Planning my time

Every morning, I wake up with a whole list of stuff I need to do, an even longer list of stuff I want to do. Goals for the day. This morning, I woke up at 6am, so I could read my Bible and pray until 6:30, and then exercise for 30 minutes until the baby woke up at 7am. Well, I decided to check my phone/email/facebook for just a minute. I’m sure you can guess what happened. I got sucked into facebook land, and I glanced up at the time and it was now 6:20. I wasted 20 minutes of my precious morning time. With my houseful of children, my 1 hour before their waking is PRECIOUS. And I wasted 20 minutes of it on scrolling through facebook. So now it was 6:20am and I was already behind on my day. I got my Bible reading in for the day, but no exercise. This is my example of what not to do to have a healthy, happy, fruitful life.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not villainizing facebook. Done in moderation it’s great for keeping in touch with friends, discussing topics important to me and so on. But facebook time needs to be planned into the day, or it becomes a huge vacuum that sucks in my time that is needed for my other goals. Just as leisure of any sort is not wrong in and of itself, it needs to be put in its proper place. Work and then play. Get done what is on my list of daily goals, and then fill in the rest with leisure if there is any time left.

We’re not getting any younger. The sands of time are always drifting away, and so we’ve got to be very aware of the way we are using our time.

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Ephesians 5:15-16  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Having a schedule or plan for the day is the first half of the battle. I look ahead at the time I have available, and figure out ahead of time how to utilize that time to reach my goals. I’m constantly tweaking our schedule to try to fit in all that we need to do as a large homeschooling family. I like the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. A lot of truth in there. If I had no plan for the day at all, then I would not accomplish half of what I do. I plan in my work, and I plan in my time for hobbies, relaxing and reading, and facebooking. I have a plan for when to cook, eat, sleep, exercise, garden, rest.

HOWEVER, merely having a plan isn’t the end, as you saw with my morning of time waste. We can have the best laid plans, but still not accomplish anything. Actually implementing the plan and following through is integral. A plan without the follow through is pretty much worthless.

 

So I make a plan, and I stick to the plan as best I can. Sure, sometimes things outside my control will happen to change the plan, and that’s okay.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV

If a child wakes up sick, I roll with it. If my car breaks down, I go with the flow. These things happen, and we can’t hold our plans so tightly that we can’t adjust and adapt when these out of the ordinary things happen. But wasting time, scrolling facebook when I should have been accomplishing my goals and following my plan for the morning, that’s not the way to lead a fruitful life. So please don’t follow my example from today 😉

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. And make the best use of your time.

Simple, quiet habits

I’ve always been fascinated with the Amish life. Although i don’t want to give up my electricity (can you imagine washing clothes by hand for 7 children!?), I do like to glean some life habits from the Amish who have been able to avoid the rat race mentality of modern American culture. Constant noise makes me feel jittery. Constant entertainment leaves me feeling empty and depressed. And what is our culture made up of predominantly? Jittery depressed people. It’s no wonder.

The average Joe wakes up, checks his phone, browses facebook, turns on the tv, gets ready for work, listens to music  or talk radio in the car, then works all day, drives back home in rush hour traffic with more music or talk radio, turns on the tv when they get home, browses the internet some more until it’s time to go to bed. Busy busy busy, Rush rush rush. Noise noise noise. No silence. No contemplation. No peacefulness.

The Amish? They wake up to a relatively quiet house. If they have to leave for work, they ride in a horse and buggy. Quiet, slow. They work with their hands. They spend time enjoying dinner around the table with their family. Slow and relaxed. No internet, no tv, no radio.

One habit or practice the Amish have is that they simply enjoy routine, mundane, quiet things. There’s something to be said for just being quiet. Now I’m not saying there’s no place for tv, radio, internet, but moderation is key.

One habit I like to do everyday is hang a load of laundry on the clothesline. It started years ago with trying to save money, and by drying on the line, we saved the electricity cost of the dryer running. Our financial situation is a little better now, to where the small amount I save in line drying doesn’t make a huge difference, and at first glance, it may seem like a waste of my time. After all, it takes me 10 minutes to hang it up, and 10 minutes to take it down in the afternoon, when I could just throw it in the dryer and save myself some time. But here’s the thing – while I’m hanging it up and taking it down, I can hear the birds sing, I feel the breeze in my hair, I see the clouds gently rolling over the sky. It’s quiet. It’s simple. I have time to think. I consider how huge the world is and how small I am. And about how women across all of time and in all places hang out the laundry. There’s a connectedness there with generations past.

