Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday Grace Notes – Small Things that Bring a Splash of Joy + A Give Away

They don’t say, “it’s the little things” for nothing. Sometimes a cliché is just a cliché, but sometimes a cliché rings loud with a little bit of truth.

When the daily grind presses too hard; when the road less travelled becomes dark and foreboding; when life throws you a case of the mean reds and nothing feels right, it’s sometimes those little things that lift your spirit and remind you that joy lurks in unexpected places.

This is likely the explanation why I own such an extensive collection of little things – pens, notebooks (you’ve all heard about those, right?), scarves, books, more lotion than I have body to cover, long necklaces galore, and more pens.

Sometimes when I’m in a place of discontent, having a play date with the pretty things can bring a smile to my face. I realize it probably sounds a bit shallow to say that smiles come from things. I should probably mention my favorite Bible verse or the women I turn to when I ask for prayer. I should mention my favorite devotional or a piece of uplifting music.

I should. Sometimes these are my 1000 Gifts.

Psalm 27:13-14, Tracy-Amy-Heidi-Karrilee-Tonya-Kim-Jen-Jenn-Kaitlyn-Sarah Jo (and so many more), Our Daily Bread, Bach’s Suite for the Cello No. 1 in G Major (preferably by Yo-Yo Ma).

But I’m not going to lie. There are days when wrapping a filmy, colorful scarf around my neck perks my mood right up. And getting a whiff of a favorite scent can transport me and bring up memories (that again, make me smile). And books. Goodness. There aren’t enough – there can never be enough – and the written word will always transport me. Sometimes, these are my 1000 Gifts.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of these favorite small things with you this week. They won’t fix the ills of the world. They won’t change your circumstances. But I hope they will make you smile and bring you a splash of joy.

One winner will receive a lovely navy scarf with polka-dots (it’s a wonderfully long size that you can drape and wrap to your heart’s content), a copy of 365 Pocket Prayers for Mothers (in lovely shade of lavender with a bird on the cover – you know I had to get this one!), and finally, a travel size bottle of Maui Mango Surf lotion from Bath and Body Works (one of my favorites in their new line).

Contest will be open until midnight (PST) on Friday, April 3.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday Grace Notes are an opportunity for me to share a small bit of harmony amidst the other things I write about. Truly, they are meant to be shorter than my usual pieces (laugh with me here), and just a little something to add a touch of beauty to my life and yours. One week it might be a wonderful book I’ve read and can’t put down. Maybe it will be one of the movies I love (or its soundtrack). You might find a favourite recipe here. Or the new soap I’ve just discovered. You’ll find that many of them are inspired by my mother and the things she taught me about living a gentle, elegant life. I hope you’ll join me as more things are shared.

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ideas for Organizing – Managing Meal Planning (and a recipe!)

We are slowly but surely working on being better time managers and corralers of clutter; breaking down large jobs into manageable tasks, and focusing on the things we can do something about.  For example, last weekend, instead of being completely overwhelmed by the state of our home, we focused on the kitchen: pulled everything off the counters and cleaned them; cleared out a whole cupboard; to make room for a new three tiered spice rack; and reorganized items so that things we actually use on a daily basis are within arm’s reach. Hello tea station!

Another thing that I’ve been working on in an effort to be organized (and to not face the daunting question – “so what’s for dinner?”) is meal planning and targeted shopping. I won’t be the first person to write about this, but here’s what’s been working for me.

Meal Planning and Grocery Lists
New for me in 2015 is a binder of all the organizational tools that I like and am actually using. This includes everything from a daily planner to chore charts to budget worksheets to grocery lists. I’ve look at many cute printables and forms on blogs, Pinterest, and sharing recommendations with friends. But this one, from Crystal Paine at Money Saving Mom has been my favorite. She has several options on her menu page, but since I manage best one week at a time, this is the one that works for me. My husband and I can sit down, talk meals, and plan out shopping based on the actual contents of the ‘fridge and pantry.

Master Shopping Lists
Another organizational tool that’s been a huge asset is the master shopping list. This idea comes from Tsh Oxendreider’s book, Organized Simplicity, and is a personalized list of your most commonly purchased items from your favorite stores.  I’ve dropped the items by category into a simple Excel sheet and keep them on the refrigerator. As we run out of items, we can mark it off on the list and when we’re ready to shop, we have an accurate, active list ready to go to the store.

