Monday, October 20, 2014

Nourish ~ On the Feeding of Others

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 20. To see the rest of the series click here!

I’ve been in a season of life for the last few years in which my biggest felt role, the one that I feel like I devote the majority of my time to, is feeding my family. Happily, I enjoy this role most of the time except for when I’m not feeling well. My older kids have learned to step in and take over when this happens and I’m terribly indebted to them in that situation. As I sit on the couch and listen to the goings on in the kitchen where food is being prepared without me, it often occurs to me…

…most people do not have back up cooks at the ready when they are ill! 

Even in the past year when I’ve not been feeling well I’ve been blessed by friends who’ve brought food to my family. My illnesses were not serious at all and yet the food came and it was a blessing. It relieved the problem of actually putting food in mouths but even more, it relieved my mental challenge of “what am I gonna feed them tonight?” 


Having been both on the providing end and on the receiving end of “The Feeding of Others” equation, I can speak easily of the blessings of both. I come from a long line of “food takers,” otherwise known as people who, when they hear of a bad situation or an event to be celebrated  in the life of another, immediately think that no matter what, food will make it better and so set into motion plans to “take food.” 

Not everyone comes from such a heritage. Others are “being there” kind of folks and they have my utmost respect. I don’t know how to “be there” quietly and thoughtfully. I know of such people and they have, by their “being there” ministered to me in deep and meaningful ways and I’ve watched in awe as I’ve seen them minister to others around me. 

I’d rather make you cookies than hold your hand because while I’m holding your hand, my mouth will be moving and words will be coming out and very likely they will not be saying anything remotely helpful. Please…do you like pie, can I make you a pie? I’ll drop it off to you and because it’s food, we’ll both feel better, right?


Everyone can nourish others according to their own personality, absolutely.  I will argue, however, that we are all also able to nourish another person with a meal and maybe not even an entire meal but something warm and …yes, nourishing.

I realize that sometimes it's the little things that might keep us from taking a meal to someone like: "How does one go about it in the first place?" or "I have no earthly idea what kind of food to take to a family." My biggest challenge is finding their home to deliver the food but eventually I find the right place and usually I've learned a new area of our town as well...I still get lost frequently in my town after all these eleven years!

When I find out about a family or an individual who needs a meal that I can provide, I get the phone number and give a quick call or text to either the person who is in need or their spouse or family member. I call them and simply say, "Hi Sally, I heard you've broken your arm, how are you doing?" Sally will tell me how she is doing and then I will say, "I have dinner for you tonight, I'll bring it at {what ever time works for you... see note below for a suggestion}.”

At this point in the conversation the person on the other end of the line will say "THANK YOU," and you will say "you are welcome, see you later today." And that will be it. Sometimes, however, the person on the other end of the line will say, "Oh, I'm not really in that much need, you don't need to worry about that.” 

DON'T BELIEVE THEM! 

Tell them you already have dinner in the works and that you'll be there later to deliver. (You DO already have it in the works simply by having made the phone call!) **Dinner time can be a challenging time to deliver a meal while at the same time attempt to feed one's own family. One solution we've found is to try to have food ready early and deliver it "pre-baked" (if that is an option) and let the family receiving the meal put it in the oven at the optimal time for them.

Now that you've promised dinner...WHAT TO FIX?

I am NOT the authority on this matter but am happy to tell you what I usually do. It's very plain and simple:

1. A main dish - casseroles work well here or a simple pasta dish. Often I make a chicken casserole, or a baked spaghetti, or a pot of soup. DO NOT, however, think that everything must be homemade! I have also delivered a grocery store rotisserie chicken or two AND I've been the receiver of those wonderful grocery store rotisserie chickens and oh how we've loved them!!


