Friday, March 4, 2016

Hearty Chicken Kale Soup

Yesterday was such a busy day at our house. (Thursdays generally are, through the winter.) I have to get our dinner prepared before 12:30.  Yesterday, I had a vague plan for dinner, but at 12:00 I started panicking (ever-so-briefly). I knew I wanted to make some kind of crock pot dish with chicken and kale, but I didn't yet have a recipe in mind. A quick Google-search for "chicken kale crock pot" turned up nothing that I wanted to eat.

So I decided to wing it.

I wung it. (That can't be right, but it sure is fun to say. But if someone swings a rope around and goes on to tell someone else that they swung the rope, surely I can wing a recipe and tell you that I wung it. English according to Wanda.)

So anyway, I wung it.

I put two frozen chicken breasts in a big pan and turned the pan on. I figured I needed some onions and garlic, so in they went. Hmm, maybe a touch of water to keep the garlic from cooking too much. Ah, maybe some chicken stock? Dump 1L of chicken stock in. Now what?

I knew I wanted kale, so I chopped that up and set it aside. I'd put it in when it was close to done cooking.

I took the chicken out and chopped it up because no one wants two whole chicken breasts in their soup!

How about noodles? That'd be tasty! I rifled through the cupboard, dug out some rotini noodles and decided they were WAY too big, so I spent the next few minutes breaking them in half and throwing them in the pot.

Oooh, some tomatoes would be good. But not too many tomatoes. Half a jar of crushed tomatoes would be perfect. (You can mix onion and garlic powder into the remaining tomatoes to make a lovely last-minute pizza sauce.)

I waited a few minutes for the noodles to cook most of the way, added some salt and pepper, and had a taste... Blech! Too bland. It was missing something. After a bit more salt and pepper I was still not satisfied.

Basil! I keep a paste of basil in my fridge for emergencies such as this. In it went and WOWZA! did it make a difference. I threw the kale in, decided it needed corn, threw a handful of that in, and called it done.

I put the soup in the fridge, went to our afternoon class, and rested assured that dinner was handled.

When we got home, the noodles had plumped up nicely and absorbed more of the liquid, so I added another 4 cups of chicken broth and reheated our soup.

The silence around the table, save for a few slurps and "mmms," told me this one was a keeper.

And so, after slightly more fan-fare than was necessary, here's the recipe.

Hearty Chicken Kale Soup

Serves 6
Time: 30 minutes

Fry or saute in a large pan:

2 large chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced

Add 2 Tbsp water or oil if necessary.
Remove chicken from the pan. Allow it to cool, then chop it into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pan.

300 mL crushed tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup corn
2 Tbsp fresh basil
3/4 cup small, uncooked pasta

(I used rotini, broken in half.)

Allow mixture to cook another 15 minutes, until pasta is tender.  Season as you wish with salt and pepper.

2 cups chopped kale

Allow the mixtures to simmer another 5 minutes, then serve.

Listen, as your 10 year-old says, “Mmm! This is one of my favourite meals that you've ever made!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Finding a Spouse, Homeschool-Style

I wrote this Feb 7, 2015. I'm not sure why it sat unpublished for over a year, but I want to remember it down the road...


It's so fun to sit back and just listen to my children, letting them chatter away.

The youngest needed some “board game” time with Dad the other night, so I took the older two out to the local coffee and doughnut shop. We lingered over coffee and hot chocolate while we chatted about the day, the weekend ahead of us, and life in general. On the walk home, we got into discussions about money, marriage, and making sure you make a good choice in who your spouse is, before you ever say, “I do.”

It was at this point in the conversation (which really wasn't as deep as it may sound) that the younger of the two admitted something. “When we first started talking about homeschooling, I thought that I would never meet other kids and I didn't know how I would ever find someone to marry."

The older one chimed in with, “Me too! I pictured myself standing on the sidewalk somewhere and just asking questions of people as they went by. If they answered just one question wrong, then I'd move on to someone else until I found someone who answered all my questions correctly.”

