Friday, July 25, 2014

random randomness 7/25/14

sunday--we sang this song in church.  sometimes i think we've heard some of the same old hymns over and over again until the words mean nothing to us.  i was struck by the power behind these awesome lyrics.  and in case you're interested, here's the story behind the song.  and i giggled when i found out that it was originally decried as the "contemporary christian music" of its day.

monday--thankful for friends who fall into this category.

tuesday--finished c25k week 7, day 1.  ran 2.51 miles in 27:09 at a pace of 5.6mph.  
sloooooooooow by many standards, but a personal best.  felt good.

wednesday--we recently set up a live-by-or-die-by budget and a friend turned me on to this site.  
right now, i'm going through the tedious process of entering all our info there, but i'm excited about the easy accessibility it will give us to view all our financial data.

thursday--these colors make me want to read her books--specifically this one and this one.

friday--on this list, number 9 is one of the things i miss most with my mom being gone.  
and numbers 3, 10, and 23 made me cry.

last week's saturday-only garage sale was a in the midwest, thursday and friday are the days for garage sales.  go fig.
so, i'm manning my garage sale again today until 4:00 {did the same yesterday}, and then everything is out to the curb for freebies {we are not those people who hoard stuff away for "next year's sale"}. 
last c25k run of the week tomorrow, friends coming for a cookout tomorrow night, 
and then church on sunday.
i love the loosey-goosey, no-set-schedule of the weekends.

happy friday, y'all!

{favorite IG post of the week...i'm @tweetpotatopie on there, too}

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

on finding balance {erin's story--part two}...

{in case you missed it, the introduction to the series is here...and the first post is here.}

in last week's post, i detailed how difficult my struggle for balance was this past spring.
i don't want to re-hash that, other than to stress, once again, to you that this was a real, tangible, 
anxiety-inducing battle i was fighting on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis.
and i felt like i was losing.

until I recognized three errors in my thought processes.

i'm looking back at a letter that i wrote to a friend (yes, i took photos of the letter--this series was brewing in my heart even back then), shortly after i came through the "eye of the storm."

"it may sound like such a simple thought, such a simple concept.  but He gave it to me RIGHT when i needed it so desperately."

the first adjustment in my thinking came in realizing that my all probably won't look like your all.  
and that my all doesn't need to look a little more like her all.  
and that He doesn't wish i'd do my all plus ANYthing.  
He just wants my all.  
and He and i are the only ones who know what my all looks like.

unbelievably, both of my other areas of faulty thinking were revealed to me that same day. 
{or maybe this is just how things like this go.  i've never been through anything quite like this, so i can't speak from former experience.  but you know how, once your brain gets working on a certain idea or plan or concept, the thoughts start building, one on top of the other?  that's kind of how this was.  all three of my errors in thinking--i know i keep calling them that, but that's just exactly what they were--all three of them were shown to me in the same day...the same saturday.}

anywhooo, that same day, i was given what i like to call "freedom of honest comparison."
they're all bad words when we're talking about people.
we aren't supposed to compare one child to the other...
and heaven forbid we compare our child to their child!

i am a big comparer.  
{that word doesn't look right...and it doesn't sound right, either.
but for the sake of this post, let's just assume it's a word, ok?}
i'm a big comparer.  i compare.
and most of all, i compare me.
i constantly compare myself to others.
...aaaaaaand your mind instantly jumps to an assumption about me.
"she thinks she's better than everyone else.  she thinks she cooks better, cleans better, schools better, eats/drinks/launders/dresses/grooms/parents/drives/gardens/farms/buys/sells/worships/gives/serves 
better than everyone else."
i constantly compare myself to others, but not in a prideful way.
no.  i'm too grounded to do that.
rather, i constantly compare myself to others and always find myself lacking.
i told a friend, "tell me one positive thing about me and i'll match you with fifty negative things."
i am my worst critic.
when i compare myself to others, the same person comes up short every time.

and, quite possibly, the worst thing about comparison is that there is a never-ending list of things about which we can compare ourselves up against others...
our income
our job
our house
our weight
our looks
our health
our eating habits
our exercise habits
our vehicles
our pets
our children
our family heritage
our education
our children's education
and on...and on...and on...