2. I like to include a vegetable of some sort with a meal but I don't always, sometimes I don't have any on hand and sometimes it doesn't go with the meal (like with soup). I usually pull a frozen microwave steam bag of veggies (or two if serving more than 4) from the freezer, and cook those and put in a take out dish. In the summer a simple bag of salad is a great way to go. If I don't have veggies to include, sometimes I'll take potatoes or pasta salad or rice if I have that.

3. Sometimes I'll send bread. Most times I buy a loaf of french bread from the store and deliver it right in the bag it came in. Sometimes, a simple loaf of banana bread or corn bread is perfect to round off a meal.



4. Dessert...really, we should have started with dessert. From a batch of cookies from the bakery at the store to a homemade pie. ANYTHING is good when you don't feel well or when you are working hard to recover.


Don't feel like you must do it all. Any portion of the above is better than nothing. There have been many occasions in my little world where I'd have appreciated anyone who came to my house and put together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Sample meals:

Baked pasta, salad, loaf of bread, pudding
Pot of soup, cornbread or corn muffins, chocolate chip cookies
Total Store Meal: rotisserie chicken, loaf of bread, potato salad (or macaroni salad) cheerful cupcakes from the bakery, or fruit salad.

More meal ideas {especially soups} can be found by clicking on the Recipe Box tab at the top of this post or by clicking here. I also like to page through my cookbooks with an eye for "take out food" to get fresh ideas.

One final note: When I deliver a meal, if there are extra hands available, I bring them to help carry the food to the door, however, I don't let them come into the home where we are delivering the food. ALSO, I try to drop off the food and get out of the way. Those who are ailing or even healing often aren't up for making conversation or even for coming to the door. I try not to get chatty...;-) .

Ok, TWO final notes: Sometimes the best time to take food to someone isn’t when they are sick or recovering but when you just want them to know you were thinking about them. I receive thoughtful deliveries of goodness frequently from friends and family and even from my Man which knock the flip-flops right off of my feet. It doesn’t have to be a lot to be a source of nourishment in the life of another. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nourish ~ Easy Sunday Soup

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 19. To see the rest of the series click here!

This is one of my favorite soups to fix ahead and have waiting on us when we come home. It’ll work great for your Sunday lunch or a weeknight dinner. All you have to do is brown a pound of sausage and toss it and all of the other ingredients into your slow cooker (or, if you don’t want to wait, toss it all into a soup pot and heat on the stove!).


Ingredients:

1 pound ground sausage (leave out sausage for vegetarian option)
1  19 oz. bag of frozen tortellini (cheese or meat, your choice)
1 small bag of fresh spinach 
2 cans of diced tomatoes (Italian style if you prefer, plain if you do not)
3-4 cups of chicken stock (2 cans if you’ve not made your own) (use vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
1  8 oz. block of cream cheese, cut into chunks



Instructions:

In a skillet, brown and drain sausage and then add it to the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients, set slow cooker on low for 5 hours.


To round off our soup, I grab a loaf of fancy bread from a bakery to dip into the broth. 

Slurp-worthy soup!

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Nourish ~ Grin A Little...

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 18. To see the rest of the series click here!

Near the end of summer something interesting happened amongst our family: a subgroup was formed and it became known as "The Cool Guys." I'm not much for cliques and was certainly surprised when one developed within my own family. 

I do not remember exactly how it was that the Cool Guys began, though Meg and Kate (not the cool guys) could probably tell me. They are more than slightly miffed about being excluded from the club. 

I had my doubts about the morale of our gang as Cole and Molly walked around calling themselves "The Cool Guys" but each time I prepared to end the whole thing something would happen to show me that there was a benefit or two to be gained from their collaboration. 

"Molly," I would say, "you have to eat those vegetables." 
She would take a long suffering breath. 
"Go ahead," Cole would say in her ear, "it's what The Cool Guys do." 
And those veggies would fly down the hatch, lickety-split! 

“Molly, here’s the best way to add those numbers.”
She didn’t believe me. 
Later…
“Mom, look at this trick for my math that Cole showed me.”
It was the same thing I’d tried to tell her but apparently it was more understandable in “The Cool Guy” language.

