11 October 2020

Meal Replacement Nachos

Friday evening, hubby and I were hosting dinner with a friend. The week hasn't been good to us and we weren't really ready to make dinner. I know... we had plenty of time... but, like I said, the week was not kind to us. 

I was hoping to make something delicious, but checked all the boxes of a complete meal... so we'll call them "Meal Replacement Nachos" as nachos are usually a snack food (and "Ultimate Nachos" or "Loaded Nachos" have been taken). Most of the ingredients are from Aldi, the first place I go for groceries. 

I didn't measure in exact measurements... so, I'm sorry.... I don't usually measure when I cook, unless I'm following someone else's recipe. 

When I make this again, I hope to remember to take pictures and update this post. 

Meal Replacement Nacho Recipe

1 lb ground beef

1/2 - 1 can of black beans, drained

1/2 onion, diced

Taco seasoning, to taste (I make my own by combining chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder,  onion powder, Cumin)

2 medium tomatoes, diced 

12 oz bag shredded cheese of your choice (Use as much or little as you'd like. I used about 3/4 of Happy Farms trio)

1 large bag (13 oz) of tortilla chips

1/3 bag of fresh spinach, shredded (I grab a small handful, roll it, and "slice.")

The following are optional toppings:

Sour cream, Salsa, Jalapeños

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. You're going to bake these before serving. 

2. Brown the ground beef with your taco seasoning. Hubby suggests browning your meat, drain, then season. Add your onions and black beans and cook until the beans are warmed. If you want the onions to be softer, add them earlier or cook them separately. 

3. On a large sheet pan, spread the tortilla chips evenly. Sprinkle some of the cheese on top. 

4. Layer your ground beef mixture on top of the chips and cheese. Layer the spinach and tomatoes on top of the ground beef. Top off with the rest of the cheese. Add Jalapeños on top, if desired. 

5. Bake in your preheated oven until your cheese reaches desired melty-ness.

6. Serve immediately with sour cream and salsa, if preferred. 

When reheating (IF you have leftovers), use the oven to keep crispness. Microwave is okay, too but they'll be soft. 

Feel free to adjust to your heart's content. You can add or subtract ingredients... and please share your modifications! I love to see variations. 

08 July 2020

The Little Details in the Big Picture

Years ago when I applied for a temp position in my current job, I was asked a question that many people may be asked in an interview. "Do you consider yourself a big picture person or do you focus on the small details?" I think most people would say one or the other, but my answer includes both.  I'm able to see how the small details add up to make up the bigger picture.  I have a tendency to look toward the future and can put steps together to get there.  I have to admit that I can get caught up in the little things and sometimes find myself focusing so much on a small detail that I hinder progress.  Other times, I get overwhelmed by the bigger picture and don't take any steps at all.

My answer was unique to my interviewers.  It helped to add points to an interview already going well (yep, I'm bragging!). Surprisingly, however, I hadn't really put a whole lot of thought into this and what it could mean until recently.

Last month, my husband and I got into an argument that I don't understand how it became as big as it did. We had some clothing to donate and since the thrift stores in the area are not taking donations, we decided to drop them off at a box near our local grocery store. I don't usually use these boxes as I am often unable to verify if the clothing really goes to charity.  Rain was in the forecast for the evening and these donation boxes were overflowing with bags.

I noticed that one bag was open and asked Lu to tie a knot to make sure the contents didn't get wet.  He got so frustrated, thinking I was asking too much as they would probably be soaked anyway.  If these articles are going to be given to others, why let them get ruined? That was my thinking. His thinking was that what was going to happen would happen, so oh well.  

Reluctantly, he knotted the bag and we pretty much argued all the way back home (all 3 minutes) and then some when we got in.  I couldn't understand how he could be so calloused while supposedly doing a good thing. He couldn't understand why I would fuss over such a small detail.  We couldn't come to an understanding. I figured we should just drop the whole conversation (not something easy for my sweet husband to do). He prefers to resolve things as quickly as possible.

Later the next day, he told me that he went back to take a look at the items that were left out. Interestingly, the contents in the bag that he closed up stayed dry.  I wasn't completely certain that they would be dry. I only knew that I didn't feel right not trying to do something to salvage what was meant for someone else to use.

