how to go to the gym

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Maggie, October 2013, with one of our most-beloved childcare ladies at the Y. (It was pirate day!)

Our local YMCA is a pillar of peace and sanity in my crazy life as a stay at home mom.  I’m not exaggerating – our Y membership has been a lifesaver.  But how do we make it happen?  Read on for some tips from a highly qualified mom-athlete (and by “highly qualified” I mean, I usually make it to the gym twice a week!) Continue reading

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Frumpy Friday Summer Summary

Dear people,

I have missed you. Hope you are well. Every time I see fantastic posts coming in regarding vacationing as a parent, a mom’s musings, and summer meal prep, I get a little twinge of guilt that I’ve been off the posting bandwagon for a bit. There’s no pressure to write. We’ve all let each other be very free. What a gift! But I have some posts in the works that take a ton of work. And in the humidity we’ve been experiencing, the water weight of that “ton” is roughly doubled. So I’ve been sludgy. And, most nap times, when I used to write, I’ve been getting some house projects done.

I do enjoy keeping in touch with you all. So I’ve thrown off the guilt and the expectations – that I have of myself – and decided to ramble a list of the things we’ve been up to and struggled over. This is a real blog by real people. Why not have posts that reflect the reality of our life right now? The reality is: we’re jumping from one thing to the next as a family and barely finishing most projects.

So without further ado, some summary:

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This photo may be my favorite of the two kiddos to date. Such happy little stinkers. And, the little guy finally began to take regular naps on June 1, 80% of the time. Yes it’s a big deal.  Yes, it is written down on our calendar.

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Here, you see a lot of what we’ve been doing, actually! 1) It’s in the porch, and there’s the reflection of an old school picnic table cloth. We’ve been enjoying most meals out here. It is so, so pleasant. Definitely one of the biggest blessings of our new home. You see, I have found since graduating from college that Fall arrives, and I feel all sad that Summer never really happened. I struggled as a working single to vacation well and use the seasons. This porch redeems that – we feel we are outside, yet we can remain in our jammies. 2) The white monstrosity is a $10 damaged kitchen cabinet that I am transforming into a bench. I need to gather the top and bottom pieces (ideally for free!) before continuing. Pray I can find those today! We may go garage-saling 3) Isn’t “garage-saling” a word? Here in Minnesota, it is a word. So why does spell check yell at me? 4) Also reflected above is a set of green shutters. I spent about $3 on them at a garage sale, then attached them to the wall over a large old mail slot. It took several weeks to complete. Now it’s a little surprise opening to do whatever we want with, and the kids haven’t torn off the doors, and it’s a completed project using wood (I LOVE wood!). So it’s a raving success. 5) The trowel on the ledge proves that we’ve done some gardening. 6) The subtle haze over everything betrays that I haven’t figured out how to clean. Yet. We’ve been in the house less than a year, people! Give me a break! A year long break, please. 🙂

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Also in the porch, I painted this table before it completely disintegrated.

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See? Painted. I learned, however, that I should believe everything I read when it comes to painting. It says ‘do many thin coats and sand in between’. And, many articles advise a poly finish. I didn’t do either. Now I know I should have, as there is already some chipping.

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On the other hand, I have 2 kids. They can’t always be corralled like they are above. So, 3 thick coats of paint are all we will do. Oh well.

As I may have mentioned, it has been hot and muggy here. I won a bet once with a colleague from Georgia. I bet him that at least one day in the Summer, we here in MN would experience a hotter or more humid day than they would in GA. And I won, handily! But that’s the only time I’ve ever in my life been grateful for this oppressive weather.

Which brings up a major question: to use the AC or to not use the AC. I’m sluggish and downright lazy in my natural humid weather state. But it costs mula and there’s just no enjoying the environment, sludgy as it is, around us when we turn on the AC. I could, I suppose, leave the windows open, take a deep breath, and do the dishes and other chores. I’ve been looking for a way to fast, and this may be it.

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Which brings up prayer. I’ve been sneaking downstairs alone in the early morning (for us – it’s  relative) to pray and open the windows. And, of course, to make coffee. It’s a real treat. A friend recommended to a bunch of us to change it up this summer in our prayer habits. One idea was to read a Psalm a day based on the date. I conveniently began on June 1, and have a 30 day cycle. So today, I added 30 to the date and read Psalm 54. In any month that has 31 days, I get a bonus day at the end to read the Psalm of my choice. It’s fun! The Psalms in the past have been difficult for me. I’ve read them and not really been able to relate to the ‘enemies round about me on every side, waiting to devour me’, and all that dramatic militaristic imagery. I look around me and I don’t seem to have that much trouble. So I think forlorn thoughts about how useless the Psalms are in my life, how I should be more serious so that life is more full of trouble, how weird I must be since other people can relate to the Psalms but I can’t, etc.  After plowing through the first few in this manner, I read Psalm 37. It’s a keeper:

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun….

Now, I read the Psalms as if I am speaking them to God, or he to me. Me and God. I have to turn off my historical imagination, and just let the words be mine alone, for me alone. Some Psalms sink in more deeply than others, but all of them are worth waking up for and sneaking past my semi-sleeping kids. On July 7, the Psalm contained plenty to ponder and resolve in my day to day life and musings.

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How could I forget?! We had a Grammy Visit, and prepped this sleeping porch for her stay.

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It’s now my favorite room in the house. Huge “thank you”s go out to Jeanne O and Erik for helping bring this room from storage with broken electrical units to perfect summer retreat place.

