Easy Peasy At-Home Dinner Date

Steve and I try to go on a date a couple times a month (carving out time for marriage is hard sometimes with everything going on!! But necessary… and fun!) but when we can’t get out we try to do something nice together at home.

Most of the time we end up eating dinner and picking a good movie. But one of the things we like doing together is cooking! Steve called me on his way home from town this weekend and asked if it sounded good to feed the kids and cook something for us as a date! He was in the mood for salmon, and I thought pasta sounded good with it so I sent him a list and we put together this crazy simple menu.

Do you know how easy salmon is to cook?? First of all, it hardly takes any time at all, second of all, it doesn’t take much to have an awesome-tasting piece of fish – salt and pepper, butter, dill, lemon, you’re done! Here is the recipe we followed.  Also, this made enough for us to eat it twice and still have a little left over…

This pasta recipe is fast and we really loved it! It’s creamy and garlicky and the perfect side for the salmon. Steve said:

All I can say is you need to make this more often. We need to figure out what else we can eat this with.

I made this easy peach cobbler from Trisha Yearwood with a jar of fresh peaches that my friend, Lisa, canned this summer! It made the dessert amazing.

We got the kids in bed and went to work! Since everything was pretty simple we ate in about 45 minutes. I’d recommend adding a vegetable, but we were just ready to eat, so… I think I might have been a little low on my fruit and vegetable count for the day… Oops. Do the peaches in the dessert count??

I’d love to get some more easy recipes from you AND ideas for dates – at-home or out on the town!

(P.S. pictures via the recipes linked to!)

The One Degree Experiment

I went for a walk yesterday, and I couldn’t get over the change in weather. It had been warm over the weekend here in Northern Michigan, and on Monday we got hit with frigid temperatures and wind. Today it’s all out snowing all over again. Personally, I don’t mind it – I love the drama of a good snow storm! But it got a lot of people looking forward to spring!

As I was walking through the quiet loop of our subdivision, big parka, hat and gloves on, it occurred to me that the weather lately mirrors how I feel in life right now. I feel like I’m stutter-starting. Like an engine that won’t quite turn over. Start-stop-start… stop. In basically every area.

It brought to mind a newsletter from my chiropractor’s office I had just read earlier in the day:

Some of you may know that our oldest son is studying to become a commercial pilot. I bet if we asked him that question, he would nod his head and emphatically state “yes.” When flying an airplane 1 degree can mean arriving at your destination or landing in deep water. The same principle holds true in our bodies. One small adjustment to our lifestyle can make all the difference in the end. It can make the difference between just getting old or aging well. (via Performance Chiropractic)

One Degree Change Experiment - ordinaryawesome.com - One change for one month, adding one more every month.

I’ve been thinking – one change is doable. I could choose to make one change a month and one change a month carried out over 12 months would mean 12 changes made in a year! That adds up. I’m also convinced that when we make one good change it bleeds into other areas of our lives. Which I need.

The trouble for me starts when I decide if I can change one thing I can certainly change two. And on and on.

So I’m just picking one thing in March. A one degree change. It’s getting five fruits and vegetables every day. need to do this for my blood pressure. I need to do a lot of other things, but like I said – I’m starting with this one.

That’s all! Then next month I’ll stick with that one and pick another.

Would you like to join me?

Here are some ideas of small changes you could make that could really add up:

  • waking up earlier
  • drinking 8 glasses of water a day
  • exercising 3x per week
  • reserving dessert for one day a week
  • setting a bedtime and sticking to it
  • reading a book (or increasing the number of books you already read!)
  • limit eating out
  • kissing your husband more (you determine what that means!)
  • go for a walk once a day

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Valentines Round-Up [Free Printables!]

We’ve had a lot going on over here. I just finished up with our local IF: Gathering and it dawned on me that this Friday is Morgan’s Valentine’s Day party for her classroom!! Of course today is a snow day – perfect day to work on them. BUT – I hadn’t bought valentines yet. Also, I’m not terribly crafty so I don’t have supplies hanging around. Except cardstock, a paper cutter and scissors… Besides that I’m not up for going out on the roads.

So, we took to the internet to see if we could find some cute free printables! I landed on this post from Pop Sugar, and while there are 52 different options, a few really stood out to me. I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re stuck at home with cardstock and no valentines!!

