All posts by Dianna

Buffering

How often do we get annoyed waiting for a download? As technology has advanced, we’ve gotten spoiled and increasingly more impatient with the few seconds this transformation occurs, forgetting that this process used to take minutes. (Not to mention our personal history with “dial-up” connections…we need not remind ourselves how old this makes us sound!)

. . . ___. . . Buffering . . . ___ . . .

Yep, we even have a fancy term for waiting on technology: buffering – -waiting with purpose and a heightened expectation of data coming our way. We’re paused as we  wait for data or images to load, so we can proceed with our next electronic interaction. The momentary lapse in electronic connection makes us feel restless.buffering symbol

Software programs have even designed creative ways to give us digital holding cues…a flashing line promising that progress is about to happen or a bright green line racing around a circle offering the illusion of “almost there.”

Last week when I was feeling the pressure of navigating a tight schedule while trying to accommodate the various speeds on which my children operate, it occurred to me how often I act as a buffering agent to those around me.
Like the mysterious data preloading that occurs, our buffering efforts go largely unseen but are constantly at work.
As moms, we’re often filling in the gaps between one family member to the next. We are frequently redirecting children, softening sharp edges of voice tones and harsh facial expressions. We’re constantly monitoring the goings-on in our families, serving as a hub in which each family member dives in for a brief connection then returns to their homework or computer screen.
We help modulate the buzz of activity in our households, buffering between family and houseguests or redirecting young sibling traffic to a neutral zone when teens are hanging out in another.

Even our pets use us as buffers. During yesterday’s thunderstorm, my golden retriever would not leave my side as she panted and anxiously tucked her tail, looking at me imploringly to “STOP MOVING ALREADY!” so she could settle.Katie hiding from storms

As women, we probably have more buffering systems in play than men, so it’s not unusual for me to hear stories about how a friend is  intervening between her husband and their realtor; or navigating details between her husband and service workers (and hoping to get the details about the roof leak, the hot water gadget, or the pool pump control panel interpreted correctly).

. . . ___ . . . We buffer between extremes. 

We lessen the impact of potential harsh consequences we see coming, but they may not. 

. . . ___ . . . We referee between siblings. 

We reframe feedback from challenging teachers and revved-up coaches  in ways our children can absorb it more constructively.

All this buffering can take a toll on us, leaving us feeling battered and weary. Sometimes on a day when we’ve spent so much energy putting out other people’s fires and not gotten our own agenda accomplished, we’re left feeling unproductive with an empty tank.
This past Sunday when I was feeling off-kilter after a busy week of solo parenting, I managed to stop for a few moments and go offline.offline mom break

Even though I’ve been trying to practice the art of Sabbath rest, the struggle to downshift is tricky. During waking hours my brain does not seem to have an “off” switch, so this striving to rest is a discipline I have to work at intentionally.

As I’ve recognized the draining pull of this nearly constant buffering, I’m beginning to appreciate the nuances more and realize the hidden impact my unseen efforts have on those around me. Slowly, I’m giving myself permission to power down” so I can truly recharge and be more effective as a nurturing buffer rather than an automatic boomerang.
Like it or not, mommas, this buffering stuff is part of the gig. I’m grateful God wired us to multi-task and self-regulate so we can stay on track when needed. I’m also thankful for the grace He extends to us and through us, so we can upload a positive influence on our families.leaves fallen

Fall is our friendly buffer between the lingering mugginess of Summer and the harsh chill of Winter.

As we transition into muted days with a crispness in the air, may we slip away for some nature walks to rebuild our inner buffering system. We’ve got this, friends!

What is YOUR recharge going to be this season?

“We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn’t come naturally. It’s a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.” – Charles Swindoll


 

How to Paint a Turquoise Table in 60 days

Some projects are worth the wait. Our ideas have to germinate and our baby steps of action often take longer than expected, but the end result allows all the effort and perseverance to slide into a happy place.

So it was with our turquoise table.

I first read about  #theturquoisetable concept a couple years ago: to have a friendly painted picnic table in the front yard to draw neighbors closer together.  I loved the simplicity of Kristin’s idea and how the beauty of this gesture blossomed into a hospitality movement across the country.
My brain hatched a plan: “I can do this,too.”

turquoise benchLater that spring when we had some landscaping done, I incorporated an area large enough to accommodate a picnic table. I settled for spray-painting a garden bench for my splash of “welcome” turquoise. We had other things going on at the time and a picnic table project was not one of them.

