Excerpts of Erynn

a blog about… nothing in particular and everything at once

Review: 15 Healthy & Gluten Free Meals in under 2 Hours January 14, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 9:03 pm

Today’s mission was this:

freezercookinground2-1-752x1024

To be quite clear, this post is NOT going to explain how to make 15 meals in under 2 hours. For that, you’ll have to go to the original source (which– spoiler alert– I highly recommend you do). This post is to get down what we thought, to explain how we did it, and what I’d do differently if/ when we do it again.

Cost: about $140

  • The plan is FREE
  • We already had some of the staples and all the THM-specific ingredients (they could’ve been substituted for non-THM ingredients anyway)
  • We shopped at Aldi and HEB
  • We bought all the foil pan things, but I don’t think I would next time (more on that below)
  • We have a bunch of freezer bags leftover and some other ingredients too.
  • We’ll need to purchase things like low carb tortillas, fajita toppings and some veggies for side dishes later, but c’mon… $140 for 15 meals that will feed my crowd of 8??? That’s awesome.

Time: waaaay more than 2 hours

  • We really weren’t in a hurry and didn’t even try to get it done in under 2 hours. I bet if we had been, my husband and I coulda knocked it out in about 45 minutes, not counting cooking time.
  • Meh… who am I kidding? We have six kids (five of them under 10) running around. No way we could get it done that quickly. ;)

The plan: 4.5 of 5 stars

  • It’s FREE. Honestly, I’m amazed Jen at WorkingatHomeschool is offering it for FREE (did I mention it’s FREE?). There *is* a lot of advertising on the site. Just slightly above average for a blog, I’d say. She has several other free plans, too, including Trim Healthy Mama (THM) friendly breakfast burritos, which is what I think I might try next.
  • Downloadable, PDF format, 9 page packet. In the packet, there are lots of helpful things. The things I found most helpful were the shopping list,  prep directions, instructions for prep stations, and the step-by-step directions. There are two inventory sheets in there too, but I have a different system (which I’ll share further down in this post).
  • I do kinda wish there were suggestions for sides because I stink at coming up with those.

The recipes

  • This is meant to be for Trim Healthy Mama followers, so if you don’t have the cookbook, you’re pretty well sunk.
  • We haven’t had any (except one) of these recipes before, so I can’t vouch for them, but they look great. I don’t think we’ve had any THM recipes we didn’t like. Well… except for the smoothie that had okra in it. Not too shocking that we didn’t like that one.
  • Some are stupid-easy. Which… to be honest, makes me feel a little silly to be freezer prepping them, but it’s like my sweet hubby pointed out: that’s just less work, so isn’t that a good thing?
  • I love that several of the chosen recipes are Fuel Pull. That means I can make it whatever I need it to be (S or E or even keep it FP) with the side dishes.

What we did differently this time & what we’d do differently next time:

  • Next time, I would only buy 2 square foil pans. You’ll see why below.
  • BLT Frittata (S):
    • *someone* forgot to put the bacon in. I didn’t cry… but kinda wanted to. ;)
    • We had too much mix for the two foil pie pans, and ended up putting it into three.
    • The third one was a bit smaller, so we think we might send it to the office with Jeremy or maybe give it to someone else. Either way, it’d be nice to be able to pull out individual pieces, so I cut it and put parchment separators between the pieces
    • Next time, I’d make it in two square foil pans… and remember to add the bacon. Actually, next time I’d probably just skip this recipe. My gang aren’t frittata people.
  • Wacha Want Mexican Chicken (FP): We just dumped the salsa in the bag of chicken without dividing it into gallon size bags.
  • Mama’s Famous Meatloaf (S):
    • We used half ground turkey, half 85% lean ground beef.
    • We cooked the meatloaf rather than freezing it raw. There’s a note that she froze it raw with the sauce on top and it was “juicy.” Seemed better to cook it before freezing it. We’ve frozen other meatloaves raw in the past, though.
    • The meatloaf shrank a lot, so we dumped off the fat, wrapped it in foil and put it in a gallon-size bag with a baggie  of the sauce in with it. More freezer space!
    • Next time I’d just make it in my regular 9×13 pan.
  • Papster Thighs (S): This is really just chicken thighs with seasoning on it, so instead of using foil pans, we just put the seasoning in a baggie and stapled it to the bag of chicken with instructions written on the baggie.
  • Slow Fajitas (FP): Next time I’d make it with venison.
  • Balsamic Chicken (FP):
    • I kinda jammed everything for one recipe into one gallon-sized bag. Next time, I’d dump the ingredients straight into the frozen bag of chicken.
    • Instead of chicken broth, I added water and chicken bouillon powder (probably not *technically* on plan… don’t tell the THM police).