Time and again that "It's what the cool guys would do" line delivered by the big brother made my job much easier and so, The Cool Guys live on. 

Since its inception The Cool Guys have existed under an informal charter but just a few days ago Molly decided that things need to be made more official. 


Looking at Cole she asked, "Hey, who's in charge of the Cool Guys?"

Cole answered, "I'm the captain of The Cool Guys Molly."

"Then what am I?"

"Oh you are the second in command. It's a very important job. "

"Wow!" she said, sort of impressed with her newly defined role. 

The Captain was pretty impressed with himself too but for much different reasons. He loves thinking he's pulled a fast one on Molly. 


"So," reasoned Miss Second in Command, "that means if you die, I'll
be in charge of The Cool Guys, right?"

The Captain might have grinned too soon. 


Happy Saturday!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nourish ~ Don't Wait for the Empty Nest

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 17. To see the rest of the series click here!

My man and I stood shoulder to shoulder at the bathroom mirror one morning getting our selves ready for the day. I might have bemoaned an ache or a pain as I tried to shake the morning stiffness from my bones. "We've got to do our best to stay as healthy as we can," he encouraged, "we want to have energy left for adventures when we become empty nesters! "


It was a sweet thought but...

"You realize I suppose, that we are 42 years old and we are the parents of a six year old...our empty nest is such a long way off.


 I'll be happy if by the time we reach that point in our lives if we can at least roll our wheel chairs side by side down a mall."

The reality is that we feel healthy now at 42 so why not sample a bit of what an empty nest might feel like once in a while? Why wait until the children have all flown the coup to turn our focus toward nurturing our marriage. 

This is so much easier to post on a blog than to put into real-life practice.

Since our return from sabbatical in August, my Man and I have struggled to piece an evening out together. Our greatest successes toward dating have been settling down on the couch after the kids have gone to bed and watching an episode or two of a suspenseful tv show. Even 45 minutes on the same couch helps us to make a stronger connection to one another in this season where we spend very few evenings in the same building let alone in the same room.

Another of my favorite mini-dates is when school is winding down for the day and I get a text from my Fella asking if I'd like to ride with him to grab a fountain drink. Our usual destination for these beverages is a whopping 1/2 mile from our home and from his office so our trip there and back takes all of 15 minutes but it's absolutely better than nothing at all and though brief, our little beverage jaunt is effective as a connector in our week.

Tonight [Thursday night], the stars have aligned and it looks like for the first time in a sweet forever I'm headed out to an official mark-it-in-the-records movie date with this Man I've adored for the greater part of two decades. There will be popcorn. There will be large sodas. There will be candy {Runts to be precise}. If the folks at the theater decide to turn on the movie all the better but if they don't I'm pretty sure I'll be equally content just to sit there by my guy in the dark and just be. 



“Friendship is a deep oneness that develops when two people, 
speaking the truth in love to one another, journey together to the same horizon.” 
~Tim Keller

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nourish ~ Nourish by Noticing

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 16. To see the rest of the series click here!

It is one thing to aim to provide nourishment to your family as a whole, it is quite another to see to the individual nourishment of each life in your care. In a family of any size it is possible for kids to get lost in the shuffle. We sometimes lose kids and adults too around here — not physically, I usually know where they are — but we can so easily we lose our focus on each as his or her own being. 

We often speak of “the kids” or “our gang” and we forget that each part of “our crew” is a whole individual with a unique set of joys and struggles and fears and strengths. I’m learning that it is important to learn what the special characteristics of each of our children are exactly. I’m also finding that gathering this information is not a simple task…at all. It turns out that kids don’t walk around with their buttons all exposed, though why the good Lord didn’t make them that way I’d like to know. 

