Friday, December 19, 2014

Quick & Easy Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is my new favorite quick & easy meal. I am always looking for these kind of recipes due to life always seeming more and more busy. Isn't it that way for everyone? How can it be that life continually gets busier and busier even with efforts to slow down? Well, I don't know that answer to that but I do know that lately it has been even more tornado-like than usual. I suspect it has to do with the holiday season.

When life gets busy, I'll buy more convenience items from the store, such as frozen pizza, to save money on ordering in pizza or going out for fast-food. Life may get busy, but my people still need to eat. So I love it when I come up with quick & easy recipes. This one has green stuff in it, which is always on low supply when life is busy, so it already had that going for it and then it was also a big hit with the family. It actually surprised me how much they liked it!

But because they liked it so much, we've had it several times in the last month.   It is also super easy to prepare right when I get home from the grocery store. It helps to have an easy meal after a trip to the grocery store; it's kind of like a reward.  This recipe took 15 to 20 minutes from in my door to sitting down and eating. Amazing!

So this is it:

Chicken Salad

1 package frozen, precooked chicken, 22 o.z. Servings said about 7. Cook according to package directions. This package said bake @ 400 for 8 minutes.
1 bag of romaine, rinsed and torn into bite-size pieces. Our package had three stalks.
fresh veggies, whatever I have on hand, cut into bite size pieces; last night it was  carrots, cucumbers
croutons, if available
peanuts, if available
salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese
salad dressing, most of us prefer a creamy kind, such as ranch

This fed my family of six. We also ate pears and Christmas cookies and we were satisfied. There was certainly requests for seconds so it definitely could be doubled, especially if we wanted a second meal out of it.

I love filling my recipe box with quick, easy, delicious, and nutritious meals. 
And I need to be careful that I don't wear them out on this one. 
So what meals do you have that are super quick & easy? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas cheer: It's worth it!

My nine-year-old son has been initiating Christmas cheer around here. Not the teenagers. Not the parents. It has been the joy and wonder of the youngest that has motivated us to put up our tree, to read our Advent calendar, to decorate our house, to bake Christmas cookies.

I am thankful for this encouragement to find Christmas joy in the nooks and crannies of our home and our busy lives.

I get stressed at this time of year -- what mother doesn't? Yet, I don't always realize how much my children know that and dislike a stressed out momma.

During the past few years when life got a bit more topsy-turvy than usual (read about that  here and here), I haven't had the drive to create all of our usual Christmas traditions. This year the kids were asking to bake cookies again since we hadn't done it in a few years. My oldest noticed the look on my face; he said that he would rather not do the cookies if it was going to stress me out.

His comment caused me to pause.

I know that the look on my face was partly due to the sigh in my heart at letting traditions, such as the cookie decorating, fall to the wayside. I love the rituals and the traditions. I want to be able to say that we decorated Christmas cookies: Every. Single. Year. But... I can't.

So part of my look was that disappointment and part of it was wondering: 'How can we fit it all in?' My oldest took the look to mean: Mom is stressed by this request.

I'm glad he spoke. It got me thinking.

First, I realized this: Life is stressful.There is a lot to do in this season, a lot of which hinges on the momma. But taking out the meaningful or fun parts will never reduce my life to being completely stress-free. Therefore, I must make time for joy. We must do I the activities that give our lives meaning.

However, this is where discernment is needed. These 'must-do' activities are not to be confused with pressure, or the obligations or the images I have of  'just how things are suppose to be.' They need to be the essential ones we really love.

I need to examine in order to reduce how much I need to do; having less to do also helps to reduce my stress level. Keep it simple. Keep the list short. Then, I need to be sure to keep the activities that give meaning and energy to our lives do not fall by the wayside because I am too stressed.

Secondly, I realized this: not only do I need to do those important, meaningful life giving activities, such as decorating Christmas cookies. I also need to participate in them with a non-stressed look on my face. It would be best if I would be light and free spirit and truly enjoy the moment. 

It helps if I remember I have chosen this moment and it's worth it. I can do this by remembering that the fun, the memories, the traditions, they are not what add stress to my life.  Life is just stressful.

