Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Freezer Meals with Friends

You guys!  This is genius, so I need to blog it for anyone interested.  That and I said I would ;).

I was invited to create freezer meals with a group of ladies I actually didn't really even know.  I of course said yes. :)  They had me at new friends and food.  And saving money.  And time.

The Idea:

Spend part of just one day preparing homemade meals that only need to be cooked, saving days and days of work in the long run.  And probably many days of ordering food because of exhaustion by the end of a busy day.

Also, by preparing these meals in bulk, it also cuts down on lots of $$.  

Plus, who wouldn't want to spend about 4 hours with friends, learning new recipes, chatting and encouraging/getting to know each other better?!

-This is best achieved with about 6 participants.  Too many would make it nearly impossible to fit in one kitchen, and too little means not a lot of work and meals can be made.
-I highly recommend a church group or any group do this, and store in a deep freezer for anyone who could use a meal.  What a way to reach out and minister!)

The Prep:

The "Hostess" and group choose the meal recipes for the month.  They need to be things that can be frozen, like soups, marinades, casseroles and crock pot meals.  I partook in none of this part, as Chet and I love about anything, and I was ready for new recipes any ways. :)

The "Hostess" (or anyone I suppose, but we were just lucky our hostess did) compiles the massive list of ingredients - and shops for them.  She must multiply each recipe by 6 or 12 or however many.  By massive, I mean, this person needs an SUV, good math skills and a babysitter.  This type of shopping cannot be accomplished without all of these things.  Our hostess went to the back of the meat department at SAMs Club and received an unbeatable price for meat in bulk.  I mean, when you are buying 90 lbs. of chicken breasts alone, you want a GOOD DEAL.  The first time I saw the ingredients stacked and scattered throughout her kitchen, it took my breath away.  They took over her kitchen.  It's a LOT of food.

The day or night before the big work, everyone gets one task to make the next day feasible to complete in about 4 hours.  The tasks include things like:
- Brown ground beef
- Cook chicken
- Brown sausage
- Cook and crumble bacon
- Make marinades

[I was able to brown about 15 lbs. of ground beef in about 45 minutes.  I just did small batches over and over.  It's not bad at all.]

The Day of:

Show up ready to WORK and sweat! :)
By the end of the four hours, I was a hot mess.  I had planned to photograph the entire process, but that would've meant less work and more germs touching my phone.  And I completely forgot about it 30 minutes in.  So much for that...

Everyone breaks down tasks.  For instance, my first task was to layer an enchilada casserole bake.  You spread out 6 (or 12 depending on if the meal is doubled) casserole dishes (we used foil and disposable ones, but some groups may opt for a more earth friendly deal) and start an assembly line finishing that recipe up.

Then you start the next.  And the next.

And so forth.

Working as a group and team made things go quickly and was so much fun.

Soups and meats with marinades go into gallon ziploc bags.  Line out the bags and start adding ingredients.

Label everything!  Our hostess printed out cutesy labels (if I would've been in charge I would've used a sharpie.  Thank God for creative souls.), so it looked like a genuine Pinterest project going on.

Use a large foldout table or two to start stacking meals on.  Peeking at the growing stacks energized me throughout the process. ;)

We plan to do these every other month or so.  I loved the idea and felt SOOOO accomplished filling our freezer with recipes such as Chicken Cordon Blue Bake, Lasagne Pie, Enchiladas, White Chicken Chili, Pomegranate Chicken, etc etc etc.  

The recipes chosen are very individualized to your group.  Also, if someone doesn't like an ingredient, it can be omitted from their dishes.  Super easy to please anyone!

Worth it folks!  Just ask Chet.  He's loved his breakfast burritos on the way out the door at 5am.  :)

Nearly 1 1/2!

