Thanksgiving thoughts

It’s November. I love November, but for the first time in my married life, I’m not putting out one STITCH of fall decor. Really. I’m being serious. We’d have to go to the storage unit and find the Rubbermaids, haul them over here, unpack them, find a place for the items, pack up the Rubbermaids, and haul them back to storage. All of this for a few items because, honey, we ain’t got no room for no decorations. It’s a little liberating, actually. After Thanksgiving, we’re going to go get our Christmas decor and do what I just mentioned, because we aren’t ready to go without Christmas yet. Baby steps.

As I type this, Mr Darcy and middle son are doing Greco-Roman style wrestling on the floor. That’s how we roll over here. (Pun intended) The two other boys are having a lively discussion downstairs about country music vs techno music, and I’m debating if I should make an espresso or not, while rubbing my aching muscles from a push-up marathon last night. No, not the frozen sherbet treat…

Next week, we are going to head north to Chicago for the holiday. It’s just a couple of hours away and it’s our family tradition. I love it. We stay at a hotel that we love and have a great time. This year, I have several family bonding activities planned. We are going to make vision boards, do a silly scavenger photo hunt around the city, and bond. I’m trying to think of some fun snack foods for the room – any ideas?

Boy, I wish you could be here enjoying this wrestling match 3 inches from me.  Boys…

I invented a new family favorite dinner.  The guys like it so much.  I think I just might need to share it with you! It’s a crockpot dinner, so I like it. Take a roast and put it in the crockpot. (I put mine in frozen, even though there are varying opinions on the safety of doing so – what can I say? I like to live dangerously) I drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top. Then I start sprinkling on the following spices to cover the top of the roast: cumin, garlic salt, salt, cayenne pepper (not as much as other spices),and chili powder (not as much as the other spices). I turn that bad boy on high, put the cover on, and don’t think about it again. This morning, I put it in at about 7:30 and we ate at 5:00. About 1/2 hour we are going to eat, I shred the meat with two forks and take the lid off for 15 minutes. This lets the meat absorb a lot of the liquid.  I get out tortillas, avocado, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. I also made cilantro-lime rice. Wowza, this is good. When I see a cheap roast at the Krogers, I always buy it and put it in the freezer. This is Mr Darcy’s favorite way to eat roast. Let me know if you try it.

The wrestling has ceased, but the downstairs discussion has now moved on to Kanye West and his religious-undertoned lyrics. They don’t like it. Me neither, boys.

Because I’m now so cold that I’m shaking and trying to warm up with the heat on the bottom of my laptop, I think I’ll sign off for now and do my night-time chiropractic exercises. Oldest son just informed me that if my muscles hurt this bad after only doing the measly amount of push-ups that I did last night, it should tell me something. I told him I didn’t want to hear his muscle interpreting skills any longer.  He just laughed and flexed his biceps as he ran downstairs. He’s quite pleased with himself. So, I really feel the need to start my warm-up so I can show him my biceps.  I hope you are warm and no one in your house is wrestling at your feet.

~Janna

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Scissors

Recently, I had a moment. Yes, a moment. I realized that I had been wearing my hair in a ponytail every single day. When had it started? I didn’t even know. I don’t really even like the way I look in a ponytail and my hair is seriously heavy, so what was I doing with all that long hair?

It was Saturday afternoon and I walked upstairs, inspired. I took my shower and promptly took the scissors out of the nightstand drawer and started whacking away at my thick, curly, misbehaving tresses. When it was all said and done, I took about 5 inches off. I applied some product, diffused the newly-cropped hair and checked myself out in the mirror. Not bad.(I actually said that out loud.) I already felt lighter. Not just my head, but my whole self. My mind felt like I had released it from burdens that it just couldn’t carry anymore. All with a few chop- chops of those scissors. Magical. After getting some makeup on and getting ready for church, I floated downstairs to where my beloved was watching basketball on tv.

Ask me now if Mr. Darcy noticed that I had just relieved myself of 5 inches of hair on my head. He did not. He did look at me a little strangely, but that was it. Now, as soon as I got to church, a friend noticed immediately. 🙂

Why do we notice some things and just absorb the other things as “status quo?” What takes us so long to notice subtle changes and maybe even the not-so subtle things that we come face to face with?

Why did a haircut make me feel like things were going to be okay in my life?

