Potato and Yam Soup with Bacon

It’s the middle of summer, a miserably hot Utah day, and I decided I would whip up a pot of potato soup. Because nothing says hot summer like hot soup. I wound up being quite proud of this particular pot of soup. My husband and kids enjoyed it in spite of the heat. I added a little bit of spice to it to keep it interesting and sort of summery. Perhaps it is best reserved for colder months.

My first plan was to do the whole thing in the crock pot. But I didn’t have evaporated milk, so I did a big chuck of it in the crock pot. So it’s not purely a slow cooker meal, but it gets a lot done.

As far as the potato and yam comparison go, I’m telling what I used, but your aim should be roughly equal potatoes and yams.

1 yam

2 medium yellow potatoes

2 medium red potatoes

1 onion

3 celery stalks

3 strips of bacon

1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning (or a red pepper type thing as you prefer)

Half a stick of butter

2 cans of chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup of whole milk

3 tbsp flour

2 tbsp of balsamic glace or 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Siracha to taste

Salt and pepper

Cheese, more bacon, sour cream, all that

 

Chop the potatoes and yam and place in the slow cooker. Add the butter and the broth.

Fry up the bacon and use the bacon grease to cook the onions. Save the leftover bacon grease for later. Add those to the crockpot with the Old Bay and some salt and pepper (be generous with that seasoning). Cook on high for 4 hours/low for 8 hours. Basically until the potatoes and yam are nice and soft.

When that slow cooker stuff is pretty much done, use about 3 tbsp of bacon grease (or butter, but bacon!) and the flour to make a roux. This mean, get the fat nice and hot, toss in the flour, and mix it for about 3-5 minutes. Add the milk and keep whisking here and there until a nice cream appears. Now, add more salt and pepper and a healthy squirt or two of siracha.

Now, you can either transfer the contents of the slow cooker to another pot or use the slow cooker, whichever. I like a creamy potato soup, so I mashed my potatoes up a bit at this point. Probably not necessary. Anywho, add the cream sauce to the potatoes and mix it in. Add the balsamic glace or vinegar and stir that in.

Serve with your delightful toppings of choice.

 

 

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Comfort food. That beloved meal of heritage that is a classic go-to in your home.

In our house we have a dish my husband took from his ex-wife. It strikes me as one of those down-home dishes every other person probably knows how to make, and I’m just fine with that.

Doesn’t make it any less good. This goes fast in our house. My girls eat in huge helpings (I now wonder if I can turn it into a calorie-packed meal for cystic fibrosis). One time, before we had kids, my husband fed the missionaries while I was at work and those elders ate all of it.

The best part is you can make this as simple or elaborate as you want. At its simplest, the dish is chicken, rice, broccoli, and cream soup together in a pan. You can use turkey, you can substitute cauliflower for the broccoli or combine the two, you can probably cram in other foods.

I’ll give you our favorite version.

 

20180725_191328 (1)1 pound of chicken, diced or shredded

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1 can of milk or water (use milk if you have nothing against milk)

1 head of broccoli chopped into florets. Or an equivalent amount of broccoli florets. You’re really looking for enough broccoli to create its own stratus.

1 onion

2 cups of mushrooms, sliced

2 cups of cooked rice

1 cup of shredded cheese.

Oil or butter

Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350.

Chop the onions to your preference (we like Julian) and sauté them with the fat in a pan. You can do the mushrooms with them, but Julie and Julia did say to cook them separate so they’ll brown properly or something. When they’re looking pretty good, cook the chicken. Sometimes I cook this dish in a cast iron skillet and just leave my chicken, onions, and fungi there when I’m done. Because my husband feels quite strongly they ought to be the bottom layer. If you’re using a baking dish, then simply move this stuff to the pan.

Steam the broccoli, then spread it over the chicken and stuff. Dash some salt and pepper on this.

Cook the cream soups with the milk (or water, if you must). When prepared, mix this with the rice. When it’s all nice and combined, pour it over the rest of the food. Salt and pepper as you will.

Stick this in the oven. 5 minutes or so gets it nice and hot. Then, sprinkle the cheese over it. Cook about 5-10 minutes until your cheese is to your liking.