As promised, my freezer inventory system explained… It’s really not complicated. I have a paper inside a sheet protector posted inside one of my cupboards that says “In the Deep Freeze.” I wrote the name of each item on a little post-it– color coded, one item per post-it– and stuck it to the sheet protector. For example, today I made three batches of Balsamic Chicken, so I put three “Balsamic Chicken” post-its on the inventory page. When I use something, I take off the post-it and toss it.

 

Christmas Season Begins! December 3, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 2:24 am

Around here, we have a few favorite traditions, and here are some pictures about them!
  Wall of Thankfulness— throughout the Christmas season, the kids get to draw about things they’re thankful for on a giant piece of paper tacked to the wall. It’s a great way to focus on blessings… and an easy thing to send them to do when they’re making me crazy… err… I mean when they need an activity.

  
Charlie the Christmas Chimp— He’s a (distant) cousin to the Elf on the Shelf, and quite closely related to the Christmas Mouse. Charlie announces fun activities, hands out good deed assignments, praises the kids for good behavior, brings treats… whatever we want him to do. Last year he married Charlene and the boys got to plan their wedding reception (the crazy chimps eloped). Today was Charlie’s debut for this Christmas season and the first assignment was as it has been the last few years: make him a house. This year, Charlie specifically requested the house be decorated (he’s married now, you know. No bachelor pads here!) and the boys came thru. They made plenty of art, complete with Spirograph frames. There’s a Christmas tree, a pet in its own cozy tube, and even bracelets and a necklace on a “stand” for Charlene. They didn’t forget to decorate the chimps’ ceiling either, where they’ve taped a portrait of the happy couple. 

  
Annual Ornament— each year, each kid picks a new ornament. We try to encourage them to pick an ornament that means something, but often it’s simply one they like. It gets labeled with the kids name or initials (depending on space) and the year. Each year, they get to hang their own ornaments on the tree. The rest of the tree gets filled with candy canes– a tradition we carried over from my family. When we’re done decorating the tree, we have cups of eggnog by the tree and this year we added a toast with “clinking” of glasses. 

  
  

Snowball fight— okay… we live in Texas. So obviously, this isn’t a literal snow ball fight. But “snowball fight” sounds much better than “balled up grocery bag fight,” even though the second is more accurate. This happens on Christmas Day and I’m looking forward to it. We run around and throw the “snowballs” at anyone and everyone and it’s just a ton of fun. This is actually a tradition we took up after an ill-advised attempt to establish a traditional silly string fight (silly string stains white walls. Who knew?).

These are some of my favorite traditions. There are more (so many more!) because… I don’t know. Traditions are very important to me. I like the way “we always… (did this or that)” bonds a family and makes the holiday special. Schedules and routines give me hives, but their cousin tradition is a welcome glue and memory maker.

I’d love to hear about your favorite Christmas traditions!

 

Bad Day (Or… I Got a Tattoo, pt 2) September 8, 2015

Filed under: Depression,Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 11:08 pm

I Got a Tattoo, pt 1

I knew this day would come. I knew that one day IB would be stronger than I could handle with three little words. When I was relying on a bracelet, these are the days when IB declared victory by practically ripping the leather from my wrist. If it had been anything weaker than leather, IB would have shredded it, sending the message that there would never be a day when he was not reigning.

And today was one of those days.

Love was not prevailing. I could find no love for myself, only fallings and flaws. Could find no patience for my husband, only failings and flaws. There is a victory here, though, because even with IB so very loud today, I did not yell. I did not have a single outburst. I found love to give to my children. I saw them smile, cherished their laughter, participated in their sillies and even made time to read to my little redheaded ray of sunshine.

But inside me, inside my head, it was dark today. Even now there is so little hope. And really, that’s why I’m writing. There is a little hope. And I want to capture it, want to fan it.

I knew this day would come and so I took measures to prepare against it.