I have been having some “health challenges” for many months and have an appointment to see a doctor this week. I have looked up every weird symptom I have and I either have something I picked up in Africa (which would be really crazy because I have not yet been to Africa!) or some other dreaded, horrible thing. The internet can be a scary place. I’ve since stopped trying to diagnose myself on the internet and I am waiting until I see the doctor to figure this out.

In the meantime, I have been working on some core issues. They have become burdens that I was never meant to carry. Burdens that start with “what if?” and things I don’t need to think about. Fear. I have been in combat with fear and I haven’t been equipping myself the right way.

You know, faith is a growing process. You can’t just say that you have faith and that’s it. It’s constantly changing-emerging – hopefully it’s growing so it will permeate more and more of you. Fear destroys. It pulls up all the beautiful faith that you have planted and throws it away and mucks up the beautiful soil you prepared in hopes of a sweet-tasting harvest. You can’t have a sweet-tasting harvest when you are tending and fertilizing fear. I am making a choice to weed out the fear and let faith flourish.

Just like the scissors I wielded on my hair, I am boldly cutting away the fear that weighs me down by applying The Truth. The book of Hebrews says this:  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  (Hebrews 4:12) Everyone knows a two-edged sword is sharper than a pair of scissors, right? Right!

It feels good. The truth is liberating.

I don’t know what I will hear at the appointment but I know it will be okay. In fact, it will be better than okay. It will be an opportunity to praise the Lord, no matter what I find out. He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21) It will be a chance to get down on my hands and knees and work in my faith.

I can apply this scissor/sword combat to everything… EVERYTHING in my life. Not just weird medical symptoms. How about my children? My husband? My friendships (or lack of them in a new town?)  YES!!

He is with me always…even to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 28:20) (Or when my boys go away on a van with a STRANGER driving, or when my Mr. Darcy goes on a trip to the other end of the world, or even when I wish for a friend to sit with over a cup of coffee). He is with me always.

Them’s fightin’ words.

~janna

Yum from the slow cooker

Hello to you all and happy Wednesday!  Since it’s Wednesday and I am doing slow cooker recipes on Wednesday, I tried something new. Friends, it was GOOD. It was so good that I knew…I knew I had to share it with you. It is the best slow cooker pork chops I have ever had. Really.

6 pork chops (I used my boneless center loin chops)
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or something like it.
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed

I put all 6 FROZEN pork chops in the bottom of the crock pot. I sprinkled the Lawry’s on them – but just on one side. I dumped everything else right on top, turned it on low and put the lid on. Mine were on all afternoon. I think (don’t count on this) I turned the crockpot on before lunch by just a little, but I can’t remember. Hey, that was a long time ago in Jannaland! After about an hour, I stirred it just a smidge. After 2 hours, I stirred it again. At 5:00 pm, my superthick chops were done.

They smelled amazing. I served them with corn on the cob and salted edamame. I also had sautéed onions (because I love them) as a side dish. Everyone said “WOW!”  We will make these again. SO easy. I am wondering if the same technique and recipe would work for chicken breasts or if they would get mushy like they usually do. I also wonder how a pork roast would be in the crockpot with the same recipe. I’ll bet it would be tasty.

Did I mention how yummy these were?

Last night, I made a Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit clone with our dinner. I simply added grated fresh parmesan and extra sharp cheddar as well as about 5-6 cloves of minced garlic to my basic biscuit dough recipe. Yes, white flour. They were delicious. You should make some. Well, only if you like delicious goodness in every bite.

That’s it for us over here. Tomorrow, my youngest turns 11. Oh dear. He requested ice cream sandwiches as his birthday treat. I did not try to make those homemade. Why would I? 🙂

Here’s hoping your dinner was delicious tonight as well!

~Janna

Am I Culinary Genius?

This post will be somewhat brief because I am not feeling all that well. Bummer.

Just a few moments ago, I had a moment that will hopefully go down in culinary history. I had leftover shortbread mix from my bar making the other day and I wanted/needed to use it up. I had plans for date bars but decided at the last minute to only make one 8×8 pan of that. I chopped up about 2 cups of pitted dried dates (from Sam’s Club) in my food processor and added it to about 1 cup of water in a saucepan. I cooked it until it bubbled and thickened up. Dates are so sweet that I didn’t need to add any sugar. After it bubbled for a minute, I took it off of the heat and spread it in the pan, over the shortbread layer. I finished it just like the others from two days ago.

