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Simply Gather

– – – Gather up – – –

If your last few weeks have seemed like a whirlwind and the sound of Christmas music makes you feel a little edgy, you’re in good company. I’ve been trying to gather up my thoughts about the upcoming holidays and can’t quite get there. I really want to enjoy the Fall, to bask in the beautiful colors outside my window.maple tree through window

trees in fall

I want to marvel at the leaves piling up under the trees and remember how my boys relished rolling around in leaf piles until they had leaf dust ground into every inch of their clothing and they had begun to sneeze/wheeze with the overpowering earthiness of Fall.

playing in leaves

– – – Gather in – – –

red leafWe’ve had a few brisk days and I’ve enjoyed gathering in, cozying up with my flannel-clad boys and enjoying the aroma of simmering cider in the trusty crockpot.

Slowly, we’re rummaging around in the depths of our closets to pull out our favorite layers and then second-guessing the weather to see if we’re on track for those surprising temperature flip-flops this season brings.

We gather in closer as we shift to more indoor activities, putting away the toys of summer and lean expectantly toward more family time lounging with favorite books and taking turns adoring the family dog who just can’t seem to get enough affection from her people.

katie - greeting

– – – Gather round – – –

fall tablescapeOur family goes through phases (depending on the sports of the season) of consistently making it to the dinner table together.

I love the nights when we can settle in and banter  conversation about without the pressure of the eat-and-run.

Gathering around our table & exchanging  tidbits about our days (often sprinkled with witty humor and gentle teasing)  binds us together a little tighter.

Even if we scatter afterward to accomplish our various things, the hum of togetherness lingers a little longer because we’ve had that connection at the table.

leaves turning yellow

– – – Gather deep – – –

I’m not a “social butterfly,” flitting about the crowd and seeking to make contact with a wide variety of people. (My heart races a bit just thinking about it. gulp!)

I tend to drift toward people with intention, preferring to sink a little deeper into conversation, wading into the grit of life as I talk with a friend or two at a time.

Gather page in Bible Quilt™
Gather page in Bible Quilt™

Since we’ve been hosting Bible Quilt™ sessions, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to gather deep with friends, new and old, sharing our walks of faith and pursuit of scripture for life.



With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I encourage you to SIMPLY GATHER with the people you love and cherish.

GATHER SIMPLY, minimizing the “fuss” and slowing down to enjoy this season before we’re jolted to the next.



leavesWe’re halfway through our #30daysofgratitude series in our Ordinary Threads Facebook Group.

Join us as our members share snippets of gratitude each day!

Hope all of your Thanksgiving GATHERings are blessed! 

The Harvest Is Plentiful

 

Do you see them all over town? They are not shy nor will they go unnoticed. Bright oranges and creamy whites, smooth and bumpy perched on hay bales.  Oh! The pumpkins have arrived! Fall is such a fun and flavorful season to incorporate some great Memory Makers with family and friends. So many to choose from…

This is my mom holding my first son a few Octobers ago. Going to the Pumpkin Patch is part of our family tradition. We pick carving pumpkins and dream up ideas for funny faces for them. We pet all the farm animals and walk the corn mazes; we leave itchy from crawling over hay bales, and we always feel the need for apple cider after our exploration. These are sweet memories made.

 

 

Sometimes we have been known to paint the pumpkins we bring home! What a colorful mess we make! But it’s worth it; the joy and laughter is completely contagious. We add feathers and glitter and the whole nine yards!

 

The week of Halloween, we make a pot of soup, invite grandparents over, and carve pumpkins together. The seeds get washed, seasoned, and cooked for snacking during the process. We fill our tummies and our hearts in the crisp air that usually has just begun to chill our evenings. We bust out carving knives and power drills for our pumpkins! The imaginations take flight as we all carve.

 

Ever since I have any memory, my extended family has gotten together for a Halloween supper and trick or treating together. We always have chili and fritos, and EVERYone must show up in costume; no exceptions. We have years and years of pictures of children, grandparents, friends,( pets even!) dressed in silliness. We are all in, and it is so much fun!It is always pure joy to just play for the evening. A Tradition that’s in its third generation currently.

Let the kids spread out their loot at the end of the evening. Give them permission to wallow in it for the moment…when else is it ever appropriate? Pure Bliss is in those memories. Treasures that go WAY beyond their sweet tooth.

 

One of my sons is a collector of nature. I am forever being gifted dandelions, and rocks, sticks and walnut shells that have hearts carved in them by our Magnificent God. I cherish the pictures I have taken of these perishable treasures. It is a glimpse through the eyes of a child; pure and unencumbered. And the Nature Walks!! These are requested as early as August by my crew. We make them wait till the leaves start falling. But the anticipation wraps our beautiful memories made in the Scavenger Hunts we take out on each Fall with walking sticks, paper bags, snacks and all!

