, I totally did a “how about a little of this and a little of that” kind of dish and I didn’t keep track of what “this and that” were.  So last night I re-created the recipe, determined to write it down for future reference and for my friend.  Only this time, I didn’t have the same ingredients as last time and they still turned out great.  So, rather than provide a step by step recipe with definitive ingredients, I’m just going to post how to make them (it’s really easy!) and you can choose your own ingredients.

The key ingredients for these great cups are:

Boneless chicken (I use the frozen chicken breast tenders)
A package of coleslaw  shreds (they’re usually in 14 oz or 16 oz bags in the prepackaged salad section of your grocery—remember not to buy the kit that includes the dressing; you won’t need it)
Peanuts (I like dry roasted)
You choice of spices and sauces

Since I’m trying to cut back on our meat intake I only use a few of the breast tenders for this recipe.  I cut them into small pieces so they distribute evenly throughout the recipe and it seems like there’s more chicken than there really is—my meat requiring husband didn’t even notice the lack of animal protein in the dish.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan and add the chicken.  This is also a good time to add any minced garlic or grated ginger to the recipe and sauté with the chicken.

Once the chicken is cooked through (it only take a few minutes if it’s cut small), add a full package of the coleslaw shreds.  At this point, the rest is really up to you…

The first time I made these I picked up a seasoning package of Pad Thai that you simply add water to and pour into your stir fry.  After mixing in the water and dipping my finger in for a taste sample, I about choked.  It was soooo hot there was no way I was going to use it on a dinner that included my seven year old, five year old and tender tongued husband.  I used just a third of the sauce mix and wondered what else I could put in the recipe.  I had a little bit of a teriyaki glaze in the fridge and dumped that in.  The results were wonderful! Plenty of spice, still sweet and salty, nutty & yummy!

Last night, I didn’t have the Thai seasoning or any teriyaki left.  I did have oyster sauce, which is salty due to soy sauce being a main ingredient.  After a little internet research I noticed that many recipes that include oyster sauce also include honey or agave, so that’s the route I decided to take.  After cooking the chicken through with a plethora of garlic (I would have added freshly grated ginger too, if I hadn’t been out), I threw in the coleslaw shreds.  As those started to wilt I sprinkled in some cayenne pepper for heat and then added my sauces.  Both the oyster sauce and agave are thick.  I probably used a 1/3 cup of the oyster sauce and maybe a ¼ cup of agave. 

As the veggies continue to wilt and cook down, the sauce will get watery; keep cooking until it reduces and gets thick.  I add the peanuts almost at the end so they don’t soften during cooking and just get warmed through.  Serve the chicken and veggie mix with wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce or even romaine. 

As you can see oyster sauce and agave is a shade different from Pad Thai seasoning and teriyaki.  Both meals came out fantastic so it seems the sauce is really up to your own personal taste.  Experiment with sweet and sour if that’s your preference or go with the super-hot Pad Thai if you can take it.  Whatever you choose, this is a recipe (loosely defined) to keep in your repertoire.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy Autumn (a little early)!

It’s time…today I’m getting out all my autumn and Halloween decorations.  I inherited a bunch of Halloween decorations from a great friend this past spring and they’ve been carefully tucked away in the garage.  This is the first year I actually have time to devote to decorating my house for a particular season.  I’ve always tried to stay festive—we’ve always had jack-o-lanterns and a few small decorations here and there but with working full time and taking care of a family, decorating was very far down the list (the exception being Christmas, which I always MADE time to get decoration up—even in freezing rain!).

This is one of those occasions when being a homemaker is literal.  I get to make up my home and bring the season indoors.  I’m excited to surprise the boys when they get home from school today and the house is filled with wonderfully colored fall leaves, pumpkins and corn stalks.  It won’t be long until we’re visiting pumpkin patches and the aromas of fall baking are filling the house, as well.
This is going to be holiday season like no other, since it is one of my favorite times of year and I’ll have time to devote more energy into making it special.  Plus, I’m excited that Joe and I are taking on some great new challenges at the same time.  Tonight we are starting a six week marriage workshop, in which we will be small group leaders.  Joe is also going to be a small group leader for a men’s bible study that’s starting this week.  One of the projects I’m most excited about is beginning a dinner ministry at church on Wednesday nights.

I vividly remember the frantic dance of Wednesday nights when I was working.  Joe often did sound for the service and both our boys were in AWANAS.  I would get off work at six, rush home and hope the boys had eaten, grab all their AWANAS gear and herd them into the car; with any luck I’d have just enough time to drive through somewhere on the way to church and scarf my own dinner while I tried to review verses with the boys between mouthfuls.  We almost always arrived at church just in the nick of time.

Last spring, after spending some time with Laura’s visiting Aunt Norma, she mentioned that her church had started a ministry in which dinner was provided for families who attended Wednesday night services.  What a BLESSING! That would have made my life so much easier if I could have just picked up my boys, headed straight to church and enjoyed a meal with them while we went over their AWANA verses.

After some consideration and prayer, I mentioned this idea to our pastors and this fall, it is taking off.  I get to prepare meals every Wednesday night before services.  For anyone who knows me, you know how thrilled I am by this prospect.  I LOVE to cook, especially for groups.  It blesses me greatly to provide yummy food to friends and family (and our church is one big family, really). 

Currently I am preparing menus and ingredient lists, which is a challenge for several reasons: one, we don’t know exactly how many people to expect to take advantage of these meals but I’m supposed to plan for 50-75; two, I’ve never prepared full meals for that many people, though I got a little experience this summer doing all the snacks for VBS; three, even when I’ve done big get-togethers, most of the organizing and recipes are kept in the lockbox that is my constantly busy brain, so putting things down in a linear fashion that my helpers at the church can comprehend will be new, too.

I know I’m up to the challenge and my enthusiasm for the task will go a long way.  But instead of typing away on this blog entry, I should be typing away on menus and shopping lists.  I’d sure appreciate any meal ideas or suggestions as I’ll be doing this every Wednesday night through May and I’d like to avoid a lot of repetition. 

Happy Autumn Everyone (I know, technically, there’s two more days of summer, but it’s nice to be proactive for once!)!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I'm Back!

Well, technically I never really went anywhere, I just stopped updating the blog.  I started a second blog on health and exercise but also didn't keep that one up very well.  I decided to combine both and try to maintain a regular posting schedule.  I'm hoping for a bit more success this time around because I'm no longer working outside the home and now BOTH my boys are in school, so my mornings are free (YEA!!).  Of course, I have more than enough activities to fill up those empty mornings but I'm working on getting everything organized and including blogging into my schedule.

There's way too much to update on what has happened since the last post or even in the last year, but I will be doing some brief recaps.  As I previously mentioned, I'm not working at the Police Department anymore.  After a lot of consideration, conviction and prayer, Joe and I decided it was time for me to be the homemaker that I've always yearned to be.  Joe is working three jobs to try and keep up and going to school to finish up his degree--I am beyond proud of him.  It is also spectacular to be living my heart's desire!

Cainan just started second grade and Asher started kindergarten.  I am signed up to help in both of their classes.  Joe and I are also geared up to be small group leaders for a new marriage class at our church and Joe is going to be a small group leader for a men's class.  I am also embarking on a new ministry providing dinner on Wednesday nights for families who have come to serve and participate in AWANAS.  We're really excited about all the serving opportunities but also realize how much we will need God to sustain us over the next couple of months!

Life is busy for us, as it is for just about anyone I know but God is good all the time!