Friday, January 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes


- 1 -

Like Jen this has not been the easiest of weeks for me. Leo started having a runny nose on Sunday and by Monday morning he was a fussing, miserable sick mess of a baby. Maybe it's just my imagination but I feel like he gets sick all the time! We dealt with a bad cold before, during, and after Christmas and HELLO! it is not even February and here comes another one! So Ben is back to the good 'ol daily grind of teaching and I am trying to get my act together regarding packing (more on that later) but it's hard to pack a box when Mr. Sniffles is too sad and sick to play and only wants to be held. After a few days of this I figured that something was different this time around and so I scheduled a doctor's appointment. They fit me into their 4:50 PM slot and long story short we were seen at about 6:00 PM (did I mention that Leo skipped his afternoon nap that day?). You would've thought that they were giving him shots the poor kid was so upset! Seriously, the doctor was a little unnerved herself. So yeah it turns out my poor little guy has a double ear infection! The good news is that we made it until 11 months before needing antibiotics. The even better news is that we have antibiotics and ear drops and even though he shouts death threats at us in baby speak when we give them he is doing much better now.

- 2 -

I wish that I could sit here and tell you that I handle stress and emotions in general like a champ. Yeah.... not so much. So my question to you is this - how do you learn to control your emotions instead of letting them control you? I know that I've improved a lot in the past few years but I'm not where I want to be and as a wife and mom that is pretty darn high on the priority list!

- 3 -

We are moving!!! If all goes well (knock on wood) we are going to be moving into a lovely house IN TOWN at the end of February! I cannot tell you what an answer to prayer it is and the whole process has been such a God thing that it's crrrrrazy! Here's a little anecdote to show you what I mean.....

We received an e-mail on Tuesday morning that the sellers had received a new offer on their house. We were given 72 hours to get a contract on our house. It was bad weather and we had already had 12+ showings without an offer in sight so we "knew" it was impossible. Long story short we had someone come out to the house the next morning (had to be driven by their realtor because they needed four wheel drive to get here) and had a contract by that afternoon...!!! It was a total 11th hour, God-showing-off deal and we could not be more excited

- 4 -

It seems that all that crawling around with Leo took its toll because I had to say goodbye to my favorite pair of jeans this week. It felt wrong tossing them in the trash, like maybe I should have set them on fire or buried them or at the very least given a little eulogy. *sniff sniff*

- 5 -

There is a stink bug on the floor next to me. I hate those things. I mean, I really really really really really hate those things. I know they don't bite. I know they don't sting. One day I'm just gonna have enough and go Simon Pegg on em

Overkill? They're STINK BUGS!
- 6 -

Leo and I have been having fun with forts over the past two weeks. While he enjoyed the one I made with the kitchen table his favorite by far is his crib. That's right - the hated crib doubles as his favorite play zone. One thick, fleecy blanket draped over and it is transformed into his own personal baby cave. He laughs uproariously if I crawl around the outside and sneak up on him. Seriously love this kid.

- 7 -

The buyers did the whole home inspection thing last Friday and so Leo and I had to vacate the premises. Naturally it was during nap time so that made things a different level of interesting. Thanks to the generosity of one of my friends we were able to crash at her place and revel in new surroundings, different toys (fun ones!), and even sneak in a nap. Using the app that Katrina told me about I was able to snap these photos of Leo while we were there

Leo eats the baby doll. Clearly we have work to do.

~ Happy Friday ~

Friday, January 24, 2014

7 Quick Takes

I'm a bit late to the game and not even sure I can type these babies before my actual baby wakes up but what the heck, why not give it a shot? Apologies for the rambling and incoherency!


- 1 -

It's funny what goes through your mind when you're holding a flailing, wailing baby. There's the obvious How is it possible that someone under 30 lbs is practically overpowering me right now? or There's no way that the piece of paper in your mouth was that delicious! But then something absurd occurred to me - I used to teach parenting classes... once a week for over a year and a half at the crisis pregnancy center I stood in front of a room full of real parents telling them what they ought to be doing (or not doing as the case may be). When I started out I was single; not yet dating my future husband and with nary a child of my own. Please feel free to laugh - I certainly did yesterday.

- 2 -

My go-to line when a client would ask me "Do you even have kids?" was either "I've babysat a lot" or "I've spent a lot of time with my nieces." It was a question that was usually asked with a lot of attitude, especially when it came from a client who was considering abortion. At the time it made me feel very defensive and even annoyed. I mean, how hard could it be? How different could it be, parenting versus babysitting? The only real difference is that you're around the kids longer, ya know? 

Before you whip out your brass knuckles please let me assure you - the "teacher" has been schooled! Believing that babysitting prepares you for or is the same as parenting is kind of like a kid who thinks he's ready to have a puppy because he's kept his Tamagotchi alive and happy.

