Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Shortcut For Cooking Dinner

One of the biggest things I struggle with in life is cooking.

I have no culinary imagination whatsoever, though it goes a level deeper in that I don't even want to have culinary imagination.  I love to eat good food as much as the next person, believe you me, but I don't want to have to be the one who makes it.

Being a wife and a mom, I don't get to get away with not cooking.  Though I told The Man that when we grow up, and there are no more kids in our home, dinner is going to be a phone call at the end of the work day asking him what restaurant he wants take out from.

As it is, that's not really an option, and as it is it's my duty as a parent to make sure my children are well fed.  And though I loath cooking, I kind of like my kids a lot so I guess I need to feed them.

This brings me to the actual point of this post.  When it comes to dinners I want them to be really good, because obviously I have to eat them too.  One of the demands I have is that whatever recipe I'm following for the evening needs to be ready and on the table in under a half hour.  I'm a working mom and by the time I get home there just isn't a lot of time in the day left, and I don't want to spend my time standing over a stove.  Plus, eating before bedtime is generally a bonus.

Finding recipes that can be ready in under a half hour can be challenging, but as I've been trying to build my recipe stash (when you have no culinary imagination everything you cook comes from someone else's culinary imagination.  Recipes please.) I've started noticing that a big portion of my time cooking dinner is spent on cooking the meat.  So I started thinking about this and realized if the meat could be already cooked by the time I get home, it's really not a big ordeal to throw all the ingredients together and call it dinner.

We eat a lot of chicken because, frankly, I have a taste aversion to red meat.  So generally I stick to chicken recipes, and would be quite alright with picking up some no-meat dinners but The Man has an aversion to no-meat dinners.

Chicken it is.

There are two things about chicken and dinner.  The first being that I feel half the time of dinner prep goes to just simply cooking it before it can be added to the recipe I'm making.  And second, I hate cutting it.  Cutting raw meat gives me the heebie jeebies.

I've realized I can shortcut on both those points and not have to deal with either of them.

Ever again.

Guys, the crockpot is the most amazing thing.

In the morning I simply add a cup or two of broth (usually made by throwing water and bouillon in), drop the chicken breasts in, and turn it on.


By the time I come home from work the chicken is not only fully cooked and ready to use in my dinner recipe, but it's falling apart juicy.  And falling apart juicy means take a couple of forks, shred it up a bit, and you didn't even have to cut it.

Suddenly throwing dinner together is a bit more bearable.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Am Not Alone.

Is it too late to decide that taking math and Spanish in the same semester might be a little too much?

Yeah?

I thought so.

As it is, only 35 days until graduation so even though I feel I'm barely hanging on to life by my fingernails there is light at the end of the tunnel and I'm beginning to feel it.

I just want to say that I know my Heavenly Father has helped me through this semester.

Probably in the usual ways with understanding on the subjects I'm studying, but in other ways too.

Sometimes the ways He helps us are subtle and we don't even realize what's happening if we don't take the time to notice it.

Exhaustion has been my constant companion this semester.  I just can't get enough sleep.  I'm waking up at 4:45 in the morning and running strong and hard with classes, homework, work, occasional manuscript deadlines, church duties, and family.  

By the time I'm ushering The Circus off to bed at 9:00 I feel I have just enough movement left in my limbs to fall into bed myself.  

And then I wake up and do it all over again.

There's a few things I feel I'm being helped with.

1. I can get up and do it all over again.  Somehow, even with the exhaustion, I'm still going.  
2. Even with a 24 hour stomach bug and several colds circulating our home this winter, I've been solid in my own health.
3.  A husband who hasn't complained about my load and how it affects what I can and can't get done around the house one bit.  Not once.  Even when he's eating ramen for the third night in a row.
4.  Kids who have never complained about my load and how it affects what I can and can't get done around the house one bit.  Not once.  Even when they can't go to a friend's house "today" because Mom has class and can't come pick them up.
5. Friends who have never complained about my load and how it affects what I can and can't get done at church.  Not once.  Even if they have to fill in for me on Wednesday nights because I have Spanish class for a few months.
6.  Somehow I'm not behind on anything.  Due dates are met.  Deadlines are met.  Meetings are attended (mostly).  40 hours is put in at work.  Projects are finished.  Errands are run.  Appointments are made. A bedroom was repainted.  I attend soccer games.  I attend orchestra concerts.  I teach lessons.  And I still have time to talk with my children every day and fit a date night in with The Man on the weekend.