Turquoise Table Painting Party inviteFast forward two summers. My sister-in-law called to tell me they were moving —into our neighborhood, about a half-mile away.

My brain cranked up the plan another notch: we could paint TWO tables at the same time, involving all our boys, and we could gift one to them as a housewarming present. An action plan was finally taking shape!

In late June, we sprang into action by getting the tables and buying the paint. They moved and then we went on vacation. Our tables kept each other company in our garage for a month.
Busy summer schedules eventually slowed a bit and we drug the tables out for an initial priming session:

Boys ready to start painting picnic tables

These boys tackled the painting project with gusto!boy painting under tableboy painting under table

While the primer dried, the boys went off to have a nerf dart war in the front yard, complete with trashcans & moving blankets for impromptu barricades.

At least one boy was still scampering around in only his underwear.

hmmm…Do you think this is what Kristin meant by #frontyardpeople?

We ran out of time that day, so the primed tables returned to the garage. The majority of our boys were “spotted” at back-to-school events with splotches of white paint in their hair. boys with primed tables
Another week went by before we could wrangle all the boys in for another painting session. This time the excitement cranked up a notch because the fun color, Nifty Turquoise, was revealed.

(Moms were encouraging the use of hats and gloves this time…some boys heeded the warning; some didn’t.)

boy concentrating on paintingThe magic of the Turquoise Table took effect immediately before the tables were even fully painted.

A neighbor lady walking by gushed about the fun color…and quizzed us about the number of boys involved. “Yep, they’re ALL ours!”😉

As we were painting, the air pressure changed and storm clouds rolled in. We hustled the almost-but-not-quite painted tables back into the garage just in time to beat the large raindrops threatening our progress.painting picnic tables upside down

Another 10 days or so elapsed before we got  a second coat of paint on the tables…and it took another week to spray them down with polyurethane, but at last they were finished!

Boy moms love turquoise tables

Katie photo bombs the partyWe celebrated with oreo ice cream sundaes prepared by my youngest son way back in June when we first started the project.
Yep, they were worth the wait, too!

As fall approaches, we’re eager to move family life to these cheerful tables out front and embrace the community around us.

If YOU haven’t started one yet, go for it!

It’s a fun family project . . . and almost as easy as 1, 2, 3!! 😜

Boys ready to start painting picnic tables

boys with primed tables

Boys and turquoise tables

However long it takes and the messes it makes, take joy in the process.
Memories are etched in the layers of these everyday colorful moments.  kid photographer

(aaand…if you’ve had a kid photographer involved, then you’ve got plenty of evidence to show for it!)

In between the hustle and bustle with this crew, I’m looking forward to  some quiet moments out there with my Bible Quiltjournal, too.
Bible Quilt™ at Turquoise Table
I just happened to be Bible Quilting™ about “love your neighbor” during my first Quiet Time out here!

Alignment: Love eclipses all the other stuff

Did you catch #solareclipse fever this week? It was quite the mesmerizing event around here.  While capable of making us feel incredibly small in the scope of this wide world, it also pulled us together to focus on a common goal.

NASA eclipse infoThis grandeur was possible through a “just so” alignment of the sun, moon, and our precious Earth.  The eclipse was the “sweet spot” of these 3 celestial entities, causing quite a stir amongst us humans scrambling for our NASA sunglasses. For a few weighty moments, we were all unified in one purpose.
moon reflection We all gazed upward  into a vastness that we struggle to comprehend. We stilled ourselves in the midst of our daily routines, sharing in the anticipation of this cosmic event. It didn’t matter that we were wearing silly glasses and straining our necks awkwardly. We were aligned in one shared goal. 

How great would it be to continue such true alignment with each other beyond these precious few moments?


I was heartened to see diverse crowds of people file into stadiums, stand shoulder to shoulder, then break into spontaneous applause as they were impacted by the awe of the moment.

Other people crossed state lines and joined strangers in open fields to partake in this unique experience, enduring long lines of traffic on the journey home, yet hopefully still full of the wonder they had just absorbed with a wider community than they are typically a part of…stretching out of their comfort zones.

Alignment page in Bible Quilt
Alignment – #BibleQuilt journal

In a nation that has been besieged by divisiveness and hurtful separation, it was encouraging to watch alliances form among strangers. In a country bombarded with negative headlines, it was refreshing to view positive interactions and meaningful conversations about a shared experience.

 – – May our moments of alignment not be as fleeting as a rare solar eclipse. May we hold tightly to that sense of greater community and wholeness, leaning toward one another rather than away.

