thoughts

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I can’t really articulate it super well, so let’s try bullet points, shall we?

:: True Love. It’s a crazy hard thing to live out. I sometimes feel like love shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice. Like it’s hypocritical to say I love someone when it takes every ounce of will to selflessly serve that person. That doesn’t feel like love, but it most certainly is. And it’s better than a feeling

:: I can’t ‘open’ bananas properly. I always have to use a knife to get it started. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has this problem.

:: We ordered a side of grass-fed beef this week. I’m pretty sure that puts us in the “hippy” category. It might even put me in the insane category because I’m so stinkin’ excited about it.

:: It can be a huge burden to be one of those people who “thinks things through.” I kind of wish I could just live happily in ignorance about a lot of things. My natural curiosity, realism, and doubt means I can’t take things at face value. I have to research everything. I often feel like the odd-man-out. I know people think I’m a little crazy because I live and eat the way I do. It’s lonely sometimes.

:: Marriage is the best. Marriage to your best friend is the absolute best. To be fully known and loved is the most freeing thing. It makes me cry whenever I think about it.

:: I love Netflix live-streaming. As much as TV isn’t the focus of our house, it can be a really nice way to unwind and just hang out. Brian and I tend to get addicted to a show (lately, Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Psych) and it’s fun to watch season after season without commercial interruption.

:: I have some incredibly wonderful friends. Naturally I struggle with feelings of loneliness and fear that people won’t really like me (yes, I’m probably 5). Lately I’ve been overwhelmed with how blessed I am to have real friendships that are growing and soul-nurturing. It’s a great thing.

:: I’m taking B on a special date tonight. We’re going dancing. This basically makes me feel like I’m going to the Prom. Words cannot express my excitement.

:: Parker makes me laugh a lot. Funniest little boy ever. He now makes a fake sneeze sound that gives me a giggle fit.

:: I bought a new dress and pair of shoes yesterday. Let’s just say, I don’t feel or look like a mom in them. They make me happy.

:: I’m leaving for CA in a little over a week. I’m excited and terrified. I’ll be flying for almost 4 hours with a 14 month old. Any tips or prayers would be appreciated. The times with my family will be precious. I can’t wait!!

:: Have a great weekend everyone!

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It’s Been A Long . . .

Weekend.

Week.

Month.

Well, honestly, several months.

Sigh.

It’s crazy how life hits, you know? Sometimes it just feels like you can’t get out of the streak of “bad luck”. We had a string of illnesses back in June to early July. Then I got in a car accident. Then our basement flooded. Then we were in construction mode for 2 months. Then we had a really busy September with visitors (not bad luck, but still added to some stress levels). Then Parker got sick, I got sick, Brian and I both got sick, Parker got sick again, I got sick again, then Parker got what I had, and now Brian has it…again.

It’s been hard.

Hard to persevere. Hard to be away from family. Hard to stay positive. Hard to ask for help.

Not impossible, not the hardest situation ever, just a steady barrage of “yuck”. I’m still recovering from the most recent flu, and Brian is still in the midst of it. It’s hard to mother and to be a nurse when you aren’t feeling even close to normal yourself. But it’s where we are at right now. It’s not exactly like we have any other options, you know? You just have to keep going.

Anyway, all that to say, this space might be a little sparse for the next few days as we all try to restore health around here. I don’t mean to burden you all with our comparatively small trials, but somehow it feels better just knowing others will be thinking about us and praying for us. I know God is carrying us through, and a big part of that is allowing people to know what’s going on in our lives.

Thanks for listening to me ramble. I’m still physically out-of-sorts and I can tell my emotions are being affected too. We are truly thankful for the friends and family who have prayed and helped over the last months. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for that. I’m just feeling particularly “down” at the moment.

Speaking of “down”, I should probably be laying down. I hope to write in better health soon!

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Clean-Out-the-Pantry Soup

I’m a meal planner. I wasn’t always one, but now I can’t imagine living without my meal plans. It makes weeknights so much less stressful when I know all my ingredients will be waiting for me in the kitchen. It means I go shopping once a week instead of running to and fro trying to figure out what’s on the menu each night. But, even I have to improvise sometimes. Whether an unexpected sickness has descended upon us or I’m just not able to get to the store, sometimes you end up scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for some grub. If that ever happens to you, check out this soup recipe.

Clean-Out-The-Pantry Soup

This is basically a minestrone soup. You can put any number of twists on it depending what’s in your cupboard, but most of these ingredients are staples in my kitchen. I always have chicken broth in the freezer (I make it in large batches and freeze in ice cubes and 1 cup quantities), so soup is always an option when the rest of my supplies are running low. Basically, all you need is broth, diced tomatoes (I’ve got a ton of these since I canned 60 lbs of tomatoes this year), any type of vegetables you have on hand, beans (I buy dry beans in bulk), noodles, and spices. Pretty easy, no? You could even add meat if you wanted some extra protein. So customizable!

