Tag Archives: daily life

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

 

Landing zones & Launch pads

In the fast shuffle of summer activities and quick transitions from one camp to the next, our landing zones tend to attract odd bits and pieces of our lives, gaining depth and dimension at warp speed.  messy desk

Graduation announcements from last month mingle with lingering Christmas cards, awaiting that elusive moment of “getting around to it” for mailing a congrats card or transferring a friend’s address from the cute family photocard into our phone contact list. Our good intentions taunt us from these leaning stacks of paper and unprocessed mail each time we pass by on our way out the door.

That workbench out in the garage for “projects?” Yep, it gets piled high with everything from replacement toilet seats and seed packets of spring flowers that didn’t get planted to athletic shoes that have to be returned because feet have grown too big for them. One season of detritus gloms on to the next and soon you have a mishmash of holiday decor and unrelated sports gear teasing you as you park your car each evening.garage workbench

These landing zones of our lives naively begin as “planned” triage centers (assess urgency, prioritize level of importance and divert onward) but sneakily become perpetual messes that overwhelm us, nudging us toward stagnation rather than action.

As moms, we often become the landing zone for our family members, too. We gather stories from our kids about their latest interactions with friends, reactions to something Coach said at practice, or quirky things that happened at youth group. We get inundated by requests for new shoes, spending money for lunch with friends, or last-minute items needed for a camp that starts tomorrow.cubbies

Requests, logistics, multiple schedules, deadlines, menu planning, and household responsibilities land on us repetitively throughout the day. Demands of family life pile up on us, little by little, until we feel bogged down.

Inertia starts to feel familiar and perhaps even a little cozy. It might be easy to succumb to frustration and exhaustion because we constantly feel like the target zone for problem-solving and distribution central.

Another way to view the chaotic landing zone in our home is to see that it also serves as a launch pad. From this dumping ground of nitty-gritty details of busy family life also springs the data resources to point our crew in the right direction. The schedules, sports agendas, camp registrations, invitations, announcements, and endless stream of college brochures are landmarks for our kids’ journey through childhood. WE are their navigators. 

As we absorb the impact of our children bouncing off of us as they hurl themselves into a variety of childhood experiences, we can empower them to launch from us in a healthy way. If we are able to provide some rallying encouragement and emotional steadiness while they are refueling in our safety zone, they will gain confidence in their own trajectory.cloud art

Sometimes it isn’t easy being the staging ground for these multi-faceted, difficult-but-necessary tasks to be completed before an impending countdown. Although you feel the pressure tangibly building for launch and feel a little clumsy with all the delicate maneuvers, the outcome can be intensely rewarding for each successful takeoff.

So, hold steady, my friend. Reinforce those buffering systems. Let that striving child take flight in his own way. Breathe. Pray. Repeat. While awaiting his sweet return, clear your landing zone and prepare yourself for the next liftoff phase. Provide that foundation of a strong legacy of faith. Solidify his base now so as he launches farther and more independently, he is clear and focused on his ultimate flight plan. Remain steadfast in this training period so you’re both ready to launch well.

Legacy page of Bible Quilt
Legacy page in my #BibleQuit

 



Stay “in the loop” with us this summer:

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Exhale

Whoosh!

balloonsAs we pushed through the last week of school and immediately catapulted into the first two scheduled summer activities, I found myself feeling a bit like a deflated party balloon. My outward self was still trying to celebrate my boys’ last day of school yet my inner self was no longer floating high with anticipation just wearily hovering low and fading into smallness.

Summer and all its sunny expectations of FUN was here, but I wasn’t feeling it. I kept waiting for the bright mantle of “summer” to fall upon me, but found myself struggling to muster up excitement for the usual burst of summer activities. “What’s the deal with me?” I wondered.

– – – I forgot to exhale. – – –

The fullness of the school year had pressed in hard from all sides, nudging us along from one end-of-the-year culminating event to the next and sweeping us through finals week. Although I hadn’t taken a single exam or given any oral presentations, I had buffered and nourished these souls that were putting their all into their last school days. The truth was that we were all tired as we approached the finish line of another academic year.

Even if we aren’t the main player on the field, the sidelines are a busy place of support and encouragement as we prepare our players to get out there to do their best. As parents we’ve put in hours of training, too, but may not recognize the toll it’s taken on us. We may not be aware of  the moments we’ve been holding our breath as the next play unfolds before our eyes yet just beyond our grasp.

heart puzzleOn the last day of school, I awoke each of my sons and celebrated the moment of transition into their next grade level. As I looked into each sleepy face, something slipped inside me. A gear subtly shifted inside this mother’s heart and I paused to absorb its impact.

While each of my boys  is excited to move on to the next phase  of school, this promotion  also means a natural step closer to their independence. Celebrating their growth this year also means recognizing their progress toward stepping out on their own one day in the future, slipping away from our home and my dinner table. These were some heavy thoughts to bear in those first hazy moments of “the last day,” so I tucked them back in and moved toward a celebratory breakfast, focusing on their joy.

climatis openingLater that day as I added another envelope to the growing stack of graduation announcements, engagement party/wedding reception invitations, and college brochures, I realized we’re all in the metamorphosis of May. These transformations elicit all the feelings and soak up all the energy. As we dive in to celebrate each milestone, we want to savor each moment.

We also need to remember in each one to breathe . . . to embrace this shift of change in our loved ones and loosen our hold just a bit. (It’s good practice for the next “biggie” after all.)

– – – We need to remember to exhale. – – –

It’s in this exhale, where we can discover the joy of letting go…

to blow out the candles
to blow a kiss to a sweetheart
to blow that dandelion fluff as far as it will fly
to blow a pinwheel just for the delight on a toddler’s face
to release tension that has been building within us
to watch our children soar
Psalm 105:4
Bible Quilt – Psalm 105:4

 

As we celebrate these changes and allow ourselves a moment to exhale, we’ll realize the sunshine is a little brighter and our hearts a little fuller.

We may even discover that we’re ready for the longer days of summer after all. 

 

 

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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