When we align together for a common purpose, we are more likely to be receptive to others – – to be open to their ideas and opinions. It weaves us closer. Joining together in community pulls us into alignment with one another in ways big and small. It doesn’t happen automatically.  We have to put ourselves in position to connect…to stretch a bit out of our comfy zones of familiarity.

AlignmentMaybe if we intentionally reach out in a small step toward someone out of our usual sphere each day, we won’t have to wait ’til 2024 to come together in unity again?

~ what a stellar idea! 😉

Savoring the last Sips of Summer

Confessions from a non-coffee drinker: sometimes I envy the built-in comforts associated with a fresh cup of steaming coffee. Not only does it provide a wallop of much-cherished caffeine, but it offers multi-sensory delights through  its pungent aroma, sharp taste,  and gentle warmth seeping through its mug. I just can’t quite develop the knack for its acrid flavor. I experiment occasionally to see if I can finally claim this piece of adulthood, usually by sneaking up behind a friend in line at Starbucks and “fake” ordering what she’s having (aka: decreasing the coffee strength & increasing the add-ins) to see if I can figure out what all the fuss is about. cappucino

Nope! Coffee drinking is just not my thing. I’m enamored by the slow-down factor involved though. I watch friends cradle their hot cups of coffee and see the wakefulness of a new day begin to emerge in their eyes.

I think it’s the opportunity to savor something for a few moments each morning that appeals to me. Coffee drinking is one of the few “socially accepted” ways to slow down or simple code for “gotta chat” when a friend asks you to meet for coffee.

I may not start each day with coffee, but I have been trying to adopt the process of savoring moments just a bit longer...as if I had to juggle a hot mug while navigating my world:
– allowing my eyes to linger a little longer on cheerful summer flowers, noticing vivid details & texturessummer flowers
– treading forward on a mundane walking path, awakening sleepy ideas to blossom into full-fledged brainstormsjogging pathanniversary hands

 

–  reflecting on an amazing anniversary trip

 

and reminiscing about all that we’ve carried together since our wedding 25 years ago…

wedding hands

– honoring the union of youthful promises and hopeful dreams we offered to each other that special dayholding hands shadow
– continuing to see each other through the other’s eyes as we explore new territory

blue lagoon

– leaning toward one other amidst the twists & turns of life, sharing the load and lightening the burden when weariness looms largebackpack
– savoring time away from the usual routine, but also welcoming back the familiar rhythm of home

anniversary roses & home

However your summer is winding down, I hope you’ll enjoy a cuppa and savor some of your favorite moments of this season.doting dog & faithful sonMeanwhile, I’ll be over here “practicing” with a chai latte my son made for me even though he’s a stickler for straight-up black coffee.
I’m soaking up all these mother-son moments, one sip at a time.


“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,

that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Psalm 90:14



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheesy BBQ mini pizzas

Summers are often about the quick-and-easy dinner or grab-and-go lunch around our house.watermelon

It’s also the season of take-out BBQ.  Soooo… it was only a matter of time before our leftover BBQ transformed beyond the boring sandwich.

 Here’s a dinner hack for that leftover BBQ meat that’s not quite enough to make a full dinner again for the whole family: the easy-peasy Cheesy BBQ mini pizza!

Grab a package of mini naan or cut any flatbread into single serve portions. Drizzle with your favorite barbecue sauce.

Naan bread with BBQ sauce

Sprinkle with shredded cheese. I had a package of colby-jack in the fridge, but any combination of shredded cheese you have available will do.

Naan with drizzled BBQ sauce and cheese

Place a scoop of shredded barbecue beef, chicken, or pork onto each naan and spread to desired thickness.

Tip: if you warm up the meat in the microwave before assembly, the baking process is quicker.

BBQ on naan

Sprinkle with more shredded cheese…because who doesn’t like MORE cheese?

Cheesy BBQ naan

Bake in 350-375 oven for 7-10 minutes (depending on how full you loaded your pizzas) until the cheese is melted and the bottom is crisp.

Cheesy BBQ mini pizzas

Serve with a side of fruit & send your crew out the door to their next summer activity!

The variations of these mini pizzas are endless. You can add veggies and any variety of cheeses or meats to personalize to your family’s tastes.  Smoked chicken is a definite winner! I keep a package of mini naan in the freezer and when I have a likely crop of leftovers, I serve them up this way.  (You can tell by the darkness of my baking stone that it gets a LOT of use by these quick  dinners.)