I started with this recipe from the Food Network, then customized it to what I had on hand. I didn’t have celery, spinach, or zucchini–so I just left those out. Instead I added some corn and green beans I had in the freezer. I didn’t have enough time to use the slow-cooker, so I just cooked it on the stove for about 30 minutes. I cooked the noodles while the soup was cooking, then dumped them in the soup at the end. It’s one quick, easy, cheap, and tasty meal!

Oh, and did I mention this is a great meal to make in bulk? It freezes well so you can keep the leftovers for that next time you’re running low on supplies. This is a great meal to make if you’re eating for one or two, since the leftovers will last a long time. Parker and I shared this meal last night and I’ve still got 2 more meals worth of soup for the future. Nice!

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Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread is a tradition in the Meadows Family. We had it every year growing up. I can remember watching my mom pour the batter into the little loaf tray and just waiting for that first warm slice to come out of the oven. I don’t really know where the recipe came from, but my sister passed it on to me at my bridal shower 5 years ago. She made a little typo on the recipe card, and now this recipe is known as “Pumpkin Beard” in our house. I love it!

The great thing about pumpkin bread is it’s so flexible. You can have a cold slice for breakfast with some coffee or make it more of a dessert by adding chocolate chips to the batter or topping with cream cheese frosting. You can bake these into muffins or just a regular loaf pan. It’s great anyway you bake it!

Pumpkin Bread (Beard)
Makes 2 large loaves, 8 mini loaves, or 48 muffins

Ingredients
3 cups of Sugar
4 Eggs
1 cup of Canola Oil
2 cups of Pumpkin Solid (make sure not to get the pumpkin pie solid, just plain pumpkin)
1 cup of Water
3 1/2 cups of Unbleached White Flour
1 teaspoon of Baking Powder
2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
2 teaspoons of Salt
1 teaspoon each of Ground Cloves, Ginger, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350. Grease your loaf pan or put cups into muffin pan.

Blend together the sugar, eggs, canola oil, pumpkin solid, and water. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture while stirring. Pour into pan or muffin cups.

Cook for 1-1 1/2 hours until cooked through.

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A Pumpkin-Filled Weekend

It’s that time of year–Pumpkin Time!

And I loooove it! I may not like pumpkin pies (I know, I’m certifiable!), but I do love most everything else that is pumpkin inspired: pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin candles, pumpkin bread and muffins, pumpkin seeds, and good-ole-plain pumpkins! I adore the little ones sitting around my house, reminding me that it really is Fall even though it’s still warm out. And I love the big messy ones for carving. Most of all, I love getting our pumpkins. You know what I’m talking about, right? The pumpkin patch!

Getting our pumpkins has always been a big deal for Brian and I. Even when we were dating we made a tradition of getting our pumpkins from a local farm. Brian almost always does something extra sweet for me too–getting me flowers, baking cookies, surprising me with candles and music, or getting cupcakes. And then we always hang out with another couple and carve our pumpkins, eat pumpkin bread, roast pumpkin seeds, and enjoy ourselves. It’s really fun. We aren’t huge Halloween people, but the pumpkin part of the holiday is awesome!

Anyway, here are some pictures from our 5th annual trip to the pumpkin patch, this time with another little Gee to help celebrate!

I think he likes the pumpkin patch. Don’t you?

Choosing the right pumpkin is always an interesting task.

Woohoo! We’ve got pumpkins, a ride in a wagon, and an awesome breeze!

Faster! Mom, you’re weighing us down!

That’s more like it! I’m such a good helper!

Stick around for my pumpkin bread recipe tomorrow!

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A Much Anticipated Hat

I’ve been wanting to get into knitting hats for awhile. I know how to knit, but never really expanded my skills beyond the basic scarf. My fabulous grandmother-in-law helped me get over my fears with knitting hats and it’s rocked my world. No more safe knitting projects for me, I’m hooked on hats!

My first hat was for Brian. I’ll be posting about that one as soon as I can catch him on camera. What’s a post about a hat without a picture of said hat? It took me all of two days to complete my second hat because I was so excited about it. I’m already starting bad habits and not using patterns too. Sometimes I really don’t know what I’m thinking.

Anyway, this particular hat (hat #2) has been on my mind for awhile. I received the beautiful green yarn as a Christmas present last year from my dear friend Megan (everyone say “Hi Meg!!”). I knew I wanted to make something special out of it, but wasn’t sure what. Then I had this vision of a simple beanie with a ribbed edge. So I made it.

And here I am modeling it. Mainly because Megan asked for a picture of me on the old bloggity blog. Thanks for the green yarn. I love my hat!¬†And just because it’s been awhile since I posted a picture of the Parkster Thomas, here is a shot of him doing what he does best . . . Charming the ladies.