Wouldn’t it be great to turn to a child who has just entered the room and notice that on their control panel a green light was lit which indicates that their belly is full. Or perhaps when another, taller kid moves past you, you would notice that there was an orange warning light flashing which would let you know with a glance that that particular child was in need of physical activity pronto if a total melt down later is to be avoided. How about an indicator for your mate that shines purple when he’s had a good day of work? Or a flashing blue light that glows from the mom when her nerves are getting a bit jangly to let her family know to simmer down a little.

Not a bad plan right?

Except, I suspect family members would talk to one another even less than I imagine we already do. Also, just cramming food down a kid’s gullet when a hungry light flashes is hardly making a nourishing connection with her…it’s a start, but better is to be found. It takes time and energy to get to know your folks. Time and energy that I need to remember to spend because if I don’t take the time to preform a little due diligence on my people, to become an expert on them, I’ll miss out on opportunities to nourish!

Questions for due diligence (or suggestions for becoming an expert on your individual family member for the sole purpose of his or her nourishment):

What is a favorite meal &/or that each person adores?
Is he a morning person or a night owl?
What school subjects (or areas of his/her job) are most challenging to her?
What comes naturally to them?
How can you most effectively “fill their love tank”? *
What makes her feel pretty?


What is it about the person you are studying that you have in common?

What activities do they look forward to? What do they dread?

Is he/she an introvert or an extrovert? (Does time among people energize her or drain her?)**

What does he like to do in his free time?

What are their favorite flavors, colors, smells?


What makes him laugh?


What chores do they hate? What chores are no big deal to them?


What makes him nervous? 

Of what is she confident?

What kind of music has he recently discovered?

Does she have a favorite author or genre of book? 


Where is her favorite place to hang out? Eat out? 


*For an excellent read about “filling love tanks” grab a copy of “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It’s intended for couples but is so easily and helpfully applied to every one with a “love tank” which is every single one of us! It’s a short book and is an extraordinarily easy read. Highly recommended! 

**Much more on the subject of introverts and extroverts can be found in Susan Cain’s excellent book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” and also in her Ted Talks video here.

A gentle word of CAUTION!!!! 

The above questions are for you to answer as you observe each individual and as you intentionally engage them in conversation. These questions are not intended to be a questionnaire with which you interrogate. That just won’t be nourishing at all. It will be frightening to the one you intend to serve! 


This list of questions is also only a beginning to get you started on your journey to being an expert on each person in your family. The more you watch, the more you’ll notice, and the greater the expert you’ll become. 

Helpful hint: While gathering information don't be satisfied with just learning about your folks. WRITE IT DOWN!! I recently asked my gang individually what their favorite foods were...and I can only remember half of what they told me. Use a separate notecard for each person or a separate notebook on Evernote (the best app for this I think), don't trust your brain, it's too full...trust me here!!

After you’ve earned expert status on those closest to you, consider extending the circle a little wider. There are plenty of folks out there who could use a little "nourishing by noticing."


“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

~Timothy Keller in The Meaning of Marriage

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nourish ~ A Less Ambitious Endeavor

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 15. To see the rest of the series click here!

I had grand ambitions earlier this year about serving a warm, filling, fun, special... read: nourishing breakfast to my family every Sunday morning.


My thought was to help make Sunday breakfasts stand out from the usual week day fare. 


I did a fine job for nearly 2 months and then, I just could not keep it up. 


I'd either be too done in by whatever Saturday activity we had done or I'd completely forget to have something ready until late Saturday night and eventually my desire to nourish became a drudgery. 

So, I stopped.

You know what happened? 

They didn't even notice. My Man and I had quite a chuckle over it especially as the last few Sunday mornings had involved a mad dash by him to the donut shop before the kids awoke. (Donuts count as special but hardly as nutritious!) I had been, at times, staying up way too late or getting up very very early to make special happen and the kids didn't even notice. 

Honestly, it was a relief. 

Something in me still needed to put a little more into them on Sunday mornings than a cold bowl of cereal. I think much of my desire had to do with loving the thought of my children in years to come talking about "those special Sunday morning breakfasts that Mom used to make for us." My desire was also practical; we often don't get home from church until nearly 2:00 so whatever is for breakfast needs at the very least to be filling.


