“Nacho” Average Leftovers

Now that school’s back in session, there is undoubtedly more on my plate. Tuesdays are my long day because we close out the workday with our weekly faculty meeting. By the time the boys and I pulled into the garage yesterday evening, it was already 5:30. Thankfully the more elaborate meals I prepare on the weekends make great leftovers, and last night’s meal definitely were “nacho” average leftovers.

H-E-B is my go-to grocery store for all things food related, and I have discovered that some of their pre-made items can be absolute time savers. One of my favorite “in a pinch”  staples are their fully cooked pork carnitas. The meat is tender, savory, and an easy add in for enchiladas, street tacos, and last night’s fare, nachos.

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I originally prepared this meal on Sunday evening. First sauteing sweet onion in a skillet with some olive oil. After nuking the carnitas as per the instructions on the package, I added them to the onion and lowered the temperature to low to keep them warm. In a separate pan, I sauted jalapeno slices, letting them fry in the olive oil until they were charred. This has proven to be a great add on that delivers just the right amount of heat.

 

While the jalapenos were cooking, I prepared fresh avocado and cilantro for toppings and prepared the queso. Velveeta now markets “Mini Blocks”. These little gems are great for a quick queso fix without worrying about an entire brick spoiling. I used one brick and half a can of Rotel with the liquid. It made enough cheese for drizzling over the nachos on Sunday and again last night with nothing wasted.

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My sister-in-law recently introduced me to Julio’s tortilla chips. These chips are lightly coated in a seasoning blend that is an ideal compliment to Tex Mex cuisine. They serve as the perfect base for my loaded nachos.

The final product is a beautiful marriage of savory pork, crunchy chips, creamy avocado, zesty queso, and a sprinkle of cilantro for color. It’s nothing short of delicious, and it’s a quick and easy dinner ready in a matter of minutes.

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And judging from the smile on Liam’s face, it’s “nacho” average leftovers either. Buen provecho!

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Our Cheerleaders in Life

Entering my 11th year in education, you’d think by now my nerves on the first day of school would subside. But yesterday marked the beginning of a new school year, and like clockwork my stomach was in knots.

As I drove to work, I received two very encouraging text messages from both my mom and my husband.

Mom: “God be with you on your first day of the new school year! May He guide you to do the best of your ability to assist others.”

Sean: “I hope you have a great first day! I know you have already been back at it, but since those kids love you so much, I know that today will be busy for you. I love you.”

I found myself both touched and grateful for their kind and uplifting words. Professionally, it’s part of my job description to be a cheerleader for all of my students. To encourage them to do their best and reach their full potential. In my personal life, I am equally blessed to have my own cheerleaders in life. The individuals who love me, challenge me, and believe in my abilities to be my absolute best.

So today’s post is an homage to my three biggest advocates in life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always offering me a shoulder to cry on, a high-five to celebrate a success, and smile to show you care.

Mom, thank you for leading by example and always believing in me even when my ideas seemed too far-fetched. You truly are a shining example of the kind of woman, mother, and person I aspire to be like every day. No one in life has ever been a bigger cheerleader than you. From rainy cross-country meets to the birth of my first child, you continue to lift me up when I need it the most. With heartfelt gratitude, mil gracias!

Sean, you are my rock, and you challenge me to be my best self everyday. You encouraged me to go back to graduate school to complete the coursework necessary to become a LPC and cheered me on every step of the way even when juggling it all proved to be taxing on our relationship. Thank you for believing in my abilities to co-parent with you even when I doubted myself sometimes. From the very beginning, first with Liam and now with Atticus, thank you for always praising me for being such a good mom. You may never truly understand the power and influence those words have on me every day. I love you with my whole heart and am grateful to have you in my life.