Click the images to visit the respective sites, and read to the end to see which ones we ended up picking! All pictures are from their respective posts. Check them out – I think you’ll love other things on their sites too!

Mustache Sucker Valentines – Erin // Strawberry Mommycakes for I Heart Nap Time

Mustache and Lips Valentines from I Heart Naptime // Valentines roundup on ordinaryawesome.com

 

Thumbprint Valentines – Kelly // Live Laugh Rowe 

Thumbprint Valentines from Live Laugh Rowe - Valentines roundup on ordinaryawesome.com

 

Cute Valentines – Catherine // Pumpkins & Posies  

Cute Valentines from Pumpkins & Posies - Valentines roundup on ordinaryawesome.com

Sweetheart Valentines – Kristin // Bunny Cakes

(She’s also got some adorable Easter ideas!!)candy_hearts_valentines

And while we’re at it… Here’s a little something cute for YOUR Valentine…

12 Months of Preplanned Dates – Lauren // The Thinking Closet 

12 Months of Pre-Planned Dates from The Thinking Closet - Valentines roundup on ordinaryawesome.com

And… drumroll……….. Here’s what we picked:

Valentines Round-Up [Free Printables!] - ordinaryawesome.com

In the end Morgan couldn’t pick just one!! So we did the cute candy hearts and the lips – what a riot, right??

On another note… I just started reading The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson, along with The Lifegiving Home Experience: A 12-Month Guided Journey and I’m so challenged by it right now. It’s broken into months, and the focus of February is on love – especially showing Jesus’ love to our family members even as we fully embrace Jesus’ love for us. There are so many ways I can improve at both aspects of this. They also touch on creating meaningful and memorable celebrations and traditions including special times of feasting! I’m thinking chocolate chip pancakes this Sunday!

All that to say – I hope today you feel the depth of Jesus’ love for you – no matter what you’ve done or how lost you feel He’s right there waiting for you and He is madly in love with you. Truly.

Coffee Date #2 – Writing, Books and More

Hey guys – it’s been a while, so I thought we’d have a coffee date to catch up and chill. You have your mug ready? In no particular order… I give you my ramblings.

Writing Is Hard

I’m just going to be honest here – I’ve been afraid to write. Afraid of not saying the right thing and not being amazing enough and not having a “plan.” (They call that an editorial calendar. That’s when I start breaking out in hives.)

Then I start wondering if I’ve said all I have to say. But I know there is more. I’ve tried to “think something up” to write about next and it just freezes me up. But this morning, I read this in The Right to Write (if you want to write but are afraid you should check out this book) and it freed me up:

Writing is about getting something down, not thinking something up. Whenever I strive to “think something up,” writing becomes something I must stretch to achieve. […]

We are asking it to do two jobs at once: to communicate to people and to simultaneously impress them.

So there you go. That’s exactly it. I really can’t impress you. I’m just here to share a little bit about what God is teaching me and what’s going on in life I hope that’s cool with you.

I’m not an expert. I have some ideas and some tips for helping life go smoother and I do love food :) I love Jesus and I want to serve him and his people but I’m surely not further along than many of you. So I’m just viewing this as a walk together. I’m doing most of the talking here, but I would love to hear from you in the comments :)

I’ve Been Reading

Oh yes – I’ve been reading a lot and loving it. If you think you don’t have time, just be like me and stick your book in the bathroom. Even if you don’t have any business to do in there you can hide for a little bit and *usually* not get bothered. 😉 You can probably get at least a chapter a day this way – he he

What have I been reading? Maisie Dobbs!! I just finished the third one, and I’m dying to start the next one but then I got The Lake House from the library… Anyone read that one yet?? I’m being like my mom and flipping ahead to see if I can figure out what’s going to happen next! So I guess I’m on a mystery kick – both of those are mysteries. I’m also finishing up Beth Moore’s book, Audacious. 

Getting Ready for IF: Gathering

For the last few years a small group of ladies and I have hosted IF: Gathering at our church. This year we got a bigger team together and we’re hosting in two churches in our city! IF: Gathering is a conference, a gathering of women in 1600 different sites and homes, in 44 countries, all asking the question – what would it look like IF we lived like Jesus. It’s happening February 5th and 6th by simulcast – so you can watch it wherever you are with the women in your community. IF has been instrumental in my life, and I bet there is a gathering taking place close to you too! If there’s not, you can sign up to host in your home or church (or wherever) too. You can check it out at https://ifgathering.com/thegathering2016/ We’re getting down to the wire and finishing up preparations for our gathering!

