9 Tips for Slow Cooker Success


Do y’all love your crock pot as much as I do?  I have learned that a meal in a crock pot started early in the day feels like an all day sigh of relief.  If I get it going in the morning,  then regardless of what chaos the rest of the day may bring,  I at least know dinner is handled.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things about slow cooker success. Here are my best tips.

1. If a recipe calls for chicken breast and you plan to cook it all day, consider trying boneless-skinless thigh meat instead.  Dark meat isn’t nearly as likely to dry out.  It will keep it’s moisture and flavor.

2. If you are cooking a roast (beef or pork), plan to do the following after it’s cooked: take out of crock pot, shred and place on a cookie sheet.  Reduce down the liquid left in the crock pot by boiling it for 10 or 15 minutes in a pot on the stove top.  Pour this reduced liquid over the shredded meat, and place under broiler in oven.  Broil on high heat until tips of meat begin to turn brown.  Trust me on this – so flavorful and good!  See this recipe as an example.  Another of my favorite and easiest dinners to prepare this way is a pork roast cooked with onions and a jar of tomatillo salsa.

3. Think about using your slow cooker for sides too,  like baked potatoes or green beans (we do ours with onions and bacon sometimes; I know it negates the point of vegetables but they’re so yummy). That beautiful trustworthy crock pot is not just for the main dish. Use it for sides and you’ll have one less thing to do at dinner time.

4. Soups are really easy never-fail dinners,  just remember if your soup calls for pasta to add it at the end of cooking just before serving.  This will avoid overcooked, mushy pasta.  Also, if you have “hostess anxiety” about preparing meals for guests (raises hand) I’ve found that soups are a great option.  The meal is done, and you are free to relax and chat with guests, no worrying if the chicken dish you tried to bake will come out of the oven raw.  (Raises hand again.)  Try a taco soup or chili with lots of fun toppings like different cheeses, sour cream, onions, tortilla strips, and avocado.

5. Remember that some things can simmer all day no problem (chili, soups),  while others are better in the crock pot for just a short 3 to 4 hours or it will dry out. I don’t recommend any chicken breast dish if you’re not home to monitor it.

6. Crock pots meals can tend to be on the heavy side,  so think about serving with a salad or some fruit to lighten things up.

7. Don’t forget the crock pot can double as a warming tray – if you’re making homemade tortillas,  throw them in a warmed crock pot so they stay nice and warm. Or if you’re making breakfast for dinner,  use it to keep a big batch of scrambled eggs warm until you’re ready to serve.

8. Make broth after you cook a chicken. Use the broth and leftover chicken with veggies and noodles for a great homemade soup.  Check out 100 days of real food for a super easy way to make homemade broth.

9.  If you have the room, make double! Especially if you are cooking a whole chicken; two can be squeezed into a large slow cooker and still have room for onions, carrots, and potatoes.  You’re going to the trouble of prepping one bird, you might as well make two.  Then you’ll have leftovers for the week to make yummy  sandwiches, soup or quesadillas, and salads like this one (lettuce + all the veggies on hand + hard boiled egg + Caesar dressing + leftover chicken).  So good!


Slow cooker lovers unite. Be loud and proud.  That sturdy, sorta ugly and old ladyish appliance serves us well!

When they see that image.

This is a post about when your children see porn on the Internet. Or receive text messages on their phones of people they may or may not know, naked. Let’s be honest with ourselves and go ahead plan for “when” not “if”.

I read stories like this about the absolute pervasiveness of explicit photos and videos being shared among teens, and I know we have to talk about it. So I take a deep breath, and I say to my children (at the dinner table no less) that when they receive a picture on their phone of someone naked,  they need to tell me or their Dad. I tell them chances are likely that it will happen, and when it does they are not in trouble, nor have they done anything wrong. But they do need to tell us. We can talk about it,  and help make a plan to limit  it happening again.