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I love to sit on the front porch, watching the leaves dance in the wind, listening to the music of the wind chime, seeing a butterfly float past. Rocking in my chair, oblivious at the moment to the world news or the latest viral video on facebook, because I left my phone in the house.

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I work in the garden, digging in soil, planting something small that may one day grow big and feed my growing family. Seeing the way the little worm burrows deep in the soil. The way the bean tendrils wrap around the fence. The way the plump blackberries shine in the sun.

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Stillness is a rare thing in today’s culture with the bombardment of media. But it is in the still, quiet moments that we can begin to understand who we are, who God is, and where we fit into His plan. When we develop quiet habits in our life, we regularly get to pause, unplug from this modern world, and enjoy the simple things.

Maybe hanging  clothes outside sounds like drudgery to you. Or the thought of gardening sounds dull. But find something you can do during each day to “stop and smell the roses.” Maybe take a quiet walk. Notice the sky. Notice the sounds you hear. Or just really look at your child or spouse, concentrating on the small details. Notice the freckles on her face. See how his eyes twinkle when he smiles. At the very least, turn off your phone and tv for a time each day so you can clear your mind.

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And be quiet, enjoying the simple things.

One in, one out

Is it just me, or do we all have way too much stuff in our homes, with more coming in nearly every day? Most of us have closets full of clothes, but we still buy more. We have cabinets full of kitchen gadgets, but we still buy more. We have bookshelves full of books, and we still buy more.

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to hold to the rule of “one in, one out”. If I buy a new shirt, then one old shirt must be donated. If I buy a new pair of shoes, one old pair must go. I also keep this rule for my children as well. When toys come in, toys go out. When clothes come in, clothes go out. I keep a “donate” box in the closet so I can easily add to it, and then carry it to my van when it’s full to drop off the next time I’m out running errands.

For us, this is integral so that we don’t literally drown in stuff. We have 7 children, and live in a 2,000 sq. ft. house. I know this is not small by world standards, but here in America, this is smaller than the average, and we have double the people than the average home.

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By keeping to the one in, one out standard though, we never accumulate more than we have right now. We get new stuff of course, because old things wear out or stain, but we don’t gain additional volume.

I honestly can only imagine how stressed and overwhelmed I would feel if our home was more cluttered or full than it already is. “Stuff” adds stress. It honestly does. I’m so pleased to see the minimalist lifestyle becoming popular! Americans are infamous around the world for over indulgence in all aspects of life, and the minimalist idea runs completely counter to that.

If this sounds like a good idea for you to implement, I just read about a new program that helps you with the one in, one out. I haven’t personally tried it out yet because I drive by a donation center every week, but if getting to a drop off to donate your stuff is a problem, then this seems to be a great solution. This is a charitable organization that will give you a postage paid label to put on your amazon box (or any other box) that you fill with your old stuff and then it’s free for you to ship to them. You even get a receipt for your giving. Here’s the link. Give Back Box

Give Back Box® provides vendor services to retailers and charities, giving each and every cardboard box a second life to help people in need. So it is also a ‘green’ solution! Reuse your online shipping boxes in which you received your purchases, or any other cardboard box you may have, to donate your unwanted household items: such as gently used clothing, shoes etc., to make a major difference in the life of another person. www.givebackbox.com

The next time you go shopping, consider removing a few of your old things to donate to someone else. It will give you a clearer mind, and a cleaner closet. Win win.

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And donate your old stuff.

Homemade pasta sauce

Have you ever truly looked at the ingredients on your favorite store bought pasta sauce? The first several ingredients usually sound innocent enough. But as you keep reading…

Here’s the ingredients for a popular store brand taken from their website: Tomato puree, diced tomatoes, sugar, beef, canola oil, salt, beef fat, spice, dehydrated onions, dehydrated garlic, citric acid, flavoring, dehydrated beef stock, onion extract, garlic extract, beef extract, yeast extract.

That thing that says “flavoring” down towards the end – that can mean anything and everything. You honestly have no idea what you’re getting in there. It doesn’t even clarify whether its natural flavoring or artificial. But let assume it’s “natural flavoring”. According to FDA, “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

Sounds complicated and confusing. And all those extracts? Beef extract? Yeast extract? What is that? Does your body know what it is? Can your digestive system recognize it as a food item? I’m not sure.

This list looks much better: Tomatoes, peppers, onions, beef. Flavored with garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano. We know what these are. Our bodies know what these are. Our digestive system can identify them all as food items and process them accordingly.

Here’s my tried and true recipe for a hearty pasta sauce, tweaked several times over the years, but a family favorite now. If you don’t like peppers and onions in your sauce, you could leave them out – I’m a fan of chunky pasta sauce though.

