Category Archives: Gatherings

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! 😉

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

 

Random Acts of Kindness

What’s a Random Act of Kindness?  Many times it’s a small or large  action done for a person to bring them joy. The beautiful by-product of doing a Random Act of Kindness is that it usually   blesses the giver too. 

Last week my family took out on a 1 week adventure to a Family Camp. It was the 5th year for us to go; we look forward to the play and relax time we have as a family each year in this place.  We pick many excursions throughout the week that puts our focus on fun together. But this year we stretched beyond our comfort zone and chose to spend a day serving in a camp nearby that has many sponsors helping to make it happen. We knew very little about Kids Across America when we drove there at lunch time. Our kids had agreed to trade a day of play for a day of work without hesitation, but we all felt the weight of the unknown as we got there. 

I can say without a doubt that the afternoon turned into one of our favorite parts of that week! There were things in that experience that were familiar, but there was much that seemed foreign to us. It was good for all of us to break out of our molds and work hard and learn new things and meet new people. It turned out to be  a wonderful day of planned Kindness.

The week before Camp, we had stopped at a Sonic for cold drinks during some errands. While ordering,  I got 2 extra Cherry Limeades for women we would see on our outing. When we got to the office, they had left for the day, but my boys were concerned on what to do with the extra drinks...in a random act of Kindness we began looking for the first 2 people we could find to share the drinks with. The 2 we found were so happy to receive an unexpected drink! There was joy and surprise and laughter and conversation all over a cherry limeade!! We got back in the car and marveled at how that situation had turned out; it was so random, but really blessed our day. 

A woman I met just the other day spoke some wise words to me in the brief time I had with her…she paused in our conversation and told me to ponder the word Growth. And so I am; and it is such rich word with many layers. There is room for growth in each day; Random Acts of Kindness will follow.  I encourage others to tuck that word into your hearts this season. 

On our Bucket List of Fun for the Summer, we have decided to add many more Random Acts of Kindness to our weeks. Both big and small endeavors reap large rewards for all involved. I hope many others will invest in these Acts; they refresh ones Spirit in huge dividends of growth!!

Dinner Time!

Here’s the question: “How do you carve out one-on-one time with a child when you have so many?” It’s a very good question! I am asked about it a lot, which is humorous since I am an only child and had all of my parents’ attention. So I am learning as I go, and asking the Lord for insight often. Here are some tools I’ve found that work for us in our home, that at times feels likedinner helper a whirling dervish!

This is the day the Lord has made! Psalm 118:24

We do most activities together, which I like because I see so much learned in sharing, compromising and helping one another. But every one of us wants to be seen, heard and loved. I want to know each child’s personality, dreams and ambitions. This is where our “dinner helper” spun from… there is usually one night that we can all come together and share a meal each week. So I have one child help with preparing our meal. When we first started this, everyone was eager to help and they all hovered in the kitchen. I asked one son to stay while the others went to play; (no sharing on this one).

dinner helpersI had to relinquish control and speed of prep-time at first. What a nine-year-old can help with versus a three-year-old are vastly different! But I learned that giving them the tools of grating cheese, layering a casserole, working a can opener and following a recipe are great life-skills in training. And the three-year-old is just as content in “helping” as he stacks the measuring cups or counts out the paper plates. Conversation began to emerge with my oldest,  goofiness grew with my second son as we added music to his nights; we danced and sang while we made dinner! My younger two became even more cuddly after singling them out. It has been a win-win all the way around for each of us.

When I was little, my grandmother fried chicken and made the most delicious chocolate ice-box pies. My mom made hearty soups from scratch. I’ve watched both beautiful women cook side-by-side and create chicken-and-dumplings and hot apple pies that I still dream about! Food is a great layer to a home; it evoboy tastingkes such detailed memories in one’s soul.

So grab a pan, stir a bowl, dance and whisk something for a loved one. Try a new recipe or cling tight to a treasured one. Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy the meals!

In the ordinary days, watch and see were you can carve out these memorable moments. They can be found in our daily tasks.

Our 100th Post!!!

Audra & Di

  As we celebrate our 100th Post, we continue to live in the Ordinary, trying to be mindful of the simple things we do each day that impact others.
We want to explore the Ordinary Threads within our homes,  and then stretch these into our communities. Come alongside and join us!
Here’s a glimpse of our journey these past 18 months: 
– – –100th post video – – –
Sometimes it’s good to reflect on one’s past so the path toward the future is a little clearer.  We are grateful for the opportunity to share here each week with you. Thank you for the support, friends!

“It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God, but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the Ordinary things in life and holy on the Ordinary streets among Ordinary people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”    -Oswald Chambers

How do we live in the Ordinary?  Continue on this journey with us; the fellowship is sweet…
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