We have friends that always pass through during this season and spend some nights with our family.  It is fun to set up a Blessing  Box for their room while they visit. There is something so inviting about all the rich layers of colors in the Fall. A book, magazine,  candle, flowers, bottled water and pumpkin with some hand-written greetings is simple but sweet.The boys and I love watching the foliage change and the wind stir the leaves across the yards. The ambition of raking the leaves is usually tossed quickly as we jump into them! We sometimes lay on hammocks and look up into the colorful tree tops. There are so many simple moments to be found in this season that overflow with Thankfulness. Read a book out-loud as a family, make a big pot of Apple Cider to sip on all Sunday afternoon. Bake pumpkin bread with your kids and then share it with your neighbors. Begin a Gratitude Pumpkin and take turns writing all there is to be thankful for. Snap lots of pictures, and jot down memories while they are fresh in your mind. Absorb all that Fall has waiting for you.  The Harvest is Plentiful

A Picture Worth A Thousand Memories

As I walked through the house on my nightly clean-sweep of rooms, I paused last week on this grouping left on a desk. Two sons had mingled parts of their day on this surface. I see this stuff all the time, and usually sort and sift quickly to keep or trash. But for a split moment I was inspired to pay attention before I disbanded the “clutter”.

I felt the need to snap a picture for my memory bank. It means nothing to most eyes that see it, but for me, it reflects two rambunctious boys that I love. The stick and duct tape, the fidget spinner, the rock, the beginning attempts of drawing circles…such sweet pieces of childhood.  It’s not something I will scrapbook later, but I will begin to snap more pictures like it for my own heart and memory.

And so I hope to plant a seed for you too as you walk through parts of our mundane days. They are Ordinary a lot of the week, but in that Ordinary,  look for the gems that are visually laid out just for you as a gift from God; these snapshots are beautiful reflections of family, love, joy, contentment, security… they are hidden treasures unless you really open your eyes to see.

As I was unpacking boxes from our move, I unloaded children’s books in the hallway with no plan yet of where to place them.  Eli instantly sprawled out and began absorbing them as if old friends had just arrived.  He lingered there for an hour! (A  looong time for a 5-year-old).  I kept stepping over him to continue unpacking, but then glanced down and realized that I didn’t want to ever forget such sweet innocence in that moment. You think you’ll remember; but take the snapshot.

So many Saturdays are on the Soccer Fields right now in our family’s life. My views are similar each week, and I make sure to take a pic or two of my boys playing the sport from time to time. But with my quest to see the hidden gems, I snapped this thinking I would probably delete it once I could actually see it out of the direct sunlight…but oh no, I will keep it. I love it in fact.  It has all the components from the quilt blankets laid out each week, to the sibling drifters that are needing busy work and snacks while waiting out a game. To me, it’s a sweet reminder of this season.

And so I have these:

Two leaves that one son thought were worthy of keeping,

A beloved pup that always lingers at the top of the stairs hoping for a pet on the landing below,

A crazy fort that I ran in to while trying to get though my bedroom!

Boys enjoying the quiet process of creating art late at night when the house finally stills… Oh, I don’t want to miss any of these! I probably would not have normally taken these photos last week. The are all just natural parts of our family’s routine. I see them all the time; but this week, through the camera lens, I see the beautiful treasures they are just for me.  My heart overflows with thankfulness to the Lord for His abundance in my Ordinary day!  You can keep your eyes open for the hidden gems that are laid out just for you too! You see them all day long. When you spot them, snap the picture. You never have to edit them; they are perfect just as they are. 

Oh give thanks to the Lord! For He is good, for His steadfast Love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

5 Go-To Meals We Love

Ordinary Threads is about to meet with a great group of women to help them set up Menu Planning Boards for their homes next month. As the preparation for that swirls in our heads, our thoughts are focused on FOOD! I have a few Go-To meals that I’ve been making for years now. When a week turns crazy, these are my steadies. They are easy, fast and yummy. Add a salad, veggie, bread or fruit and you’re ready to eat! Try one or all!

SPAGHETTI PIE

1 Kraft Italian Dinner Box

2 Eggs

1  16oz. can Tomato Sauce

1  6oz. package of Mozzarella Cheese, grated

Boil spaghetti from dinner box and drain and rinse. Beat eggs in large bowl and add parmesan from dinner box. Add spaghetti and mix well. Put half of spaghetti mixture in bottom of greased 9 inch pie plate and then layer half  of the grated cheese and then repeat layers one more time. Bake 10 minutes, uncovered, at 350. Do sauce per package directions. Cut pie in wedges and serve with sauce.