Serve and enjoy. It’s creamy, heavy comfort food that just tastes good.

On LDS folk breastfeeding at church

Yesterday, I missed a pretty good debate in one of my Facebook groups–by the time I saw it, the comments had been turned off. Turned out threads regarding the same incident appeared in similar groups. Most of them again had comments off. Well, turned out the story had already appeared on a blog or two and that was creating quite the stir. Curious to read the drama over something near and dear to my heart, I sought out the original story, a little question in one of my most local mom groups.

So, if you haven’t heard, allegedly a mom isn’t getting her temple recommend because she was breastfeeding uncovered.

 

I had heard of such things before, but it always seemed to be in the realm of rumor lore. Never had I seen evidence. The suggestion a woman can’t breastfeed as she is comfortable sets my blood boiling. What devil spawn would even suggest a thing? Shall we do sacrament meeting nurse-ins and protest on Temple Square?

I don’t know the girl, even though we have three mutual friends. I assume she’s a nice person. I assume she is a faithful member of the church who wants what is best for her family. The original little post didn’t even mention what happened (that came out in the comments and later on The Exponent and another blog or two). She just wanted to know how to contact a member of the 70.

Nuggets of the aftermath pop up here and there on my feed and I feel… worried.

All things being equal, I firmly believe a woman should be able to breastfeed wherever, covered or uncovered. If this mother is worth of her temple recommend, she should have it. But when this become a rallying cry of breastfeeding rights against the Church, we have a problem.

Which is odd. I have never participated in a nurse-in, but I’d like to. I love the idea of actively championing breastfeeding rights.

But there is a line in my faith outlook when it comes to actively going against the Church. I’m not saying breastfeeding is against church policy–this is the first time I’ve truly heard of a problem. I don’t think it should be. I don’t think there’s an actual policy on the matter. Maybe there should be, maybe we should be able to move beyond that ourselves.

In some minds as far as I’ve seen, this is becoming a rallying cry of championing a cause in protest when I bet the best approach would be to seek unity and understanding. People are using this incident as yet another reason to bash the Church. This is becoming “proof” of how oppressive we are, an excuse for another reason to avoid the Church, a happy dance of anyone who wants to snub the LDS.

My wish and hope for this mother is the matter is settled calmly, thoughtfully, and faithfully.

I don’t know the situation. All I know is one voice of an incident I never saw. Was the bishop being ridiculous about the matter? Are he and the stake president decent guys who have a thing against public breastfeeding? Was this mother performing full-on strip tease at church? (I highly doubt this, I’m just wondering about the full truth). Did the discussion over the breastfeeding complaints get a little heated and one or both parties said things out of spite? For the matter, maybe the whole thing is less about breastfeeding and more about everything else. But once again, I don’t know.

That’s why I worry about this becoming A Thing. A not-so-simple matter between a few people in one ward is not cause for a march or a petition or any of that them-vs-them ilk. From what I gathered, this mother went up the appropriate chain of authority to see to the matter. May all go well there.

But I don’t think she should get her recommend just because she called and complained to a bunch of church guys.

The temple is a big part of the LDS faith. It is a place of sacred covenants, a place where one might learn or meditate or pray. A recommend is not a thing to be taken lightly, and certainly not up for barter or haggle in a social media outrage. It is not a trophy for anyone after they “won” a disagreement in the church.

I do think this is a matter we might wish to think upon. The obvious is pondering women’s rights and breastfeeding matters and I don’t wish to shun those. But in the matter of such a disagreement, how might one grow? Is this to be a fight against the bishop or the stake president or even the Church? Or is a time to consider how to meet one’s needs while still loving and honoring the Church?

Perhaps someone in the line will state the message to stop fussing over the breastfeeding. Perhaps, as one thought was given, this mother will find blessings in doing what the bishop wants, even if it is wrong. Now, I do want to make the disclaimer I can think of plenty of cases where the bishop or stake president might be wrong and it’s definitely wrong and warrants a real battle or scolding. But not all distasteful incidents are at the level, and this may be one of them. These are imperfect mortal men who are going to have their peeves and their favorites and their quirks. Sometimes we can humble ourselves to sustain and support them anyway and maybe even humor them. (Do I think this is one of those times? I don’t know, I don’t know the situation).