and while social media {namely Instagram} is a powerful tool, and it has brought so much good into my life, it can also be a daily--sometimes hourly--source of fuel for the self-comparison fire. 
at any time, any day, i can scroll through an innocent little app on my phone and find people who are better...

but on that saturday, i was granted the honesty to see MY better-ness, too.

before, i'd see, "she's so much more creative in her homeschooling than i am."
now, i also see this, "yes, but i'm far more creative in my home decorating than she is."

before, "her kitchen is so much cleaner than mine."
now, "yes, erin, but her family eats out three nights a week, while yours eats meals that you cooked at home."

you get the idea.  
i don't want to go on and on because, frankly, it's more than a little embarrassing, 
not to mention sounding trite and trivial and shallow.  
the extent to which we compare ourselves and others is downright ridiculous.

please, if you don't gain anything else from this post, i hope you'll get this.  
i do not believe that comparison is a good thing.
i believe that comparing ourselves with others is damaging and hurtful.
i believe that comparison is a double-edged sharp weapon, 
wounding both the compare-er and the compare-ee.
i believe that comparison is an instrument best left untouched, unused.
the Bible itself says that comparison is unwise. {II Cor 10:12}

all that said, i do believe that comparing is a natural human thought process.
i am not saying it is right or good or helpful.
i am saying it is natural.  and normal.

and on that saturday, i was finally allowed to see that i don't always come up on the short end of the comparison.
He showed me...He allowed me to see... that everyone is not always better at everything.
He gave me "permission" to be truly honest in my comparing--
to see that there really are things that i am better at...
just like there are things that "she" is better at.

while she may excel at gardening, i may be better at cooking healthy meals. 
although i might spend more one-on-one time with my children, she may be more fit and exercise more often. 
that family may have a beautifully landscaped yard, while our family gets to enjoy the geese and chickens that scatter our mulch and peck our perennials. 

yes, there are things that she is better at...
just like there are things that i am better at. 
that's how life is...strengths and weaknesses. 
in the end, 
it's a lot more about our fabulous differences 
and a lot less about our inferiority to others. 

now it's your turn...
is comparison causing an imbalance in your life?
do you have "one-sided blindness?"...only seeing the good and beautiful and positive in others 
while finding bad and ugly and negative in yourself?
is she fit and you're fat?
is she creative and you're thoughtless?
is she fun and you're dull?
is her house clean and yours is cluttered?
does she have rhodes scholars for children and david beckham for a husband while your own children struggle with times tables and your husband battles the mid-life bulge?

if you answered a resounding "yes!" to many of the questions above, you probably need to take a step back {or several steps back} and use honest comparison.  allow yourself to see, to acknowledge your own better-ness.
while she may be a scheduled, disciplined mom, you may be more carefree and fun.  there is nothing wrong with seeing that you are a more-fun-mom.  just like there is nothing wrong with her being a more disciplined mom.  it's not that either of you is a better mom.  it's that you are different, that's all.
she may have manicured nails, and you may have a manicured yard.  you're better at keeping up your landscaping.  she's better at keeping up her grooming.  differences.  that's all.

you'll find that you still see just as many positives in others...but you see those in addition to the positives you find in yourself.  the tendency to compare actually seems to fade as you gradually soften the sharp edges of those contrasts that used to cut you so deeply.  
we may find such admirable traits in others...
but we also see such valuable strengths in ourselves.

it takes time.
and it takes practice.
but it is ever so worth it.
you are worth it.