 

SPEEDY SAUSAGE SUPPER

1  lb. smoked sausage, sliced

2 TBS Butter

1 small Onion, chopped

half cup fresh Mushrooms, sliced

1  8oz. can Baked Beans

1  8oz. can Kidney Beans

1  8oz. can Tomato Sauce

1 envelope Chili Seasoning

Cheddar Cheese, grated

Melt butter in large skillet and add onion and mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Add beans and tomato sauce. Stir in Chili Seasoning and add Sausage. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until heated through. Garnish with grated cheese.

QUICHE (HAM, VEGGIE OR BACON)

1 Half-baked Pie Shell

4 Slices Bacon, crumbled

Ham Cubes

Veggies of choice, diced

Blend of Swiss and Cheddar Cheese, 1 1/2 cups together

3 Eggs

1 cup of Milk

Dash of Nutmeg

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Mix all together in a bowl. Pour into pie crust. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 Degrees.

ONE-POT PASTA

1 lb. spaghetti

1 pkg. Smoked Sausage, sliced

1 large Onion, thinly sliced

3 cups Grape Tomatoes, halved

3 cups fresh Basil

Sea Salt and Pepper

1 cup Parmesan, grated

In a large pot over medium heat, combine EVERYTHING, but cheese and add 4 1/2 cups of Water. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer till Pasta is cooked through and water reduced. Stir in Parmesan and Serve.

RANCH CHICKEN

1 small package of Ranch Dressing Mix

6 Chicken Breasts

1 sleeve of crushed Ritz Crackers

1 cup of Parmesan Cheese

Melted Butter

Coat Chicken in Melted Butter, then in a bowl filled with mixture of crushed crackers and Ranch mix. Place in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese. Pour remaining Butter over the top. Cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes at 350 Degrees.

These Recipes are a culmination of Family, Friends and my own Finds that have proved Faithful time and time again for our Family. I enjoy cooking for my family, but time doesn’t always allow for it. The focus for me in a season of young children and after school activities is to share as many meals around a table as possible in the week. When a meal can be made fast and in one skillet, pot or pie crust, it’s a winner in our books! Makes clean-up a breeze too. Make a list of these meals and more that will give you quick sustenance but also rich time with your loved ones.

Road Trips: Family, Friends and the Wild Weiner Dogs of Yellowstone

“Back in the day, when the Bison and Bear roamed freely on the natural landscape of Yellowstone, there was another animal that leapt through the reeds down by the lake… the Wild Weiner Dogs of Yellowstone frolicked with their long coats dancing in the wind…or so the story goes in the active imaginations of brothers having an adventure together.”

 

Our family set out on an adventure this summer. The Boys are 11, 10, 8 and 5, so we decided it was about time to give them a true taste of a road trip across country.  We packed bags, pillows, books and games and then fueled it with coffee, chocolate and sunflower seeds to head out!

Our first 2 stops were with Friends that have become as Family to our lives. The Boys hunted license plates as we drove in to Colorado and then Oregon. Our 3rd stop was to see Family that we had told 6 years ago that we would visit…surprise, we made it!!Better late then never! And then on to Yellowstone and Mt Rushmore, (which are not even close to one another but our Boys had hearts set on both).

 

The car rides were long and the sleep was minimal. The views were spectacular and the conversations sweet. The bond of shared memories made was hands-down worth any effort involved. 

This is what happened: 

We shared Bible Quilting with Friends and Family.

We created art on a Oregon deck with Family after collecting huge pinecones on a nature walk.

We visited our Friends Church and walked a day in their footprint.

We played card games by the light of the Colorado sunset and our Friends fire pit.

We rallied a Family Kickball game in the fields that will be our Friends new school this year.

We picked Blackberries and Wild Flowers in unexplored fields and then enjoyed them at a dinner table with Friends.

We ate PBJ”s by a bubbling creek that we found under a beautiful bridge.

We taught our Boys how to be photographers and enjoy the view through a lens.

We showed our kids how to read a map and count the anticipated hours in the car for the next destination.

We celebrated special days with special people.

We shared more, hugged more, held hands and enjoyed one another’s company MORE  in the closeness of a Road Trip.

As a girl, I rode many summers across country in my Grandparents Cadillac headed to Family Reunions. The memories are a treasure to my heart. And now another Layer has been added with the laughter of Brothers by a lake in Wyoming at the end of a day of Family hiking. The innocence of pure life and silliness enjoyed together.  Enjoy A Road Trip with Loved Ones if you have the chance!

Give THANKS  To The Lord And Proclaim His Greatness. Let The Whole World Know What He Has Done! Psalm 105:1

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