There ain't a button for the real thing, kid
- 3 -

Before we got to hold him :)

Pregnancy in and of itself had a huge impact on my approach to counseling and I am so glad that I worked at the crisis pregnancy center during that time. Nausea sounds so doable when it's hypothetical. Or at least it did to me. Then it hit and man oh man, God only knows how many times Ben and my coworkers heard me say "I'm going to die" during those first two trimesters!!! It wasn't even that bad as far as "morning" sickness goes - I'm just a wuss (Ben will back me up on this). I can only imagine what it will be like to experience all of that with a little one around. At least I hope and pray that I will get to experience that because as tough as it is, what on earth compares to feeling your child move inside of you? Sure it can get annoying (especially a hard kick to the ribs at 3 AM) but it's pretty freakin' cool all the same!

- 4 -
I'm not even going to touch on the issue of labor and delivery (YET! Leo's birth story will venture into that special territory). For now suffice it to say that the books I read and movie(s) I watched did not quite prep me for the real thing. Shocking, I know. On the upside I am almost looking forward to going through it again at some point (if God blesses us with another little one) so that I can try and do a better job! Ben was a little horrified when I told him that and asked for us to please change topics.

- 5 -

So yeah, pregnancy and delivery weren't what I expected or what I told clients to expect (wince). As a result I guess it shouldn't have come as a shock that motherhood would be so different. It was and it is. During pregnancy I kept telling Ben that I did not want us to be like most first-time parents - I wanted us to be eclectic, relaxed, and just figure things out as they came. It turns out that you can't not be first time parents. When your baby gets sick it's probably gonna freak you out a lot little. You may or may not make an unnecessary trip to Urgent Care. You may or may not clip too much of your baby's nails and draw blood, thus convincing you that you are the worst parent in all of existence. The thing is that I don't think you can really know what kind of a parent you are going to be until you are one. Maybe you'll be the parent you envisioned and handle things with grace, wisdom, and sanctity. Or maybe you'll be a little bit more like me. In a recent post Jen said
It would be awesome if your kids could have a mom who had the holiness of Mother Teresa, the energy of Mary Poppins, and the domestic skills of Martha Stewart. But if you’re not there yet, saying “I love you guys and I love Jesus and I’m doing the best I can” works too.
- 6 -

Here's to the moments when we feel like we supermom. Maybe it's because we cleaned the house, made an awesome dinner, kept the baby entertained and happy all day, and have a nice evening lined up. Or maybe it's because you kept your cool in the midst of that surprise poop explosion that took place fifteen minutes into a long car trip. Whatever it is, whenever it is - celebrate!

- 7 -

With his first birthday approaching I think it's safe to say that I will spend the rest of motherhood discovering how little I know and how grateful I am for God's grace, my incredible husband, my amazing little boy, and the wonderful life I have been blessed with!

~ Happy Friday ~

Friday, January 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes : Recipes Edition

I have had some fun adventures in the kitchen over the past several weeks and I figured why not share them and link up with Jen at the same time!

- 1 -
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Idiot Proof Baking
Super delicious cookies! Seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever tasted! They were pretty good when hot but actually much more yummy once they had cooled. 

Ingredients (yield : 3 dozen)
  • 3/4 C butter
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 - 1 tsp salt (depends on your preference)
  • 1 1/2 C chocolate chips
  • Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla - beat well.
  • Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. 
  • Stir in chocolate chips
  • Drop onto parchment paper or greased surface and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • Place pan on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing cookies (important!)
- 2 -
Better Than Brownies Cookies

Quadrupled the recipe. Surprise yield of 16 dozen cookies. Oops.
These cookies are a chocolate lover's dream. I certainly had my fair share over the holidays! I kept waiting to get sick of them but I never did (one of those good things that's also a bad thing). I certainly would discourage you from quadrupling the recipe! That is unless you want to be up to your elbows (literally) in chocolate. Who knew the Kitchen Aid bowl was that deep?! My mother-in-law told me that she doesn't even double a recipe if she can help it. Considering that her cookies are awesome I think I'll follow her lead from now on and just make several separate batches.

  • 16 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1⅓ C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ C all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 C semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  • Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.
  • In the meantime, stir together the eggs, vanilla and sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.
  • Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir to combine well. Slowly add the dry ingredients, folding them into the batter. Once all of the flour is incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Scoop 1½ tablespoons of dough (a medium cookie scoop's worth) onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are firm on the outside. Like brownies, do not over-bake! Leave to cool completely on the baking sheets. 