Maybe a hat for him will be next on the knitting docket! :-)

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Pomegranate-Pinot Steak

I love Cooking Light! I know I’ve mentioned recipes from there before, but I gotta say it again–they are just great. I’m always inspired to try using new ingredients or to learn new ways of preparing food. For instance, until this week I had never cooked with Pomegranates. I’ve been missing out! This sauce was wonderful and added such great flavor to the steak.

Pomegranate-Pinot Steak

This steak was super tasty served with potatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. I baked them for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. During the last 15 minutes, I put my asparagus in the oven. I arranged the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet, then drizzled with olive oil, salt, and parmesan cheese. The potatoes and asparagus will be ready at the same time. This also allows you to focus on your meat and sauce during that last 15 minutes. Perfect!

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A Birdie Project

It seems like you can find fabulous bird prints everywhere these days. I’m not sure why, but I am really attracted to all the modern, graphic bird prints. Even Joann’s has jumped on the bandwagon! Their fabric isn’t usually anything special, but the other day I found some fabric that made me really excited. Yes, fabric really does do that to me. You understand, right? And having a 50% off coupon from Joann’s made me even more excited. I do love a good deal!

Anyway, I had been thinking about creating some “cheap artwork” for our basement space. After I saw the birdie fabric from Joann’s I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I picked up a wood frame from our local art shop (the kind artist’s stretch canvas over for paintings), grabbed my fabric and staple gun, and I was ready to go!

I laid my fabric face down on the floor and placed the wood frame on the wrong side of the fabric. Making sure to keep the pattern straight, I stretched the fabric as tightly as I could and wrapped it around the frame. While juggling to keep Parker as far away from the staple gun as possible, I stapled down each side and wrapped the corners. That’s it.


You like? I think it looks really great in the space. No one would ever know it was homemade fabric art!

And here is the close-up of my new birdie friends. They are too cute!

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Thankful

Some days are just really good days, you know? On those days it is easy to be thankful. Then there are other days that are just, well, blah. They aren’t fantastic and they aren’t terrible, they are just…there. It’s those days that you’ve got to really work to be thankful. Not because really hard things are going on in your life, mainly because you are just too focused on all the wrong things.

Today has been one of those days. It was an early morning (after a late night, couldn’t fall asleep for some reason). Little man has been sick AGAIN and I’ve been trying my hardest not to succumb to the same bug (read: echinacea, elderberry syrup, acupressure, and lots of denial). He’s been having a hard time sleeping because of his cough. So, we were up at an ungodly and pitch-dark hour in the morning. After rushing to get ready for Ladies Bible Study this morning, I realized that I hated the way my hair looked and how my outfit was fitting me. I changed everything, felt even more rushed, and dashed out the door. I was feeling especially frustrated for being frustrated over my appearance. I know it’s such a trivial thing and I can let it ruin my day and dictate how I respond to people.

So there I was: tired, sort of sick, frazzled, with not-yet-dry hair, almost 30lb baby on my hip, and running out the door. I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful.

Amazingly, God always meets us where we are at. Frazzled or fantastic, he is there and is 100% concerned about the minute details of our lives. We talked about John 2 in our study today. Specifically we were looking at the verses towards the end of the chapter where it says that Jesus knew all men, but didn’t entrust himself to them. The question was asked, “Knowing this about Jesus, what should be our response?” I, being a Bible major in college, confidently answered, “Gratitude. Jesus knows everything about people, he even knows that they will reject him. And yet, he still came to earth as the Lamb of God to save sinners. Our only response can be thankfulness.”

After I finished answering the question and our discussion turned in other directions, it occurred to me how hypocritical I was in that moment. Here I am giving an answer that my heart knows very little about. In fact, Jesus sees past that ‘Bible major’ answer and sees the unthankfulness I’m harboring there. Other people may be fooled by my ‘godly answer’, but Jesus has never been fooled by that. He knows us deeply. And yet, he loves us deeply too.

With all that on my mind, it’s easy to not focus on all the silliness from this morning. It’s easy to be thankful. How could it not be?

Yes, I think it’s safe to say, “I’m thankful.”

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Enchilada Sauce

If you love enchiladas and you’ve never made your own enchilada sauce, you really need to. It is sooooo much better than canned sauce. It’s actually really easy (once you have all the right ingredients, I had to go on a hunt looking for the right kind of dried chile pepper). You can make a large batch, freeze the leftovers, and have enchilada sauce whenever you need it.

I used a recipe from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. My favorite thing about this cookbook is learning to make so many of the more basic ingredients yourself. Now, I don’t make all my own mayo, ketchup, or BBQ sauce–but it’s still really great to know how to make it all. Maybe one day soon I’ll be making all my own condiments, but for now I’ll just experiment here and there. And trust me, this enchilada sauce is worth the try!

The sauce before straining — looking and smelling good!

NOTE: I just scanned various recipes online and I can’t really find one comparable to the one in the cookbook. It used whole dried chiles, not chili powder. If you are interested in making the enchilada sauce, I’d really recommend getting the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. It’s a really great addition to any natural food kitchen!

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