Homemade pasta sauce

  • 1 or 1.5 lb ground beef (or turkey or venison)
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 t. minced garlic
  • 2 t. oregano or basil or combo of both
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 1 t. maple syrup

Brown the beef over medium heat. When its about halfway brown, add in peppers and onions. As onions start to become translucent, add the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. When beef is fully browned and onions translucent, add in all 3 tomato cans, liquid included, and maple syrup. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, or even up to an hour on low heat, or in a crock pot on low for a few hours.

This pasta sauce is great served over zoodles (zuchinni noodles) if you’re grain free, and also great over regular spaghetti or pasta if you’re not grain-free.

Please do yourself a favor and stay away from ingredients like “flavoring”. And if you really need to know the ugly nasty truth, some “flavoring” is castoreum, which is “natural”, and is a bitter, orange-brown, odoriferous, oily secretion, found in two sacs between the anus and the external genitals of beavers. Seriously y’all. 

Yeah….just stay away from things with “flavoring” or “natural flavors”. You really don’t know what it may be…

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And don’t ingest fluid from beaver genital glands.

Roasted Chicken, simplified

Oftentimes, moms feel like they just don’t have time to cook healthy for the family. Many “healthy” recipes are long and involved and use strange ingredients. I know. I’ve been there, done that. And I do enjoy cooking, and when/if I have the time, I like to try out those exotic new recipes. But for most weeknights, I just need something easy and simple. This Roasted Chicken is one of those meals.

For those who have never roasted a whole chicken before, the process seems intimidating. There’s that strange stuff inside of it, the question of how to cook it, and endless recipes to wade through of brining, various temperatures, herbs, rubs, marinades, etc. I’m here to say that a roasted chicken can be extremely simple, not to mention frugal and healthy too! My weeknight roasted chicken recipe only takes about 5 minutes of prep time.

I know there are various recipes that can make a roasted chicken a culinary masterpiece. And I realize there is a time and place for masterpieces in the kitchen, but for me, most days, I just want to get something healthy and easy on the table to feed my family. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure the fancier roasted chicken recipes taste better. But this roasted chicken recipe is for the moms with toddlers hanging onto their legs throwing a tantrum. Ain’t got no time for lemon juice and rosemary sprigs and sea salt brines.

This “recipe” (although I can’t really call it a recipe, it’s so simple) is a great weeknight meal. It will also likely give you leftovers for lunch or even another dinner later in the week. It only takes about 5 minutes of active prep time on your part, and then 90 minutes in the oven time. It’s similar in taste to those rotisserie chickens you can get at the grocery store, but this is much healthier because it doesn’t have the “flavoring” injected into it like the supermarket chickens do. (look at labels! “natural flavoring” = who knows what is in your chicken)

So first, you buy that big, raw, whole chicken. In my neck of the woods, these roasters are about 5 pounds, and typically about $0.95/lb, roughly $5.00 for the whole thing. If your family is smaller than mine, it’ll probably give you 2 meals worth of meat. We sometimes get 2 meals out of it depending on how hungry the children are. The leftover meat can be used for chicken tacos, or served on a salad or sandwich, or put in soup.

Ok, now for the “recipe”. Put the chicken, still wrapped in your sink. Cut the plastic off, and then get “the guts” out. Kind of gross, but cooking is not for the faint-hearted. Neither is motherhood. Or life, I suppose. So, “the guts” are just sitting inside the chicken and you simply scoop them out with your hands and into the trash. Some brands wrap them nicely in paper which makes it a tad easier, but it’s still inside the chicken. Now, use some paper towels to blot the outside of the chicken so the skin is dry. (This will give it the nice crispy skin)

Then put the chicken on the baking pan, breast side down. (this keeps the breast meat juicy and not dried out). It’ll probably look a little lonely and sad laying there. You can throw a few big sweet potatoes on the pan to keep it company and cook alongside if you want too.

Drizzle a little oil on top. If you’re feeling fancy, add some salt and pepper too. But if the toddler is still screaming at the base of your feet, you can easily skip the salt and pepper. I speak from experience.

Bake at 425 degrees F for about 90 minutes.

Voila. Done. Simple.

Serve with a couple sides or a salad. Dinner is done.

No, it won’t win any awards. But it is healthy, easy, and frugal. My kind of meal.

Be fruitful, healthy, happy. And simplify your chicken.

Healthy respect for “the line”

America has been fired up over the news that Vice President Pence has a self-imposed rule he follows – his rule is that he does not spend time with other women alone. Somehow this has been labeled as backward and he’s being ridiculed and mocked. I don’t know if its just Hollywood and media that think this is absurd or if most Americans agree too, but this man is now the butt of jokes.