Tonight I stood beside my bed, mid-diaper change, and wept. Sobbed. My little daughter stared up at me, unsure of what to do and, as even babies will do, wondered how to fix this. It was all there on her little puzzled face. She smiled tentatively, her eyes searching my face… and my face smiled, but my eyes did not. I could find nothing positive about me or my training of my children or my service as a child of God or my role as a wife. And for a moment I wanted to give up on this whole only love idea. And I started to say to myself… or rather, IB started to tell me… “‘Only love today’ Hah! Not today. No love today. That dumb tattoo doesn’t work. Nothing works and you’ll never win.” And that’s when I heard the lie. The tattoo does work. Because I CAN’T give up on trying, on striving for love for me and love for those around me. It’s still there, IB. My pledge is still there. I promised more than just that I wouldn’t end it all; I promised I would try and try and try, that I would strive and I would fight. Yes, today was hard. Yes, today all I see is the wrong and the failings and the flaws and it all seems cracked. Yes, today it seemed that I live in a perpetual state of cards thrown up in defeat.

BUT I DON’T.

I gave that up.

I gave up giving up. I quit being a quitter. I released myself from all of that. I don’t do it any more. I keep on. I trudge on. I promised I would and I sealed it with ink on my body where I see it every day, nearly every moment.

But today I had a bad day.

IB wants to tell me that I don’t get to have a bad day. It wasn’t a found-out-a-dear-one-died day. And it wasn’t a hurricane-destroyed-my-life day. And it wasn’t a fleeing-violent-war day. It wasn’t even a got-a-bee-sting day. IB wants to say that today wasn’t a bad day, that I’m just a baby. He wants me to believe that since nothing bad happened that it wasn’t a bad day and I don’t get to claim it. Because if it wasn’t just a bad day, then this is my life. The failings and the flaws and all the cracks… if this wasn’t just a bad day, then these are my life.

But he lies.

It was a bad day.
But he’s right, also. Or partly right: the failings and the flaws and the cracks are part of my life.

But that’s completely okay. Perfection is not required. Keeping on, trudging on… those things are required, and those things I can do. I promised to do. And you know what? It isn’t a bad day now. IB went quiet when I called him on his lies.

The tattoo was a good idea.

 

What You Don’t See August 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 7:00 pm

Homeschool moment

I posted this picture on Instagram & Facebook today captioned “#HomeschoolMoment Geography for big boys, Evelyn admiring her cute self, blocks for Ean & Joey.” A friend commented and said I was the bomb [dot] com. Oh me, oh my! That’s very kind… but NOT me!

Whenever homeschooling comes up, one of the most common responses I hear is that the mom I’m talking to couldn’t possibly homeschool her kids because she’s not ____ enough. She says she’s not smart enough, not organized enough, not patient enough, not… enough. And no matter what I say about how you don’t really have to be ____ to homeschool, they never believe me. Now, I really enjoy posting “homeschool moment” pictures, but it occurs to me, maybe these pictures aren’t helping this “not enough” notion. I want them to be a glimpse into our life for friends and family, a show-n-tell of how fun homeschooling is and a record for me of our blessed and privileged days. What I do NOT want is for it to be a magazine perfect image or unrealistic standard-setter for others to beat themselves up with.

So here’s what you don’t see in that picture…

Those are yesterday’s clothes. And not because they woke up and put them back on. They slept in them, then got up and went about the day. All of the kids. Except Joey, that is… yesterday he was wearing underwear (pants too). In fact, I took the picture off of social media because I realized that in the original picture you *do* see some of what you shouldn’t see.

couch piled high with clothes waiting to be folded is on the other side of the room from those intense looking block builders.

That was our third attempt to get the geography lesson done. We’d been interrupted several times already.

Ketchup on the playmat (I wiped it off). About 45 minutes earlier, Ean had squirted ketchup at Joey. No reason. He just thought it would be fun. When I called him in to ask him about it, he was smirking. Ohhhh that pushes my buttons! I *almost* lost it. Instead, I took a deep breath and whispered “Get out of my sight.” Definitely could’ve chosen better words, but I didn’t yell at him. A few minutes later he came back and I got the story out of him, then sent him back to his room to think up three ways of having fun with his brothers that didn’t involve ketchup (or any other condiments) and wouldn’t land him in trouble.

But back to Evelyn… That playmat playing only lasted about 15 minutes. Most of the time, school happens when she’s asleep. Otherwise, she’s hanging out on my hip or in my Boba. Those 15 minutes? Rare and golden.

