Little Spice in Life

Fall is coming y’all!   I love fall.  I love the change in the temperatures.  I love getting back into a more structured schedule.  I love sitting on the back porch by the fire (having a good old s’more every now and then).  I love thinking about the coming holidays.  All of it spurs me to clean, to get up a little earlier, to read more and to cook more.  Fall just seems to be the season for hospitality and adding some spice to life.  It’s a time for laughter around the table, brisk walks in the cool morning air.  It’s a time to cheer on our favorite football teams.  Cinnamon, clove, nutmeg.  Barbecue sauces, roasted chilies, peppercorns.  Fall.

My weekly menus needed a little spicing up.  I was growing tired of our favorite summer recipes.  As I began this past week to think through some old fall favorites and peruse Pinterest for some fall cooking inspiration, I found myself inspired by the colors of fall.  Reds, green, oranges.  Apples, peppers, carrots, pumpkins and squash.  Yum!  Immediately I knew it was time to pull out one of my “tweaked” family favorites.  I grew up eating candied carrots.  The good old Southern kind smothered in butter and brown sugar, slow cooked until glazed and slightly browned.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that good old Southern recipe, adding a little spice always makes everything nice!  Honey Glazed Pepper Jelly Carrots.  Yep.  Nothing better.  Even grandma approved! Yes, the same grandma who taught me the traditional candied carrot cooking method.

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I promise you will want to try this recipe.  Go for it!  It’s the perfect balance of sweet and spicy.  Just enough heat to make you perk up, but sweet enough to comfort.

Honey Glazed Hot Pepper Jelly Carrots

I apologize to all my readers for my recent absence.  Life has just been happening and frankly, I needed a break.  However, speaking of needing a little spice in life.  I have a lot more to say on that subject.  I have been in a leadership training the past few days, and as I was prompted to think on my mission, think about my behavior style, I was reminded I need to be bold, to take more risks, to speak up and doubt less.  It’s time to get back at this blog thing!

 

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How to…

I am often asked how I get done what I get done.  Let me first say, I honestly don’t think I get more done than most people.  I think it often appears that way because I hold my emotions close, am fairly private and try to maintain my composure.  I fear I sometimes appear “all together” and that is often far from the truth (just ask my family!).  I will admit though, that I have also been a student of time management for as long as I can remember.  I was that child in elementary school who wanted to work my way through every SRA test seeing my name rise on the chart.  I was the high school student who wanted to make good grades, play sports, serve on student council and earn spending money.  I was the college student who had to work her way through college, so I needed to be able to balance studies with work.  I was the young wife who wanted to work, cook fabulous meals, entertain friends and business partners and create a “Southern Living” style home.  And then I became a first time mom to not one, but two beautiful baby girls and I wanted to be present in every way, have our home continue to be a haven and place for gathering, and I desperately wanted my girls to see me serving in the community.

 

I have have learned a lot about managing my time along the way.  Some lessons were learned through painful mistakes, while others were learned as doors opened and new opportunities presented themselves.  I am still learning.  I have revisited many of my favorite tools and books as I have re-entered the workforce after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom.  I have given a lot of thought to what advice I would share with others as I prepare to send my girls to college next year.  Here are a few of my favorite tips:

  1. Choices:  We all have the same amount of time.  We have to make choices.  Anything we choose to do fills our time and requires we say no to something else.
  2. We all need help.  Even the Proverbs 31 woman had help.  She had maidservants.  We cannot keep our homes, do all the shopping and all food preparations, volunteer at our children’s schools and at church, work, serve our friends and maintain our sanity.  We have to allow others to help.  If our budget allows that may mean a hired housekeeper.  If not, it may mean our children have chores and our husband helps. We may need to swap childcare services with a friend.  When I chose to go back to work this year I knew it would require budgeting for a housekeeper and passing off some of the household shopping to my husband and girls.
  3. We need to know our personal rhythm and build our schedule around it.  I am a morning person.  I do my best thinking in the morning.  I have energy in the morning.  As a result I make it a habit of setting my work hours early.  While I would love to be one of those people who goes to the gym at 5:30, it doesn’t fit my rhythm. I do much better jumping right into work and then fitting in a workout on the way home late afternoon/early evening, giving myself a time to transition and a little energy boost.  My natural rhythm also means I need to go to bed early.  I am usually in bed by 9:30 and try to have lights out by 10:30.  I have tried many times to adjust my schedule, to be more like someone else, but in the end my natural rhythm is a part of my DNA and there is no fighting it.  I am a better version of me and am able to perform better when i embrace my personal rhythm.
  4. I live by the 15 minute rule.  Any time I feel stuck, am dreading an assignment or find myself with some extra time I employ the 15 minute rule.  You will be amazed at all you can do in 15 minutes.  Giving your undivided attention to something for just 15 minutes can be the difference between never getting a task done, never starting on a project or complete success.  Here is a list of just a few things you can tackle in 15 minutes:
    1. Empty the dishwasher
    2. Clean out your purse or car
    3. Make your bed
    4. Respond to email
    5. Update/sync your calendar
    6. Create a work plan for a project
  5. Always build in white space.  I always add 15 minutes to the front end and back end of appointments.  This allows me some buffer, keeps me from running late, and is often a source of some 15 minute blocks to tackle some of the daily tasks.  I also leave at least two weeknights open.  This means I have seldom joined a book club or a Bunko group.  This means my husband and I say “yes” to very few charitable events.  (we will pay for a ticket and gladly give someone else our seats)  Early on in our parenting my husband and I made a decision to not let hurry and events run our lives.  We have chosen instead a slower paced way of living, making certain we AND our girls were at home as often as possible.  To some this may have meant keeping our girls from opportunities, denying them the chance to be popular, the best at their sport.  All I can tell you is I have well-rounded, happy girls.  They both have activities they love, lots of friends and our home during these years high school years has been the gathering place.  They would tell you they didn’t miss out on a thing.
  6. Use a calendar.  I am a list maker, but that is not why I advocate use of a calendar.  No.  My advocacy for calendars stems from my desire and intent to be aware of where and how I spend my time.  I want to make choices and know what choices I am making.  Life can and will quickly take control if we allow it.  By using a calendar (which for me is still a paper version) I see how our schedule looks, I know what I have planned for the day, week, month.  I become more conscious, more aware.