{i'll be back next thursday with the final installment of my finding balance story.  
after that, we get to hear from my friends.  i'm so looking forward to it.  stick around, k?}

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

clean and easy taco seasoning {paleo/whole 30}

~y' best friend gave me this recipe for homemade taco seasoning...
even when we aren't trying to eat healthy--and those days are behind us--this is the only taco seasoning we use.  the days of store-bought, rip-open-an-envelope seasonings are so long gone.  after one taste of this, you'll never turn back.
i like to mix up a big batch--usually a triple or quadruple batch--and put it in a big, clamp-seal glass jar...that way I've got it on hand whenever i need it.  i also make it a habit to grab the ingredients for it as soon as i use them me, if it's taco night at your house, you don't want to find yourself without this stuff.

clean and easy taco seasoning
2 Tbsp. chili powder
4 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. sugar (optional, and i always omit it)
1 tsp. salt

for taco meat:
add 1/2 cup seasoning mix and 2/3 cup water to 2 pounds browned, ground meat.  heat through and serve.

marinade for fajitas:
1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup seasoning, 3 Tbsp olive oil.  makes enough marinade for 2 pounds of meat.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

random randomness 7/18/14

heard (and loved) this song.

listened to my friend and looked up this blog post on drinking your coffee with two hands.  
trust me, it's a must-read.

planning to spend some quality time this coming week doing this.

reading this during my devotions.
and this just for fun.  indelible proof, once again, that you can, indeed, judge a book by its cover. 
{i've held that belief for years.}

that last sentence looks comma-heavy; but I googled and I am, indeed, supposed to place commas before and after "indeed" when used in such a context. {the short-short of the rule is, if "indeed" can be removed from the sentence without changing the general meaning of the sentence, it should be encapsulated with commas.  just call me Grammar Granny.}

totally not paleo or whole30, but i'm planning on making this cake for our church potluck on sunday.  what's more, i'm planning on eating a {tiny} piece, too.

going to find that link for you led to my alphabetizing my Pinterest boards.

garage saling with my bestie until noon tomorrow.  then lunch.  then setting up for my own garage sale.  saturday is packed with our garage sale until 2:00, end-of-the-week c25k run with the hubs, a birthday party, and food prep for sunday's get-together.  then church on sunday and the annual church picnic to follow.
a full, fun weekend!

happy friday, y'all!

{favorite IG post of the week...i'm @tweetpotatopie on there, too}

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on finding balance {erin's story--part one}...

earlier this spring, i found myself greatly struggling with balance.
with feeling comfortable in my skin.
with liking who i am and where i am in life.

i want to be sure to be clear...
i wasn't struggling with contentment...
at least not as far as money or prestige or personal possessions is concerned.

i was struggling with me...or with my view of me.

the turmoil was deep.
it was dark.
and it consumed much of my thoughts for several weeks on end.

i felt buried.  overwhelmed.  beside myself.
i'm a doer.  an achiever.  a git-'er-done sorta girl.
and what i do, i do well.
at least, that's always my goal.

my mom always told me, "erin, with you it's always 'all or nothing.' there's no in between."
and she was right on.
if i'm going to do something, i jump in with both feet...cannonball style.
i'm in.  all the way.

but sometimes that catches up to me.
and this spring, it all caught up to me.

i sought advice from friends, counsel from mentors, and solace from His Word.

i'm looking at my phone, scrolling back through some messages...
finding my words from when i was in the thick of it all...
and i'm remembering exactly how it felt.

"it seems to get really bad once a year.
it's like i just get COMPLETELY overwhelmed with ALLLLLL that's on my plate, 
and have NO clue what can "give"...
it seems like NOTHING can give.
that it's ALLLL priority."

"i'm VERY task-oriented.
also very motivated by fear and guilt.
that probably sounds like a weird combo.
ok.  here's an example.
i 'go easy' on a day of school--it's gorgeous and sunshine-y, so i let the kids play outside and do a nature report and i call it good for the day.  now mind you, i don't do this all the time--VERY rarely, in fact--just today, since it's such a nice day.
but, IF i do such a thing, then the fear--they'll be 'behind' (whatever that really means), they won't learn what they should, and on and on.
then the guilt--i should be better at school.  i should plan better. i should make it more interesting.
and on and on and on.
it's ALLLLLL in my head.
all at the same time as doing the laundry and cooking dinner and shipping packages and weeding the garden...and...and...and..."

