Saturday, 25 January 2014

Adventures in Freezer Meals


Ok, so I know I'm not one of those "Practical" Bloggers, I like to get what's in my head out. BUT - For those of you who enjoy a more practical look at life, and who appreciate a challenge will want to know about our day of "40 Freezer Meals in 4 Hours."

Everyone knows that when the two adults in the house are back at work, dinner time can take a significant hit. To save some time, we didn't reinvent the wheel, instead we borrowed a set of recipes from a website and went from there.

http://whoneedsacape.com/2012/11/crockpot-freezer-cooking/

The woman who writes this website miraculously made all forty freezer meals in four hours, and had a clean kitchen, and it seems that she did it all on her own. We learned that in the past few days, that is something akin to running a marathon. HOWEVER, if there are two willing participants in your household, with two days, a wad of cash and nothing to do, why not give it a try.  You can call it a "Marriage Strengthening Exercise".

We started out yesterday, and between the items we already had and the items we needed to purchase, we had all of our shopping done in visits to two stores in about exactly two hours.  Now, many of the Freezer Meals websites claim that they were able to stock their freezers for around $250.  We weren't quite that successful, but we attributed that to the fact that a lot of these estimates come from bloggers in the USA, and meat prices down there are...well, enviable to say the least.  The protein component was definitely the most cost consuming, and the sheer amount makes me believe that Costco now has our pictures posted in the poultry department with a big WARNING sign over our heads.  However, even though the cost was higher, it is a fraction of the cost of using a weekly meal plan over two months.


This morning was prep time.  It took us around two hours to get all veggies and meat diced, chopped and ready to go.  I would say the only frustration at this point was translating some of the required amounts from the recipes to actual amounts for prep.  For example, I peeled 18 cloves of garlic, when I should have peeled more like 30, but those little kinks were easy to work out, and because I chose a working partner who is also a genius, our amounts were right on.



 

I would say the more challenging part came in putting the meals together. We started out by laying out the recipes and the already prepped freezer bags, it helped us keep everything organized. We set up a sort of assembly line, and decided to work through each recipe, one at a time, in order to make sure that we didn't miss any ingredient in any meal.  Amazingly enough, we hardly had any leftovers.





The Results -

Well, we weren't able to finish in four hours, it took us about six (and our kitchen looks a little like something exploded in there), but we were able to create 43 freezer to crock pot meals. We are really excited about the overall cost and time savings - after all, my most dreaded Saturday morning task is always trying to figure out what to eat for the week. Not to mention we are eager to try out the many different recipes that we worked on putting together this afternoon.




So, if you are interested in trying a little experiment of your own, let me know! I'll be sure to do a followup to let you know how they all turned out!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Lessons from the Unemployment Line




When I started this "journey" over six months ago, I had this idea that I knew what life was all about - that I knew what I was all about.  I thought that all I needed was for a job to come along, a job that would justify my decisions, that would affirm my identity, and that would give me self confidence and fix all the problems in my marriage, my home, my life.  Pretty tall order, huh? All I needed to do was get a job, so I could be the one to provide for my family.  I didn't see it coming, but it all seemed to be a perfect recipe for change.


1. Finding God in Spilled Milk

Ok, so yes - Stay-At-Home Moms have perks.  I've never been able to sleep through the latter half of SVU on the job - but honestly my attitude toward these special ladies has gone through transformation.  There have been times that I loved staying home, being with my kids and experiencing every special moment with them, but I am ashamed to say that there were moments where I lost my identity, my self-control, and was selfish - playing the victim stuck with all of the work.  There were days I sat, not accomplishing anything productive, merely because I had lost my identity.  What is the most common question when you meet someone new? What kind of work do you do? Suddenly, I didn't have an answer to that, when I was teaching I was always proud to say, I'm a teacher - like I was out impacting the lives of my students at every possible moment, like I knew something, like in that statement someone could derive the fact that I was confident, knowledgeable, and an expert in my field.  Worthy of their friendship, attention and praise.  Now, what could I say? Oh - I'm a stay at home Mom - I do diapers, unpopular lunches, spilled milk and tantrums. It was like I could hear what they were thinking about me, because I knew what I was thinking about Stay-At-Home Moms.  I had this idea that they were women who had married wealthy husbands, who were uneducated, women who were able to spend their time shopping, on manicures, and lunch dates with their friends.  I was jealous of their fine homes, lovely Mom cars, and perfectly dressed children. Coming face to face with that ugly prejudice shook me. I was jealous, and I was wrong.  Stay-At-Home Moms sacrifice, giving whatever they have to create the very best life for their children, they build their identities without any affirmation from any "job", and they work as hard as any person who goes to work.  Staying at home with my kids was a blessing that not many get, having the chance to get to know them, and experience the day to day was priceless.  To all my sweet ladies, my Dear Stay-At-Home Moms, you are important, you are treasured.  God has given you such a huge responsibility, and you carry it with grace and compassion. You may never be recognized for all that you do, or promoted to CEO of the house, but you have been given the most important job in the world, and your Heavenly Father lies your identity. Forgive me for not understanding. I understand now, and at the deepest part of me I am sad to leave it behind for now. 