I tell them that if they happen to know the girl (or boy) in the pictures,  that they might be afraid to tell us. I explain that a fear reaction is completely normal. I tell them that they might worry that I will judge that person who sent or is in the picture,  or get that person in trouble,  or say they can’t be friends with them anymore. I tell them that this isn’t true – that in this house we do not believe in shame or condemnation. We will not love their friend any less, but we will try to help them by loving their friend well. Loving them well means speaking up and getting an adult in their life involved in the situation. So I tell my kids to feel that fear of telling us, know it’s a normal feeling, and tell us anyway in spite of the fear.  They can be brave.

I tell my kids that when they land somewhere on the Internet that isn’t appropriate (*here we talk in detail about what “appropriate” means in our house), that whether they got to that site sorta-kinda-accidentally-on purpose, or truly  by accident, or truly on purpose,  they need to talk to us about that. Again,  so we can talk about it, **remind them why that kind of imagery isn’t best for them,  and help make a plan to limit  it  happening again.

My 9 year old daughter did an image search recently for something totally innocuous,  but in spite of the best of filters on our computers,  something mildly trashy (is that a category?) got through. As I was talking to the kids at the table recently on these topics – of fear and shame and openness and forgiveness –  she teared up,  told us what she saw,  and then said “I feel so, so much better. I don’t know why I kept it a secret.” I know why. Because shame. Shame tells us we must keep silent. If we’re at fault,  if we’re not at fault…shame doesn’t care.  Shame is not a valuable parenting tool. If our kids are feeling it, we have to give them tools to get free from shame.  It starts with being a safe place for them to unload their burdens.  The good news is that you get to give those burdens right back to Jesus, and He is strong enough to carry them.


You know the lyrics to that incredible song that say “Come out of hiding,  you’re safe here with me…” Isn’t that a beautiful lyric? I so want to model that place of safety for my children. Where they can come out of the darkness of confusing and scary situations like seeing images they aren’t ready for yet,  and just be loved. Comforted. Forgiven if needed,  time and time again.

Talk to your kids about when they see porn. Be a safe place.

*I feel like I should just add here that I’m no prude. I’m a big fan of sex. (Also, after proofreading this, my husband asked me to make “I’m a big fan of sex” my twitter bio.  I didn’t.) But I want my children to know the difference between what is good and pure, and what is a cheap counterfeit. And friends there is just so,  so much counterfeit available.  They won’t know that the counterfeit is a cheap fake if we don’t tell them.

**If you are one of those “there’s nothing wrong with porn” and “boys will be boys” sorta parents who have thrown up their hands on the matter,  I would implore you to check out this website and reconsider. It’s not okay for our children to see these things.  It damages them in real ways. Let’s all do a better job.

I so hope this post isn’t just adding to the noise and increasing the fear that mamas already feel about this stuff.  My heart is that it’s helpful, and gives you a starting place to begin these needed discussions. 



Rethinking Behavior Modification


It has hit me in a new way recently,  that of the four people in that photo right there,  I can only modify the behavior of exactly one of them. Me. I can shape,  nudge,  model,  correct and discipline those other three,  but ultimately it’s up to each of those human hearts how they will act and what words they will say.

I’m trying to be ever mindful of the following: When I start to feel like there is not enough gentleness in this house,  rather than trying to figure out how to make my kids lose a bad attitude… maybe I just need to spend that energy on myself. On the self-control and prayer and consistency that it takes to be gentle in the midst of harshness. When I worry my kids are being selfish,  with their time,  their energy, their stuff – maybe instead of discussions and lectures about self sacrifice, maybe they just need to see me get up off the couch and serve with a happy heart. Choose a game with them over Facebook. Read a book with them instead of watch TV. That’s so much harder for me than just having a conversation (let’s be honest, lecture) about behavior, but so much more effective.

To teach my children kindness,  I must use kind words. Not lectures about being kind. To teach them gentleness,  I must actually be gentle. Not nag them to stop being hard on each other. And some days that seems like an impossibility. With a day full of “that’s my spot”, “you took my glass “, “it’s my turn”……… I finally explode “ENOUGH! WE WILL NOT YELL AT EACH OTHER IN THIS HOUSE!”