Now I was left with one pan of crust. What could I do? Within minutes, it hit me. I put about 3/4 cup of Sunbutter (made with sunflower seeds) into a saucepan. We have two boys who are allergic to peanut butter. I added about the same amount of chocolate chips to the pan and stirred until it was smooth. I poured that over the crust and finished it off like the other. If this turns out, I will be so thrilled. If it doesn’t, I am hoping the boys will eat it anyhow. But if it turns out…oh, how I hope it turns out!

I just pulled it out of the oven. Middle son says it smells good. My smeller isn’t working so I can’t tell you if it does. H and C just taste-tested. They said the Sunbutter is a bit overpowering. (Seriously, that was exactly what H said) so we sprinkled more chocolate chips on top and put it back in the oven to melt them.  Mr Darcy walked in  and tried one and said he likes them!

I think they still need a bit of work, but I am on to something here. What else can I put in between the two layers of shortbread?

~Janna

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Late last night, I snuck downstairs to put my guys’ cards and candy on the kitchen table. I found Star Wars cards online and printed them up. So cute – even one for Mr Darcy.  A few weeks ago, I bought a box of conversation hearts candy and I have had them hiding in my desk area. It’s scary around my desk area so no one enters….unless they want to steal my tape and then they are full of bravery!

Yesterday, I made some bread. I made two loaves of sandwich bread, 5 bread bowls, about 25 tortillas and I made a loaf of this:

for my babies

For lunch, I sliced this up and put it under the broiler with some shredded cheese and one pepperoni slice per piece. I served it with leftover poppy seed chicken and the boys were thrilled. I was thrilled. We were all thrilled.

Tonight, we’ll have chili in those bread bowls along with a heart shaped cake that I am making as I type this. I used this recipe. However, instead of using the the dark or bittersweet chocolate it calls for at the beginning, I am using some Abuelitas Mexican Chocolate. Yum. I think the cinnamon in that chocolate will be so nice after the chili, don’t you? I brought the Abuelitas all the way from Bville. If you click on the hyperlink, you’ll see what I am talking about. I think you should be able to find it at most mainstream grocers, if you are interested.

You know, Valentine’s Day is all about L.O.V.E.  If for some reason, you just aren’t feeling it, you don’t feel loved, or this day just is stinkola for you…I want you to know that you are loved. The One who created you- loves you more than you could imagine.  He can’t stop loving you.

It’s true, you know. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. It’s better than any heart-shaped boxed of chocolates, or roses or sappy love song. But if you need to read His love letter for you today (and really, who doesn’t?), here’s one of my favorites:

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will rejoice over you with loud singing.

In Hebrew, the word rejoice is translated as giyl or gul and it means to spin about wildly. Dancing.

Yes, this is how He feels about you. YOU. He’s so in love with you that he dances around you. Can’t you just imagine it? The closest I can imagine is that it’s like when I dance around my husband when I am so excited to be going on a vacation….like when I danced in the car after bringing Mr Darcy home from the hospital when he had surgery for what the Dr was certain was lymphoma-but wasn’t…when my boys dance and jump and shout around me when I say I’m serving cake for breakfast…when I danced around, crying with joy as I realized I was going to be a Mommy…We dance a lot at our house, for lots of different reasons but His dance? It’s better, stronger, louder and certainly more rhythmic than all of those. He dances around us, loving us, smiling and rejoicing.

You are loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

~janna

Wish you were here….

Happy Wednesday, friends!

How I wish you were my neighbor right now. In 5 minutes, something that smells SO GOOD is going to come out of the oven and we are going to sample it. It will be my first live taste test on adventuresinjannaland. I am anticipating good things. 🙂

I have a recipe I have used for several years for homemade “nutrigrain” bars. It’s delicious. Seriously. You should try it. I made a double batch of the recipe and started out to make raspberry bars as per my menu plan. Problem #1: Darling children ate an ENTIRE jar of delicious raspberry jam. No, I am not kidding. We just opened it on Saturday morning and it’s gone now. What’s a gal to do? I looked in the cabinet and found several jars of my homemade mixed berry jam smiling at me. I remembered that I had half of a jar of that in the fridge. I used the jar in the fridge and half of a new jar for one batch. All the while thinking to myself, “these are going to be delicious…probably better than the raspberry ones would have been because this jam is so fantastic.” Yes, you have now had a glimpse into my mind.