So instead of throwing out all of the fun we're making time for a few of our favorite traditions this year: Christmas cards, birthday parties, and cookie decorating. We are filling our lives this season with opportunities for joy, laughter, and memories due to a momma listening to the desires of a nine-year-old boy and letting it inspire her to keep on, keeping on the very best things in her world.

How is this season going for you?
In this busy -- often stressful -- season:
Which activities bring you and your loved ones energy & joy? 
Could you reduce your list to a small core of the 'most meaningful'?
What activities are the most important to keep doing for you and your family?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving memories, grief and gratefulness

The surgical glove turkey bouquet that inspired my daughter's writing.

My daughter had her hands in soapy dish suds when I asked her for inspiration for a blog post. She had lots of ideas. One of them was to write a Thanksgiving memory. Before I could apply myself to write, she had finished a memory that she wanted to share with me.

She was so inspired by her own suggestion that wrote in-between washing the dinner dishes. She'd wash some dishes. Stop, dry her hands, and write a little bit. Then stop writing and wash some more dishes. Then, stop, dry her hands, then write some more. By the time she was done with the dishes she had composed a Thanksgiving tribute.

She read her narrative to her father, sister, and me. (Her brothers happened to be off somewhere.)

Her memories undid me.

I had started to type a Thanksgiving post while she was doing those dishes but I didn't get very far. The draft is still sitting in my stack of unfinished posts. I even went back to it after she had read hers to me. But I had been undone.

I had asked for an idea and received some therapy instead.  Somehow whatever it was that I was going to write dimmed in my mind. Instead, I cried. But instead of alone tears, we cried together the four of us that night.

We cried quiet, silent tears. For just a little while. It didn't take long and we all hugged together on the couch as we cried together. Those tears sure felt better than the Alone Tears we cry. Better than the sadness we carry in our hearts all alone. At least that's part of what I learned that night. That I wasn't the only one still feeling sad, still grieving.

Still grieving the death of  Papa, my husband's father. And perhaps we are still grieving the many days up to his death. Perhaps we are still crying the tears that we didn't have time to cry while up close we watched him suffer.
Papa on the left with his brother that same Thanksgiving of the turkey bouquet.

I often hover alone in my sadness wondering why my friends don't understand why I might still be sad. They seem surprised: "He was your father-in-law. Were you that close?" They look at me quizzically, especially if their own father-in-law has passed and they can see they haven't experienced what I am experiencing. But...that isn't the point.

Or maybe it is.

We all walk different paths. We have different journeys. While I'm part of the human race, therefore I do experience emotions that others experience. It's just that sometimes the people I'm rubbing shoulders with haven't had a similar enough of a journey to understand me at that moment in time. Especially without words volunteered from me about the path that I've been walking on. But sometimes it is hard to volunteer words when the path of crisis didn't allow time for feeling, for processing, for figuring out. And somehow it goes numb, or at least it's all so mixed up you don't know what to feel and all you really want is a nap.

Until two years later when my daughter writes and reads about Thanksgiving memories, putting into words what we were feeling, even if we didn't know it before she read her words.

There it was: an epiphany! It is right here in this house that I need to look for comfort. Right here with my own people: my husband, my daughters, my sons. These my closest of friends. We have traveled the paths together. The uncomfortable changes. The front row seat to suffering. The amazing provisions. The answered prayers. And... the lingering sadness.

Here is a source of comfort that I had overlooked.

I was cheered that night of the tears and the group hug on the couch. Perhaps it is why it was easy to speak of Papa over the Thanksgiving table.

We shared memories and laughed. We ate and talked and reminisced and sat in the hot tub he kept running. We slept peacefully in the house that he and Grandma lived for more than twenty years.

It was a peaceful Thanksgiving and I'm giving quite a bit of credit to a reading shared, a group cry and a group hug before we headed off to Grandma's house. We added to that long conversations, long naps, and easy laughter.

A peaceful Thanksgiving for which I am grateful. Amen.

"Give thanks in all circumstances. " I Thessalonians 5:18

Some circumstances are just easier to give thanks in than others. Wouldn't you agree?
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