"yes.  it sounds crazy.
because it IS.
but when all those voices are talking at once, 
it's like i can't turn ANY of them off."

and then from a different conversation...

being a decent, kind, gentle, loving wife and mother.
walking with Jesus.
diet and exercise.
it's not that all of those weigh on my mind necessarily.
it's that i just canNOT seem to find a balance.
i feel that all of these are things i MUST be/do.
but when i try to successfully do ALL of them, i seem to fail miserably.
i can be good at ONE.
so, while i may have a good money-making/selling week,
i'm a terrible mom/wife...short-tempered, barely getting meals on the table.
or i may exercise every day, but my devotional life lags and the bathrooms are scuzzy.
you get the picture."

"i'm just really, really struggling with all of it.
and feeling like a failure.
and feeling like my kids are going to grow up and i'm going to have chosen all the wrong things to focus on.
yet, i can't really just DROP all the other things, either!
and my type-A brain is just in a dizzy-tizzy over trying to sort it all out."

"it's so much easier to see why OTHERS deserve grace and why *I* just need to muscle through and get it ALL done."

"the biggest thing for me, right now, is pinpointing exactly what *isn't* working for me.
because right now, it feels like it all HAS to work. 
like there is no other option."

does any of this sound familiar?
does any of this sound like you?
well, i'm certainly no guru, and i can't claim to be an expert on much of anything; but the Lord really opened my eyes to several areas of faulty thinking, skewed reasoning in my own life.

i had to change my thought patterns in three specific areas.
and to be perfectly honest with you, it wasn't difficult!
in fact, it was surprisingly easy.
once those three areas were pointed out to me, it was like the proverbial lightbulb moment.

i distinctly remember when and where i was when the Lord showed me the first fault in my thinking.
i was vacuuming my living room on a sunny Saturday morning, when i started thinking about my all.
i love my family--my husband and children--i love them so very much.  i want to be what they need, 
do what they need, give what they need.  i want to give them my all.
but what does it mean to give my all?
i understand that in serving my family i am serving Him.
but what does it mean that He desires my all?
you know what it means, friend?
it means that He wants me to give Him, to give my family, MY all.
MY best.
MY 100%.

i don't need to give Him YOUR all.
i don't need to give them HER all or HIS all.
{imagine me there, pointing at imaginary, fictional characters, okay?}
i don't need to be as good as anyone else.  He doesn't ask that and my family doesn't need that.
i don't need to craft like anyone else, or mother like anyone else, or do business like anyone else, or wife or garden or farm or exercise or worship or clean or cook or pray or teach like anyone else.
He doesn't ASK me to be like anyone else!
He doesn't WANT me to be like anyone else!
He wants me to be the very best ME that i can be.
and that's all.
i don't need to give anyone else's all.
i simply need to give my all.
and today, my all may be a day at the beach with the kiddos...
and that may mean hot dogs for dinner and sand on the hardwood floors 
and laundry that didn't get folded and toilets that didn't get scoured.
but that's ok.
and the great thing is, i am really and truly learning and realizing and grasping 
and applying that truth to my life.
it really is ok.
because i gave it my all.
and that, indeed, is all He asks.

are you stressed? overwhelmed? feeling in-over-your-head?
take a look at your to-do list...whether it's actually on paper or just in your head, take a long hard look at it.
how much of it is your all?
and how much of it is you trying to live up to someone else's all?
maybe one of the reasons our lives seem so out-of-balance 
is that we are piling things high on our plates 
that were never intended to be there in the first place.
and maybe it's not the actual responsibility/task/duty that has taken on someone else's identity, 
but maybe it's the intensity or importance that you've assigned that item.
don't try to cook as good as HER.
it's actually more helpful to your family that you're better at gardening.
don't try to mother as good as HER.
He wants you to pour that extra attention into your marriage right now.
simply be the best you that you can be.
give Him your all.
that, truly, is all He asks.

over the next two Thursdays, i'll be sharing those other "aha!" moments with you.
they're small.  not monumental at all.  
but they made a world of difference to me and i'm hoping and praying that they'll help you, too.

after that, i have some friends that are going to chime in with their thoughts and personal stories of finding balance.  i am so looking forward to the opportunity to view my own blog with the same anticipation and opening-a-letter-from-a-friend feeling i get when reading my favorite blogs.

and of course, i'm hoping to hear from you.  
have you gone through your own personal struggle with finding balance? 
have you come through victorious on the other side?  or are you still in the thick of the battle?
either way, sound off!  let me know what you're thinking.
you're just as vital to this entire collaboration as anyone else is.

follow along, won't you?  i'd love to have you here with us!