Another example of trying my all before letting go would be moving to Florida to be nearer my children and have more time with them. That was a huge financial flop, nearly ending in homelessness. Thankfully, moving back to Maryland has brought many blessings (and spiritual growth) that continue to flow. Also, we learned that we moved away just in time. A huge storm flooded the neighborhood we lived in. We could have lost our home in either of two ways.

I know not everyone thinks in the same way that I do. Many people are either big-picture folks or detail-oriented. In a beautiful way, these two ways of thinking are complementary. They only work together if we all work together. Just because you can't fully understand someone's way of thinking doesn't mean that they're wrong. Sometimes ideas aren't right or wrong, just different.

I also know that you can't get anywhere without taking any steps. You shouldn't try to run if you can't even stand to walk. To get to the end result, you have to work your way there. You cannot paint a picture without small strokes of color.

Finally, I think I'm rambling now. I have found 52 different ways to say the same thing. Take the time for the details, but don't dwell on them for too long. Keep the bigger picture in mind to help remind you that they are important in the grand scheme, but don't get too wrapped up in the great size of the whole.

01 June 2020

I Am Anxiously Awaiting To Give You My Confession

I have a confession to make...

I am a worrier.  There. I said it. Phew! I can rest easy now right?!

Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

I worry about so much. And I worry about worrying sometimes. I don't really put a whole lot of thought into my worry until it becomes full-blown anxiety.  I worry about finances. Food. Cleaning the house. My job. My kids. My husband. Our health. The need to lose weight. What we need and don't have. What we have and don't need. I could keep going for probably all of eternity. 

I have recently been reminded (because I have "learned" this already) that worry and anxiety (and even depression) usually arise from the need for control. *GASP!*  My husband is probably the only person who will tell you that I have control issues.  *GASP!* Most people see me as hardworking, organized, blah, blah, blah. He knows me pretty dang well.

While I'm not the most organized person ever, and can't say I'm the cleanest person ever, I spend so much time thinking about what will be and how I'm going to be prepared for it.  I lose so much now time, right here time, because I'm living years into the future. It's kinda like how people binge-buy toilet paper, milk, and bread while preparing to get through a disaster. It's not that everybody needs such large quantities of these things at the same time (large families do, though even when not disaster-prepping), but it's something they feel they can control. I think ahead, plan ahead, prep ahead. I can solve problems you didn't know you had. I've already packed a few extra things in my bag when I head out.

It's not wrong to think ahead and plan ahead. When it comes to emergency situations, it is advised to think of strange "what-if" scenarios so that you may be prepared to act accordingly. People who don't think about the "what-ifs" are less likely to respond appropriately in an emergency. This is why we have fire drills and talk to kids about how to be safe around strangers. If you don't think about it, you're not as likely to make the right choices.

So, how exactly do we keep worry in check?

Heh. That's the tricky part if you're a worry-wart like me.  I can't help but be convicted of my worry after reading Matthew 6.  The last 10 verses are all about worry. The birds don't go storing up food in barns (or their fridges) like we do, yet they don't go hungry. Flowers don't go shopping and they don't sew, yet they are clothed in beauty. You are so much more important to God than the birds and the flowers. Why are you so high-strung?! Yes, we need to earn money to be able to buy food and clothes. No, we don't need to stress over it. Yes, there are things we need to do to prepare for emergencies. No, we don't need to live in fear of what is not guaranteed to happen.

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Well, I'm sure this all sounds good from some lady in the virtual interwebs who's got her life together and can talk about stuff that doesn't matter anymore.

Ha!  I'm not just some lady in the interwebs. I'm THE lady still struggling daily. It will probably be one of the many few things I will be fighting in this life for the rest of my life.  And it's not like I don't have proof in my own life that I'm taken care of (outside of my own control). I've got countless examples of how I held the world on my shoulders only for the solutions to not come from my own hands. 

What's something you've stressed over, only for it to turn out to not be as bad as you thought? Or for it to be resolved without your help?

Will you try to trust that not everything is under your control? Can you let go (even just a little bit)? If you're struggling with this, I urge you to talk to a friend about it. You can't carry it by yourself (which is something us worriers tend to do). Find someone whom you can trust, who will love you as you are, and work to help you be better. Without judgment.