As we near 18 months this weekend, I had two goals that needed to be accomplished during today's nap time: blog and/or input Nerium receipts for taxes.  That was kind of a no brainer. ;) (Sorry Chet)
I really need to spend a few minutes capturing some of this amazing little 18 month-old personality on here:
  • Grey has never done anything halfheartedly in her life.  She is fully happy or fully not.  Though sometimes that means we breakdown into giant fits when we don't get our way at this age, it also (more often) means we love entirely.  This girl loves with everything she can give.  We are wrapped in BEAR hugs (literally squeezing breath out sometimes) and kisses throughout the day.  
  • Her heart is beautifully sensitive.  She senses emotions in ways that astound me.  She is highly bothered by anyone being unhappy, and if anyone is crying she will cry with them and hug them.  She is her momma's baby ;).  We will just be cryers for life I guess.  Every.single.morning we meltdown when Daddy leaves for work.  It's so incredibly sweet and sad.  I don't even know how to handle it except to love her through it.  
  • Oh how she loves her Daddy. (And the feeling is mutual!) :)
  • Grey goes to speech therapy on Monday and Wednesday mornings.  I am blown away by how awesome her two therapists are.  I mean, Grey loves them.  I know therapy will help her speak to her full potential, and I am very grateful for it.  (Might I add I am grateful we live in Lubbock so that we aren't driving 3 hours every other day for this!!) 
  • Grey is warming up to school slowly and surely.  Let's just be honest and real has been a rough transition for all of us.  She attends school Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 7:30-3:30, and has not really found her groove there yet.  This Tuesday we started to see a little light at the end of the adjustment tunnel though.  Praise God!!!  Whew this momma heart needed that.  I guess we just enjoy each other's company a little too much. :)
  • Sunday night was the first night we decided to go "cold turkey" off all bottles.  I can officially say she is WEANED entirely from all bottles (she was having one nightly bottle since about 12 months).  She has shocked us and not taken it bad at all.  In fact, she fusses for about one minute at night and then falls asleep.  No lie.  Had I known it would be this easy we would've quit two months ago. ;)  It hurt my heart to throw her bottles in the trash on Monday.  I actually cried the whole walk back to our dumpster.  I wasn't ready for by precious baby to grow up like that.  
  • She is so expressive it constantly has us cracking up.  This girl might not be very verbal, but she is never short of character.  There is no mistaking what she wants.  
  • She still loves music and dancing, and has honed her dancing skills quite a bit.  I cannot wait for ballet at 2!!
  • She has been trying to potty train herself for about a month.  We keep stopping her efforts.  Her mind is ready, but her physical body is not yet, which leads to lots of frustration and tears.  She dashes to her little girl potty every time she needs to go, but most often has already wet her diaper or underwear, which makes her so upset.  By so upset we will cry.  I have no idea why she gets so upset!  We have never made it a bad thing to use the bathroom in her diaper or underwear.  It's all her.  So we have basically stopped these efforts at all costs.  We will start again closer to two. ;)
  • Grey loves animals, children and people in general.  Her personal bubble is about 1/2 centimeter.  I love her.
We thank God for the miracle of Grey's life each and every day.  Being a toddler mom is not always easy, but it is always amazing.  I am so honored to get to watch my precious daughter grow up.  I am in denial that she is going to be 18 months.  Really.  This time of her life is always leaving me in complete awe.  She is brilliant (if I must say so myself) and soaks up the world.  We have meaningful conversations now, and she understands what I am saying.  She loves to clean with me and be my shadow.  Some of our very favorites are going to the Science Spectrum, Jump n Jungle, parks all over Lubbock, watering the flowers, playing with the puppies and kitty, going to the zoo in Abilene, etc.  She is my .... gulp .... big girl now.

I love you fully my precious girl.  May I teach you to walk in God's ways.

And your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left.  Isaiah 30:21

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Holden's 3rd Birthday

What a miracle that we were able to spend our son's 3rd birthday (Glory Day) as a family - and not just as a family, but with JOY.

We decided to start a yearly photo tradition with Holden Bear.  (Check out the Molly Bear's ministry!)  Sweet girl was so happy and loved getting to snuggle Holden Bear.

We drove to Snyder to pray and release balloons at Holden's resting place.  It was a precious family experience.  Some dear friends even left Grey some toys there, which was such a kind gesture and one she (and us) appreciated a lot. 

Celebrating Holden's birthdays without our son in my arms will always jolt my heart.  It was a bittersweet day for us, but we rest in the knowledge and promises of Christ our King.  

We sing:

There Will Be a Day
Jeremy Camp

I try to hold on to this world with everything I have
But I feel the weight of what it brings, and the hurt that tries to grab
The many trials that seem to never end, His word declares the truth
That we will enter in this rest with wonders anew

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we'll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we'll hold on to you always

I know the journey seems so long
You feel you're walking on your own
But there has never been a step
Where you've walked out all alone

Troubled soul don't lose your heart
Cause joy and peace He brings
And the beauty that's in store
Outweighs the hurt of life's sting

But I hold on to this hope and the promise that He brings
That there will be a place with no more suffering

There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we'll see Jesus face to face
But until that day, we'll hold on to you always

I can't wait until that day where the very one
I've lived for always will wipe away the sorrow that I've faced
To touch the scars that rescued me from a life of shame and misery
O, this is why, this is why I sing

There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we'll see Jesus face to face

There will be a day with no more tears
No more pain, and no more fears
There will be a day when the burdens of this place
Will be no more, we'll see Jesus face to face

There will be a day he will wipe away the tears
He will wipe away the tears
He will wipe away the tears
There will be a Day

We love you so very, very much Holden.  Three years without you sometimes seems like an eternity, but we know it is all a whisper.  A blink.  
Happy 3rd Birthday Holden Newell Erwin.
Daddy, Mommy and Grey

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.  
Revelation 21:4