Though blog posts have become scarce.  I guess something had to give.

If I stop to notice it, I'm being held up.  I'm being buoyed.  

I feel the term "count your blessings" is thrown around flippantly.  We're used to it, we hear and say it in such an off handed way.  But in all honesty, if life is feeling hard, or heavy, or exhausting, take a step back and look at how blessed you are in all of it.  

We get busy.  We get tired.  And sometimes there isn't anything we can do about it but push forward.  But we are not alone.

"And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."  Doctrine and Covenants 84:88.

Elaine Dalton taught us: "In the strength of the Lord, I can do all things." (Alma 20:4).

Sheri Dew taught us: "But the Lord in His mercy has made it so that we need never deal with the challenges of mortality alone."

"President Hinckley has often said that the only way he knows to get anything done is to get on his knees and plead for help and then get on his feet and go to work. (Here)"  I feel that to be true, especially in this phase of my life.  But I know, despite how big it seems, and how exhausting it feels, and how much guilt I sometimes carry at all that I'm not doing, He is pulling me through.  

I am not alone.  

And neither are you.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Creature of Habit I Am

I may or may not have rolled into my math class with a pillow crease still on my face this morning.

That's how I'm starting to roll now that we're past the halfway mark of the semester.

As it is, I'm a creature of habit and when I fall into a routine of doing something I like, I don't vary from it very much, if at all.  At least until I'm completely sick of it and find a new routine.

Every morning between math and work I stop at a particular Subway (there are three in the very near vicinity of the campus and my work, but this particular one is the only with a drive-thru and I'm lazy so it appeals to me) where I order a 6 inch egg and cheese on flatbread.  Pepperjack, spinach, tomatoes, and chipotle.

One point of variation is I may or may not then stop at the McD's, which is right next to the Subway, for a Coke.  Lately, though, I've skipped this.  I'm trying to drink more water.  Which is strangely hard for me to do.

And then I head to work.

On the days when I have my Spanish class after work I stop at Sonic for a Dirty Coke.  This could be before class, or after on my way home.  There's something about a 15 hour day that just screams "get some sugar laced with coconut!  Now!"

And I relish it.

Wait, was I trying to drink more water?

At least I've been skipping the morning Cokes.

I pulled into Subway for my egg sandwich this morning, numb from an hour of logarithms, and spoke my order into the intercom.  The pillow crease had faded from my face by this point and as I sat at the window waiting for my breakfast, the sun peaked over the top of the mountain behind me, suddenly blinding me through the reflection of my side view mirror.  I let the sun into my soul and I smiled.  And squinted.  I wish I could have captured that moment with a picture, but some moments don't transfer over with pictures very well.

The cute girl, who I noticed helps me every morning, opened the window and laughs.

"I help you here and I help you at Sonic," she says to me.

And I took a good look at her.  I knew she was the same person who helped me every morning at Subway.

And I knew the girl at Sonic was the same girl who helped me every time I go there.

But I hadn't connected that they were the same girl at both places.

I burst out laughing.

How random is that?

And now she totally knows that I'm a creature of habit.

I feel like I should give her a thank you card or a big tip or something.

Not on my habitual routine... ever... I joined a bracket for... I don't even know what it is.  A tournament for college... basketball?  The whole point being if we get a better score from our picks than our math teacher then we get some extra credit.

So why not?

I used to do NFL picks in Jr. High with my math class and whoever had the most right from the week's games got a 2 liter of pop.  What is is with math teachers and sports picks?  I chose all those based on mascot vs. mascot.  I won a lot by doing it that way, actually.

I don't know what the mascots are for these college teams so we'll just have to see how my random clicking pans out for me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Don't Worry, Mom. I Got This. Famous Last Words.

My cell phone rings.

It's a call from "Home Kids."

I answer and on the other end is my nine year old, Cali.

"Hi, Mom!"

"Hi, Cali."

"Where are the cupcake papers?"

"The paper cups you bake them in?"

"Yeah."

"Are you making cupcakes?"

"Yeah."