Anna, thank you for being the absolute best friend anyone could ask for. Few people in life are lucky enough to have lifelong friends, and you’ve been with me from the very beginning. From playdates, to wedding dates, and the birth dates of our children, our friendship has stood the test of time. You have encouraged and supported me through some of my highest and lowest points in life. I don’t know where I’d be today without your wit, sincerity, and friendship. I look forward to all that life has in store for us as friends. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll make that cross-country road trip in our RV when we’re old and gray like we talked about when we were in grade school. I couldn’t love you more even if you were my sister.

To the cheerleaders in all of our lives, thank you for waving your pom-poms, shouting our praises, and rooting for us every step of the way. #blessed

Outrunning the Sun

Most nights after Atticus nods off for the evening, I lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement. Typically at this time of the day, the sun is slowly starting to set. A bright orange glow of beauty positioned perfectly at eye level. So to counter potential blindness, I’ve turned my evening run into a game of sorts. A game I fondly refer to as “Outrunning the Sun.”

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Our neighborhood offers a wealth of options for running including gravel trails, well-paved sidewalks, and a winding asphalt pedestrian road that cuts through the heart of the community. Every night when I set out, my route is a blank slate waiting for me to etch out the miles as I see fit. I weave in and out of the shade always trying to keep the sun at my back.

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In these moments of switchbacks and zig zags, I find myself lost in the beauty all around me. I am often in awe of the sun’s reflection on one of the numerous lakes in the neighborhood; admiring how the deep orange color on the quiet lake resembles the stained glass windows of a church.  Other times, I am mesmerized by the cloud patterns overhead as the sun’s rays break through with the radiance of heaven.

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Outrunning the sun has taken on a deeper meaning for me as this game has gone on for almost eight months now; a game that began shortly after Atticus was born. It’s my time to lose myself in thought, in nature, and in solitude. Quiet moments for reflection, after all, are rare for a mother of two with a house full of responsibilities always waiting in the wings.

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My run usually concludes just as the sun has dipped below the horizon signaling the end of daylight and the conclusion of another busy day. Drenched in sweat, cheeks bright red and flushed, I smile to myself knowing that tomorrow evening I get to do it all over again.

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An Indoor Camping Adventure

For most of the summer, Sean talked about camping with Liam. Unfortunately time did not allow for an outdoor adventure, so Sean did the next best thing- indoor camping. He taught Liam all of the ins and outs of camping without pesky mosquitos or the atrocious heat.

After Atticus woke up from his nap, he had a great time exploring the tent with his big brother. Some day he’ll be old enough to camp with the older bears. Until then, I loved seeing him light up with excitement as he took it all in.

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For dinner, I decided that the fare needed to compliment camping. Because I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, I decided chili would set the tone for their evening of indoor camping. Prepping for dinner can often take just as long as cooking, so on the weekends I try to capitalize on the extra time I have; opting to chop and gather ingredients while Atticus naps or plays underfoot.

It’s always important to give credit where credit is due. I love Nutmeg Nanny’s Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chili (http://www.nutmegnanny.com/2014/10/22/slow-cooker-pumpkin-chili/). I’ve adapted her recipe to suit my family’s gustos (likes). Because Sean despises green bell pepper, I omit both green and red bell peppers from the recipe. And while I’m a huge fan of pumpkin, I don’t think Sean or Liam would be too keen on the idea of it in a chili dish. Instead of using a slow-cooker, I make it in a large soup pot. From start to finish, this delicious dish is ready in about 45 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon comino
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Garnishes:

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Corn chips

First I saute the onions on medium high for about five minutes until translucent. Then I add the garlic and saute until fragrant.

Next I add the Italian sausage and cook until brown. Then I add the beef broth, spices, beans, and tomatoes and let it come to a slow boil.

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I stir periodically as I set the table, prepare the garnishes, and pause to take in precious moments of the boys playing around  me.

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This recipe, hands down, is my favorite because of the surprising flavor the Italian sausage adds. Liam loves it because he gets to top it with corn chips. Any dish that includes chips of any kind is a winner in his book. It’s definitely proven to be a family favorite time and time again.

