Favorite friday night dinner

It’s almost embarrassing to post this because it truly is one of the most no-brainer meals I make.  But it is a huge hit every time so I can’t help but share.  It’s the perfect meal for a busy day, for feeding a crowd or when you don’t want to heat up the house using your oven in summer.   We had a fun filled day at the beach today (forgot the sunscreen, first sunburn of the summer) and I knew we’d be tired when we got home.  So before we left I threw a 5 pound bone in pork shoulder roast into the crockpot.

We enjoyed the sand and sun with friends and it was hard to peel the kids away from it all.  We came home, rested and then enjoyed the simplest of meals together.  Here’s how it goes:

Buy a pork roast (or three) when they go on sale – my large chunk of meat cost under $5

Place the whole roast into the crockpot on LOW  in the morning, pour 1 can or bottle of root beer over the meat.

Yes, really just root beer that’s all.

Let it cook all day.  Take it out at dinner time.  Pull meat apart and drain juice from crockpot.  Put meat back in and cover with BBQ sauce of your choice.  Stubs is my standby favorite brand but sometimes I make my own from this recipe.

I cannot explain what the root beer does to the meat.  I can only testify to its extreme goodness.  I do only use natural root beer, which is made with spices and cane sugar instead of pure high fructose corn syrup like regular soda.  I don’t know if it makes a difference.  But when my husband asks for thirds every time we have it, I just make it the same way every time.  And a 5 pound roast would feed at least 10 average eaters.  For us, it is two entire meals, I always freeze the other half for a rainy day.

We tend to just eat a protein and raw or steamed veggies and fruit for dinner so we added fresh corn and cantaloupe tonight.  Easy peasy yum!

And for the record, little girls slathered in coconut oil for their sunburn are perfectly yummy too-works better than aloe vera!

Blueberries on a cloudy day

We awoke to ominous August skies but embarked on our blueberry-picking regardless.  Raising kids in the Pacific Northwest we have a very high tolerance for outdoor activities in less than lovely weather.  I have taken the kids to pick berries every year since they were born and my goodness can those kids work hard!  We even pick raspberries at the same farm my mom took me to when I was just 6 weeks old.

With all the lack of sunshine this summer, our berries are way behind schedule but blueberry farms are finally ready for picking.  On the drive there, Caleb said:

I never noticed how fast the clouds move!  I know it doesn’t look good but I have hope that the white clouds are going to chase the dark clouds away and it won’t rain on us while we pick.

As we filled our buckets we felt a few sprinkles but we all settled in and picked for an hour and a half.  Audrey ate all her berries.  Kyler rested a lot.  But Rylee picked almost 5 pounds and Caleb topped his bucket with 7 pounds!  Our combined 22 pounds will provide many winter smoothies when produce costs a lot and isn’t so fresh.  But today as we picked we drooled over the blueberry crisp that we’ll make tonight and the muffins we will bake up for breakfast tomorrow.  Rylee explained to me:

So dad earns the money that we use to buy the blueberries then with the berries we buy with that money we’ll make him blueberry dessert tonight and it will be like he got his money back, it works out so great!

I grinned and agreed, after me gone for 4 days I’m pretty sure he thinks it works out ‘so great’.

Book review “Dancing with my Father”

I know, another book by Sally Clarkson, I do read other books and this is the last of hers that I had to read.  When she wrote near the beginning of Dancing with my Father about the message she was to share, that she felt like it was her life message, her magnum opus of sorts, I was eager to get through it.  God has spoken to me so many times as I’ve poured over her books.   This was after all, the year I had asked God to be the year of joy.  I longed to cultivate the ability to find and choose joy despite circumstances and struggles.

But when I started this book, with the subtitle being ‘How God leads us into a life of grace and joy’, I was utterly unable to hear the message.  After weeks of opening and closing it and not absorbing any of the words, I put it away.  For 4 months.  The book had been given to me days after my husband’s father died.  Just 21 days into my “Year of Joy”, we faced the greatest tragedy of our lives.

A part of the journey towards joy is sorrow. (page 57)

I waited for ‘joy to come in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5) but it did not come.  The weeping lasted so much longer than a night, a week or a month.  To have life end so abruptly and tragically makes life stand still.  Life stood still for months.  I questioned so much of what I had believed about who God was.  I asked the hardest questions I’ve ever asked.  I wondered if my faith, my God was really enough to stand on.  Four small ones watched me go through the motions, feed and care for everyone in our home, try to trudge forward when my heart literally felt broken in pieces.  So many ‘what if…’ and ‘why’ questions.

I am convinced that the God who sees every hidden moment considers these to be faith offerings of our heart.  That even in the midst of our suffering, he sees some of the greatest works of our lives: our belief, our assurance of things hoped for, our conviction of those things we cannot see. (page 156)

In the quiet places, where mostly I just sat and wept with no words to even offer, in His tender mercy God breathed and the life of our family seemed to start again.  Time was no longer on hold.  Our lens for looking at life was altered.  Our capacity and willingness to love grew.  It was during this time that I picked up “Dancing with my Father” and tried again.  It seemed to perfectly sync with where my heart was and so many times reading it I found my head nodding and  my pen writing notes in the margin.

By focusing on the transcendence of God, his power, presence and character, I put the problems of life in their proper place…My responsibilities have not changed, but my relationship to my responsibilities has.  They are not mine to hold, they are His.  (pages 172 & 177)

There are  many other quotes I could share that spoke to me and I could tell you that the book rivaled my favorite book of hers, The Mission of Motherhood.  But really, I would just encourage anyone to read it and see which of  many rich truths you can draw from it.

The list continues…

#139 – surviving a wicked ‘crash’ from a 5 day sugar high

#140 – realizing I don’t live a daily high/low dependence on sugar anymore…it’s only taken 5 months

#141 – the first 5 days straight we’ve spent with Daddy in almost 2 years

#142 – last minute bringing our AC unit on our ‘camping’ cabin adventure, it was 105 where we were!

#143 – the bliss of sleeping in one tiny room with 4 small kids for 5 days

#144 – learning again that less is more, simple leaves more room to enjoy life

#145 – heart pain and tears shed when Daddy had to go back to work

#146 – how sweet it is to miss someone that you live everyday with

#147 – treasuring each day of summer despite it passing too fast

#148 – freshly picked fruit

#149 – naptime

#150 – a scrumptious new niece who’s won all our hearts

#151 – courage to go through more of Chris’ dad’s things

#152 – tears mixed in with laughter and stories

#153 – the constant learning of silence and when to say nothing

#154 – grace for myself after completely falling off the exercise bandwagon

#155 – being totally blessed by another mama’s offer to watch my 4 kids (and her 4 kids) for 4 hours

#156 – a huge box of amazing books for our upcoming homeschool year

#157 – fuzzy baby kittens

#158 – redemption and all that God can do with the mess I make of life some days

#159 – being able to weep with someone and bear a piece of their pain