Now I was faced with a new dilemma. What about the other pan? I remembered that I was going to try a new recipe for homemade Fig Newtons this week and quickly decided to transform this recipe into something figgy. Now I was going to get “figgy with it.” This is really how I think, people. 🙂 I had two packages of organic, dried figs in the cupboard. I added a smidgeroo of sugar and some water to make a simple syrup and chopped the figs in the blender. Gorgeous. I tasted it. Yumola. After it started to warm on the stovetop, my kitchen smelled like something those Keebler Elves could be proud of. I spread my fig delight over the shortbread-oat crust in my 13×9 and prayed it would be as good in real life as it was promising to be in my dreams.

The timer just beeped.

Oh. My. Goodness. I just burned my tongue but WOWIE WOW WOW. I am a culinary genius. Not really, but these are delicious. Wowza.  I am so excited!  I have a bag of dried dates and extra “shortbread” mixture. Guess what combination I will try tomorrow? Please tell me you’ll make some, too. You won’t be sorry.

Here’s how you’ll do it:

Fruit and Grain Bars

1 cup butter, softened

1 c brown sugar

1 c whole wheat flour

1 c unbleached all-purpose flour (now you know, I used all ww, but that’s just me)

1.5 cups oats

jam – recipe says 16 ounces. I think I used about 12 for the berry ones.

1 teaspoon almond extract

Step one (if you are at my house) take the oat groats and flake them.

Oat groats in the hopper on top. See how they magically turn into flaked oats in the bowl? So much better than the ones from the store!

If you don’t plan on flaking your oats at your house (and most people aren’t going to do that) it’s okay. These will still be delicious. 🙂

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add almond extract. Press half of this crumb mixture in a greased 9×13 pan. Spread with jam carefully. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top and press lightly. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Wait a few minutes so the burn on your tongue will be minimal and enjoy!

I did a 8x8 pan of the mixed berry.

I made my fig bars in the 13x9

Fig bars in the 13x9

Now listen. Don’t tell the Mom police, but I am TOTALLY going to serve these for breakfast. Yes I am. If I call it a Nutrigrain bar enough times in my head, it becomes acceptable. Never mind that I don’t buy Nutrigrain bars for my family. Never mind that there’s no protein in these. There was no protein in the waffles I made this morning and I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. Oats, fruit, (okay, jam in one case) and whole grains and…and…extract. There you go. Breakfast. Dessert. Snack. Get figgy with it.

~Janna

 

Things to do on a Monday

On Mondays, Mr Darcy has the day off. It’s awesome. Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are workdays for the pastors so Mondays are the leisure days. We were certainly leisurely today. Leisure is such a fun word to say. Leisure. Laysure. Lehsure. However you pronounce it, it’s fun.

We started our day out by trying out the new pancake mix I made up. I made 2 batches and we had about 7 pancakes left over. They were very fluffy. I am sure that if we were not just coming off of not eating bread for 21 days, we could have consumed more. Part of me hopes we stick with consuming less but…

After breakfast, the boys did their schoolwork and Mr Darcy worked on whatever he works on when I don’t bother him. I am sure he was productive. I enjoyed some Pinterest time and looked for my ModPodge, which is probably in the same missing box as my pink slippers, the sterno cans and more I haven’t discovered yet. I am less anxious about the slippers as my Mommy sent me a new pair of brown wool slippers in the mail – along with one of her handmade, awesome quilts. It’s so cool. She’s cool.

Schoolwork completed and lunch eaten, we were off to the zoo. It’s free until the 12th of February so we decided to check it out. It’s lovely and we had a good time, but we walked the entire thing in an hour. And that was spending quality time with an outdoor exhibit of monkeys who were attacking some African pigs. When you have all boys, this is awesome.

you can get an idea of the magnitude of our zoo by the massive (ha) entry building.

Notice there is no snow on the ground. Notice also the blue, blue skies. Then notice that everyone only has on sweatshirts. That’s because it’s in the low 50’s. Ugh. I miss my snow. I am thankful, however, that we had a warmer day to visit the zoo. My middle guy wants to be a zoology major in college (he has stuck with this for many years) so it’s like visiting with the Animal Planet Live…Love him. I would also like you to look back at the picture and notice how tall my oldest has gotten. Mr Darcy is 6 foot 8, may I remind you…seriously, this kid just keeps growing and he just turned 14 this month. Wowza. Have I mentioned how hungry they all are all the time? 🙂

Okay, so it’s lasagne for dinner tonight with green salad and herbed rolls I made at the beginning at the month and had in the freezer. And cake. Chocolate Chip Cake. Yum.

Tomorrow is my big giveaway….seriously. I am so excited!  Tell your friends, your neighbors and your co-workers. Wahoo!!

~janna

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