2. Anger Disguised as Victimization is Still Anger...

When I left the job I had at VCS, I was angry.  When I left the job I had at EMA, I was angry.   Neither situation had been "fair", and in both I found myself feeling caged, backed into a corner with no recourse, in the first I'd had a job ripped from me that I had loved because of what other people had done.  I had been forced to choose between what was right and a place where my heart was. I ached for it, like a legitimate loss.  In the second I felt wronged, accused of something that was unthinkable for me, that destroyed my confidence in a job that I loved.  It was easy to be the victim. To sit and cry over all that had happened to me, to blame God for leaving me all alone.  It was easy to believe as I was rejected in job after job that though I was supposed to provide for my family, God wasn't letting me. It just added to my ideas that God had left me all alone.  I couldn't believe it when people said, God has the perfect job out there for you. God loves you. It just added to my belief that it was up to me, and I was all alone.  It was strange to recognize my broken, hurt, bruised feelings of being a victim, as a fierce anger. All because I believed that I wasn't a good teacher, that I wasn't worth a job, and that for all I thought I stood for - I had been proven a fool.  The only thing harder than letting it all go - was realizing that I was angry. It wasn't even a useful anger, it was just deep and festering, feeding on my soul - lashing out at the people I love the most.  Dealing with anger comes out in tears. There have been many tears, but I'm not angry any more.



3.  The End Doesn't Come, Till the Journey is Begun

When I started on this journey I thought I knew the answer. All I needed was a job.  The right job to prove that I was worthy, and boy did I imagine what that meant. It meant a big salary at a prestigious school, it meant an important job at a University, it meant recognition and honor.  All I had to do, was go and get the job that I deserved.  It wasn't until about three or four months into this whole experience that I realized that what I planned, wasn't working out - nor would it ever.  It was realizing that I was waiting for an EVENT to save me, rather than waiting for what God had for me, and he clearly hadn't finished.  So, I started to change, and the letting go was hard, but there was freedom on the other side.  It came in experiences...many experiences, where I had to work to see what God had in it for me.  The most unexpected things - like a new baby, a new pregnancy - pushed me to start to trust, like I never have before.  I am a planner, I like to do things in an orderly fashion,  a mature, and well thought out fashion, and there was more than one time that I called myself irresponsible.  It took something that life altering to make me take notice, to turn to God for answers I didn't have.


4. A New Start 

I think it all came together not even a week ago, when a conversation I had with several people started to sound familiar, started to make sense.  It can be broken down very easily. 
I had to come to a place where I honestly believe that God loves me so much that I need to put myself aside. To realize, God is the provider for my family, not me. If I believe that God is indeed my provider, then he will provide for us, no matter what it looks like.  That providing for my family is out of my hands. There is freedom in that - so much freedom.  It's what gave me the confidence to walk into not one, but two interviews this week, and be offered both jobs. Not because those interviewers saw me, but they saw Christ in me, the confidence and trust I have in him.  It's a new job, a new baby, a new me. Not perfect, not yet, but learning. I look forward to this adventure with Christ in me. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

ME: By Design

I'm not one for New Years Resolutions, I think it could be because I hate when they end up to be empty on me.  Lost somewhere in January when I finally delve into a bowl of pasta, or eat a third handful of the chocolate covered raisins in a kitchen raid.  Now, I'm not celebrating an unhealthy lifestyle, and believe that every day I need to be taking steps to be healthier in soul, mind and body but I saw something tonight that made me take pause. 

I often torture my husband with questions like, "Do I look fat?" or "Does this outfit make me look stupid?", you know those questions that really don't have a safe or positive answer. In fact, they are only questions spoken out of that hole of insecurity, that place of not feeling like quite "enough." Tonight, due to a small hiccup with Netflix, I was stuck watching ET Canada's New Years "Nip-Tuck" special.  What I saw made me both envious and sad.  Envious because I can relate to the desire to LOOK perfect, and what if I just had the finances? I too, could look like them. THEM. Those thin, perfectly shaped, beautifully sculpted women who were the main patients subjecting themselves to painful surgery in order to be perfecter? That's what made me sad. Watching these beautiful women say, after their surgeries, that now they have "so much more confidence". What?? I wanted to shout. Do you hear what you're saying? I think it was about then I realized something. Even if there came a day where I did look like those women - absolutely beautiful - I would still not feel that way because it is all surface.  

I don't think that I will ever stop caring fully about what I look like, or how I appear, because I don't think that's the answer - changing the way I look at myself however would be time better spent. Over Christmas I've had time to reflect on what's really important. Like the tears that come to my eyes now as I explain to my kids that I'll be going back to work soon - which is what I've been after since the day I stopped, but here I am all emotional about having to go back.  On Christmas Eve we got a call from my Dad's work, telling us there had been an accident. I can tell you, as our collective breath was sucked out of the room my thoughts were only with my family, and how I could help now. Praise God, my Dad is going to be alright, but wow, my focus changed in an instant and I could tell you all of the things that were important, my hair, my weight was the least of them. 

So t0 2014, I'll be looking for the blessings, for the good, loving those around me with words, and knowing that I have been created by the living God, to be Me. I'm not saying it will be perfect, but I have started to think that perfection is overrated. Once something has been declared perfect, it has to stay that way, unadulterated forever, or else it falls so far that status can never be reestablished. So to you, my dear friends and readers, look at your design with purpose, hope and joy.  Remember that God's love and miracles come in the everyday little details. 

Happy 2014. 

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