August 10- a day I will always remember

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Today is one of those “anniversary” days for me.  It is one that I will always remember for the rest of my life.

It is the day we picked up our girls, in 2013, from Sleep-Away camp in Pennsylvania for the last time. It was the day that we told them three very big things:

1) Uncle Dude and Aunt Erin were going to have a baby

2) Aunt Robin died during the night after battling cancer

3) We had decided that I would not accept a job in Texas that had been offered to me….a job that would have allowed us to live just an hour from our extended family.

August 10 is quite the anniversary for me.

This year I remember the day while sitting in Texas, our new residence….where God has provided a job for Brad and now, pending a written offer, a job for me. We moved into our home a week ago and live just over an hour from our extended family. Last year, I had no idea how it would all happen but we decided to Trust God and Walk Forward, knowing He had a plan for us. Knowing if we trusted Him, we would end up in just the right place….wherever that would be.

Today we visited a new church….I hate church shopping but it is a necessary evil of moving. The preacher was the highlight of the church for me, even with all its wonderful amenities. His sermon was a perfect confirmation of our desire to move back to Texas.

He preached from Colossians 3:20-21. His first point was “Make the relationships with our family of primary importance.” This entire move was based on this need of family. Our schedule in Pennsylvania did not allow us to interact as a family on a regular basis. Brad’s job was a great job, but the hours were not conducive to his being around at the times our girls were home. We did not like this. We had seen the warning flags that the pastor, Dr. Mark Hartman, shared

  • When the busy seasons become the norm.
  • When we connect our careers with our self-worth
  • When we stop fighting the battle of balance and give in to the career.

We saw these flags beginning to fly in our lives and didn’t want to overlook them and carry on.

I am thankful that God gave Brad and I the same desire, to find a job that allowed him to have a more consistent schedule to be home in the evenings. We know that our girls are growing up and we will never have this time again….we want to be the parents God has asked us to be. We also wanted our girls to know and be able to develop relationships with their extended family, as family is such an important part of life.

For us, this meant some big changes in career, location, and finances.

Moving is tough. We miss our friends, we have worked for hours packing boxes and now unpacking boxes and I won’t even mention the money involved in a move—ouch!

God is faithful and He provides.

I know He will provide new friends.

I know He will provide rest.

I know that He will provide for our needs.

 

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

I hope to always be able to remember August 10 as a day that is bittersweet; mixed emotions and God’s hand always at work.

Hearing about a new cousin on the way!

Hearing about a new cousin on the way!

Celebrating the life of my Aunt Robin.  I miss her so much.

Celebrating the life of my Aunt Robin. I miss her so much.

Eating lunch in our new home....no Burger King this time but Whataburger!

Eating lunch in our new home….no Burger King this time but Whataburger!

Rainbow over our new hometown.

Rainbow over our new hometown.

Hey Math Teacher…when will I use this stuff?

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Yes, that is often the thought of many a math student sitting in the desk of math classes around the world. Well, let me tell you when you will use “this stuff”. Currently my life seems to be one big story problem; and the answers are not written at the back of the book!

We are excitedly looking to move back to Texas in the next few weeks. God has generously answered the prayers of many people and opened the doors for us to move back close to family. Right now, though, we constantly have to figure out all kinds of things:

  • If we have to be in Texas by x-date yet our belongings will be picked up on y-date and it takes so many hours to get to Texas, how many hours do we need to travel each day? (Make consideration for traveling with two cats)
  • If our insurance ended on June 30 and the COBRA information arrives on July 11 and is RIDICULOUSLY high, which short-term insurance plan should we go with taking into consideration the maintenance medications we are using and that our family will be traveling in two different directions in three different vehicles across the nation in just two weeks?
  • How many jobs do I apply for in the short amount of time I have to sit at the computer and give to that task?

I could go on and on. I am getting many opportunities to quote Philippians 4:6 to myself…I’ve paraphrased it a bit to fit my situations though:

Be anxious for nothing, not even finding the right job,

Be anxious for nothing, not even how you will get all of this done,

but with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.

 So the recipe for life is to start each day with Thanksgiving.

Thank you Lord for this move!

Thank you Lord for the opportunity to watch you work.

Thank you Lord for guiding each step of the way.

Thank you for the amazing friends and relatives that are all helping out in their own ways.

Thank you for being so amazing and loving me even when I don’t deserve it.

 

The answers are in the book…His book….the Bible.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

So when in doubt, go to the best book around, The Bible and seek his help with the story problems of life.   The answers are not at the back of the book but all throughout, from start to finish!  Then, as Philippians 4:7 goes on to say “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Answers throughout the book!

 

Back to packing!

 

 

Tortellini and Ground Beef…who knew?

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We tried a new recipe at our house this week and it was a winner.  It has the two characteristics of a recipe that I love: fast and easy!  Then it has two more loves for us…tortellini AND ground beef, I never would have thought to put them together.

Our life here in the Smith house has been going a little fast too….not so much easy but not too difficult.  I have had many thoughts of blog entries to write and share with you, but things just are moving too fast to sit down and write at this point.  Meals at our house have not been to creative either as my schedule has been very full.  But I did finally try something new this week and since everyone liked it at our table, I thought I would share it with you.