Whatever the complaint, it’s not a reason to put one’s self at odds with the Church. I believe this is a matter than can be handled peacefully. Maybe a policy will be created. Maybe we’ll continue to navigate such matters at local levels

But a rallying cry of breastfeeding moms against the Church, it need not be.

About those teachers who don’t do a darn thing during the summer

man wearing sunglasses reading book on body of water

Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca on Pexels.com

I am about two-thirds of the way through my summer break. Why do I have a summer break? Because I am a teacher. Yes, I am one of those people who get to have that awesome 2 or 3-month break that all other careers hate us for.

And I am not going to apologize for it. I am not going to make excuses to downplay my summer break. I am not going to tell you how awful it is. This is not one of those posts listing how I don’t really get a summer break, poor me.

Oh, I get a summer break.

It’s awesome. I applied for, was offered, and took a new teaching position (about the extent of my teacher work). I have spent lots of time with my kids. I have slept in and realized I don’t like sleeping in. I have gardened. I have gone to the water park. I’ve read books. I’ve written a little.

It’s been a pretty grand summer.

I’m sure there are teachers–awesome, talented teachers–who don’t get much of a summer break. They have their reasons. Perhaps they truly are given duties and responsibilities that zap the summer away from them. Perhaps summer is the most convenient time to take classes. Perhaps they are those super-teachers who won’t be happy if they’re not dabbling in something teacher-related.

I’m happy those don’t apply to me.

See, I don’t actually get paid for the summer because that’s not how my new contract works and it’s not how past contracts have worked. My contracts pretty much cover the school year. That is the time I am being paid for. I have my paycheck spread out over twelve months, but I’m not earning anything during those warmer months. So why should I work?

Yeah, you might say I should work because that’s what good teachers do. If I truly cared about the children, I would abandon my own offspring and husband and slave away all summer long, coming up with Pinterest-perfect classrooms and writing and rewriting curriculum, and pretty much humble-bragging about what a good teacher I am.

I think I’m a pretty good teacher. I have received pretty good evaluations and pretty good feedback.  I know I’m not yet the greatest teacher ever. If becoming that means I don’t get any free time for myself and my family, then too bad. I’m not yet at a season of my life where I want to do that.

That isn’t to say teachers who don’t do a darn thing during the summers are bad teachers. I don’t think there’s a strong correlation between the two ideas. All that can really be said about a teacher forgetting about teaching during the summer is that he’s not working on teaching stuff. That’s it. A teacher who has dropped the teaching mantle for a few months is merely focusing on other aspects of a balanced life.

We teachers who don’t toil endlessly in our classrooms during the summer are merely looking at the rest of the world and our lives. We’re enjoying ourselves. We are understanding there is more to life than teaching. We are relaxing. We are exploring. We are taking care of other relationships. We are taking care of ourselves. We are examining other interests. After all, what would we think of a student who focused only on one thing?

We don’t need to be shamed or told we don’t care about the children. If you want us to work during the summer, pay us. But I’d rather have my precious summer off.

Relief Society Lesson: True Ministers Focus on the Needs of Others

 

Some years ago, my parents attended a dinner for my dad’s work at one of the nice hotels in Salt Lake City. My parents are very middle-class people who don’t make their way into nice hotels a heck of a lot, so this was a good treat for them. My mother told how she spent much of the evening in awe over the beautiful décor and fine furniture, how lovely everything was. Eventually, she needed to use the facilities, where she again found herself in awe—yes, over a bathroom. It was fancy, with all sorts of amenities and soaps. When she opened a stall, she found it bigger than her own bathrooms at home. Yes, it was a lovely, lovely building. It was only when she reached over to grab some toilet tissue that she realized something. It didn’t matter how beautiful, fine, or fancy the bathroom was when they happened to not have what they really needed: toilet paper.

Now, this has become a fun story we like to tell, referring to it indeed as “The Parable of the Toilet Paper”.  With this lesson I hope you will find the ability to really think about what is needed by those you minister to. You may or may not be giving the big fancy experience, but are you at least getting them the toilet paper, or in other words, what they really need? In past lessons I’ve talked about different ways you might wish to be ministered to, or different ways you might minister. Today, I want you to consider all those things: things you’ve done, things you’ve pondered and prayed over, things you have received, and start to sort through those as what your sisters really need.