"I'll be home in an hour, how about you wait until I get there and can help you?"

*Silence*

"Or is there a sister there that can help you?"

"West is here."

I have to take five seconds to go over this in my head. She's never baked on her own before.

"If you have any questions about what to do please ask him for help."

"Okay.  It's not hard, Mom, the directions are right on the back.  I got this."

"Okay... the cupcake papers are in the cupboard where the sugar is."

"Okay!  Thanks, Mom!"

I get home about an hour later and the house smells good, like baking, but not like cupcakes.  More like...

"Are these blueberry muffins?"

I peer closely at them, still nestled in their papers inside the muffin tin, sitting on the stove top.  They look really pale and the middles are decidedly under cooked and a bit gooey looking.  Though the batch in the pan next too it looks alright.

West begins to tell me the story from his end of the happenings.

Cali did indeed decide she was going to bake.  She found a package of "just add water" muffin mix in the cupboard that I had recently bought on a whim and had decided that it was exactly what the day was calling for.

She read the directions and managed to get the right amount of water mixed in with powder.

West is vaguely aware that she's making something.  He's sitting on the couch and Cali comes and perches herself next to him.  A few short minutes go by and the timer goes off.  Cali disappears into the kitchen where she cracks the oven to check things out, resets the timer and perches herself on the couch again.

A few short minutes later the timer goes off again.  Cali disappears into the kitchen where she cracks the oven to check things out, resets the timer, and perches herself on the couch again.

This goes on a few more times when The Man finally asks her what's going.

Cali states that the directions said the muffins would only take two to three minutes to cook, but they still weren't cooked yet.

At hearing this I interrupt with, "Two or three minutes?  There's no way."

The Man smiles and says, "I know, that's what I was thinking too."

So he gets up and goes into the kitchen with Cali where, even by now the muffins should have been done because she'd reset the timer several times already and time enough had gone by for them to be baked.

He cracks the oven and there the muffins sat, as cold and gooey as ever.

She'd never turned the oven on.

As it turns out she read the mixing directions very carefully, but when it came to the directions for actually baking them, she'd only glanced.  She quickly picked up on "two to three minutes" and figured that was the all she needed to know and stuck the muffins into a cold oven and set the timer for her two minutes.

"Two to three minutes" was the time suggested for cooling after it came out of the oven, at the very end of the paragraph explaining oven temperature and actual baking time.  You know, the part she decided to skip over.

With the oven now turned on and Dad there to help the second batch came out much better than the first.

And Cali has now learned that if there's a paragraph there, perhaps she ought to read more than the last sentence.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Beyond 5

Today I want to tell you guys about a band that is on the up and up and has completely captured my attention.

Which is a little crazy, being as it's a boy band, and let's face it, boy bands have never been able to live up to my New Kids on the Block expectations.

Air fist, I know you moms out there hear me.

The Circus made it through Justin Bieber with a small scratch.  I think Casidee liked him for about a month; long enough for me to make a cake with his face (and hair) in fondant.  The highlight of my caking, to be sure (here).

And One Direction has settled into the bedrooms of my girls for the last few months, thumping out a rhythm into the walls, their faces even covering the walls of, again, Casidee, whom I think is just in love with the idea of being a fan girl in general.  But she takes it hard core and if she's going to fan girl on something then she is in it heart and soul (and bedroom walls).

But me?

Not so much.

I mean, One Direction is okay and I don't turn the radio station when their songs come on, like I do for Bruno Mars, and I even sing along, but they're not on my iPod or anything.

I just haven't found a boy band that does it for me since NKOTB.

But then I was introduced to Beyond 5 and I found myself with a free cd in hand and some concert tickets to give away to a Logan concert back in December (here).  So I took a few of the girls and we drove for two hours to see a band we'd never heard of before (here).

The rest is history, as they say.

I find that I'm following their social media (links below).

And I have their entire cd on my iPod (check them out on itunes here).

I can sing every word with The Circus when we break out into impromptu singing in the kitchen, because the songs are constantly running through our heads.

I'm not going to claim to be a fan girl because I can't tell you their birthdays, or favorite colors, or even their exact ages, and I certainly don't have their faces plastered to my bedroom wall (do you think The Man would go for that?  Yeah, I didn't think so either...) but what I've realized is...