We all had a good laugh at how absurd that seemed now, busy as we are with our many "school" events. I am so thankful for the amazing, quality friends that my kids have made in the last few years. Any fears we were told to have about “socialization” quickly went out the window when we started homeschooling. I love these kids that we're getting to hang out with every week and I love the sense of culture and community that these families are instilling in their children. Yes, I'll take homeschool-socialized children any day!

Grandma's bag of marshmallows

I have to tell you one of my favourite stories of my Grandma Hazel...

When I was a little girl, I lived in the same city as Grandma Hazel and Grandpa Ralph. They often visited our house, but just as often, we ended up at their house. I have many fond memories of sitting at Grandma's kitchen table, sipping tea and nibbling toast while we played Password. (I just loved that plastic red window through which I could see my word.)

But one of the reasons I loved going to Grandma's house most was that I knew she would have a bag of marshmallows which she kept tucked away just for us girls. So thought little 7 year-old Wanda. They were there  just for us girls! So of course, I asked for a marshmallow every time I visited.

As moms tend to do, my mom saw the need to curb my uncouth behaviour, more specifically, my unabashed begging for marshmallows. One particular day, as we drove to Grandma's house, Mom told us girls, "Now when we get to Grandma's house, I do NOT want you to ask for a marshmallow. If she offers you one, you may say 'Yes, please' but you may NOT ask for one." We understood and were dutifully ready to obey.

My mind started churning and it didn't take long for me to formulate a sneaky plan.

I walked into Grandma's house that day, gave her a big hug, accepted her kiss, and confessed to her that I wasn't allowed to ask for a marshmallow, but that if she offered me one, I was allowed to say "Yes."

Needless to say, I got my marshmallow that day.

Here I am, sitting on Grandma's lap, looking like I've eaten a few marshmallows at this point.

Grandma looks on as I blow out my candles.
She's probably wondering if she should continue to support my marshmallow habit.

It's been a while since I got a marshmallow from Grandma Hazel, but she still greeted me with a twinkle in her eyes over the last few years. She may have forgotten a few things, but she always had that same smile, hug, and kiss for me when I walked in to visit her.

Last year at her 100th birthday party, she looked on with that twinkle again as her grand-daughters helped her blow out 100 candles.

100 years of memories.

100 years of lives being touched with the same sweet, gentle, and oh-so-generous spirit that we celebrated that day.

100 years of serving others, thinking not of herself, but of how she could be Jesus to someone, to everyone, really.

She was radiant, basking in the joy of seeing people whose lives she had touched, people from near and far, coming around to celebrate her.

This week, we celebrate her once more. I'm so looking forward to the stories that we'll tell. I've never looked forward to a visitation and funeral like I am this week.

My Grandma was One of a Kind. She was the person who best exemplified what it meant to be Christ-like. I never heard a word of anger or judgment or hatred or envy from her. Just love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. She was a woman with God's Spirit in her, and now her spirit has returned to God. I look forward to the day we can worship at Jesus' feet together, but until then, I'll do my best to carry on her legacy, in my own meager way.

And just so you know, if you see me with a bag of marshmallows, you're not allowed to ask for one, but if I offer, you're allowed to say "Yes."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bereans and burritos

The youngest just inadvertently came up with the perfect mascot for our little school...

We were discussing comparing what we hear around us with what the Bible says.  I told the kids that this is what the Bereans did in Acts 17:11 - "...they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." (ESV)

After a bit more chatter about the Scriptures of that time being the Old Testament, the youngest came out with something that the "Burritos" did. And then, with a sly smile that betrayed his wit, he said, "What? Is that not what they were called? What was it then?"

We all had a good laugh and I declared that we would, henceforth, have "Burritos" as our school mascot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When you're just not sure

When the world seems to be spinning out of control and you don't know what to think, remember these simple words:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 
(Mt 22:37)

Love you neighbour as yourself.
(Mt 22:38)

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them.
(Ja 4:17)

And go from there.