You can even write it into your calendar so that you'll actually follow through. *wink*

10 March 2020

Charity Starts at Home

Have you ever heard of the phrase "charity starts at home"?  I have. It is often thought that this phrase means to mind your own family before you get into the affairs of others, but I have always taken it to mean something different.

To me, charity begins at home with me and my immediate family practicing how to love others outside of ourselves. Children should be learning how to respect adults and each other, what it means to give space, how to serve, etc. Adults should be refining these things as well as building patience. We know that sometimes family can be hard to deal with. So many personalities occupying the same space together will most certainly collide. However, being able to learn to live together will shape a person's ability to get along with others who have varying belief systems and rules.

Don't just take my word for it! Think about your home life growing up. What have you learned and practiced that you've been able to take with you out into the world in your adulthood? This applies to negative habits and traits as well. As around, your friends and family will also have input.  We know scientifically that we are products of both genetics and our environment (the old nature versus nurture!).

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'm not saying that your family life has to be perfect. No arguing. No disagreements. Certainly not! Learning how to deal with differences and conflicts is what matters. Being humble, learning when to back down and when to stand up, and having a willingness to compromise are necessary skills in life. You can't change what you were born with, but you can make changes to the environment around you and you can be a positive influence on others (please be positive toward others!!!).

07 March 2020

Springtime Shenanigans

This is my favorite time of the year, weather-wise. I know...I've stated before that summer is my favorite time of the year, but I realize I don't like extremes (maybe it's old age trying to creep in). Fall is great and all, but I love the spring more (minus the windy and rainy parts). Don't even talk to me about winter... This is the time of the year when things start budding. You can see fresh, new life beginning. AAAAND you can wear t-shirts outside; no mummification *ahem* coat required.

I love to see the sun shining and the greenery.  In fact, every year I think about my container garden.  You know, the one that doesn't exist because I didn't plan for it early enough or gave up because things are costly.  I'm a low-budget kinda person and many things I want to do require a bit more than I'm willing/able to spend.  Thankfully, I continue to dream and think of ways to achieve my wishes without breaking the bank. This year, I'm going to do it! I will be scouting cost-efficient containers for my delicious "guests."  I plan to come up with a list of potential fruits, veggies, and herbs that would be easy to care for and affordable. What kinds of seeds I will purchase will depend on the types of containers I end up with. I realize I should have started this in the winter...but we'll see how this goes! I hope to put to use the book I received from a dear friend, Esther.  "The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible" has lots of great info on starting and maintaining your own container garden. You can check it out and other books like it here. (Don't worry, I'm not receiving any monetary benefit from you clicking the link.)

Another project I've decided to throw out there (to my husband's dismay...because I have so many great ideas, he can't pick the best one...yeah, that's it...) is that I want to update our bedroom.  We received a very nice queen bedroom set from my husband's parents in 2016. I believe it will continue to last many years with care, but it isn't our taste.  That issue has a lot more to do with the color of it, than the style. We both prefer lighter woods and are not so keen on cherry. Don't get me wrong, cherry is a beautiful hardwood, but we would like to brighten up our home. Furniture is expensive and I feel a bit remorseful wanting to get rid of something that was given to us by family, so this isn't something that I'm rushing into. I've thought about painting the furniture, but I'm giving more thought into vinyl wrap (as it's not permanent and there are no gaseous fumes). I love to do hands-on projects and this would be fun and rewarding. Going with a vinyl wrap would also mean I don't have to take everything apart and move pieces outside. Well, there is a bit of research that I need to do.

The most important item on this list of things-to-do is decluttering the house. This has been a big issue as I tend to hang onto things and not necessarily find homes for them or I tend to not place things back where they belong (the worst!).  This has been an ongoing struggle for me since I moved out of my parent's house. It was so much easier to just maintain my room!

To get going with this mountain of a task, I started creating lists for every room of the house. I want to keep track of things that we need, things we want, and what exactly needs to happen in each space. Getting organized really isn't so hard for me to do. I'm really great at coming up with plans and lists. It's just that I struggle with maintaining and finishing jobs started. I guess we can talk more about this in another post because there is something deeper involved with this kind of struggle.  However, I feel more able to get started when I've written down ideas and browsed the internet for inspiration.