Multiple Meal Prep
The latest thing I’ve been experimenting with in the pursuit of an organized life is making multiple meals ahead of time for the week. It’s nice to have a later start to the day and be able to get our daughter to school at 9am, but getting off at 6pm is no picnic. One errand to run and you’re not home until 7pm and not eating until 8pm. This is not what you want on a school night.

I’ve been spending a few hours on the weekend cooking up a storm and prepping meals for the week ahead. A caveat here – I love cooking and it relaxes me to no end. I throw a little jazz on the stereo and break out the cutting boards and knives. This is another time that the meal planning sheets come in handy. I store them in my new binder and have a clear record of what we eat on a weekly basis. It’s so nice to flip back over the weeks and make sure that we’re not eating the same thing every week.

One of our favorite meals is my sister’s Garlic Chicken Spaghetti. It cooks up quickly and still manages to taste as if it were simmering all day long. We’re big garlic lovers in our family, so if the amount of that spicy bulb seems like too much – feel free to dial it back a bit!

Garlic Chicken Spaghetti
  • 2 – 2.5 lbs. chicken thighs (personal choice here – we prefer chicken thighs and have been buying the boneless skinless variety. A little more, but it saves so much time in prep and I’ve found we actually get more chicken)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup sun dried tomatoes (I buy a jar from Costco and just scoop out what I need)
  • 1 large can mushrooms (stems and pieces)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic (or several scoops from the jar if you use that)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 large bunch Italian flat leaf parsley – chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • Parmesan cheese for grating
  • Olive oil, salt & pepper
Fun optional ingredients
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 – 2 cups artichoke hearts
  • White wine to your liking – about a cup
  1. Cut chicken in to small pieces – about a 2 inch dice
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in a large Dutch Oven or stock pot over medium high heat – about 5 to 7 minutes
  3. Push chicken to the edges of the pan and brown the garlic in the center space
  4. Begin adding other ingredients: basil, diced tomatoes, sun  dried tomatoes, mushrooms (other options ingredients as you like) – warm and brown – about 5 – 7 minutes
  5. Add chicken broth (and white wine if using – if no wine, use 1 1/2 cups broth) and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10 minutes
  6. Prepare spaghetti noodles in salted water; cook just under al dente; then drain – reserving about a cup of the liquid
  7. Add a little of the spaghetti water to the chicken mixture and allow to blend down and reduce – there should be quite of bit of liquid at this point – plenty for the spaghetti to absorb 
  8. Stir in the chopped parsley
  9. Add the cooked spaghetti noodles to the chicken mixture and simmer on low for about 10 minutes to allow most of the sauce to be absorbed by the pasta
  10. Use a grater or micro-grater to shave fresh parmesan over the top and enjoy
What are some of your best organization tips or favorite recipes? I'd love to hear and share!

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Prayer Matters - an invitation to 192 Hours of Prayer for Kaitlyn

As I get older, I appreciate the power or prayer more and more. Not just as a conversational vehicle to communicate with God, but as a way to interact with him; place requests at his feet; and watch miracles unfurl because of those conversations and petitions.

Asking the Lord for help – seeking his face – is a blessing, not only for ourselves, but in some ways, even more so when we’re praying for someone else.

I have a small, intimate group of friends that I shared the recent IF: Gathering with. We connected over Voxer and watched the event together; shared responses; laughed and cried together; and committed to encourage and pray for each other beyond the event. I connect with these women on a weekly basis and am so grateful for the friendships that are growing and deepening, and how we hold each other up in prayer and with our messages through all the things that life hands us.

One of these women is my friend Kaitlyn. She’s a senior at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama; organizer of the #fmfpartysnailmail project, and is leaving this Thursday for a mission trip to Haiti. She made this trip for the first time last year (you can read about it here), and before she left, I felt the Lord lay on my heart the need for Kaitlyn and her team to be covered in prayer during the time they were gone. This turned into a venture I called 192 Hours of Prayer (complete with hashtag) and it made such a tremendous difference – ones we may not even know about – while Kaitlyn was away.

This year, I feel that same call again, and invite friends, family, the Five Minute Friday community, participants of the #fmfsnailmailparty, and others, to join with me in praying for Kaitlyn and her team as they travel to Haiti and actively become the hands and feet of Christ to the villages and people they'll encounter.

You can sign up for a single hour during the 192 hours, or choose the same hour across the days she’s gone. Or you can even not sign up, but still join with us in praying for this sweet girl. Whatever you feel called to do – I invite you to visit the spreadsheet below to sign up for times, or mark your calendar with her travel dates (March 12 through March 20).


I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!