Sometimes I feel like I’ve pulled off a little magic trick, but my family reacts like these are a hit every single time. Permission granted to disguise your leftovers into mini pizza wonders: go for it!

Winner, winner: chicken packets for dinner!

Sometimes you accidentally stumble onto a family favorite without realizing you have a winner at your messy fingertips. If you need a simple “tried and true” recipe to perk things up this summer, let me introduce you to the wonders of Chicken Packets!chicken packets

The first time I tried this recipe was way back in our “early married” days when the budget was perpetually tight and our arsenal of recipes was woefully limited. This little gem was hidden deep within my first experience of batch cooking and I didn’t recognize its potential for greatness at the time. (Everything got a little hazy after the vat of spaghetti sauce simmered its tantalizing vapors throughout the kitchen.)

I dare say I was a bit intimidated at the whole prospect of a WHOLE DAY of cooking. My dear friend, Melanie (who also just happened to be a registered dietician), coached me through the marathon cooking day and our husbands were delighted with a freezer full of goodness as the end result.

Once-a-Month Cooking bookSince then, I’ve made Chicken Packets for many occasions (the arrival of newborns, moving days, condolence meals, neighbor farewells, family get-togethers, and welcome dinners for visiting friends) yet these tasty chicken packets are treasured for their simple everyday heartiness.

My tattered copy of Once-a-Month Cooking* is a testament to the versatility of Chicken Packets. The original version was for 4-6 servings. I’ve adjusted for our family’s preferences and cranked the amounts up to have plenty for dinner and some for the freezer.

dinner prep for Monday
Dinner prep: Monday

Gather up this cast of characters and let’s get started:

10 cups of cooked chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces (a 5-lb bag of frozen chicken breasts, boiled until fully cooked is about the right amount)
3 packages of 8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature (reduced fat works fine)
4 Tbs of chives (fresh or dried)
2/3 cup milk
salt & pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
8 packages of crescent rolls
4 packages of seasoned croutons, finely crushed
1 1/2 sticks of butter (melt when ready to assemble)

cream cheese in large bowlIn a large bowl, stir the cream cheese until its texture is smooth. Add chives, milk, and parmesan cheese, then sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.

Add chopped chicken and mix thoroughly.chicken mixture The batter is stiff, so use a sturdy spoon (and perhaps enlist a helper to strong-arm it a bit!) and keep stirring until ingredients are well combined.

Set bowl of chicken & cream cheese  mixture aside (or refrigerate,  covered, if baking Chicken Packets at another time).

When you’re ready to begin the assembly process, preheat the oven to 350 and get out several baking sheets.

crescent roll prepOpen crescent rolls and unroll gently onto greased cookie sheets or directly onto a silpat liner. Instead of separating into triangles, pinch the seams to form a rectangle with each pair of triangles. You will get 4 rectangles out of each can of crescent rolls.

Place a scoop of the chicken-cream cheese mixture into the center of each rectangle.
chicken packet fillingFold up sides and pinch the edges together.
folding up chicken packetscrushed croutons & melted butterBaste each packet with melted butter, then roll gently through the crushed croutons until generously coated.
chicken packets, ready to bakePlace packets onto cookie sheets and bake 20 minutes in preheated 350 oven. Bake until the packets are golden brown (if lifted with spatula, the bottom of the packet is firm rather than soft).chicken packets, fresh out of oven

– – – Ring that dinner bell and get to devouring some yummy goodness! 

 



The great thing about Chicken Packets is that they can be eaten immediately or stockpiled for later in your freezer!



crushed croutons (freezer)Two options for freezing:
  1. Freeze the chicken-cream cheese mixture and crushed croutons in separate freezer bags. Thaw & assemble later with the remaining ingredients per instructions. Bake, then serve.
  2. ORbake chicken packets fully as instructed above, allow to cool, and freeze packets for later. On the day you’re planning to serve them, pull the desired number of chicken packets out of the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator all day. Microwave 1-2 minutes until heated through. Bonus touch: put in 350-degree oven for a few minutes to restore the crispiness of the croutons.


The beauty of this winner recipe is its versatility for baking when it’s best for your dinner schedule.

**Individually, they also make substantial after-school snacks or for a quick on-the-go meal for busy family members.



If you’d like to try a smaller serving size, simply use the triangle of the crescent roll & repeat the same assembly process. (My boys like to experiment with the ratio of filling to crescent roll.)single chicken packetson-the-go chicken packets

I hope you enjoy adding this recipe to your Family Favorites!

*this post contains affiliate links