Modeling behavior really is everything, isn’t it? I know,  intellectually I mean, that to speak harshly and loudly to my kids when they are being disrespectful to each other makes zero sense.To rant and rail at how horrified I am at the level of disrespect in our home does not bring down the tension level. Not even a teeny bit.And yet…. Sigh.

I’m grateful that my kids are quick to forgive,  and we can even laugh about those ironic outbursts later,  but I’m ready for them to happen a whole lot less.

Creating a peaceful, happy home.  It really does begin and end with a peaceful, happy mama.

image (1)
NYC Christmas Day 2014



“We are each an island,  but He gives us gifts to use as bridges into each other’s lives. When we lay down our gift,  we walk right over it and straight into another heart.”
-Glennon Doyle Melton/Carry on Warrior

I am grateful for friends and family who with their encouraging words have helped me find my gifts. Those gifts allow me to enter into someone else’s story,  and that’s just about the most precious thing in life.

Those generous words about what they see in me have helped me OWN my gifts,  and I want to use them up.

Here are the things I think act as my bridges:
~ Valuing other people’s stories, and remembering the details

~ Knowing that I am not in competition with anyone. You do your best and I’ll do mine. There is no such thing as Mother of the Year.

~ Connecting other women to each other; knowing intuitively that someone A needs someone B in their lives and trying to foster that connection

~ Words of encouragement.

~ Grace for all Mamas. I want us to win. No matter your “style”,  I am for you. I think we’re all in this together.

What is your gift? How can you build bridges? Our gifts are all so different. Let’s value each other’s gifts; to do so, we have to value our own. I think that if we don’t,  value our own I mean,  we can’t celebrate others. Looking closely at another person’s gifts will just lead to becoming jealous or feeling inferior. I want to celebrate your gift and allow it to be a bridge into my life,  not a place of comparison or envy.

I’ve learned so much watching others operate in their gifts. When I let it,  it HELPS and uplifts me instead of making me feel not enough. I’ve learned about graceful hostessing,  beautiful decorating,  joy in mothering,  unwavering faith in hardships, and perseverance in the daily grind of house and home from watching friends and family do it confidently. I’m so grateful.  I’m not naturally great at any of those things, but I’m a lot better than I once was because of the bridges those friends have built.

“Be confident because you are a child of God.

Be humble because everyone else is too.”

-Glennon Doyle Melton

-I wrote and published this on my phone. sitting outside my son’s CrossFit class…. Realizing that okay,  maybe,  I have a teeny tiny bit of envy and comparison with Crossfit Mamas whose gift is physical perseverance and endurance and amazing arms and tight buns. Whatever. I’m a work in no-comparison-allowed progress.

DIY Distressed Thrift Store Table

distressed table


Jonathan picked up this solid wood drop leaf table at a thrift store here in Clarksville for $25 bucks.  Woo-whoo!  It had some staining/damage on top, and some water rings, so I followed the advice found here on The Purple Paint Lady’s site to use a spray shellac before painting with chalk paint.  I pretty much just followed her tips, except I used the Americana Decor chalk paint from Home Depot (it took 1.5 of the 8 oz jars) instead of Annie Sloan brand.

This was my first time using chalk paint, and I’m a fan.  Nice to skip the sanding and priming steps that are required when you use regular latex paint. It’s not a smooth, perfect finish but it’s great for the distressed look I wanted. No worries about dirty shoes propped on the coffee table scuffing up my paint job  – it will just add to the charm!  [These are the things moms with wild children tell themselves.]


These are few of my favorite things.


