Now, I don’t want to freak anyone out, but I’m about to post a recipe.
Crazy, I know.
I am not what one might call gifted in the culinary arts. I can grill a mean chicken breast.Â I can steam the heck out of a broccoli floret.Â And I can make mashed potatoes that make you wanna smack your Grandma.Â But other than that one meal, it’s really hit and miss.Â I think it’s cause I’m not a detail-oriented person.Â I like the idea of cooking, but when I start actually doing it, I get side tracked and forget basic concepts.Â Such as cooking times.Â And stirring.Â The result of which is often gunk burnt to the bottom of a pot.
When I was pregnant, Chris started cooking our meals so that I could come home after work and take a much needed nap.Â And he just never stopped.Â I guess he was tired of burnt lima beans and soggy rice.Â But now that he is working full-time and I am home all day, it just seems wrong to make him come home and cook for us.Â So, I’ve been making more of an effort to cook our dinners and I have had pretty good luck because I found the key to my foodie success.
I am a Crock Pot Queen.
I haven’t messed anything up in a crock pot yet, and so now I am cooking almost all of our meals in them.Â During Bean’s morning nap, I just throw whatever we’re having for dinner in a crock pot, cover it with something saucy and then let it go.Â I haven’t been let down yet.
Yesterday I made my Dad’s shredded Mexican beef.Â It is delicious and one of my favorites that he makes.Â He doesn’t do his in a crock pot, but it’s the same principle for making the dish and it works whether you cook it low and slow in your oven, high and fast in your pressure cooker, or all day long in your crock pot.
First, you start with a big ol’ hunk a meat.Â (Vegetarians, look away…).Â Use a bottom or top round if you want to have shredded beef.Â I didn’t have this cut.Â I had a pretty tough piece of meat and it never got tender enough to shred (I think it must have been a pot roast).Â But this worked just as well, too.Â Only I didn’t shred it, I just cut it up into slices like a pot roast. But we’ll get to that later…
Season the meat with salt and pepper.Â I use Lawry’s for everything.
(Don’t I look just like my BFF, The Pioneer Woman?!?!?)
Then throw the meat into the crock pot.
Cover the meat with two cans of Rotel tomatoes, two cups of water, and a fajita seasoning packet from the store.
Now, turn your trusty, dusty crock pot on the desired cook time (I prefer six hours for this one).
Now, as I mentioned before, what happens next will be determined by what cut of beef you have.Â If you have something really fatty that becomes soft enough to shred with forks, then you take the meat out of it’s bath and shred the beef at this point.Â When you’ve shredded until you can shred no more, I put the meat back into the crock pot so that it stays moist with all those juices.
If you have a tougher cut of beef, like I did, then you take the meat out after it has cooked and you can slice it into long slices.Â I cut mine into slices and then put it into a Corningware dish and covered it with juices and tomatoes from the crock pot.Â This way, clean up was easy because I could store left overs in the dish and could go ahead and wash my crock pot (…and get it ready for tomorrow’s dinner!).
I bet you could also do this exact same recipe with chicken breasts, too, by the way…
I served this dinner with PW’s spinach and garlic chips (only instead of garlic chips, I sauteed the spinach in olive oil and minced garlic…).Â Super easy to make and delicious!Â I don’t even like spinach and I ate all of mine.Â Bean liked it, too.
And they had fresh corn at my grocery store yesterday, so we had corn on the cob, too.Â I shucked it myself, ya’ll!
(Imagine that last part in the most Southern-ist voice possible)
If you end up shredding the beef, my Dad serves it over rice.Â It’s delicious.Â Perfect.Â Do it.Â In fact, if I had my choice, I’d do the shredded beef over rice with spinach and skip the corn.Â Now, THAT’S a good meal…
Although, mine wasn’t so bad either!
The nice thing about this recipe is that it isn’t too spicy.Â I think the water dilutes the spice a little.Â Now, with Bean Man eating along with us, that’s a good thing.Â But if you like a little extra kick, you might want to use less water so that the spices are a bit more potent.Â But with 2 cups of water, it is just mild enough that Bean ate it with us and thought it was delicious!