My Kids

My kids are fascinated with nature, and especially the development of chickens. We’ve talked about how chicks come from eggs, that it takes 21 days for a chicken egg to hatch, but that the eggs we eat aren’t fertilized etc.

So there I was – sitting in my chair in the living room, when in comes Taylor and heads straight to the hutch where I keep my books.

“Remember that egg we put in there?” she says.

“What?” I ask – thoroughly confused. Sure enough – she opens the hutch and collects an egg from the shelf. I just sat there with my mouth open – the questions flooding in – Is it raw? How long has it been there? What if it had cracked open?? Thankfully she had grabbed a hard boiled egg that happened to be in the fridge… I had to explain, again, that no amount of incubation was going to make that egg hatch. Especially since it had been boiled. Ahem.

Ok – your turn! What’s happening in your neck of the woods??

 

Learning to Choose Joy

Have you ever taken a personality test? I love those. I love any kind of “dig into who you are” tests. Meyers-Briggs. Yes. Random surveys in the mail? Yes. I don’t know – I just get a kick out of them. Anyway, the last one I really remember taking separated people into four different types (or a blend of those four types.) I don’t really remember much about the other three types, but I sure can tell you mine.

Melancholy. I think a lot, read a lot, analyze a lot. And I find joy hard to grasp. Because a lot of times I see the negative first – you know, glass-half-empty.

I’m super fun at parties. Ahem. Ok, to be fair, I do have a sense of humor, but in a real-life situation that calls for choosing joy over whining/worrying/imagining the worst case scenario, well, I tend toward the latter.

Here’s the thing – joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is something we’re given when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. But we have the ability to choose it or to squelch it.

I usually squelch it. I definitely don’t seek or choose it. I’ve never written a post about joy… In fact, when it comes to joy, I need to begin with “Lord, please help me want to look for a reason to be joyful in this situation,” because it’s easier for me to whine and complain.

Enter Choose Joy, my friend Mary Carver’s book written with/about her dear friend, Sara Frankl. The best way to explain it is to quote from the inside flap:

Sara Frankl knew she had a terminal disease, but she didn’t let it stop her from living. In the face of immeasurable pain, Sara chose joy–again and again. Her unforgettable message of hope and purpose lives on, even after her death, in her words.
CHOOSE JOY is a compilation of the lessons Sara learned while she was dying, written in her own words and sewn together by her close friend Mary Carver. It is a reminder to see the beauty in life, even when it looks nothing like you hoped or planned.
In a world full of tragedy, choosing joy is no small task–but, as Sara knew, the importance lies in the choosing. Once you learn to make that choice, every day, no matter what happens, joy will come.

I’m kind of speechless about this book. I’m learning so much reading it that I don’t know where to begin. But I’ll try.

1) The suffering of others

This isn’t the primary point of Choose Joy, but it has opened my eyes to what people with chronic pain go through. It has increased my compassion toward those who are confined to their homes for one reason or another. It has made me realize that I need to look outside of myself and my little world more. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the details of my life, and I want to be more aware of people around me who need encouragement.

2) I coddle myself

I’ll just say it – I’m a whiner. Sara was in pain all the time. And as time went on she wasn’t able to breathe outside air without severe physical consequences. Her body just couldn’t deal with it. I complain because I have so much housework to do. Sara worked to find joy in her circumstances. Circumstances that were increasingly challenging. It certainly wasn’t easy for her, but she chose to do the work of finding joy:

I choose the joy. When something is going badly and I’m dwelling on it, I think instead of something for which I am grateful. I swear to you, it’s as simple as that. You just have to decide today, and again tomorrow. And before you know it, you’ll have an attitude of joy more than any other attitude you have at your disposal. (p. 27)
Most often than not, I just choose not to find joy. I choose to complain instead. I’ve got to stop being soft on myself and start working to find joy whatever happens.