Do you have a few things on this earth that you just know will make you feel better? Just a degree or two better than however you were feeling before?  It might take you from ho-hum to happy, or move you from truly sad to just a little melancholy…but you know it will start you headed in the right direction.  Here are a few of mine, in no particular order:

  • Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit
  • Re-reading any of the following: Little Women, A Little Princess, Pride and Prejudice
  • Bethel worship videos on YouTube
  • Messaging with my friend Lisa in Germany on those beautiful rare occasions our time zones and free times both align; about once every 3 months
  • Letting my daughter brush and braid my hair
  • Cooking and eating a hearty soup —- the ultimate comfort food  (Here’s one that’s simmering away right now.)
  • Writing a quick letter and affixing a stamp and walking it to the mailbox
  • An afternoon cup of coffee with plenty of half and half
  • Taking my kids for a fountain drink at the gas station
  • A phone call with a family member
  • Scrubbing the kitchen counters, including the crumbs underneath the mixer and toaster
  • Turning up the Pandora Classic Rock station and singing along, air guitar to embarrass kids as it is called for

Thinking about how very few of these things include screen time motivates me to continue to try and decrease the TV/computer/phone time in my life.  (Yes. I get that I am typing this on a computer and you are likely reading it on a phone.  The irony is not wasted on me.)

Small joys.  They are the stuff of a rich, grateful life.  Taking time to pause and appreciate the small gifts that bring me joy make for a happier mama, and happier home.

It’s in all our best interest to keep the fridge stocked with grapefruit.





Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

clothe yourselves with compassion,


humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12


Some thoughts, of late, on kindness:

To “be nice” is a very different thing that showing great kindness. Excerpt from a post exploring this idea: “…kindness emerges from someone who’s confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves…..At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others.”  So much worth for me in exploring the true intent of the energy I spend in my words and interactions with others.  More thoughts here.

People won’t always know what to do with your acts of kindness. They might mistrust your motives, or think you are being weird. That’s okay.  Do kind acts anyway.  Say kind words anyway.

An easy practice:  If you think something nice about someone, SAY IT. Both to them, and to others. If you think something unkind/unflattering/ugly about someone, don’t.  Don’t say it. To them or to others.

I so want to raise kind, caring children.  It starts by figuring out how to teach them to be kind to one another, and frankly, we can use some work there.  It’s always hardest to be kind to those under the same roof it seems.

I was cleaning out a file cabinet this week, and was reminded of a handwritten note I got from a hard-nosed history teacher when I was in 11th grade.  It was short but heartfelt, congratulating me on a performance in a high school play.  In retrospect, that little note really mattered to me. (Duh.  It’s been 20 years and I can still practically recite it.)  I had thought in high school that maybe I was “sorta becoming okay at this drama thing”, but that simple note made me feel like I was really good at something.  How easy would it have been for him to leave that note unwritten or those kind thoughts unshared?  WRITE THE NOTE PEOPLE.  You can’t know how it might matter to someone.


Lauryn’s Lovely Lemonade


Lauryn found an old juicer out at my Grandma’s house. Really old – it belonged to my great-grandma Allie.  She loved it, and her Gigi gave it to her to bring to Tennessee with us.  We’ve had fresh squeezed lemonade every week since! I think it’s her new specialty.  She says the most important part is straining the fresh-squeezed juice really well, because “pulp is so gross.”  Okay then.


1 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1 cup hot water

8 cups cold water

In half gallon container, place sugar and 1 cup of hot water and stir until sugar dissolves.  Add lemon juice and cold water. Stir well and serve over ice.




Make room for listening.

Messy bun.  Scarf. Lip gloss.  The uniform of 30 something moms everywhere.
Messy bun. Scarf. Lip gloss.
The uniform of 30-something moms everywhere.

I gotta say….the mid-thirties are a good place to live.  I’ve slowly noticed the absence of the self-doubt and comparisons with other peoples’ lives that plagued me in my 20’s.  If asked at the time, I wouldn’t have owned up to struggling with such demons, but now in their absence (well, mostly) I see that they were indeed there.

I think my insecurity most surfaced in explaining and justifying.   The explanations and justifications always have an unstated, unspoken message, don’t they?