{just in case you missed it, here's the introduction to the series. xo}

{{this post was completely finished last night, ready for me to hit "publish" first thing this morning.  and in a funny twist of "isn't that just how things go?" this showed up on today's daily calendar page.  it was too fitting not to share.}}

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

finding balance {a series}

to say i'm excited is quite the understatement.
i'm giddy like a school-girl with a new Trapper Keeper.
{i totally just dated myself, didn't i??}
i'm jumping up and down inside like a toddler with a cookie.
i'm SO happy to announce something new 
coming to this little corner of the world.

i've contacted many of my friends...
bloggy friends, homeschooling friends,
church friends...
and some who are none of the above! 
friends from Instagram that i've never met "in real life,"
and friends that i've known "in real life" for years.
friends that are wives, moms, homemakers, crafters,
entrepreneurs, hobby farmers, and gardeners.

tomorrow will begin a series that's been growing in my 
heart and mind for several months now.

i don't know many women who haven't struggled with
finding balance
at one time or another.
there are multiple hats to wear, so many shoes to fill.
at times, those hats can get mighty heavy, 
and the shoes rather cumbersome.

come on in and sit down for a while...
rest your weary soul.
throw those hats on the front porch...
leave the shoes on the rug.

we're here to help.
none of us here are perfect...not even close to it.
and we all still have our own struggles with balance 
from time to time.
{insert hand-raise and vigorous waving from this girl right here!}
but one thing is for certain...if we can all come together
and share what we've learned
we just might lighten each other's load.

this series will be what you make of it.
words unread will be no help whatsoever.
words unwritten, un-offered cannot assist, either.
i'm looking forward to your input...your advice...your insight...your helpful hints...your interaction...
i want to hear from you just as much as every guest writer that will be posting here.
let's make this an incredible community experience.

same time...
same place...
finding balance.
i. can't. wait.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

our self-CSA

CSA:Community-supported agriculture (CSA; sometimes known as community-shared agriculture) is an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme. Often, CSAs also include herbs, honey, eggs, dairy products and meat, in addition to conventional produce offerings.In theory a CSA can provide any product to its members, although the majority of CSA operations tend to provide produce, fruits, and various edibles. Some CSA programs also include cut flowers and various ornamental plants as part of their weekly pickup arrangement. Some CSAs provide for contributions of labor in lieu of a portion of subscription costs. (copy/pasted from wikipedia)

our family was part of a local CSA last year.  each CSA runs and operates a little differently than others, depending on the preferences of the grower/providers.

the way our CSA operated last year was more or less like this:
at the beginning of the growing season, we subscribed to the 20-week program (yes, very short growing season here in Illinois) and paid a flat $595 fee up-front for the entire 20-week program (equalled out to approx. $30 weekly).  i've heard of CSA's that cost more, i've heard of some that cost less.  we were happy with the price and the value that we received for that amount.  we knew that if a storm or flood or some other unforeseen natural disaster came along and destroyed all the crops, we would be out that money...just like the growers would be out the money that they'd invested.  that's how CSA's work, and we were willing to take that risk.

each week, we drove to a flower farm nearby (15 minutes away) to pick up our pre-packed veggie box (no flowers, they cost extra).  for the first many weeks of the growing season, our boxes were heavy with greens, as they are the first crops ready in this late-frost region.  as the growing season continued, we regularly received a wide variety of veggies each week in our box...cabbage, swiss chard, spinach, tomatoes, kale, kohlrabi, eggplant, celery, onions, parsnips, turnips and greens, carrots, leeks, green beans, and really that's just the tip of the iceberg.  there was NO lack of variety.