On any given Sunday for breakfast, you are now likely to find oatmeal. Oatmeal in a big pot which gets tossed on to the stovetop less than 5 minutes after I've risen from bed. 


{Here's a trick, I make oatmeal in a quantity that requires multiplying fractions. Not fun before coffee. So I write the quantity for our gang big and bold to save time and effort.}

While the oats cook, I set out the fix in's and then wake up the natives.


Fix in's might include: 
dried cranberries
cinnamon 
raisins
blueberries
brown sugar
honey
pecans
walnuts
sliced bananas
chopped apples
peanut butter
and 
milk or cream

As each groggy kid comes to breakfast, they can dip out a bowl of oats and "have it their way". It's warm, it's a bit special, it's easy and fast. Made to order for a time-flying Sunday morning.


Little bowls with polka dots do up the fun a little, but so will a couple of coffee mugs full of nuts and sugar. Set out bowls, spoons, and fill the juice cups for your gang, they'll understand that you were thinking of them first thing in the morning. I don't know about you, but knowing that I was thought about and anticipated certainly makes for a nourishing start to a groggy morning.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Nourish ~ Listen Up!

Welcome to Nourish: 31 Days of Family, Food, and Faith. This is Day 14. To see the rest of the series click here!

“Ten years from now, you’ll be the same person you are today, except for the people you meet, the books you read, the places you go, and the things you memorize.” 

I heard Jay Strack say those words nearly 15 ago when my Man and I took a group of teenagers to an event called Student Leadership University. I had no idea that one day my own teenagers would attend this same event and hear these same words. I hope the words left as much of an impression on the all of the kids that have heard them as they have on me. 

Because it is true

I am indeed, the same person I was all those years ago when I first heard that quote, except for the the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read, the places I’ve gone and the things I’ve memorized. Just as each of those four activities has the potential to change one’s life, each also has the potential to nourish one’s life as well. I’m going to add my own fifth category, to the list, a bit in jest maybe, but also in truth. I am the same person I was 15 years ago except for the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read, the places I’ve gone, the things I’ve memorized, and the podcasts I’ve listened to. 

Yes, podcasts. 

Want to help folding the laundry go faster? Need something to take your mind off of the stack of dishes you are clearing from the sink before bed? Want to learn a little something while you step out for a walk? Grab your smart phone, tablet, or computer and dial up a podcast . 

I cannot tell you all of the things I've accidentally learned while trying to make a task go by more enjoyably. If you have a hobby, a passion, a passing interest in a topic, you can safely bet that there is a podcast out there for you to enjoy and you can also safely bet that it won't cost you even a penny!

Below is a list of podcasts that I listen to regularly. Just click on the title to be taken to iTunes for more information or click the word website to go to that particular podcast's website.

Mostly, I prefer audio podcasts to the video ones, but there’s one video based podcast that will make me stop and look up, it’s the Ted Talks Podcast and you just never know what kind of new, fun, interesting, quirky things you will discover. You’re not gonna agree with everything you see and hear, but you’ll never be without something to ponder. This one won't change your life in its less than 5 minute length, but it will change your every day I'll bet. This one which comes in at less than 20 minutes, will make you grin and might help you understand the quiet people in your life. Click here for website.


This is the podcast to which I've been listening the longest and the most faithfully. Hosted by two insiders in the book industry, Michael Kindness & Ann Kingman, you'll learn what the latest greatest book about to be released is as well as recommendations from past years. My favorite part of each podcast is "Two Books We Can't Wait for You To Read" in which Ann and Michael each choose their favorite book of late and give a quick synopsis of it, being careful not to give anything away that would make you enjoy the story less. My bookshelves are full of recommendations from this podcast, all keepers. Recommended for book lovers. Click here for website.