 

3) Change is on the other side of suffering

Emotionally, a hole can be dug inside us so deep that it seems everything good has been excavated from our lives […] It’s in those moments that I pray for God to get me out of His way. It’s in those moments that I stop praying for what I want and start praying for Him to change my heart for what He wants. […] That doesn’t change my physical pain. It doesn’t change the loss. It doesn’t improve my earthly situation. But it does change the suffering. (p.38)
As many of you know, I miscarried two babies. Yet there was so much growing and changing and trusting that came out of that. Even though I have changed a lot because of both of them I have to confess that I have held back in the embracing joy department.

Books play a huge role in my life. And there are certain books that have been absolutely pivotal in my journey through miscarriage. Choose Joy is turning out to be one of them.

I believe joy is the next piece in healing and recovery for me.

Some might think this book is only for those going through intense physical difficulties.

I say this book is for everyone. Because everyone, at one point or another, will experience loss of some kind. It may be losing a job. It may be losing a loved one. It may be losing health. It may be losing the dream of what you thought life would be.

When (not if, WHEN) that happens, we get to choose how we will respond.

Sara’s life is an arrow pointing to joy.

Choose Joy is available for preorder now, and will be released on January 5, 2016.

How To Hear Him Better This Advent

Every time it snows, I wait for my opportunity. When the house is quiet and dark, I tiptoe into the living room and curl up mesmerized in the big front window to watch the flakes fall silently – blanketing the ground, trees, and houses, and muting the world. Is that a rabbit peering from the edge of the trees?

These are sacred moments. The blue light of my phone and voices competing for my attention are traded for the yellow light of the moon and hushed white clusters streaming to the earth – I sigh relief.

I feel small, and I remember One who made Himself small. Jesus who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14.) I can hear him better sitting in this stillness. I wait in anticipation.

How To Hear Him Better This Advent - ordinaryawesome.com on (in)courage

In the quiet, I realize, and maybe you do too, that I have become full. And not in a good way. Full of expectations for this season, full of plans and pulls. Full of Facebook and Instagram – I just can’t seem to put them down. Full of myself and what I want. I’m so filled up that I can’t put anything else in.

When I feel like this, I know what I need to do, but sometimes I need someone else to confirm it. So if you need confirmation, you have it from me…

Keep reading with me over on (in)courage where I’m sharing my heart for Advent.

P.S. I think you’ll love (in)courage just like I do! Sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

Pursuing Jesus {An Invitation}

I’m a melancholy by trade. Ok, by nature. But man, if I could get paid for it…

There are good sides to this – I like to learn and study and think. I feel deeply.

The downside is I tend to see the “half empty” side of things easier than the “half full” side.

For instance – in January I made all kinds of goals. Does anyone else feel like 2015 went by faster than any other year in the history of years? Because all of a sudden it’s the day before December and I haven’t met any of my goals. Literally.

I came to this realization yesterday. After which I started making a mental list of all the things I hadn’t accomplished in 2015. And ended up feeling like a big failure.

Steve didn’t really sympathize, he just said “Well, maybe you need to make different goals.” And how I have three kids and I should keep that in mind when making goals. OR SOME SUCH RATIONAL TALK LIKE THAT.

Here’s where I came out after journaling, and making a written list of all the good things that were accomplished in 2015 –

1. I cannot compare

This is not new news. I’m constantly looking at what others are doing and wishing things worked that way for me. I KNOW I have my own marked race to run, but others’ races sure do look great. I’ve got to knock this off.

2. I can’t do it all

I made a gazillion goals in January. That’s not reasonable; it’s setting myself up for failure. I need to pick maximum three things at a time. Enough with this If You Give a Mouse a Cookie mentality. You know the one – if I’m going to try to wake up earlier to do devotions I should wake up even earlier to get some reading in. And if I’m going to wake up earlier for reading I might as well add extra time for journaling. And while I’m add it I should just try to work out in the mornings as well. And if I’m working out I need to eat better too. And don’t forget drinking more water… And then I end up doing nothing.

3. I want to choose what is better

This passage keeps coming back to my mind – Jesus is visiting the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Martha gets upset because she’s doing all the preparations while Mary is sitting and listening to him.

41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

I don’t want to be worried and upset about many things. I want to choose what is better. I think that means learning to love Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I’ve been a Christian pretty much all my life, but I’m not sure I know how to do that.

So, I want to get reacquainted with Jesus. I’m not really sure what I’m doing in life right now – I feel torn in many directions. And I want to be pursuing what is best. He’s the best thing. I want to be pursuing Him.