I've become a groupie.

With my daughters.


Am I too old for this?

Maybe.

Perhaps it's because we've had the fortune of rubbing elbows with them a little bit so they're real to me.  I've talked with them personally and know how down-to-earth, polite, respectful, and witty they are as individuals.  Maybe it's because I know what it is to chase a dream and see them as they're working so hard at theirs.


And it's good.

I tell you, this music, their harmony, is good.




We got tickets (for Casidee's birthday) to a special VIP event with  Beyond 5 on Friday night.

It wasn't assigned seating so as soon as the girls were all out of school we grabbed a $5 pizza to go,


and some McD's pies


because Friday was pi day, yo, so we had to have our pizza pie and our apple pie, and we ate it while sitting on the sidewalk, playing Fluxx, and waiting for the doors to open.




The doors opened, we found seats third row, though honestly, with only 250 seats in the place, there wasn't going to be a bad spot, and waited just a little bit more.



Cali didn't attend the concert back in December and she'd been hearing all about Beyond 5 ever since then.  She tends to fan girl about as hard core as Casidee does, and often takes her sister's lead when it comes to music so she had 3 solid months to fall absolutely in love with Beyond 5.

When the guys finally showed up on stage, Cali's happiness and excitement in that moment proved to be too much for her to bear and she pretty much bawled through the entire first song.


This VIP event was cool.


The guys talked and told stories, showed behind the scenes videos and joked with each other a lot.




They sang new songs that we hadn't heard them do before.





(a better video of their Unconditionally here.  Go listen.  So worth it).

And they did a Q&A session and sang their songs that we all knew well.


And they sang to their moms which was super cute.


We were given swag bags at this VIP event which was full of pictures and Casidee's One Direction wall has now become a full bedroom of Beyond 5.

I support this.

I probably feed it.

After the show we got to meet the guys and get autographs.







 


And just for the record, I totally got grounded for the quality of this picture:


Mom fail.

And somehow they had time for this old groupie mom too.



Double chins and all.

They even let us have our own little moment with them, when all was said and done, and tables were cleared out and people were gone.

Beyond 5 and The Circus.



A special thank you to the band's dads who helped us with the picture.

And an extra special thank you to Zac's dad, Corey for helping Cali with her lost, autographed poster.  Cali had set it down, in true Cali fashion, and when she went to get it, it was gone.  Corey grabbed a new poster, ran out to the the bus where the guys were already settling in after the antics of the night, and had them sign it again.

Cali got a special "I love you" message from Ammon on it.

These guys are good people.  They're surrounded by good people.

And they have good music so go follow them.

Youtube HERE
Instagram HERE
Facebook HERE
Official website HERE

They'll be back in Utah this summer.

You should catch a show.

The Circus will probably be there too.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Casidee's 14.

Yesterday was Casidee's 14th birthday.

In a perfect world I would have left her a lunch of her choice in her locker, and probably have decorated her locker as well.  After school she would open her presents and we would have eaten chicken manicotti (here) and brownie sundaes as her chosen birthday dinner.  And maybe we would have gone and seen the Desolation of Smaug which is now at the dollar theater.

But alas.

This world is not perfect.

As it happens, yesterday was also Casidee's choir festival, which took place during school.  Which meant no  lunch in her locker.  (You can see their assessment performances here.  Cas is on the front row on the right (your right) with a red necklace on).

But they were bused to the mall for lunch so she was quite happy with the money I gave her to buy lunch that way.

As it also happens, yesterday was her orchestra performance combined with a performance with the high school orchestra.  

This took up the evening.  She was to be at the high school at 5:15 to practice for the first and only time with the other middle school and high school orchestras that they would be performing with that night.

Between getting home from work and taking her to the high school, I didn't have time to make chicken manicotti, but I didn't have to worry about feeding Cas because the high school was providing pizza.

We did have time for her to open her presents before she left where, like mother like daughter, the little bookworm finally got her kindle... and a play-dough jar of change from Cali.





I ran her to the high school where it took us a good five minutes to find the room she needed to be in, as neither of us have really been to this high school before, and then Tayler and I tracked down the auditorium and spread jackets out to save seats front and center.  Then we ran to the new Zurcher's by our house and bought birthday balloons to give to Cas after her performance.