I personally know many couples who keep similar boundaries in their marriage, and my husband and I have this unspoken rule as well. I will not spend time with other men alone. My husband will not spend time with other women alone. Its not that we don’t trust each other, but rather its that we both aim to stay away from “the line”.

Here’s what I mean. If the line of inappropriate behavior is right here, then we don’t keep our toes a few inches away from it. toes-in-the-sand1

Yes, technically, this mans toes on are on the safe side of the line. Even if he was only 1 mm on this side of the line it would still be technically safe and fine and moral. But why would we risk it? Why not stay several feet away from the line? Why flirt with temptation? If I’m only 1 millimeter from “the line”, and the wind blows just right, then I’m going to fall over the line. If that happens I should not then claim “I didn’t mean to do it! I was on the right side of the the line!” If I had been 3 feet from the line, and the same wind blows, I make take one step towards the line but I would not cross it. Y’all see where I’m going here?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about the RC cola. In it, I wrote about how I avoid drinking soda by keeping it out of our house. I know it’s not healthy for my body and so I don’t want it to be part of my life. And if it’s here in our house, I’m tempted to drink it. Yes, of course, having soda sitting in my house is not unhealthy, but drinking the soda is. And if it’s in the house, I’m much more likely to drink it than if it’s not here, right? So the soda stays at the grocery store, not in my house. Common sense.

My husband and I both know that there is nothing morally wrong with going to lunch with the opposite sex to talk about business. My guess is that Vice President Pence knows the same thing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating with another woman at the same table. Talking alone with another woman is not sinful. But here’s some news: affairs don’t start once you cross “the line” – they start when people tiptoe around near the line and then end up crossing it because they were so close to the line to begin with that it didn’t take much to cross it. Most people who have affairs did not set out to do it, but rather they claim that “it just happened”. For the vast majority of these people, the initial catalyst was being too close to the line.

I honestly can’t really imagine my husband or I crossing the line into inappropriate behavior. We have a healthy marriage, and we have abundant love and respect for one another. But it is because we love each other so much and we see what a blessing our good marriage is, that we keep healthy boundaries. We have a healthy respect of the line and we stay far from it. It is a safeguard we have in our marriage, not because we don’t trust each other but because we don’t see any wisdom in tiptoeing around the line. We don’t want to flirt with danger.

This is not backward. It is not ridiculous. It does not deserve to be labeled absurd. It’s about using wisdom, discretion, and staying several feet away from “the line” instead of a few inches. Please don’t put yourself close to the line, and then claim “it just happened”.

Be fruitful, happy, healthy. And stay away from “the line”.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:13-15

 

 

Easy healthy dinner – Cabbage, carrots and beef

Easy. Healthy. Those are my two criteria for dinner. Well, and frugal so we don’t go broke, and yummy so that the 8 people I’m cooking for will actually eat it. This dinner fits the bill.

The main players in this dinner are cabbage, carrots, and beef. Cabbage and carrots are two relatively cheap veggies to keep around in your fridge, and for a big family like ours, the cost of groceries is a big consideration. The other plus for these two hearty vegetables is that they last for weeks. They won’t wilt or mold in a few days like some fresh produce tends to do. I try to keep both of these in my refrigerator at all times because they can be used alone as a side dish or used together in this yummy dinner.

This weeknight meal that we call “cabbage, carrots and beef”(so creative!) is one of our family favorites. It’s a quick go-to meal that we usually have all the ingredients for and it only takes about 30 minutes to whip up. It’s also frugal because it only uses 1 lb. of meat for 4-6 servings. It feeds our family of 2 adults, 7 children! Those of us who can tolerate grains eat this served over a big bed of rice, and those who cannot eat rice have it with a side of baked sweet potato. It’s great on its own, so if you’re grain-free, definitely give this a try!

Cabbage, carrots and beef

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 4 carrots, grated or chopped in a food processor
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1-2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 3 t. combo of any of the following: oregano, thyme, basil (I usually do 1 t. of each, but any combo will do)

First, brown your beef in a large skillet over medium high heat. When it’s about half-way browned, add in your onions and garlic and continue cooking until the beef is browned. Now sprinkle in all the seasonings and mix well, and then add in the cabbage and carrots. It will look like way too much cabbage at first, but it cooks down quite a bit! Just keep cooking on medium high until the cabbage is sufficiently tender for your liking. This is about 15 minutes for us. My crew likes it to be very soft (we do live in the south) but I imagine some people would like a little more crunch in their cabbage.

And voila! An easy, weeknight dinner that is frugal, healthy, and filling!

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