  • I work part-time because_____. (Please don’t judge me for not staying home full time.)
  • My children sleep in a crib because __________. (Please don’t judge me that I don’t let my baby sleep in my bed.)
  • We send our kids to public school because _________. (Please don’t think I don’t love Jesus because I don’t homeschool.  Please don’t assume that I don’t participate in the education of my children.)
  • We homeschool because ___________. (Please don’t assume I think other schooling choices are inferior.)
  • Yes, we are foster parents.  My kids are gaining value from the experience because _______. (Please don’t insinuate I’m neglecting my birth children.)
  • We choose to vaccinate our children because _________. (Please don’t assume I haven’t considered the options.)
Ugh.  I can hear myself having those conversations with so many people over the past decade.  Half of them must have been thinking “Why the heck are you telling me this, you crazy lady?  I just asked where your kids went to school….”
I know now that the “Why the heck are you telling me this….??” question is answerable.  Why did I do all that explaining? Well.  We all crash into those people that say hurtful, judgmental things.  Depending on the source, those hurtful words can leave a pretty big impact.  I do not like conflict. I do not like to be disliked.  I do not like to feel like people are making unfair assumptions about me or my family.  So my explaining every decision in my life was an attempt at protecting myself from those assumptions.  And it was probably all futile anyway.  Did I really think I could explain our choices enough to ensure that no one would ever think they were the wrong choices?  That’s crazy.  But I think that was at the heart of all my talk, talk, talking.
I’m learning to be more succinct in my answers; and the best part of that, is that it leaves me more time to really listen to someone else’s story.  I’m approaching age 37 next month.  Here’s to justifying less and listening more in my 37th year!

Rough Places

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.

These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16

Walking blind. Bumping along,  not sure of the way, no idea where the obstacles lay. Even with a guide,  it’s terrifying because I WANT TO SEE THE PATH. Let go of my arm,  take off the blindfold and turn on the lights and I’ll manage just fine,  thank you.

Except I won’t. Not really.

Because I see an obstacle to avoid, but my Guide walks me right up to it. “Go thru it”, He says. The obstacles are hard and painful,  just let me go around. Or better still,  let’s just go back where we came from. “No”,  he says. “Go thru it.” And I can’t,  not without my Guide. I’m blind, after all. And I’m so scared and confused and looking around and trying to figure things out and it just leaves me spiraling… So I leave my blindfold in place and go on thru, blind. He empowers,  encourages,  and miraculously propels.

And the rough places made smooth… It doesn’t usually happen how I think it should. I envision a magical parting of the seas,  a word spoken to quiet the storm, water to wine and the party saved. A miracle I merely observe, instead of actively take part in.

But the rough places in my road,  the Guide has demanded I chisel down with prayer, and hard acts of love, and the bitter tasting work of forgiveness in the deepest part of my heart.  Bitter work, with sweet fruit. I meet a rough place that is a hindrance to my journey, and find my rough place to be a deep pit of self-pity and ridiculous cries of “It’s not right…” directed to the listening, loving ears of the One who endured the greatest injustice of all.

The way out of the pit is to open my mouth and give honor to people who’ve wounded me. The way out is to give people who I feel like have forgotten me the benefit of the most gracious explanation for their behavior. It’s being aware of the deep,  ugly places of my soul that would even for one second want someone else to feel pain or anger,  so that I’m not so alone in mine, and the way out is in joyfully accepting gentle rebuke and forgiveness for that kind of childishness that looks nothing like Him.

The rough places can indeed be made smooth. Usually,  with a beautiful partnering with your Savior God who has been directing your path and laying down road, years before you even knew you’d be going anywhere.

He’s good. God’s people are good. They love well. This I know.


I jotted this down in my journal (okay, the Evernote app on my smart phone) a few months ago, still very much in a hard place of chiseling down rough places in the figurative road of life so I could move ahead. I know some of your stories who are reading this, and know that you’ve experienced heartache and disappointment in a much greater way that I can imagine – from family members, a spouse, a church, a friend. I can assure you that God sees you; He knows you feel like you’re flailing around in the dark. That’s why we have this verse; to know that feeling blind and scared and like you can’t move ahead is expected.  It’s okay. The path is unfamiliar, but He’s a trustworthy guide.

 I am happy to report that after almost a year of wondering exactly what kinda crazy, pot-holed, in-need-of-repair trail the Lord had us on, that the road eventually led us to a lovely destination indeed: Clarksville, TN. We have just landed this week, and are so amazingly excited to be here.  Lots of exploring ahead.