What’s Cooking?

I did something I haven’t done in ages.

It’s been so long, in fact, when I started doing it again I thought I might wither and die from the stress and strain.

My head was spinning, my breathing was labored, and by the end of it all I was pretty worn out.

I created… (drumroll) …a menu.

Hubs had made a Costco run to get our first stash of food for the month, and came home with the biggest pork loin I’ve seen in my life. I’m pretty sure it came from some unknown breed of dachshund pig, for how long it was. There were other groceries as well, but they weren’t near as impressive as the giant slab of meat.

Looking at my countertop covered with fresh bounty, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. How could I be entirely responsible, efficient, and effective, with all this food? We’re battening down the hatches with regards to our budget, so keeping a strict reign on our groceries is imperative.

“I know,” I thought. “I’ll make a menu to get us through the next couple of weeks, working around the food we’ve got on hand.”

Brilliant! … Right?

Probably, yes. But also very time consuming. And requiring my brain to function at full-capacity at the end of the day. Brilliant, but dangerous.

I sat down and started to make a list of everything I knew we had on-hand. My initial mistake was thinking we didn’t have much. When I started making a list of all the meat we had (including a pork loin as big as Little Man), the list kept growing. And growing. And growing.

We have so much meat.

It turns out, though I’ve spoken against it for so long, I was approaching my food with a scarcity mindset. Though we had cupboards, freezers, and a fridge full of food, I always told myself we “didn’t have anything to eat”. I’d think of something I wanted to eat, we’d make another run to the store for that meal’s ingredients, and each month we were spending inordinate amounts of money on inordinate amounts of food, and all the while I was thinking we didn’t have any, didn’t have enough, or needed different foods from what we had.

I was wasting my time, wasting my family’s resources, and blowing beyond our budget.

With a list in hand of what we currently had in stock, I started writing down meals I wanted to eat and knew I could make. Before I knew it, I had 10-days worth of dinners planned out.

Since school started last August, my daily routine has been something like this: Around 3:30, I think to myself, “Oh crap. What are we going to have for dinner tonight?” I walk to the kitchen, open a cupboard, and stare. This staring lasts for several minutes. I then close the cupboard and message my husband something like, “Anything in mind for dinner tonight?” to which he rarely provides a helpful answer. By 4:00 I’m in crunch-mode to get something thrown together so we can all eat a hot meal once he gets home from work.

It’s a stressful routine. Most often, we end up having only a main dish with no sides, because I haven’t thought that far ahead in my panic to put food on the table that night.

Hubs has been suggesting for a while we go back to planning a menu, to which I always scoffed in reply. I always manage to get dinner on the table one way or another. I don’t need anyone telling me what to cook my family! Except, I absolutely need someone telling me what to cook my family.

We used to subscribe to a menu service which provided the week’s menu and the accompanying shopping list. Some meals were hits. Some were total disasters. It did save us money each month, though, only buying what we needed for the planned menus.

I had a fresh Costco haul before me, though, with half the month’s budget spent, so I needed to get creative in a hurry. It was an exhausting process, but when I was done, I felt powerful! Capable! Superhuman!

Yesterday was the first day of putting my menu to use. I had dinner ready by 9:10 a.m. God bless the crock pot. We had beef roast, carrots, potatoes, and mushroom gravy. It was delicious. It wasn’t the least bit stressful. We polished our plates in no time.

For the next several days, dinner will be so much simpler. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

Struck Down But Not Destroyed

Sigh.

Back in September, Little Man and I had to stay home while Little Miss and Hubs attended the wedding of our dear “Cousin Uncle Travis”. (No, it’s not a backwoods relationship – just a funny story with a name that stuck.)

Once we got well, I got sick again. Once I got well, Little Miss got sick. Then I got sick again. Then Little Man got sick. Then Hubs got sick. Then I got sick. Then Little Man got sick again. And on. And on. And on it’s gone.

I’m sitting here today, behind my keyboard, nursing a horribly sore throat, and a bit of a bruised ego.

Physical illness wears on me mentally in ways I can’t aptly express. On top of the physical aches and ailments, I feel helpless, vulnerable, weak, and useless.