I first found the recipe and pinned it to  Pinterest and then when we made it had to change a few things to fit the ingredients we had in the house.   So here is my version:

Baked Tortellini Casserole

In a large skillet or chicken fryer pan:

  • Brown 1 lb of lean ground beef

Add to the beef before it is totally browned:

  • 1 small, onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • pepper to taste

While the beef is browning, prepare according to package instructions:

  • 1 large (12 oz) bag of dried tortellini (We had cheese and spinach tortellini in the pantry.  I cooked it on the shortest end of the cooking time so that the tortellini would finish cooking in the oven.)

tortellini bag

Once the beef is thoroughly cooked through and drained, stir in:

  • 2, 14-oz cans of diced or petite diced tomatoes (could use crushed tomatoes too)
  • 1, 8-oz can of tomato sauce

Stir into the beef mixture:

  • prepared tortellini
  • 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese (we mixed mozzarella and Parmesan)

Transfer to a casserole dish and bake at 350° for about 20-30 minutes

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of Italian cheese of your choice over the top and serve!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast anyone?

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Today is the first day of our spring break and I’m happy to report that it actually feels like spring!  Now tomorrow is another story but at least we have today.

This morning I made a recipe that I recently found on pinterest.  It seemed easy enough for a mindless-morning recipe.  I hate breakfast recipes that make you think too much or that you have to cook for an hour or so (meaning you have to wake up way before your family to get breakfast ready).

This one was quick and easy and it is totally gone after my family had breakfast.  We served it along with a bowl of fruit.

Crescent Roll Breakfast Ring

Preheat oven to 375°

Scramble on the stove top

  • 5 eggs (I tried to do 6 as that is what I had left in the carton and honestly….it was one egg too many!)

Lay out on a parchment lined pizza pan or  cookie sheet

  • crescent rolls in a circle that looks much like sun rays!

Add to the crescent rolls:

  • 8 slices of fully cooked bacon (I purchased a box of fully cooked bacon to make this an easy prep breakfast)

 

Yum...Bacon!

Yum…Bacon!

Add to the ring in the following order:

  • 1/3 cup of shredded cheddar cheese (or colby-jack)
  • cooked eggs
  • 1/3 cup of shredded cheese

Fold the crescents over and tuck in or pinch the point to the long side of the roll

Add to the top of the ring

  • 1/3 cup of shredded cheese
Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Bake for 17 minutes or until the crescents are done and golden brown.

Enjoy!

Breakfast Ring_slice

Change of Seasons

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Saying that this has been a hard winter is quite the understatement. Heck, it is technically spring yet the winter weather still is hanging around.  We moved into our current home just a few days after Christmas. The week after we moved in the snow came and it didn’t leave our yard until well into March. I have never in my life lived with so much snow for so many days. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it….but I survived. On one of the not-so-bleak days this winter, my handsome fella and I went for a walk. We noted that the evergreen trees were a nice addition to the landscape in the neighborhood as winter would be so VERY bland without them.

I am so ready for the next season. I am ready for flip-flops and Capri pants. I’m ready for sitting in the backyard and soaking up the sun. I’m ready for a little color and vibrancy in life! The flowers of spring are always energizing and almost intoxicating as they change the landscape around us. Did you know to enjoy the tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths that I love so much…they actually must be planted in the fall before the first hard frost? They require the cold of winter to become what they are meant to be.

I wonder how that plays into my life? I feel like I have been in a hard winter for a while.   Even in the hard winter there have been those pops of green from the “evergreen trees” to keep life from being bland and too depressing.  I am so thankful for the “evergreen trees” in my life.  I am ready though for the next season; I’m ready for the vibrant colors and shapes of the spring flowers.  Just as God has designed and shaped the flowers that will soon be coming, I know he has a plan for me. I can’t wait to see the design.

Did you know that in the basal center portion of the bulb for all of those wonderful flowers are the leaves cradling a baby bud that is just waiting for spring?  In many of the species, this bud already has the appearance of a flower while still in the bulb!  Just like God has that plan already laid out for me.  The basic framework for the next season in my life is all there.  The winter was necessary to shape me into the woman he wants me to be.  He has had the plan all along and has just been waiting to reveal it to me when the time was right.

So until then, I keep trusting him and walking forward knowing that a change of seasons is near.

As for a taste of spring now, I made this pound cake when my younger daughter had a friend over that was staying for dinner.  The friend doesn’t drink milk so my original plan for the evening dessert, ice cream, was out.  I looked around my pantry and then found this recipe on the Duncan Hines website.  It was so yummy and moist.

 

Pineapple Orange Pound Cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease and flour a 10″ Bundt pan.

Combine together in a mixing bowl:

  • 1 package of Duncan Hines Signature Pineapple Cake Mix
  • 1 small package of vanilla instant pudding
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 grated orange peel (about 1 Tablespoon)

Beat at medium speed with electric mixer for two minutes.

Pour into the prepared pan

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted inot the center comes out clean.

