Jigsaw Pieces

“So many things are possible, just as long as you don’t know Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,hey are impossible.”

–Philippians 3:13

Paul gives the directive to forget the past. We need to look forward to the future. Which is true.

Sometimes our past is the key to our future. We need to look back for one reason. I’ll explain the reason later in this post.

On July 14, 1985, I left behind my past. A difficult past. My future was bright. After I got off of the bus in Ohio, it was as though a large black-out curtain had been drawn across my childhood. A few bad memories have escaped. For the past 37 years, I have wondered what my life was before we left.

My mom NEVER talked about my childhood with me. I didn’t know how to approach her with my inquiries. Photos of that were time were few and far between. They were hidden in plain sight but never looked at. Fearful that she would say no, I snuck looking at the photos. I wanted to know who I was before moving to Ohio.

There are lessons to learn from your past. Even if it was traumatic, you can still use those lessons of perseverance. Maybe they won’t only help you but they will help other people. It’s a reminder that nothing lasts forever and that you’ve grown stronger as a person.

Not having those memories makes it hard to learn from your past. The memories I was left with are of my father hiring me and a few scattered puzzle piece memories. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that have been easily lost. That’s what happened to my memories.

A spooky door, a hill to climb, and a penny store are a few of those pieces. Light switches on the outside, cigarettes, and screaming are the ones I wish I could scatter.

On October 12, 2019, my life changed once again. I was left orphaned as an adult. Father died in 1996 even though we had left him in 1985. My sister died in 2016. Now my mom was gone.

It was at that moment, I needed to pick up the jigsaw memories and continue with my life. Two weeks before she died, God spoke to me and said, “It’s time to tell your story.” I balked at him. Then I wrote my unpublished book but still kept it quiet. “No one needs to hear my story,” I kept saying to myself. Last week, I made little videos telling my story. God smiled at me because I listened to him. It’s up to me to decide what to do with those videos.

Then 2 days later, a classmate of mine from the school I attended right before we moved contacted me. I couldn’t believe the fact that she remembered me from 37 years ago.

A few questions of mine were answered. Then she gave me the biggest gift, I was told I have the same warm smile and how I tutored her. You see I was destined to be a teacher even back then. I was NOT forgotten when we up and left that den of despair. The pieces are falling back into place. My shoulders don’t feel so heavy.

I’m not wanting to live in the past. I’m desiring the lessons my past can teach me as I continue to discover God’s purpose for my life.

Stay kind!

Have a magical day,
Traci

Instant Pot Tacos

Jump to the recipe

You may noticed I’ve been on a taco kick lately. Youngest and I enjoy our tacos. Now that I’ve figured out the yummiest taco meat, I make it at least once a week.

During my weekly meal prep, I made extra of the taco meat and froze it in my Souper cubes. Yes, I got some of them and absolutely love them. This way the taco meat is ready to go if I want to eat nachos or just don’t feel like cooking.

What do I need for the recipe?

  • ground beef – I know ground beef prices are expensive. Sometimes the family packs are cheaper. Get one of those, double or triple the recipe, and then freeze for later.
  • taco seasoning – Homemade or store bought – My favorite is from a local place.
  • onion, optional – You could also add some diced up bell peppers in the taco meat.
  • salsa or fire roasted salsa style tomatoes – I found fire roasted salsa style tomatoes at my local grocery store. They add a certain flavor to the taco meat. If your store doesn’t have that type of tomatoes substitute salsa.
  • Tortillas – Flour, corn, or hard taco shells – It doesn’t matter.
  • Your favorite toppings: Cilantro, sour cream, lettuce, shredded cabbage, black beans or re-fried beans, jalapenos, tomato, cheese

Other uses for the taco meat

  • Nachos – The meat would be delicious on nachos. Yum!
  • Taco salad – Add some French, Catalina, or ranch dressing on top. Or you could skip the dressing and use salsa instead.
  • Taco fries – Doesn’t that sound delicious? Or is it just me?
  • Walking tacos – Fritos, taco meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes.

The Recipe

As always, click on the image for a printable version of the recipe.

Taco Bake (Gluten-Free)

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Youngest and I love eating tacos. This recipe is a combination of tacos and nachos in a casserole. YUM!

You can use up those crushed tortilla chips in your cupboard/pantry for this recipe.

What you need for the recipe:
  • Ground beef
  • Onion
  • Salsa
  • Taco seasoning
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded cheese – Mexican blend or cheddar – You can certainly shred your own.
  • Your favorite toppings: jalepenos, cheese, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, and tomato
Variations:

Vegetarian option: Instead of ground beef, you can either use meatless ground beef crumbles or black/ pinto beans.

In step 4: You can also add cilantro lime rice or black beans as a layer.

Recipe

Click on the photo to go to a printable recipe card.

Notes:

  • You use half of the taco seasoning in the 2 steps.
  • The layers for the taco bake are ground beef mixture, cheese, and then tortilla chips. In that order
  • It says you can feed 6. Youngest and I only got 4 servings out of the meal.

Columbus Trip – August 2021 – Part 3 of MANY

After we got done eating, we walked back to our Air B’nB and went to bed. This are the photos I took on our walk back to the where we were staying.

My next post is going to be my Saturday morning walk.

Stay kind!

Have a magical day,
Traci

Columbus Trip – August 2021 – Part 2 of MANY – Dinner time!