When your homeschooling sister and your homeschooling mentor both, on the same day, recommend a podcast to you, it pays to listen. This podcast IS NOT JUST FOR HOMESCHOOLERS! It's for people who should be reading to their children or their grandchildren or, frankly, any children they can get to listen to words well crafted. I have thoroughly enjoyed, benefited, and have been challenged by these podcasts which encourage us all to "build our family culture around books." This one simply preaches to my choir...I even forced encouraged my Man to listen to one of the latest episodes with me a few weeks ago. He promised me he'd listen for a few minutes while we drove down the road and then he ended up listening to nearly the entire hour. The host of the podcast, Sarah Mackenzie is every bit as engaging as her all-star list of interviewees. Frequently the person being interviewed will say, "What a great question!" Highly recommended for families with children of any age. Click here for website.

I can't remember whether I discovered the book by the hosts of this podcast or the actual podcast first, both are lots of fun. When I get into a running slump, I need only to tune in to the latest episode to gain needed inspiration. Filled with interesting expert guests, sports medicine gurus, & runners of all sorts, this podcast is a wealth of information for novice and seasoned runners alike. Recommended for runners and walkers. Click here for website.

Need the scoop on the latest issues being addressed by the most current books? Here's your go to podcast. Also included in the weekly line up is a discussion of the latest news in the world of books and a quick look at the week's best-seller list. I listen to this one most Sunday mornings while I iron my Man's shirt for church. Recommended for anyone with an eye toward current events and for readers. Click here for website.

Ah, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, she makes me want to be a better cook. As the host of The Splendid Table "the radio show for people who love to eat," Lynne takes us deep into the world of food in the most engaging fashion. The show is about nearly everything we love about food: the culture, the science, the history, the chefs who cook it and so much more. Each episode is a treasure. Recommended for...people who love to eat! Click here for website.

Once in a while, I'll get on a kick and listen to an entire back list of podcasts while doing a special project. I always remember fondly the Christmas I listened to The History of the World or of Rome or of something while I wrapped gifts late into the night. These days when I get on a history jag, I tune in Stuff You Missed in History Class for some always interesting and almost always entertaining information from days gone by. Recommended for...history buffs, anyone needing something to make laundry go faster, dishes wash quicker, Christmas cards to address... Click here for website.

This podcast is simply fascinating. Covering both subjects you never realized you were interested in AND topics you've always wondered about, Freakonomics wins the "how did they ever come up with that topic award" every time. My sister and I once listened to one of the Freakonomics podcasts as we drove down the road to our other sister's home, while sharing ear buds and holding them in our respective ears for the entire episode. With episodes titled, "What do roller rinks, ultimate frisbees and the world have in common?" and "Should tipping be banned?" and "Would a big bucket of cash really change your life?" aren't you just a little curious? Recommended for: wonderers, life-long learners, people who breathe. Click here for website.

Host Tsh Oxenrider, creator of The Art of Simple blog, author, wife, and mother of three is the host of this podcast where she talks with some of her favorite people from around the internet about simple living, food, good music, writing, books, parenting, productivity, and the challenges of working from home. Recommended for: Stay-at-h0me moms, working moms, homeschooling moms, writers, readers, consumers of blogs and technology. Click here for website.

Yes! The guys from the morning show on ESPN2. I love their show, especially during football season. It helps me stay on top of the goings on in the sports world so that I can speak intelligently with my sports lovin' men and my sports lovin' friends. The show is broadcast first thing each morning but things are hopping in these parts during that time so instead of watching or listening live, I download each morning's "reader's digest" version of the podcast in the afternoon and listen as I run or make dinner. I don't get to listen everyday to these funny fellows, but I'm sure to catch their discussion if I know something big has broken in the sports arena. Recommended for sports fans and those who love them. Click here for website.

Expand your world, use your ears, nourish your brain, make boring tasks interesting! {I actually look forward to ironing these days...podcasts for the win!} 

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