Cool for 25 minutes in pan and then invert onto a serving plate.

Make the glaze:

Combine in a small saucepan and then simmer for 3 minutes:

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Brush the warm glaze on the cake.

Enjoy!  The cake didn’t last 24 hours at my house.

 

Spring is Coming!

Lesson From a Fruit Salad

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Tonight we had a leftover fruit salad with our dinner.  The salad had pineapple, strawberries and raspberries in it.  I think I cut up the pineapple on Friday night to go with our pizza so the fruits have been hanging out together now for about 3 days.  When my younger daughter served her plate I said “not a fan of pineapple ehh?” to which she replied, “not when it has red on it”.

It was a good time to grab the moment and remind my girls that who we hang around with rubs off on us.  The raspberries and strawberries were making our yellow pineapple red.  Just like the friends we make and even the acquaintances we choose to spend time with will rub off on us.  Make sure you hang around those you wish to become more like.

When Fast Food Won’t Do

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No, I haven’t gone all healthy on you…”when fast-food won’t do” doesn’t mean I’ve given up eating at all my favorite drive-thrus.  Rather my eating out budget has been drastically reduced as we have shifted priorities in our family budget.  Now I want to save that money for just the right night.  But what is a girl to do when she gets home from work and is exhausted and hasn’t a clue what to do for dinner?

Here are some quick and easy fall-backs.  Plan your grocery list each month to include these items and you won’t find yourself in need of running through the drive-thru as often as before.

Mindless

  1. Tortellini.  Open a bag and boil it–it takes about 10 minutes.  Slice up an apple, throw some little carrots and maybe cut up some other veggies and D-O-N-E.  We server our tortellini with cheese and some Italian seasonings.
  2. Quesadillas (The Mexican version of Grilled Cheese).  Always have flour tortillas on hand and a big bag of mexican blend cheese.   I often have some frozen grilled chicken strips that we can heat and add to quesadillas too.  My girls like just cheese and maybe a bit of chicken.  I also like to put onions on mine.  Simply heat a nonstick skillet and place one tortilla down in the skillet.  Sprinkle the tortilla with cheese and other desired items then top with another tortilla.  Flip the tortilla when it is browned and before it chars!  Open a can of refried beans or some Ranch Style Beans (K-Mart sells then in PA) serve with some little carrots.
  3. Burritos.  This is a favorite at our house.  Open up cans of refried beans (it takes two cans for my family) and heat on the stove.  I sprinkle some fajita seasoning into the beans and stir it in while they heat up.  Then pull out those flour tortillas again.  Zap the tortillas for a few seconds in the microwave to warm them up.  I put mine between two damp paper towels and warm for a few seconds.  Then load them up with beans, cheese, and onions…even lettuce if you want.  I like to serve with Taco Bell Hot Sauce and Sour Cream and then of course some chopped apples or other easy fruit to cut and serve.  (Sometimes I just set the clementine bowl on the table and that serves as our fruit selection for the evening)
  4. Fish Sticks/Portions.  Keep in the freezer you favorite battered fish.  Prepare this along with some frozen broccoli and some fresh fruit (or my throw-down fruit of canned mandarin oranges when the fruit basket is empty)

Tiny Bit of Thinking

  1. Pancakes.  I keep a box of Aunt Jemima’s Original in my pantry at all times (along with syrup of course too!).  I mix in an individual serving pack of applesauce and sprinkle in some cinnamon into the batter before firing up the griddle for dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.  Sometimes we have sausage and/or eggs too but often it is pancakes and fruit.  (Then a bag of popcorn later when we are a teeny bit hungry before bedtime.)
  2. Tacos.  Brown some ground meat and empty the taco seasoning and water (per package instructions) into the browned meat.  Serve on warmed hard shells, tortillas, or tortilla chips.  You can load the tacos with as much or as little as you can stand to prepare (shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, salsa)  Refried beans, black beans, or corn on the side are a nice addition too.
  3. Spaghetti.  I have a child that does not care for spaghetti (I guess she takes after her Grandaddy).  However, it is a perfect “tiny bit of thinking” meal.  One pot of water to boil the noodles and one skillet to brown the ground meat  (maybe some onions and peppers too) and then add a jar of your favorite sauce.  Pull green beans out of the freezer and pop open a can of crescent rolls or french bread and you are on your way to dinner on the table in no time.

Sides

  • Salad bags are good to have for throw down meals…that is if your family eats salad.  Most of mine doesn’t.
  • Fresh Veggies…call it Crudite and it sounds more fancy …like you spent some time on it!
  • Slice up Fruit- apples and pears are quick favorites for our mindless and tiny bit of thinking meals
  • Frozen vegetables are quick and easy to prepare.  I like to have broccoli and green beans all the time in my freezer.

So the next time you are on your way home from a long day of work and feel your car pulling towards Chick-fil-a or Burger King, resist!  You can still have an easy meal at home with your family for a lot less cost and a lot less salt!

 

Enjoy!

Mindless meals give you more time to snuggle with the ones you love.

Mindless meals give you more time to snuggle with the ones you love.