It was 1:47 PM and we hadn’t had lunch yet. Now, for us, that’s pretty typical. I like to say we run on a European schedule (even though we’ve never been there). It used to flip me out (how will my children ever function in the REAL world where everyone ALWAYS eats lunch at noon?! Oh… wait…) but then I met a friend of a friend whose non-schedule ran a lot like my non-schedule and her nearly grown kids were pretty awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, though… We’re calling this day a victory for sure. I wanted to quit. Almost closed up the books and sent the kids outside. But the lightbulb went on: PRAY! So we prayed. We prayed that I would be patient, that the kids would be patient, that they would understand that their momma is only human and they would learn the good things from my example and somehow miss the bad. We prayed and then we pressed on and we got about half a day’s worth of work done. I guess I’m kind of glad that this picture looks like I’m the bomb dot com kinda mom… because I know what really happened. And I can look at everyone else’s bomb dot com mom pics and remember that maybe what I don’t see is just like what I do see here. :o)

 

Annual knitting bug November 4, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 11:05 pm

Warning… if you’re a non-knitter/crocheter… this just won’t be interesting. Maybe it will… but I doubt it. Proceed at your own risk. :)

Well the annual knitting bug has bit once again, and bitten with a vengeance! It’s always a powerful combination to have fall weather without and a baby growing within… add onto all that the joy of said baby being a GIRL (nicknamed Herculina) and… WOO… that’s a powerful knitting bug (knitting for girls is so much more fun)! For the sake of my own record and perhaps a bit of accountability (and because I do like blogging, low priority though it is), here’s what’s on my needles…

almost lost washcloth

Almost lost washcloth. This is my third washcloth from this pattern. It’s a fun pattern that produces a perfectly sized washcloth that’s nice and fluffy as well as pretty.

Tea and knittingbaby sweater

Sweater for Herculina (pattern is “Judy’s Grandmother’s Baby Sweater“). I have been wanting to make this little sweater for years. Literally. This pattern is THE major reason I bought the book “Greetings From Knit Cafe.” The pattern says it is unisex, and I thought maybe it was… but add a bow to anything and that pretty well undoes it for a boy. So, I’ve never made it. It’s cute though!! And it’s a fun pattern so far. Easy peasy. I think I may add a little lacy lavender border when it’s done. I’m hoping to make some booties to match too.

Hexipuff

I think I can… (pattern is “the beekeeper’s quilt“). I bought the pattern for this at the beginning of the year and made it my aim to complete it… someday. I noticed a tendency to shy away from huge projects or even largish projects, so this was my method/ New Year’s resolution to work on that. And it’s gone well. I keep this little project in my “Handbag of Holding” (this is a great purse… has a padded center pocket for a laptop, but it’s perfect for knitting stuff). I’m still a looonnngg way from done with this project, but it’s fun to have something to toodle on when I’m otherwise bored. In the car. Sitting at homeschool coop. And while the overall project is far from finished, each little hexapuff is like a tiny project done lickety split. Very satisfying!

2-at-a-time socks

My current favorite project…
1st 2-at-a-time socks! (The pattern is basically “Sailor’s Delight“). I bought this 2-At-A-Time Socks book at the beginning of the year  too… and just couldn’t grasp the process. Then I decided I wanted some nice yarn to knit up for Herculina and looked up a yarn shop. Well lo and behold, they were offering a class on two-at-a-time socks!! Woohoo!! It’s a splurge to take the class in part because one of the requirements is to buy the yarn there. Not cheap! Or at least not as cheap as Hobby Lobby. It’s also 80 miles away in Fort Worth. But… my hubby is sweet and indulged me. He kept the kiddos during class last week and will again next week. Anyway, I am LOVING this yarn, these socks, even my silly little stitch markers. The process of two-at-a-time… well… the jury’s still out. I think it’s probably a wise thing… but I feel like I spend a lot of time rearranging the needles/cables. Now that the socks have a couple inches on them, it’s going along more easily. We’ll see how I feel about the idea of two socks at a time when they’re done.

 

Romance January 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 2:44 pm

We are rapidly headed for February and my favorite holiday of the year. I know… lots of people don’t care much for Valentine’s Day. It’s my favorite, though, because of its history. Really, my history, I should say. Better yet, our history. Valentine’s Day 1999 found my 17-year-old self in a small mountain valley town in Southern Colorado. I’d been baptized a mere three days earlier and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Sunday morning broke and my now-husband met me at my dorm with roses, doughnuts, and a couple of CDs with special songs. We went to Bible class and worship service, but we didn’t stick around for potluck lunch. Instead, my best friend and I were instructed to go about our business, but stay away from my dorm room and her apartment… the guys would be in touch. Ultimately, we were treated to a made-from-scratch-by-two-twenty-something-men dinner of shrimp alfredo, salad and apple pie (even the crust was from scratch). That was romance!

At least it was back then.

Today, 15 years later, romance looks a little different, and not just in my life.