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What camping excursion would be complete without smores? We accomplished the same results with our gas stove and enjoyed these tasty treats together. It was a messy endeavor, but with gooey marshmallows should you expect anything different.

Sean made the H-E-B run for all of the necessary ingredients as I prepared dinner. He came back with  cinammon graham crackers, which were the perfect compliment to the milk chocolate and toasted marshmallows.

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The camping adventure continued well into the night for Sean and Liam- telling ghost stories with flashlights and making shadow puppets on the cieling. This Papa Bear orchestrated a memorable evening that will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of Liam’s summer vacation.

A Mama Bear Mentality

The psyche of a Mama Bear mentality can be downright exhausting. Pushing the boundaries in every facet of life while trying to balance the world on your shoulders is no easy feat. I’m guilty of carrying this Mama Bear mentality with me day in and day out- worrying about everyone else around me but often neglecting to remember myself.

In counseling, we always stress the importance of self-care. Taking care of yourself first so that you have the physical, mental, and emotional ability to take care of those who need you most. Most of the time, I have this part backwards. At home, I worry about my baby bears and meeting their every need. Are they loved, clothed, fed, bathed, happy….? At work, all of my energy goes into the needs of my students, teachers, parents, and principal.

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In life, there’s always someone or something who needs my attention and time. Is the laundry washed and folded? Is there food in the refrigerator? Did I lay out Liam’s clothes for tomorrow? Are the dishes washed and put away? Did I respond to all of my emails at work? Is my husband getting enough quality time with me? Is there, did I, have I…

I know I’m not the only Mama Bear walking this tight-rope called life. We’re all doing the absolute best we can, but yet we never seem to give ourselves enough credit for making the world around us better every single day in so many amazing ways. So today when you look in the mirror, beam with pride as you admire your Mama Bear badge with pride and honor. You are beautiful! You are amazing! You make the little people in your lives feel loved!

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When you look in the mirror, also pause for a minute to reflect on what you’ve done for yourself today. If you haven’t made time for you, give yourself permission to indulge in even the smallest pleasantry like a cup of coffee, a piece of dark chocolate, or a walk around the block. You do amazing things everyday because you put your family, friends, and coworkers first. But today, take a minute to honor the person holding it all together- YOU!

Motherhood can sometimes feel like a thankless job, but we do it because servanthood and selflessness are a part of the job description. The joy of touching the lives of those who matter the most to us is the fuel that propels us forward. To the Mama Bear in all of us, keep up the good work.

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TGIF

Most Fridays the adage, “TGIF” is my mantra, and today is no exception. After my first week back at work, I’m mentally and physically ready for the reprieve that comes with a weekend. We typically don’t have anything out of the ordinary planned, but I always look forward to the simplicity of our Saturdays and Sundays.

Weekends are sacred because they do not require setting an alarm. Granted our baby bears have their own internal alarm clocks and still rise rather early. Because alarms usually signal the hustle and bustle of the work week morning routine, I enjoy easing into my morning even if it’s early. Hair, makeup, and professional dress are gladly exchanged for bed head, pajamas, and sweet bear hugs.

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When we do venture out of the house on Saturday mornings, it’s for our weekly family coffee date at our favorite coffee shop, Land of a Thousand Hills. It’s the one day of the week I indulge in specialty coffee. This tradition started shortly after Atticus was born so we could enjoy a family outing that wasn’t too far from home. After nearly nine months of Saturdays, we’ve achieved the ultimate in coffee patronage, we’re regulars! When we walk in now, the barista greets us with, “Good morning. A large caraminilla and a decaf honey bunny. Both extra hot.” It’s music to my ears!