When we consider the needs of those we minister to, what is our goal?

As I pondered this, several ideas came to me. Should we even have a goal? Is service not enough in and of itself? Surely we’re not serving to just check a box or have bragging rights? But if there is no goal, or no reason to serve, why are we even serving?

Such answers to that question might be, we serve because we love our neighbors. We serve because we want to learn to love our neighbors. We serve because Christ did. We serve because it seems like it’s the right thing to do. We serve to build community. We serve to obviously help our neighbors. We serve because someone brought the idea up. We serve because it makes us feel good.

I think these answers are good answers, likely even wonderful answers. We do serve for all these reasons and more. But they’re all part of a greater reason.

We serve because we want to bring others to Christ.

Now, of course this is not in the hurried sort of way. All the answers discussed are part of a road that may be longer or shorter as we bring another person closer to Christ. The Savior said “Come Follow Me” and that word “follow” implies to me so much action and time. No, we aren’t serving others as some sort of bargain  of “I will serve you and you in turn will quickly grow in your spirituality and testimony.” But we are emulating the Savior, we are following His example, we are acting upon His Teachings.

The question I want you to think about to yourselves is this “How can my service help spiritually?”

When we turn the focus to helping spiritually, in now way do I want to dismiss the very real importance and blessings of addressing physical and temporal needs. I sincerely believe that when we help others with temporal things we are in a very real way helping them spiritually. It may be a small way akin to a planted seed, but it’s real.

Linda K. Burton recounts a story of the early church that spoke to me of the connection between spiritual and temporal:

in the October 1856 general conference as President Brigham Young announced to the congregation that handcart pioneers were still on the trail and late in the season. He declared: “Your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the celestial kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains, and attend strictly to those things which we call temporal, … otherwise your faith will be in vain.”2

We remember with grateful admiration the men who headed off to rescue those suffering Saints. But what did the sisters do?

“Sister [Lucy Meserve] Smith recorded … that after President Young’s exhortation, those in attendance took action. … Women ‘[removed] their petticoats [large underskirts that were part of the fashion of the day and that also provided warmth], stockings, and every thing they could spare, right there in the [old] Tabernacle, and piled [them] into the wagons to send to the Saints in the mountains.’”3

Several weeks later, President Brigham Young gathered the Saints again in the old Tabernacle as the rescuers and the handcart companies got closer to Salt Lake City. With great urgency, he pleaded with the Saints—especially the sisters—to nurse the sufferers and feed them and receive them, saying: “Some you will find with their feet frozen to their ankles; some are frozen to their knees and some have their hands frosted. … We want you to receive them as your own children, and to have the same feeling for them.”

Lucy Meserve Smith also recorded:

We did all we could, with the aid of the good brethren and sisters, to comfort the needy. … They got their hands and feet badly frosted. … We did not cease our exertions [un]til all were made comfortable. …

“I never took more satisfaction and, I might say, pleasure in any labor I ever performed in my life, such a unanimity of feeling prevailed. …

“What comes next for willing hands to do?”5

I love how this story speaks of the very real service to people in great physical need. Service is truly something holy that is meant to not just fix what a person needs fixed, but to stand as a principle of our religion.

The title of this lesson is “True Ministers Focus on the Needs of Others”. The pioneers in the story were not in need of those socks and petticoats because they were pretty. Nor did the Saints already settled gather up useless items for their struggling brothers and sisters. They certainly didn’t ignore the admonition as something “sort of nice” or “maybe something another person will do”. When the struggling pioneers arrived, they people continued to serve them.

I like to think all parties are blessed when we focus on what each other really needs and how to bring them ever so much closer to our Savior and Heavenly Father.

Hopefully, everyone has had a time where they have been served or helped in pretty much the perfect way. You were helped when you most needed it, or you were given just the right thought or support. It’s a great feeling, one that has made me feel closer to my Savior. That is the ultimate purpose of serving someone. They  might not recognize a closeness to Christ at that time, but you are introducing or helping build the connection with each little act of service you do that truly meets their needs. Not something that’s ultra convenient for you, or something kind of nice you heard someone else did, but what that person truly needs.

