Hands Free Dinner (1/3)

I love maximizing efficiency. I also love cooking and budgeting so finding a cheap way to create frozen crock pot meals by buying bulk items and making 10+ meals in an afternoon? ALL OVER IT.

Luke and I started on My Great Hands-Free Culinary Adventure by hitting up our favorite weekly hot spots: Costco and Walmart. We’ve been trading convenience for cost savings and quality food since we got married over 7 months ago. Costco’s got the staples of our existence: flour, brown rice, beans (uncooked), sugar, yogurt, and eggs. Walmart fills in the gaps, since buying milk and tomatoes in bulk isn’t as practical. With lots of pre-planning, re-packaging, and re-purposing, we’ve gotten our meals down to about $1.50 per meal per person.

 

All that back story to say, our grocery bill for My Great Hands-Free Culinary Adventure was only $50 higher than usual, less than I was expecting since we bought the ingredients to make enough meals for 5 weeks using 2 frozen crock-pot meals a week (no way I’m giving up Spaghetti Wednesdays!)

3478I used this fabulous frozen crockpot meal recipe/instructions/grocery list as a guide and supplemented with ingredients I already had in the pantry. Plus took out all the green beans and spinach. Perks of being in charge of the food!

The whole process took me about 3 hours start-to-finish. Post-shopping trip, Luke was struck with food poisoning (thanks Olive Garden) and was out of commission for the day. If we had been working on it together, we probably could have whipped up the 10 meals in 90 minutes. Several tears were shed but the 5 quarts of diced onions were worth it. Overall, it’s a 3 minute and $1.50 a serving investment. No huge cost savings, but I’m so excited to come home from work to dinner ready to go!

If you’re curious how we make the rest of the weeks’ meals work for $1.50/healthy serving, comment below! Economics + cooking + planning + efficiency = my kind of heaven. I’d love to share our tips if anyone’s interested.

Game Point

Confessions of a Newlywed: I kept score.2541312.jpg

You’re not supposed to. According to the marriage books and the Bible, love keeps no accounts of who did the dishes last and who most ordinarily plans the meals and who has the longer commute. Yet I continually struggled through the first few months of marriage to not mentally keeping track of these things and feel personally offended when chores weren’t done EVEN THOUGH I WAS CLEARLY AHEAD IN THE IMAGINARY GAME AND HAD MORE POINTS.

And then I got sick. Evidently, camping in 20 degree weather after you’ve been nursing an ear ache and low fever for a month is not a recipe for health. I lay helpless on the couch, coughing, hot and cold, feverish and peevish. And Luke, being more wise and better at listening to marriage books, the Bible, and marriage vows, took care of me and the house, made the food and deep cleaned the kitchen.

All of a sudden, I didn’t want to keep score anymore. I realized I not only wasn’t in the lead but I was losing points rapidly. Keeping score is only fun when you think you’re ahead.

As merciful and kind as Luke was in my hour of need, God is immeasurably more so in our lifetime of inadequacy. Yet I ask Him why He hasn’t delivered on certain things I believe I deserve. I am confused when I don’t see things in my life unfolding the way I imagined, the way I planned for, the way I worked to achieve. Why do I feel this way? I’m keeping score because I think I’m ahead and God owes me something.

The only thing I’ve earned from God is a cup of wrath and suffering. Yet He dumped out that cup on my behalf to save me from myself and my sin. That would be enough. But God continues to amaze me as He takes that cup, now empty of wrath, and fills it with blessings beyond belief. A husband who doesn’t keep score, an apartment, family, good food, friends, a fairy garden, Costco ice cream, warm bread, sunny walks.

So I’ve put away my scorecard for good. In that game, winning is losing.

Hi there.

The very first word that I spoke as a 9-month-old wasn’t so much a word as it was a phrase:

“Hi there.”

Evidently, I skipped over the basics of “Mom” “Dad” “Sis” and “ball” and went straight to informal greetings.  And I’ve been  introducing myself every since.

I met my wonderful and  recently wedded friend by randomly introducing myself at a Swing Club because she vaguely looked like a girl from  high school that I didn’t even know that well but the “soul rejoices in the familiar.”

I met my recently wedded husband by introducing myself in line for a freshman informational meeting because, hey, he was cute, in my Old Testament class, and clearly interested in leadership.  Can you say spiritual leader spouse material?

Don’t worry, I just thought he was cute at the time.

A few weekends ago, I headed back east to see that dear friend get married.  Waves of nostalgia 8202592and longing rushed over me as I gazed over neat fields of Lancaster corn and farms.  Was it really last summer that I lived and loved here? Why did we move to California?

I was caught between two Lands of Lonely.  In Pennsylvania, I was with friends and families and humidity and all things home reminiscent.  Yet I was separated from my forever love.  At the same time, I dreaded returning to So Cal with all work and very little play and no friends.  I started regretting all our decisions–except the marriage one.

But as I re-crossed the country for the 3rd time in two months, I realized that I’ve been looking for the wrong things.  I’m searching for my childhood and college friends amidst strangers.

I’m going to stop searching for my past in the present.

Loving Better

Since May 15th at 7:00 pm, when I triumphantly handed in my last final of my Junior year, I’ve slept in 8 different beds with 2 more to go before I return to my bright raspberry creamsicle room.

I never expected to stay in (multiple) strangers homes, co-author and self-publish a childrens’ book, go to Boston, or take up kickboxing during this past 3 months span.