Since I’ve been sick more times than both my hands can count within the span of only a few months, you can imagine the emotional toll it has taken on me.

I’ve got lots of things going on and brewing and coming into light for the year ahead. The more momentum these things gets behind them, the more I feel we’re derailed. This morning in the shower, I was reciting – through incredible frustration – “I am His. He is for me. Sickness is not His will.”

I believe it. I proclaim it and share it and receive it and all those other religious phrases. But I believe it.

Y’all, I am being very transparent here. I am worn. down. I feel like a big pile of doo. Because I’m sick, yes, but because I feel like no matter what I do, I can’t shake these ailments. It has worn me out. Completely. Done. Exhausted. Spent.

I am struck down.

But I am not destroyed.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Though I’m so tired of this hamster wheel of illness, I’m not going to be stuck here.

The “rat race” so to speak is no longer part of my routine. Planning for my life outside of the rat-race is a big part of my year ahead (and I’m excited to share all of it with you in the days and weeks ahead) and I can promise you a hamster wheel is not part of my decor!

We’re going to move into more of a tortoise race. Slow-going, but purposeful. Then, when we’re healthy and further along than we were the day before, we’ll kick it into whatever gear we need to for the time and purpose we need to.

So right now, I’m going to focus on getting healthy. Then I’m going to focus on staying healthy. As a family. Then, we can focus on staying healthy and doing everything we want and need to do, one thing at a time.

Our plans are changing next year. My blog is changing next year. Our focus is shifting in the year ahead. And it’s all awesome.

I am being renewed, even the midst of my cyclical illness. What I’ve got going on today is all part of the bigger picture. What’s most important is I look at it all through the lens of eternity.

Take that, sore throat. Take that, weary mind. Take that, embattled spirit.

I do not lose heart. I might lose my voice – for the third time in four months – but I do not lose heart.

Giving It All Away!

There is a home we love that’s only a few hundred thousand dollars out of our price range. We haven’t counted ourselves out, because a girl can dream. It has acreage. It has trees. It has a river. And the cutest wood fire kitchen stove I have ever laid eyes on.

There are a few ways we could get this home…. one is an outright miracle from God. Another is, well, an outright miracle from God.

Short of a couple of miracles, we’re not getting this house.

But I’m not going to stop dreaming and planning and doing whatever I *can* do to get my family into a home, and onto a property, we long for. It probably won’t be this particular one, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up and settle into this apartment for the long-haul.

Really, though, wouldn’t it be something if someone would give it all away?

I can’t give you a house. Or acreage to put one on. But here’s what I can do!

A while ago, in a total lapse of judgement, I planned a small-scale surprise party for my husband’s birthday.

My husband hates surprises. Like… really, really hates them.

In an attempt to clean house without really cleaning so he wouldn’t catch on to what I was doing, I took a stack of books that was on our countertop, and I shoved them into the back of a bottom kitchen cupboard.

Because…more judgement lapse.

These books sat there for almost two months, because I completely forgot what I did with them. In the meantime, I ordered books from Amazon. And I ordered a book I had already purchased.

Whoops.

There are a few lessons to be learned here.

One: Don’t try to show love to your spouse by doing something they absolutely abhor. It doesn’t go well.

Two: Don’t put books in a kitchen cupboard.

Three: Check your order history once in a while before you click that “checkout” button.

This works really well for YOU, though! Everyone who is on my mailing list (hint: if you get an email from Val’s Mind Mumbles every Saturday, you’re on my list. If you don’t get that email, you are not on my list yet!) will receive an entry in three upcoming giveaways!

I’ll be giving away three books between now and Christmas, and the only way to enter is to be a subscriber to my mailing list. (See at the top left of this page [or bottom, if you’re on your mobile] where it has a form to enter your name and email to get my newsletter? Submit that!)

The first drawing will be held Thursday, December 1st, and I’ll announce the winner then.

And no, I’m not giving away any of our Little House series books. I’ll be giving away the following:

  • The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney
  • Undone by Michelle Cushatt
  • Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson

They’re all awesome books, and if you’ve already read the one you’re drawn for, it would make a great gift for someone else.

Make sure you’re entered (all it costs is your email address!) and best of luck!