Recently in a social media group a woman asked advice on a ministering situation she was involved in. Her question was quite simple and straightforward: The sister she ministered to was so needy this woman was having trouble meeting her needs and was wondering if it was time to kick the sister’s problems up a level for further help. It was a simple enough question, but it did lead to a pretty interesting debate about boundaries, self-sufficiency, and giving our all. I don’t know what the right answer was and I hope the girl that asked it was able to find a solution, but I did become fascinated by the idea of trying to push ourselves in service, an idea that came up several times. I’m sure there are times when you will need more help than you can give (which is why we can report things to our Relief Society Presidency) and everyone needs boundaries, but what happens when we try to push ourselves a little farther in serving others? What happens when we try to be a just a little more selfless?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said the following “Our Savior gave Himself in unselfish service. He taught that each of us should follow Him by denying ourselves of selfish interests in order to serve others.

“If any man will come after me [He said], let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24–25; see also Matthew 10:39).”

We were given the instruction to minister to others. Therefore, we are indeed capable of it. When we seek to meet the needs of others, we will be blessed.

How can we become more capable of meeting others’ needs? We can reach out to others for help, be it other neighbors, or our families, and of the course others in the church. We can practice increasing our own skills to help serve.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we serve in the fancy, “correct” way. Our focus is upon meeting needs. Are we worried about how we go about it? Are we giving them something they don’t really need so we can say we served? Or are we truly focused on meeting needs?

Some questions:

What blessings might we receive when we work to lose ourselves in service?

How can we serve each other spiritually?

What is something that happened that uplifted you?

What does it mean to you to find ways to meet needs?

What are the spiritual needs of those you minister to?

How does assisting those we minister to in spiritual ways help them temporally as well?

What are some temporal needs that may need to be addressed before we might be able to focus on their spiritual needs?

Signs it’s Time To Leave Your Classroom

I switched jobs this year. I’ve gone from teaching 2nd grade at an inner-city charter school to teaching 1st in a small town (technically I haven’t yet started, but I do have a contract).  I’m looking forward to the change because, wow, I needed it.

It seems that back in the day, a teacher tended to stay at a school for the long haul. I had I once had a principal tell me that now looks odd. A career, after all, is to some extent about growth and one does not want to be stagnant.

Here’s how I knew it was time to move on:

  1. Misery. This is a big one. I was depressed, stressed, and thinking incredibly dark thoughts. If you’re not happy, good grief, it’s time to go.
  2. Clashes with coworkers. You might not always like every last person you work with, but if the environment is generally bad, you might want to leave. I loved my team and many people at the school, but drama was happening just the same.
  3. You’re wondering about that greener grass. I was daydreaming about different schools, different environments, etc. Nothing wrong with going to see it.
  4. The writing is on the wall. Truth be told, I don’t know the destiny of my last school. But I had the feeling it was suffering. The school population had exploded, and it brought some demographics we weren’t yet prepared to properly handle, and we were trying too many things. If you think your school is going where you don’t want it go, consider leaving.
  5. You don’t like your kids. Another big one. As a teacher, you had better enjoy being with your students. I no longer did, not as a whole, anyway. Or, perhaps the kids would have been great on their own, but the combination was awful.
  6. You feel like it. Don’t be afraid to explore!

Bathsheba Was Not on the Roof: And Here’s Why That Is Important

Beautiful insight…

On Sovereign Wings

A few years ago I was on the phone with an old friend. We were talking about another friend of ours, a man who was about to be incarcerated for some poor decisions he had made. As we were talking about the case, my friend drew a familiar parallel. “If she hadn’t acted like Bathsheba and seduced him,” he said speaking of the girl involved, “this never would have happened.”

Bathsheba 1
I knew very little about the circumstances surrounding our friend’s arrest, and blessedly I was not his judge. What I did know was that something about that comparison felt incredibly wrong to me. It seared my chest with pain and sank into my stomach like a weighted piece of brimstone.

His implication nagged at me for months. What was it about his analogy that felt so off? Finally, I decided to pay attention to those persistent feelings, and I sat…

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