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I absolutely love cooking elaborate meals for my family, and the weekends always offer more opportunities for prepping and orchestrating an elaborate spread. Most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays we enjoy family dinners together. As I cook, Sean and I enjoy a glass of wine as the boys play around us. We usually cue up a fun Spotify playlist to accompany dinner. Most of the time, my musical selections match the cuisine of the evening, i.e. salsa music and enchiladas.

Weekends always offer nap time and “quiet time” opportunities. Atticus still takes a morning and afternoon nap, and Liam always has quiet time in the afternoon- quiet, playtime reserved for only him in his bedroom. These quieter moments in the house sometimes equal nap time for Sean and I or at least a low key opportunity to catch up on shows. There is nothing more relaxing than laying in bed on a Saturday afternoon binge watching something on Netflix.

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And finally, no weekend would be complete without wine. I usually abstain from drinking during the week, so come Friday I am more than ready for a glass of vino. In the evenings, after the boys are in bed, Sean and I enjoy wine and conversation. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite highlights of the weekend. Shopping for wine has become a bit of a novelty for me. Every week I peruse the wine aisles while grocery shopping at H-E-B looking at what affordable wines they’re showcasing; often taking advantage of their special offers. We both love reds, especially Merlots, Pinot Noirs, and Cabs, so these are the bottles that traditionally end up in my cart. Opening up a new bottle and discovering something we really like makes this indulgence that much more enjoyable.

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So here’s to the slower paced, unplanned joys that each weekend brings. Wishing you and yours a beautiful one!

 

 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

When you have a grandmother (Gammie) who was a beautician for more than 30 years, hair can be a rather complex issue. My mother took her styling cues from Gammie, but somehow a finesse for teasing and coifing skipped a generation with me.

Most days, you’ll find me sporting a ponytail with part of my hair twisted down the side. Blow drying my hair is a luxury I rarely have time for and anything more complicated than that is often a source of frustration. I’d love to learn how to master a crown braid or a top knot, but I don’t have the patience for the YouTube tutorials. I only achieved that kind of perfection on my wedding day thanks to Leslie, a hairstylist with the professional expertise reserved for only the highly trained.

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We’ve all a bad haircut or style we wished we could remedy with a do-over. Thankfully hair is always something that will grow back. Although when you really want it to, it seems to grow painstakingly slow.

I bring up the subject of hair because today was Crazy Hair Day at school for Liam. With the help of an arsenal of mousse, gel, hairspray, and temporary hair color, I made my best attempt to give life to a mohawk. Over all, I think I successfully managed to pull the style off but sweating on the playground will prove to be the ultimate test.

Because Liam will one day look at these pictures and reminisce about his own childhood, I have to wonder what his thoughts will be about his hair. Will he beam with pride as he shows his own children these photos or will he keep these photos tucked away and out of sight?

Sean often candidly jokes about the “mom” haircut. For the longest time, I thought he was pulling this style out of thin air until I saw the Saturday Night Live skit that gave life to this easy to wear but far less attractive style. Hair certainly has the power to make or break us. Why else would phrases like, “messy hair, don’t care” exist?

An amazing hair style can be life changing. These magical moments only happen when the person holding the scissors is truly a master of their craft. For me, no one deserves this honor more than my dear friend, Loris. Hair is her heart, her spirit, and her passion. I’ve put my hair in her hands on many occasions, and always walk out of her salon feeling like a new person. Let’s face it, great hair can make you feel like you can rule the world.

If I could take back one hairstyle, I’d say goodbye to the pixie cut I had in high school. Initially it was pretty cute, but the grow out stage was incredibly awkward, to say the least. At one point, I know I was channeling Mrs. Brady, but definitely not in a good way. Try as I may, I couldn’t find any photo evidence of this hairstyle likely because it’s a stage I’d like nothing more than to forget.

embrace messy hair

Naturally bad hair days are inevitable. When all else fails, embrace your messy hair with some kind of an updo, put on your favorite lipstick, and move on to the amazing things waiting for you in your day. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. After all, bad hair is here today, but usually gone tomorrow!