Bon appetit, ya’ll!
Before I had Bean, I would hear moms talking about how much their young children talked.Â They’d say things like, “…And then little Johnny said he wanted to eat Goldfish for dinner!Â Can you imagine?!?!Â GOLDFISH for dinner?!?!”
Actually, yes, I could imagine Goldfish for dinner (and might have even served that exact meal to Bean once or twice when nothing else would suffice…).Â What I could not imagine was this babbling one-year-old kid saying sentences.Â Parents seemed to talk about their kids like they were prodigies – talking constantly! – but when I’d meet the kid…let’s just say “child prodigy” wasn’t the term that came to mind.
(That’s an envelope on his head, in case you were wondering.)
Now that I have Bean though, I’m starting to understand what that was all about.
Parents hear things that their kids say before anyone else understands them.Â I think that’s what keeps our children around until they turn 18 really.Â They need us to translate.Â What sounds like senseless babble to the untrained ear sounds like complete sentences of brilliance to a parent.
Let’s take Bean as an example.Â When Bean says, “Mo’!”Â There are several different options as to what he is saying.
Mooooooooo: (most frequently used) Â It means “more.”Â That’s what he says when he is hungry.
Momo:Â That’s me.Â Momma.
Mo:Â That would be NEmo.Â As in Finding Nemo, his favorite movie.
Moooan:Â That’s “mine.”Â This one is new.Â We’re not sure where he learned possession from, but he definitely knows what it means.
Bean has other words that you probably wouldn’t recognize unless you birthed him.Â Such as…
Baaaa – Bath
Waaa – Water
Nooooo – NoÂ (okay, so that one’s pretty obvious)
Booo – Book
Beah (pronounced “Beeeyah,” like he’s from New Jersey) – Mr. Bear
Baw – Ball
Ooonn (pronounced “ewn”) – Balloon
Awgaaa – All gone
Doooonnn – All done
Lewww – Lucy
Mowww – Molly
Rooooo – Roll ‘em up, always with hand movements (from Patty Cake; not sure why he chose this one phrase)
There.Â Now you all know another language.Â Bean Speak.Â We’ll have a pop quiz on this later this week.Â I hope you’re taking notes…
My sister is coming into town today.Â She and her brand, spankin’ new husband, John Michael, are flying in to celebrate the 4th with all of us.Â Chris and I are picking her up at the airport tonight and then we’re all heading up to my parent’s house for the weekend.Â I’m so excited!Â I haven’t seen her since her wedding extravaganza in April.
Ginny and JM on their honeymoon in Maui.
My sister has always been one of those people who lives a crazy life.Â At least, compared to my homebody ways it is crazy.Â Take, for example, this picture…
This was one summer a couple years ago, just after she graduated from college.Â She and her friends decided to have their own Olympics.Â So, they all dressed up in elaborate costumes, each representing a different country.Â This picture was taken during Opening Ceremonies.Â Ginny is representing the North Pole and she’s carrying a sparkler as the Olympic torch.Â She ran it all the way through her apartment complex.Â For the rest of the weekend, they had various different events where they competed for medals.
Why all the huss and fuss?
No real reason at all actually.Â Just Ginny being bored and imaginative.
She’s always been like that.Â She’s the kind of person you want to be friends with.Â I love having her around.
After college (where she was, naturally, President of her sorority, Chi Omega), Ginny moved to Atlanta where she took a job working at a high profile public relations agency.Â She quickly climbed her way up the company ladder and within a few years, she was already a Senior Account Executive, working with international clients such as Starbucks, Dove, Unilever, and Microsoft.Â She was good at her job for the exact same reason she was good at the Olympics – she was creative and dedicated.
When she and JM started getting more and more serious, I was so happy to see that he was just as fun and adventurous as she was.Â They were always traveling somewhere, sending back crazy pictures of the two of them doing crazy things…
Zip lining and hiking
They were living life and loving it, and it seemed to be even more fun when they were doing it together.