We were on the hunt for food. I had worked a whole day before we drove to Columbus, so I was starving. They had interactive signs on High Street which helped us decide on where we were going to eat. However, we never made it there. Instead we ended up at SeeSaw. Someone had told me about this place, so we ate there.
I love the fact they have gluten-free on the menu. It made it so easy to pick what I wanted to order.

Perfect Sunrise

This photo was taken Christmas 2020 when my family went to visit Charleston, SC.

I would get up before the rest of the family to take a walk on the beach. The wave hitting the rocks and the tide surrounding these rocks is just surreal.

I love sunrises and sunsets. They remind me God makes everything new (sunrise) and paints a beautiful ending to the day (sunset).

Columbus Trip – August 2021 – Part 1 of MANY

I’ve been editing photos from my adventures in 2021. I needed to make a decision about what I was going to start sharing with you. After much thought, I decided I needed to start in Columbus.

On the 5th anniversary of my sister’s death, we went to Columbus, Ohio. We stayed near the Short North Shore area which is an eclectic area of Columbus. Located down from Ohio State, it’s a place that college students party. Behind the main street, there are neighborhoods with gardens.

Join me next time for our dinner at See Saw, a bar and restaurant, with the coolest stairs.

Stay kind!

Have a magical day,
Traci

My Meal Prep List – January 2, 2022

Air Fryer:

Instant Pot:

  • Chili for Monday’s dinner.
  • Tacos for Tuesday’s dinner.
  • Rice for Thursday. Freeze it once it’s cooled down.

Produce Prep:

  • Peel and cut carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce, kale, and spinach – Done on Friday night

Other:

While it seems like a lot, some of the cooking is hands-off. I’m going to listen to a book while prepping. No trashy tv this week.

My meals for this week:

  • Monday: Chili
  • Tuesday: Tacos
  • Wednesday: Spaghetti with sausage (I’m not going to be busy that night.)
  • Thursday: Honey garlic chicken in the slow cooker
  • Friday: Grilled cheese with tomato soup for the men, nachos for me

Happy eating,

Traci

Meal Planning – 5 Tips & Tricks

Before I begin, I should be transparent. I’m good at making meal plans but not always following through.

In my house, I get the question, “What are we having for dinner?” from the boys. Sometimes Hubby will also ask me. It’s good to have an idea of what you are cooking for dinner.

Meal planning may seem daunting. It doesn’t need to be.

  1. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
    I create plans that fall through ALL the time. There are days I get home from school where I feel exhausted. At those times, I know cooking a full dinner isn’t in the cards. That’s okay. You can certainly save your plan for the next week or the week afterwards.
  1. It may seem hard at first. That is okay.
    It will be hard at first. Here are some tips to help with that.
    • Create a list of your family’s favorite meals. Refer to that list. Update that list when you discover a new family favorite.
    • Create theme nights for each day of the week.
      • Ethnic night – Mexican/ Asian/ Italian, etc . . .
      • Sandwich or Pizza Night
      • Breakfast for Dinner
      • Soup Night (Salad Night during the summer)
      • Vegetarian Night
      • Family Favorite
      • New to Us
      • Family Dinner Night
      • Crockpot/Instant Pot Night
      • Once you create your theme nights, then it may get easier to plug in meals for that night.
    • Find favorite blogs to help you with inspiration.
    • What are activities going on that might require you to have an easier meal? Or that might be the night you eat out? You know your family’s situation and schedule. Plan accordingly.
    • Meal prep on the weekend or double up a meal during the week.
      • You should only do an hour of meal prepping on Sundays. I’m using Sundays as a base but you may meal prep another day of the week. Plan for only an hour.
      • Cut up veggies for the week.
      • If you are doing something that requires cooked ground beef, cook that up.
      • Put on some music, a book on tape, trashy tv show, or a Podcast to listen/watch during your meal prep. I tell my friends that I’m going to watch a trashy tv show. You don’t actually need to watch that.
      • Use your freezer. Certain items can be frozen, so that will help with your prep times.
      • Appliances will help you. I have an Instant Pot, Ninja Air Fryer, and a crockpot. Each of those can help with my meal prep. You don’t need those appliances. Take stock in what you have and use them.
  1. Don’t plan for ALL your meals at first.
    Yes, I said it. Don’t plan for all your meals at first. If all you can do is plan for your dinners, do that. At least you know what you are going to eat for dinner.
    You need to make the meal planning and prepping work for you.
  1. Create a rotating list of breakfast/ lunch items.
    Have a list of items that you like to eat for breakfast and lunch. Keep the ingredients for those items in your fridge/ freezer/ pantry. If you like breakfast sandwiches, spend some time making those up. Place them in the freezer for a future breakfast.
    If you have that list written down, then it makes breakfast and lunch time so much simplier.

    Since I’m a teacher, I need to have an idea of lunch items that can be eaten quickly between interruptions. That’s just a fact of life when I’m at work. So I’ve created a list of food that is easy for me to eat. I don’t need to create a meal plan for work days because I already know what I’m going to eat.
  1. You can plan to eat out.
    You don’t need to be a super person and cook ALL of your meals at home. There are times you can plan to eat out. Hubby and I like to go to local restaurants for dates. I can plan for those dinners or lunches.
    Last week, I put on the menu for us to eat breakfast for dinner. Then a friend asked me out to dinner. Since we were on break, I was able to changed the breakfast for dinner to lunchtime. We still followed the menu but just flipped some things around.

I hope these tips will help you plan your meals.

Happy eating,
Traci

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