A quick stop at the grocery store for cheese and tortilla chips and I had barely enough time (with a text to The Man: Will you defrost some hamburger?) to throw a pot of taco soup together, while telling Cali and Tayler to hurry and make a sandwich if they wanted to go to the concert, we wouldn't have time to eat the soup (they did), and we left to the high school again.  (Run on sentence much?)

We sat in our pre-saved, front row seats, which was good because there was room to stash the bundle of balloons down below stage level, and enjoyed the night's entertainment.









This girl of mine.  This girl that I only understand half of what she says because I don't speak "fan girl".  And she's proclaimed herself a fan girl of at least a dozen things.

Beyond 5
One Direction
Sherlock Holmes
Dr. Who
Harry Potter

Okay, maybe just five things, but that's a lot of inside quoting and referencing that I'm only catching half of.

Don't even get me started about when she starts cross referencing.



In only two years she'll be driving and dating.  And in only four years she'll be heading off to college.

Slow down.  Enjoy it.  Don't be in such a hurry to grow up.

It comes soon enough.

Monday, March 10, 2014

I'm a Recovering Bully

I started out today feeling like I needed to take a strong, hard look at myself.

And it weighed heavily on my mind.

And then I saw this video, though it's been floating around my social media, and even in my Youtube notifications for a bit now, I'd not take the time to actually watch it until this morning.



I hope this video drives home a message for so many.  And not just our youth who are in Jr. High/Middle School and High School.  But for we adults as well.  The dynamics are there in our workplaces, in our playgroups, in different organizations we're involved in, and in the people who cross our paths in life in general (road rage anyone?).  It's also there in our homes with our own children and spouses.  A lot of us have the situations where we're dealing with ex's and ex-family, and I know that I've been bullied by an ex-family member that I used to love and respect.  But I know I've also felt the affliction of the feelings that make us lash out at people.

"I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves. When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment."

"This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!" (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Merciful Obtain Mercy, read it in full HERE).

I've been on both sides of this spectrum.

I'm a recovering bully.

At the old age of 11 years I had a quick mouth and would say whatever I wanted to and about people, even if I knew it was hurtful.  Even if I knew it wasn't always true.  At that time I never thought of myself as a bully.  My friends laughed and thought I was funny and the only reason I did it was for the positive attention I felt I was getting.  I looked at myself as being more of a comedian.

Which I think might be the case with the boys in this video.

I lost a lot of those friends because of my behavior.

As an adult I took on the mantra to never speak ill of anyone for any reason.  And I feel like I had true friendships, friendships that proved to be solid at the difficult time in my life when I needed them.

And I watched how the actions of someone who used to be so beloved to me, someone I greatly admired and respected, turned on me in a cruel manner, either ignoring my presence altogether while I stood there before them, or simply giving me dirty and hurtful looks, not even trying to mask the contempt that was being felt for me.

No matter how justified we think we are when it comes to this treatment of others, no matter how flippant we think it is in passing, no matter how much we think we have the right to be hurtful because we have been hurt, the plain and simple truth is that we are wrong.

And we must stop it.

"Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?

Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?

Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?

Do you secretly envy another?

Do you wish to cause harm to someone?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to apply the two-word sermon from earlier: stop it!" (Uchtdorf HERE).

We don't know the other side of the story.  We don't know why people act the way they do, even if we feel we're close enough to the situation, we don't know.  We don't have the right to say things or act in a way that portray others in a way that is less than ourselves, even if we think it's just in passing or just in jest.  We don't even have the right to lash out when we feel it's deserved.  They've hurt us and we have the right to act that way, they brought it on themselves, we certainly are justified are we not?

Stop it.

"Our Savior has spoken so clearly on this subject that there is little room for private interpretation. 'I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive,' but then He said, '… of you it is required to forgive all men.'" (Uchtdorf HERE)

It is my job to love.

It is my job to open up to everyone and make sure that I'm the friend that's there when anyone needs one.

It's my job to make sure there is harmony in my home, in my work place, in my organizations, in my associations, and yes, even on the road.

It isn't my job to be concerned if anyone else is doing their job with this.  It's just my job to make sure that I'm doing it, myself.

It is not my job to dole out judgement and payment.

It is my job to forgive.

That's a pretty big job.

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