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I grabbed a minute at the end of my prayer/Psalm/coffee time July 4 to rig this up. Happy belated birthday, USA!

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Yes, a very happy birthday.

Best Regards,

Mary Clare

Three Simple Chicken Recipes

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The ingredients for the Jerk Chicken marinade.

Hey everyone! Its been a while since I’ve written.   I have done a lot of eating of delicious foods this summer.  I’ve tried to keep menu planning simple too by eating our favorites on a more regular basis.  I also have tried to cook meals that do not require a stove which heats the house too much.  Today’s post will focus on three of my favorite chicken recipes: a marinade, a pasta salad, and burritos.

1. Jerk Chicken

I got this recipe from my friend Jen during a freezer meal making event.  It makes a great marinade that freezes well, but we usually eat it right away).  I recently doubled the marinade, so I could make a meal for a friend who just had twins, and it made enough for us and them to eat.  It is definitely one of our favorites.  I’ve used both boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well as chicken drumsticks/ thighs (bone-in) for this recipe and both are great! Here is the link to Simple Caribbean Jerk Chicken.  Note: I do NOT put ground red pepper in my marinade, but if you like it spicy, why not try it.  It can also be cooked in an oven instead of grilling.

2. Chicken Pasta Salad

This is a great cold pasta salad that is great for a picnic or potluck.  I found recipe online several years ago, and jotted it down on a card without a reference.  Oops! I would love to give the author credit, so if anyone knows it’s source, please help me credit it. Of course, my changes to it are in bold.  I also think the original recipe called for garlic too.

Pasta Salad with Chicken

Ingredients

3 cups uncooked pasta (bow tie or penne)

4 cups cubed cooked chicken breast (I’ve used canned, Rotisserie, or cooked it myself)

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped red onion

4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled ( I use more)

1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (I’ve also used Feta or grated Swiss)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup minced fresh basil (or dried basil to taste)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar (or less is fine)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 pepper

1/2 grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Cook, drain, and rinse pasta.  Add chicken, tomatoes, onion, bacon, and cheese.  In a small bowl whisk oil, basil, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

3. Chicken Avocado Burritos

This is a new family favorite that I found on Pinterest.  What I like is that these burritos are different that traditional burritos that are often loaded with beef and beans.  The avocado adds excellent flavor, and I usually add extra mozzarella cheese inside.  When I make it I slightly change the recipe to make the burritos smaller and serve more. I buy fajita sized tortillas (8-10 in a pack), and I fill the tortillas with less mixture. I still usually have left over mixture at the end.  Here is where you can find the recipe for Chicken Avocado Burritos.

So, there you have it.  Feel free to try these great chicken recipes.  I am currently on the lookout for homemade kid friendly chicken nuggets, so if you happen to know of a great recipe, please share!  Happy Wednesday!

another job description

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bouncing on the hotel bed … moving too fast to get a good photo!

A couple months ago, MC shared a great job description for us.  Here’s another one – a Scripture that God brought to my attention one Sunday morning:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,   Continue reading

Joshy Can Now Crawl, and I am Not the Only One Crying about It

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This just cracks me up! I wrote a whole post about not wanting my son to reach a major milestone (crawling – YIKES!!!), but trying to be happy about it regardless. When it actually happened very recently, I was resigned/excited/resigned, but wanted to cry. And yell. And whine. And kick. And stomp, and most of all, to make it stop. And guess who actually cried?! The big boy himself. That’s some sort of poetic justice.

It’s fitting that he gained this independence just in time for the celebration of our country’s Independence Day. And, to be quite honest he is not generally unhappy about his accomplishment. I confess that I made him cry. But it’s my husband’s fault. You see, I took the video that produced the above still at his behest while he was at work. It was only the 2nd time he’d taken his new all fours for a spin, and Erik hadn’t seen it yet. He requested a video. I obliged by taking away the crinkly thing Josh was playing with, and putting it in crawling distance. This is a boy who likes his toys. Oh boy, does he ever. He cried and whined and wanted it back. But I made him crawl to go get it. So he cried some more while crawling.

My conclusion is that I was right! Crawling is no fun.

Actually, I’m really ok with this development. I am happy for him, and even, as I said, a little excited. I think it’s because I love the kid. A friend once pointed out one of the best features of love: ‘it doesn’t stop on a dime’. It compels us to go further and do more than we would otherwise do. In my case, this means that I’m moving past all sorts of fears and hesitations (most of which are based in selfishness or satan – the JERK (and that’s putting it lightly)!), and landing in a place where my emotions are more positive regarding this stage of parenting. This also means that my floors will soon be the clean that they deserve, and I will work off some pounds running after the kid.

Which brings up a burning question. How do you clean floors? We have hardwood, tile, and a rug over hardwood in our main living areas. Seriously, I don’t know how to efficiently clean them, and I actually can’t seem to get spills cleaned up from the wood floor. It’s a small house, so I’d prefer just 1 mop thing-y for the whole shebang. We have little/no storage space for cleaning items. I don’t know what solutions to use, whether there’s a really cool gadget that sweeps AND cleans (please tell me that there is!), etc. It’s like I’ve never cleaned before. Oh, wait, I haven’t. At least not in this house. Just like a baby needs to crawl before they can walk, I need to do the dishes before I can mop.

The end, (but please tell me in the comments how to clean my floors),

Miss Mary Clare