I do get a lot done.  However, there are also a lot of things I don’t get done, and most of those are by choice.  I try to extend grace to myself.  I try to maintain discipline without being rigid.  The “how to” is a lifelong learning experience and each season brings new challenges, new lessons, new methods.

If you are struggling to get things done, to get our from under the weight of your calendar I hope a few of my tips will help.  Most of all, I pray you will find some time this week to step back from your life, your daily routine and give it some thought.  Take a leap of faith. Say no where you need to.  Make the desires of your heart your priorities.  Reset your schedule and live your life, not someone else’s.

Ice Twice and Everything Nice

Typical fashion in Arkansas, and well just about any place in the South, we had temperatures in the 70s one week and then “bam” the ice.  Not a pretty snow or anything Vermont looking.  No, just cloudy skies, some thunder and LOTS of sleet.  And well, when most of us are driving around in too big SUVs and our men are driving around in extended cab trucks, travel gets tough fast.  So, without much ado, schools, businesses, government and all else close.  Facebook fills with photos snapped at “Krogers” or “Wal-Marts” where the bread shelves are bare and milk is no where to be found.  And this year, well, apparently there was a run on bananas.  Not sure what that was about, but…  I make light of it, but in all seriousness it doesn’t take much to be “iced in” in Arkansas and takes little to send us all into a “tiz”.  

While some don’t like it much, this Second Season Mom LOVES it!  As you know by now, I love having all my peeps at home.  I love when plans are set aside and the lazy days of winter set in.  It’s funny how a few ice days hit and we can find ourselves doing all those things we normally only wish we had time to do.  It’s actually a little sad.  Are jobs, school and extra curricular activities so important they warrant taking priority in our lives?  Why do we let them push our families aside?   Why do we let them keep us from long family dinners, hot chocolate and silly movies, breakfasts around the table?  I wonder sometimes.  I know we all need jobs, we all need our incomes.  I get that the American way is to work hard, work long, and success means work harder and work longer.  But why?  Many studies show we are no more productive than our European counterparts, who work fewer hours and get much more vacation time. As best I can tell, the world is still spinning.  Businesses opened back up today and seemed to be moving right along.  School will carry on tomorrow and minus making up the snow days, the kids will still learn and then end of the year will come as planned.  I don’t have the answer, I don’t know how to make it happen, but I sure wish this country would learn a lesson and slow down.  I wish as a country we would once again make family more important than work.  I wish once again success would be defined by your contributions to your community and less by career accolades.  

While I can’t change America, I can once again commit to changing this family, my home.  Our lazy days confirmed for us how much we enjoy one another, our family dinners, and weekend breakfasts.  Our lazy winter days reminded us our identity lies in who we are as a family and in our faith, not in what school we attend, where we work or what extra curricular activities we engage in.  We live our life a little differently.  Sometimes my husband and I wonder if we have made the right decisions.  We wonder if we have not pushed enough for the girls to engage in all the “right” things, all the social activities that seem to define popularity.  Sometimes we wonder if we have kept too much time to ourselves, not entertaining our children, but just being with our children.  I’m sure we’ll continue to have those questions, to fall prey to the “ways of this world”, but I pray we hold strong.  You see, this ice, these days of ice and frozen roads have brought everything we find nice.  So, we’ll put the questions aside and carry on.  Life’s too short for it NOT to be about faith and family.  

I pray the ice has brought has something nice into your home, your life as well. Don’t rush.  Sit back and enjoy the moment.  Make your home a haven.  If you are parenting young children don’t stress over which school, which dance academy, how many private football coaching sessions you need for Jr.  Make time.  Just as if you were iced in, park the cars, close the garage, sit around the table and share food.  Snuggle on the couch and watch that silly movie.  If you are parenting teens, don’t be afraid to make some changes.  Don’t be afraid to decide to scale back on the activities.  There’a limited number of National Merit Scholarships and even more limited number of athletic scholarships.  Remind your children their identity lies in whose they are and who they are.  While you are at it, scale back yourself.  Come home from the office a little earlier.  Get off of Facebook, resign that board or committee.  Think twice before you say yes, and remember each “yes” is a “no” to your family.  I am reminding myself.  I’m challenging myself.  Let’s let all the nice that came with the ice continue.