The reason I can’t stop checking the crock pot today…

We are going to my in-law’s for Thanksgiving. I know there are going to be lots of amazing side dishes and a huge turkey, but I’m there for the pot roast. Unconventional, I know, but I am here to tell you that my mother-in-law’s pot roast is a revelation and I probably won’t eat a bite of turkey all day. I begged my mother-in-law for her recipe and it turns out that it just involves adding dry french onion soup to the roast.

You know how I am, I can’t just go buy a packet of onion soup, I have to make my own. I mix it up each time I make a roast, so I don’t keep it on hand since I only make one, maybe two roasts a month. My roast isn’t exactly like my mother-in-law’s, but it’s darn close. And the best roast I’ve made since I  learned how to cook meat. So it keeps me held over until I can back up to Amish country and avail myself on the comfort of roast beef and mashed potatoes.

Dry French Onion Soup Mix

Dry French Onion Soup Mix

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. dried onion flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried onion powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. dried mustard
Mix all the ingredients together and pour over a 3-5 pound pot roast. Add 1 cup beef broth to the bottom of a crockpot and add the roast.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours. I mean it when I say low. Don’t rush this, the longer the roast cooks at a low temperature, the more tender it will be. All the better to spoon over a mound of glorious mashed potatoes, right?


Learning to be pieces of the puzzle

Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.

My parents took us to every single service project our church did. I hated it. For years, I’d grudgingly attend and complain enough that I’d have to hear my parents lecture me about fortunate we were and that I’d better suck it up and correct my attitude. I was in late elementary school when it suddenly hit me how fortunate I was. My family had been taking fruit to an elderly couple on the North side of town for years. We were there to visit and as I helped the lady move from her recliner so she could lead us to the kitchen, I realized how poor she was. I realized how ill she was. I realized how selfish I had been for years. After that day, I volunteered at the library, the hospital, church, nature center, reading programs… in short, I got over myself and realized that I’m a little piece in a big world, but I can make someone’s day by being kind.

Now, I’m the parent. I have a 3 year old and an 18 month old. I’m starting now with our involvement in service projects. In 2009, I took part of our Christmas budget and decided that for each child we had, we would make a box to send to a child through Operation Christmas Child. My MOPS group collects boxes every year to send to OCC and I am excited to be turning in 2 boxes this year. The kids and I have gone shopping throughout the year and picked out fun little toys, small stuffed animals, hard candy, toothbrushes and underwear. We filled boxes and this week during our art times, we’ll decorate cards to send with the boxes.

We’ve talked about how there are children out there who don’t get to open presents for their birthdays or Christmas. They don’t have big fluffy pillows and even one pair of shoes. Little by little, I see the dawning in my 3 year old’s eyes that there are more people out there besides him. I see him thinking as we talk and I’m looking forward to the day when it’s his idea to do something for another person. I look forward to teaching my children through this simple project to think beyond themselves and learn to be part of something. The world we live in is a giant puzzle of people and space and events… we’re each a part, just which part and whose lives we touch is determined by what we chose to be involved in.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.


The Importance of Rest

This post topic has been in my binder for a while, but ironically, this little thing called life keeps getting in my way and preventing me from posting. It’s my life and I do get to choose how I live it, so I’ve been working to scale back and take more and more things off my calendar. I dropped out of activities that I thought we needed to do so I could give Liam a full preschool experience and we’ve been happier ever since. There are few things I love more than waking up knowing that all I have on my plate for the day is feeding and caring for the kids, household tasks and lots of quality time building train tracks. Sometimes, though, I get lost in the busyness of “shoulds” and forget to slow down.

This month, I’ve not had much choice but to slow down because of my health. It’s been crummy. I haven’t even cooked a solid meal in over a week. Lots of peanut butter and jelly going on in this house. But what has happened? I’ve made a point to insist on a rest time every day. Rest for our bodies and rest for our minds.

I’m not very good about taking time to rest. As I type this, I should be lying down… in bed, resting. However, since the steroid I’m on to open up my lungs keeps me up all hours of the night, I figured I’d be productive since I’m just going to lie in that bed and think over my to-do list all night. Ahem. Resting my mind is often far more challenging than resting my body. But isn’t that always the way?

The point of this post is simply to remind myself and you, dear reader, that as the holidays approach, to not under value the quiet and peace that you may have the opportunity to find. As we allow our minds to settle and our bodies to rest, we are allowing ourselves the blessing of quiet. The quiet that I find in my own home brings children who are happy and have less meltdowns. A mother who is calm and accepts the swells of the waves of life gracefully. A father who gets to come home to a busy home filled with people are not at each other’s throats from sheer frustration.

Rest comes when you take the time to appreciate our surroundings and settle in. What can you do today to find a place to do just that? To sit back and observe life as it passes by and not feel panic that you’re wasting time. To breathe and enjoy. To just live.

Apple Cider for supper

I love apple cider. I also really love what it does to a sauce… the longer it simmers, it becomes thick and bubbly and caramel-y. Once that sauce is poured over the meat with the onions and apples, it just oozes into every crevice of the meatballs. I served this with my Autumnal Orzo and the flavors were perfect together. If you’re looking for something different to serve this weekend while the weather is glum and blustery, this may be your answer!

Apple Horseradish Meatballs

  • 1 small apple (diced)… the firmer the apple, the better
  • 1 small onion (diced)
  • 1 1/2 pounds meatballs (turkey or beef)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fresh horseradish
  • 1 cup fresh apple cider
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
Melt the butter in a saute pan and add the onions and apples. Saute until the onion is soft and then add the horseradish and soy sauce. Simmer for 1 minute… the soy sauce should  bubble energetically. Slowly whisk in the cider and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the sauce by half. Add in the meatballs and stir to coat them with the sauce. Serve with orzo.