And then the recession hit and JM (who is a project manager for a general contractor) started to worry about his job.Â Construction wasn’t booming and his company was whispering about lay offs.Â In the middle of all the uncertainty, JM was offered a job building a hospital, which would be a guaranteed job for the next two or three years – just enough to get him through the rough patch of the recession.Â The only problem was that he would have to move from their life in Atlanta to the middle of nowhere Virginia.Â At this point, he and Ginny were talking about getting married and he asked her to come with him.Â She thought about it for 2.6 seconds and then she quit her job, said goodbye to her roommates (her BFF’s and sorority sisters from college), and together they moved to Virginia.
I worried about her leaving a life that she really loved for something completely different, but Ginny never seemed to miss a beat.Â She and JM both seemed to just dive right into their new lives.Â In a city as small as where they live, there were no PR jobs and so Ginny instead decided to do something completely different and she became a preschool teacher.Â She calls me every now and then and lets her entire class of 3 year olds sing me and Bean songs.Â It’s adorable.Â And while she has moments and days when her job drives her crazy, for the most part she doesn’t seem to look backwards at all.
She and JM embraced the changes around them, even when those changes weren’t what they expected.
They didn’t try to bring their old life to Virginia.Â Instead, they embraced the place where they were right then. And though sometimes, I felt like they might be jumping in a little too far…
They just kept forging ahead, learning new things about where they now were and growing as a couple as they experienced all of it together.
It wasn’t until I started talking to my sister about how hard our move had been that I realized how hard her move had been as well.Â Actually, her move had been much harder because they left people they loved and moved farther away and Chris and I at least had my parents here to help us get adjusted.
To me, Ginny and JM are the definition of blooming where you are planted.Â She showed me that it isn’t always perfect when you plant new roots, but that the trick is to keep moving forward.Â To keep digging deeper into the new soil where you are planted.Â And to wrap your roots around your partner so that the two of your grow together.Â Ginny has always been an in-the-moment person.Â Actually, we used to tease her and worry about her because of it.Â She was sort of an extreme present tense person, never wanting to look ahead but never looking behind either.Â And while she has gotten much better as she has gotten older about balancing her present happiness with future planning, she continues to show me how much life has to offer when you are present in your life.
Isn’t it great the things you can learn from your baby sister?
“Mom!” said Bean.Â “I LOVE MY TREAT CUP!”
“I’m so glad, Beanie!”
“I just love my treat cup so much!”
“Good, Beanie!Â That’s so great!Â You’re such a big boy!”
“See?Â I just stick my hand in there and – BAM! – I pull out a Goldfish!”
“Here, I’ll bring it over to you and show you how it works…”
“Whooooooaaa!Â I’m going down!Â I’m going down!”
“Geez, Mom,” said Beanie.Â “You’re not even gonna put down the camera?”
“I think you got it,” I said.Â “I have faith in you.”
“My life just flashed before my eyes, Dude.”
“Oh, but look!” said Bean.Â “A Goldfish fell out!”
“Oh, hey, Lucy,” said Bean.Â “Do you want a Goldfish?”
“No, Beanie,” I said.Â “We don’t give food to the dogs.”
“Don’t be such a Debbie Downer, Mom,” said Bean.Â “Here Lucy!”
“Bean!” I shouted.Â “I said NO, SIR!”
“BEAN!Â NO!” I shouted.Â “We do NOT feed the dogs!”
“Geez, Mom…” said Bean.Â “Don’t get your panties in a wad!”
“Pssstt…here Lucy,” Bean whispered.
“That’s it, Beanie,” I said.Â “I’m taking your treat cup away now.”
“But it wasn’t even my fault!” Bean whined.
“Well, whose fault was it?”
“It was Lucy’s fault!”
“Well, I’ll just hold on to this treat cup and then neither of you will be tempted,” I said.
“Oh, Mom,” said Bean.Â “Can I please have my cup back?Â Pu-pu-pu-please?”
“No, buddy,” I said.
“What if I get up in your face and make cute noises and blubber into your neck and bat my eyelashes at you?Â Can I have it back then?”
“You’re cold, Mom.Â Real cold.”