Welp, my rambling is done for now!  I'm excited to think of new things to get into this season. I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty and learning more along the way!

Are there any things that you look forward to when spring comes? Maybe not if you have seasonal allergies that begin to show up around now. Do you have any advice or other ideas that I should consider?

02 January 2020

Name Change

Happy New Year!

This blog's name has changed. It's gone from "Publicly Assisted" to "Grace. Lavished."  There is no relation to the new year or resolutions.  I wanted to change the name for a while (but struggled).  "Publicly Assisted" was previously chosen because of the stigma that comes with assistance and welfare.  You are fooling yourself if you truly believe that any of the successes you have in life are gained solely from the fruits of your labor. You didn't birth yourself. Nor did you teach yourself to speak. You may have put the hard work in to earn so much of what you have, but there are other factors that contribute to your success. Sure, you worked hard on your resume and aced the job interview but it's up to the employer whether or not to hire you. Things happen the way they're meant to, not always how you want them to.

Then comes grace.  I try to remind my children of what grace and mercy are and how we are to give them freely to others. Mercy is when something you deserve is withheld. Being pardoned of wrongdoing instead of punished. Forgiven.  Grace is much like it. Grace is receiving something you didn't deserve. God lavishes us with grace. He continues to do so before we even think to acknowledge his existence.

This goes beyond assistance.  This is life. Abundantly. Something you can't earn. Something you'll never be worthy of, yet he just keeps on giving.

It is scientifically proven that having a heart of gratitude yields a positive outlook on life and a truly happy lifetime. Realizing your shortcomings and maximizing your thankfulness creates a more kind and less selfish you. You'll realize that you have so much, instead of being greedy and jealous of others.  Open your eyes to the grace being poured out on you all day every day.

Life is not fair.  If it were, we wouldn't be allowed to have it at all.

19 June 2018

Poverty in the United States

I had the pleasure of watching Queen of Katwe on Netflix recently.  It was an excellent movie.  It also made me think about poverty around the world.

In Queen of Katwe, you get a glimpse of life in a Ugandan ghetto.  I can't believe that residents have to pay rent for some of the so-called homes they lived in.  One room, dirt floors, and no proper windows and doors.  Not to mention the hot temperatures of Africa.

Poverty in the US looks a lot different than poverty in other countries.  Our poor can still get a free education, might have cars (or at least access to transportation), and can still have access to clean water and fresh food.  We have programs that will help people to get back on their feet and special housing assistance to cut down on homelessness.  I can't say that we don't have people in this country who live in unsanitary conditions.  I can't even say that we don't have people who are without food and clean water.  I am saying that poverty just isn't the same here.

Another thing that I have noticed was that women the movie who had extra money were more likely to have their hair done (be it braids, straightened, wigs, etc) and those who did not have the money typically wore their natural hair very short.  While a woman's hair in the US does not necessarily indicate wealth or social status, any and all styles may be achieved even if you have a small income.  Hair products are readily available for a variety of budgets and some products are considered personal necessities.

Nice clothing is another item that can be achieved here with little money.  Thrift shops, consignment stores, Freecycle, or clearance racks at big box stores offer so many options.  I personally rarely buy clothing from big box stores.  Most of my wardrobe was handed down or purchased from thrift stores.  For some who struggle to even shop in a thrift store, there are charities available that help to provide clothing.  There is no excuse for not having clothes here, while in other parts of the world some families go without clothing or even shoes.

I have to say that we really should consider the blessing it is to be in the United States.  We have access to so much.  It is even to the point where even the poor here can give to charity to help others around the world.  When your children grow out of their shoes and clothing, they can be donated.  Toys can be donated. If it's time to get a new pair of glasses and you still have the old frame, they can be donated. Certain household items may not go around the world, but they can also make an impact in the life of someone here in the States.  Bibles can also be purchased very cheap and shared (even dollar stores have Bibles for purchase).

There really is an abundance of resources here.  While I do not believe that everyone is meant to have the same things (not the same amount of money or lifestyle or opportunities), I do believe that we should all be content where we are (a future post will expand on this) and be willing to give regardless of financial status.