Here’s my plan:

I’m going to be reading through the New Testament in six months using this really simple reading plan I found online. I’m also doing the IF: Equip Advent study (It starts today! There’s still time to join!) I’m going to jot down what I learn about Jesus in whatever I’m reading. I want to build a portrait of Him from my own digging in Scripture. I want to know for myself what the Bible says about Him – not what someone else is saying about Him. I mean, that’s helpful too, but sometimes, don’t you just want to find out for yourself? Whenever you’re reading this – you can jump in at any time.

That said, here are two resources I’ll be using as well:

100 Days With Jesus on Instagram (there are 25 days left!)

I love this list of names for Jesus taken right from Scripture, along with a definition of the name and a prayer thanking Jesus for being what the name means. It’s been moving to follow along.

{Activity} My Instagram Favorites - Day 20 - 31 Days of Fun and Inspiration - ordinaryawesome.com

 

The New Bible Commentary

This commentary has been so helpful to me in providing additional background and explanations I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up on. It’s easy to read and understand, and t’s edited by trusted theologians, including D.A. Carson – who happened to be one of my dad’s seminary professors (a little family trivia for you :) .)

New Bible Commentary

In the blogging world, one should have graphics and cool names for things and a “build-up” time and all… I don’t have any of that. It’s just pursuing Jesus.

And I’m just saying – if you want to join me, I’d love to have your company on this journey.

Dear Children – {An Open Letter To My Kids After November 13th}

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Dear Morgan, Levi and Taylor,

Today we had car trouble and couldn’t make it to church. Daddy went very early since he’s in charge of tech at our church, and I thought I’d do church with you at home. But as the morning went on I was so troubled inside and praying for you and for our world.

You know, because you first saw it with me, that bad men killed innocent people in Paris on Friday, November 13th. We were just settling in for a fun Friday night show, but when I turned the TV on, that’s what we saw. I tried to tell you as much as I thought prudent without scaring you. You know I love Paris since I grew up in France and Daddy asked me to marry him at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

There are so many thoughts swirling in my head it’s hard for me to do much but function and pray.

6 different attack sites in Paris.

129 killed and 352 injured and martial law for the first time in Paris since World War II.

Arrests in Belgium close to friends of friends… How many are in the U.S.? 

Closing borders… People calling for our borders to close… Obviously I don’t want terrorists here, but what happens to legitimate refugees?

What happens next?

I started to worry so much this morning I just gave up the idea of church with you guys.

But as I was peeling potatoes for lunch I heard you in the front living room.

{Activity} Holiday Planning :: Day 31 Savoring Life

Well, this is it! The last day in this 31-day series! Thanks for sticking with me!!

What’s I’ve learned:
– It’s hard to write and publish a post every single day
– It’s hard for you guys to read a post every single day :)
– The laundry suffers during 31 Days
– It’s still a cool challenge to be a part of

I’m kind of looking forward to getting back into my regular rythm. I really hope you’ve got some things in your toolbox to help you savor life a little more – some fun projects, new songs, encouragement, printables and of course, recipes :)

BUT, before we switch gears from this Savoring Life series, I wanted to share two more things with you.

When I did a survey with you a few months ago one of the things that came up was that some of you would love some help planning for the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) without losing your mind (can I get an Amen?)

Once we hit November I feel like we’re on the fast track to the end of the year, so I wanted to make sure you knew about these two things:

1. Thanksgiving Planning Worksheets & The Archive

The Archive - Printables and Goodies for Ordinary|Awesome Subscribers

My Thanksgiving Planning Worksheets are on my new page called “The Archive.” I’m putting all my printables in one place to better serve you! The password is at the bottom of each of the emails you get (as of today) if you’re a subscriber. If you’re not a subscriber, you can subscribe here and you’ll get the password as soon as you confirm your subscription!

I developed this system over the last three years, and it has served me well! You can check out my post on hosting Thanksgiving and enjoying it here!

2. Christmas 

31 Days to a Less-Stress Holiday Season
(image via Anna Rendell)

My friend Anna did a whole series called 31 Days to a Less Stress Holiday Season! She included recipes, music, gift ideas, great strategies to do a little at a time… and a lot of encouragement to slow down and enjoy the season. I know you’ll love it!

Here’s to a meaningful season of thanks and remembering Jesus’ birth! Let’s take it slow and enjoy these last two months of the year!