You are responsible for the choices you make and the actions you take. Take these verses to heart and make good decisions.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Because I want to remember the silliness, too

7:30 am

The girl: "I think it's one of those days where I just want to make a lot of noise all the time."
She's singing random syllables to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey" now.
It's going to be an interesting morning.

8:45 am

More from the girl...
She: Propaganda!
Me: Did you just say, "Propaganda!"
She: Yep!
Me: Why?
She: I don't know... It just came into my head, and I was pretty sure it was a real word, so I said it.
Now she's singing, "Wise men say only fools rush in..."

It's not even 9:00 am, people.

11:15 am

As I'm getting leftover pizza out to put in the oven...
The girl sniffs: I love today! It smells so good.

11:50 am

To herself: Thank you.
To herself: Thank you for thanking me.
To herself: Thank you for thanking me for thanking you.
To herself: Thank you for thanking me for thanking you for thanking me for thanking you for thanking me for thanking you.
To herself: Ahh, I'm so confused.


I'm sure this will be continued...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No time

This is the most challenging idea that I've confronted myself with lately.

I've been mulling it over for a few weeks and I'm writing about it now so that I will remember it. This *new concept will likely challenge you, too.

*Okay, it's not really that new. But it's kind of rocked my world, so bear with me in my use of superlatives.

I must warn you though:
If you like telling people how busy you are and that you just can't make time to do other things, please don't read this. You can't unread this once it's read.

There's no turning back.

Okay, you asked for it.


Lately I've been telling people that the biggest lie on the internet is, "Yes; I have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions..." Ever since I realized this, I make an effort to read the terms and conditions of whatever it is I'm agreeing to, or at least look to see what changes have been made from last time. My guess is that we all do it, without even realizing that we are lying.

Well, I've got another one for you. One that matters a little more.

Yesterday, another oft-told lie sneaked up and punched me in the face.

"I just don't have time..."

How many times have you uttered that phrase? Once? Once a day? Five times a day? I have caught myself saying that more than once recently, to explain why something didn't get done. And it's a LIE!

Before I explain, I think it's important to re-introduce myself to you (just in case you've forgotten):

I'm a middle-aged, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of three pre-teen/teens. My husband sacrifices his time by working a challenging, and at times stressful, job so that we can all enjoy the luxury that a stay-at-home parent affords. Therefore, I generally try to stay on top of household chores, keeping the house moderately presentable while also teaching the children and taxiing them around to different activities. I also volunteer in several capacities through church and homeschool groups. In short, I have a good excuse for saying I'm too busy to do something or to say that something didn't get done because I didn't have the time. But to say so would be a LIE.

When my husband comes home and asks if I called to schedule the oil change, I might answer, "Oh shoot, I was too busy," or "Nope; I just didn't have time today." But that's a LIE.

I have 24 hours in a day just the same as you. I can choose to spend that time eating candy or chopping veggies or reading a school book to the kids or making phone calls or lesson planning or sleeping or cleaning or playing games or raking leaves or making lists or marking tests or updating computer files... The possibilities are nearly endless. So when I say that I didn't have time, what I really mean, and what I need to start saying, is that I didn't MAKE the time.

Let me reiterate - If I don't get something done, it's not that I don't have the time to do it; it's that I didn't choose to make the time to do it. I am, in effect, saying that what I DIDN'T do wasn't as important as all the other things I did do today.

Can we agree to stare our own laziness in the face? Let's try to stop saying, "I didn't have time," and start saying, "I didn't make the time." It really is the more honest way of expressing ourselves and taking ownership of the choices that we make, whether done with full awareness or merely subconsciously.

And with that I need to log off... I still need to schedule that oil change.


P.S.  I'm adding this a few hours later to mention that saying, "No" is a very good thing sometimes. We just need to understand that when we say "No, I don't have time" "we are really saying, "No, I choose not to make time for that because I have other priorities at the moment."  Sometimes we have to choose not to make time for really good things.

Time and money are both precious commodities. Just like we can't give our money to every good cause, we also can't give our time to every good cause. We have to choose which cause is most important to us.  And just like money is used to purchase items that fuel us, our time is also spent on refueling ourselves.