Today, a nice dinner, a man on bended knee with diamond in hand may not be the most romantic proposal. With social media and technology being what they are, if he’s to be counted a romantic, he may need to gather a few dozen friends and family (flown in, of course), choreograph a moving dance production and convince everyone to lip synch along. This kind of “lip-dub” proposal is romance in 2014… or it was in 2013… we’ll have to see what happens this year.

Or maybe lip-synching isn’t really either of your style. Maybe literature is more the thing? Romance might look like a Pride and Prejudice proposal. Either way, a simple bended knee just might not cut it.

In my own life, 15 years later, there is no lip-dub and there are no regency dresses, but there is plenty of romance. Around here, romance looks like a clean kitchen after I’ve had a cozy nap. Romance is my sweet husband reading to the kids so I can get some work done. Romance is a terribly dumb movie to laugh about for months down the road. Romance is cuddling on the couch in just the right way so I can still knit. Romance around here just might smell like curry cooking on the stove after the kids are in bed. It might look like an “I love you” text out of the blue. Romance for me in 2013 was encouraging me to take my son out for a movie when the spontaneous whim struck at 9:00 at night. It was that… and so many more moments, big and small. It was my husband making time with me a priority… it was making me a priority.

Because isn’t that what romance really is? Making the other person your priority and putting effort in to make them feel loved… special… cared for… important. But it’s not just in the grand gestures like planning and executing a dream proposal/wedding from your soon-to-be-wife’s Pinterest board. Romance is in the every day.

But you might miss it if you’re not looking. If your eye is on the horizon, waiting for your romance ship to come in, you might miss the person sitting at your side, bringing you a cool drink and sharing your life with you. If you’re waiting for a huge gesture, you could miss the small ones. Don’t let dissatisfaction be sown in your life, in your marriage, in your heart or in your love by seeing the huge things other people may do and wishing those things were yours. Do not let your heart envy the romance of another. Instead, look in your own life, your own marriage and find what romance is already there. Nurture that. The romance you find may not look like anything else you’ve ever seen before. Your romance may not look like mine. But if it makes you feel loved and special, cared for and important, then celebrate it and call it what it is: romance… even if no one else would recognize it as such.

Might I suggest that romance, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder?

This Valentine’s Day, find a way to show your spouse love and care. Even if it doesn’t look anything like the 23 Most Thoughtfully Romantic Gestures of 2013. After all, those 23 people were using their talents. Find a way to use yours.

 

Lightbulb Moments on Housekeeping June 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Erynn Sprouse @ 1:43 am

It’s not really a secret that housekeeping isn’t my strength. I’ve gotten better over the years… S L O W L Y.  I have a love/hate relationship with FlyLady. I love the results… but I have a very hard time not being perfectionistic about her instructions. And that shiny sink stuff? It just doesn’t work for my family. A cleaned out sink does. But trying to maintain a SHINY sink makes me insane. I’ve been working particularly on learning how to keep my house running smoothly (or should I say learning how to GET my house running smoothly) so that we’ll be all up and running before we start school on July 31. I had a few light bulb moments this week…

1) Yesterday after potluck I was doing dishes in the church bldg’s kitchen. I even told another lady she should go sit down and enjoy her company. As I stood there washing dishes, it occurred to me that I didn’t feel the least bit grumpy about doing it. Why? I’m grumpy about doing dishes at home! And I’d be really grumpy if I had to do them by hand all the time. I decided I could merrily do the dishes at the building because I’m more aware of Who I’m serving and Who my Rewarder is. I’m more aware that I’m doing all things in His name, to His glory, not my own (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:17, 23). I’m more aware that what I’m doing there at the sink is an act of service. But the thing is, it’s still an act of service at home. And so is sweeping and mopping and all the rest of it. And even if no one says thank you or even notices, God sees and He rewards (Colossians 3:23, Matthew 6:4).

2) A menu plan is, for our family, more important than any cleaning task… and it leads to a cleaner kitchen… which leads to a cleaner dining area… which means that our most used spaces are cleaner! And Momma is happier! And when Momma is happier, everyone else is happier (but I still must choose to be happy even when my house looks like it’s been overrun by chimpanzees).

3) Of course keeping my house seems like a lot of work. Compared to doing nothing and allowing the place to be a disaster, actually cleaning up the kitchen and wiping down the table and all the rest of it IS a lot of work. Something vs. nothing… hmm… yep! That’s why it seems like a lot of work.
But I’m banking on it being worth it.

3) Here’s a link to a short story (that’s kinda long) that is really one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read. If you read it, let me know what you think! When Queens Ride By (you gotta kinda scroll down to get to the PDF download link)