Through a series of  conversations, packing up and moving out, getting caught in the rain (always), making friends at the Y, learning how to write (again), learning about what makes a family, Skyping Siberia, and waiting tables at barn weddings, I finally picked up on God’s creative ways of teaching me to love better by:

Loving Myself Less
I’ve always had a surplus of confidence, allowing me to walk into almost any situation with the assumption that I will not only learn quickly the necessary skills to thrive, but that I would come up with a better way of doing things.  Being an intern for HOPE International, an excellently run organization with competent leadership and a vision way beyond my overly confident self, was incredibly humbling and refreshing.  I was valued for my skills but expected to stretch myself and learn from those around me.  Not hard to do, when surrounded by some of the most intelligent and faithful servants of God I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside.
Loving Change More
Even though I’m leaving the summer with more to-do lists than I came in with, I’ve learned that plans not only can change on a dime–they will.  It’s part of life and being able to embrace the unpredictability of not having the world under my control (who knew?) has released me from the impossible burden of always arranging everything just so.
[This book helped immensely.]
Loving Others Better
 
It’s only because I am a mere 4 days from seeing my fiance again that I can say that this summer has been a wonderfully growing experience in learning how to one day (soon!) be a godly wife and in the meantime, love and serve to the best of my ability.  Of course, a month ago, I would have just whined about time zones and distance.  Thank you to all who have showed me examples of Christ-centered marriages and shared their candid advice.   More on this to come.
Loving Life Fully
 
Its a crazy adventure, but it’s worth living.

Three Sixty-Four

In three hundred and sixty four days, I will be marrying my fiance.  It is hard to believe right now, when we are literally a world apart and the future is as unclear as it always has been.

And 364 days is a lot of days.  Yet I am excited by the possibility engendered in each one of them.  On one of those days, we will decide where we are living.  Another one will mark the decision of whether my business should be continued.  There will be job interviews and decisions.  Apartment and housing contracts to be signed.  A million and one wedding details to cement.

I’m told they will go fast and I hope they do.  Yet I plan to savor them too.  Ready or not, here I come!

Top 30: Things Girls Wish They Could Say to Guys

So I was thinking the other day about all the things I’d tell guys if I could and started talking about it with my friends.  Turns out they had a few opinions on this matter as well.  This list is a compilation of girl’s unspoken wishes from across the hall, across campus, and across the country.  Girls, see if these ring true for you.  Guys, read carefully.

1) Please don’t buy us gifts.  It’s sweet but it just makes everything awkward.  Spending time with us and listening to us > anything you could ever buy us. (caveat: this depends on love languages aka not a universal rule for all girls)

2) Your attractiveness level increases exponentially with personality.  Not necessarily outgoingness, because we can see through that.  Just having a solid character works.

3) Don’t play games.

5) We aren’t looking for the cookie-cutter romantic night out.  A walk and a cup of coffee will do just fine.

6) Don’t tell me I’m perfect or the most beautiful girl on campus.  I know I’m not, and you’re not, and that’s okay.

7) Along the same lines, don’t change for us.  Holding yourself to higher standards is fine, but if we like you, it’s because we like you just the way you are.

8) Mostly, we just want you to make us feel safe.

9) We like to feel confident and self-sufficient, but deep down, we just want someone to take us by the hand and lead the way.  Even the leaders don’t want to lead all the time.

10) Flirting is overrated.  We don’t like having to do it and there are better ways to show you are interested.

11) Never treat us any differently in front of your guy friends.  If we are good enough for you, we are good enough for them.

12) Don’t tell us that we complete you.  We should be compatible and need/want each other but ultimately, God completes us.  If you need a girl to complete you, you probably shouldn’t have one.

13) When we cry, you can’t do, smash, or fix anything. We just want to be held.

14) What we love most are the moments when you are truly yourself. Those are tender and romantic. Don’t engineer things to try to be what you think we want.

15) Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Don’t tell us what you think we want  to hear. Trust us, the truth has a way of coming out in the end.

16) Females are typically the ones that are stereotyped as being the insecure ones, so we have a hard time understanding that you are afraid of rejection too. That being said, we still want you to be willing to put yourself out there, and…

17) Initiate. Say something. Tell us you have feelings for us. BE A MAN (cue Mulan music). Because the girl that’s worth waiting for is one who is going to wait for the guy to lead the way. A pushy girl may make things easy for you, but as fast as you get into that relationship is as fast as you’re getting out.

18) A sincere compliment is the key to a girl’s heart.

19) We want to be able to build you up, but don’t belittle yourself in order to force the encouragement. We’ll give it without asking, we promise.

20) As much as you can, try and notice the little things. We feel special when you tell us that you remember something about us.

21) Your attractiveness increases TEN-FOLD if you show us that you are good with children.

22) Poetry/notes/letters are not over-rated.

23) We like guys with a good sense of humor, but you don’t always have to try to be funny.

24) Don’t be a different person around your guy friends than you are one-on-one with us. It’s annoying when you are a different person depending on who you are hanging out with.

25) We will judge you based on the quality of your friends. Choose wisely.

26) We LOVE figuring out what you are passionate about. Don’t be afraid to tell us.

27) It’s great having someone to go out on a date with, to hold, to kiss, and do all of the things that people in a relationship normally do. But above all, if we have feelings for you, we really want to be your best friend. Because YOU are OURS.

28) As mentioned previously, being a leader is important. But being the SPIRITUAL leader is essential.

29) Can you dance? No? LEARN. (Singing is a great alternative.)

30) We love hugs. The end.

There it is!  If you’re a guy, what would you like to tell us?  Comment if you so desire.