to be honest with you, that's kind of what leads me to our reason for NOT subscribing again this year.
you see, i am a very basic cook...especially in the summer time.  we eat very, very simply in the summer...LOTS of salads...LOTS of meals consisting of bratwurst or Italian sausage atop a large bed of fresh greens with steaming sautéed onions and red peppers alongside a mound of grilled zucchini.  or mixed garden greens topped with strips of grilled chicken breast, chopped scallions, diced avocado, sliced strawberries, and a basic balsamic dressing. 

summer food is in a category all its own.  
to me, summer food needs no dressing up.  it speaks for itself.  
it's the classic little black dress and iconic bright red lipstick of the culinary world.  
less is better and simple is best.

i don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen in the summer.  every possible sunshiny day is spent at the beach...and rainy days are spent getting the house cleaned and laundry know, catching up on all those things i should have been doing the days we were at the beach. 
in theory, the variety of the produce boxes was to push us out of our "cooking comfort zone" into discovering new and exciting dishes with veggies and herbs we'd never used before.  
in reality, it didn't work that way for us.  as much as it pained me, i found myself, more times than not, tossing those less-familiar ingredients into the compost bin or the chicken bucket, after they'd sat in the fridge several days past their prime, waiting for me to use them in some exotic stir fry or decadent sauce.  that's just not how i cook.  
don't get me wrong...i'm a good cook.  i'm no gourmet chef, but i can't remember the last time my husband looked cross-eyed at anything i've made.  i bake even better than i cook...but i'm definitely still a passable cook.
but my priority in the summer time is not time in the kitchen.  we have such a short "sun & sand season" up here...i have 250+ days out of the year to spend hours in the kitchen.  it's not going to happen on a 90º day in July.  not even if i have fresh shallots and fennel and rutabaga and bok choy in the fridge. 

what i loved about the CSA experience was that 
it taught me to plan my meals around my veggies
 rather than planning my veggies around my meals.  
the vegetables are the main dish...everything else works around them.  
they are the stars of the summer show. the table is their theatre...the plate their stage.
this lesson, for me, was worth every penny we spent on that CSA.

instead of joining the CSA again this year, here's what we're doing:
toward the end of last summer, after taking note of how much of the CSA produce i actually used--as opposed to how much ended up being wasted--i proposed to my hubby that we use our local farm stand as our "surrogate CSA."
we are fortunate enough to have an incredible farm stand less than three miles from our house.  they sell everything from hanging flower planters, garden plants, and asparagus in the spring, to strawberries, veggies of all sorts, preserves, and even pumpkins in the fall.
we decided to take the money that we used for the CSA (approx. $30 weekly) and choose our own fruits and veggies at the nearby stand.
thus far, we have not been disappointed.  we bought nearly ten pounds of asparagus from them (grilled most of it) during its late spring season.  then, their greens, onions, beets, and strawberries started coming in.  i had to use up the store-bought produce that i already had in my fridge; but was silly-giddy to go down there and load up on my first batch of fresh goodies.  i got a rather large bag of spinach, same size bag of assorted lettuces, a huge bundle of romaine, a knot of 5 golf-ball-size onions with greens, and 2 quarts of the sweetest strawberries...and spent $18 on all of it.  

more recently, we've also had their sugar snap peas and zucchini...
and this weekend i plan to grab some of their raspberries,too.
i'm most excited that the majority of our meals are planned around using up all of that glorious 
garden-fresh goodness.

for me, the best part of this plan is that i will be able to choose all of our produce.  i know that very little, if any, will go to waste this way.
i still maintain that the CSA was an incredibly valuable tool for us last year--the veggies were worth every penny we spent on them, but the lesson of planning our meals around in-season produce was priceless.
if you don't have a bountiful farm stand near you, you may want to google and see if there are any CSA's in your area.  ours only offered pre-packed boxes, which may work well for you more adventurous cooks.
then again, i know that there are also plenty of CSA's that allow you to go to the actual farm and choose your own veggies, or even to call in your order with your veggie choices.
explore your options, friends!

i'd really like to know what farm-fresh veggie/fruit prices are near you.  the $18 i paid for all i listed above seemed more than reasonable to me, but i'm always curious to see what prices are like in different areas.
i'd love it if you'd chime in down in the comments.

happy veggie eating!

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