 - 3 -
Apple Cheddar Scones

My husband and I agreed that while these are some very yummy scones, the next time I make these I will add more cheddar and apple. The end result was great but still felt like it needed a little more oomph! Found out today that this is easily remedied by applying apple butter. SO GOOD!!! I should also say they almost require tea as a companion. I originally made these goodies for a book club I was hoping to go to but after a long day and the onslaught of snow/rain I stayed in. As far as nights in go it's a little hard to beat sipping tea and eating a warm scone while watching Elementary. Anyways, on to the recipe!
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 C cold butter
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 C shredded cheddar (will use more in the future)
  • 1 C diced peeled apple (ditto)
  •  In a bowl combine the first five ingredients 
  • Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  • Stir in buttermilk until just moistened (I had to add several heaping tablespoons of flour after I failed to pay close enough attention to this step)
  • Fold in cheese and apples
  • Pat in a 9" circle and cut into 8 wedges
  • Separate wedges and place on greased baking sheet
  • Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown 
I got a pastry blender for Christmas and was inappropriately excited to have a chance to use it for this recipe. Seriously, I know it's a simple cutting action but I have never been able to use two knives to get butter to blend in properly.

- 4 -
Cranberry Brie Bites

Mine did not achieve this perfect golden brown color
I am stealing this recipe from Tablespoon because the pictures are amazing and I cannot seem to locate the original website that I used. The recipe calls for cranberry sauce but I imagine that you could use jam just as easily. The next time I make these guys I think I'm going to increase the amount of brie used per pastry. Basically I think that if you can add more cheese to a recipe you almost have to. Also, we sampled these hot and after they had cooled and we both thought they were much tastier after having cooled. Just a thought.

  • 1 package (17 1/4 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed 
  • 1/2 lb Brie cheese
  • 1 cup cranberry sauce (purchased or homemade)
  • Thaw the frozen puff pastry, and cut with a pizza cutter.  The puff pastry sheet I used was folded in thirds.  I cut down those lines, then cut the sheet into quarters the other direction.
  • Place each puff pastry square into a separate holder ofmini muffin tin  
  • Fill with brie and cranberry sauce.  
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown on the edges.
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

- 5 -
Applesauce Pork Loin
Clearly not my picture
This is the best pork I have ever tasted. I found the recipe at Taste of Home and it's just perfect - not a lot of ingredients, not a lot of prep required, and a whole lot of flavor as the end result! The only negative thing I will say is that the cooking time has been way off both of the times I have made this. The pork has been completely thawed both times and I have followed every step of the directions completely so I have no idea what that's about. Oh well - it's worth the wait! We had leftovers after both meals and I chopped up the remaining pork (including the sauce) and sauteed it with mushrooms then added eggs and it was kind of amazing. 
  • 1 boneless pork loin roast (3 lbs)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 C applesauce
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, brown roast on all sides in oil. Place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Combine the applesauce, mustard and honey; spread over roast. Top with rosemary.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until a thermometer reads 145°. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing. Yield: 10-12 servings.
- 6 -
Chicken Suiza Cornbread Bake
Not my photo either - I don't do garnish. Ain't nobody got time for that!
I found this recipe at All Recipes and between the reviews and the ingredients I knew I had to try it! It requires a little bit more prep than I prefer with our dinners but again, totally worth it! The one thing I will say is that Frank's Red Hot Sauce or Sriracha Sauce make a B-I-G difference in the flavor! I wouldn't include them in the cooking process but some liberal use of either when it comes to eating and you have a scrumptious meal ahead of you!
Ingredients (Crust)
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cream-style corn, drained
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C egg substitute (I used real eggs)
  • 1 (8.5 ounce) package corn bread mix
Ingredients (Chicken Topping) 
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp canned green chile peppers, chopped
  • 4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms (ran out - used canned)
  • 1 1/2 C reduced-fat sour cream (yeah right - used regular sour cream)
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 8 oz package Monterey Jack cheese, shredded  
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  • Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender.
  • Dice one or two boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and stir them into the skillet after the onions and garlic are soft. Cook and stir about 5 minutes; the chicken pieces should be cooked through, and will continue to cook as the casserole bakes. Remove from heat and set aside. 
  • In a large bowl, combine corn, cream-style corn, salt, and egg substitute. Beat in muffin mix. Fold in cooked onion mixture. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  • In a large bowl, combine chicken, green chiles, mushrooms, sour cream, salt and pepper. Spoon over corn mixture to within 1 inch from edge. Sprinkle top with cheese.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
- 7 -
Healthy Mexican Chicken Bake
While I did not take this picture this is exactly what the end result looked like
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 oz shredded Mexican cheese blender
  • 1 C salsa
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season one side of chicken breasts with half the cumin, half the garlic powder, salt, and black pepper; arrange chicken breasts with seasoned sides down in the hot oil. Fry until chicken is lightly browned on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Season the top of each chicken breast with the remaining cumin, remaining garlic powder, salt, and black pepper; flip chicken and cook until other side is lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. If the skillet gets dry, pour in just enough juice from the salsa to keep it from burning.
  • Transfer chicken breasts to a 9x9-inch baking dish; sprinkle with Mexican cheese blend. Loosen all the drippings from the skillet with a little more juice from the salsa and pour on top of chicken breasts. Spoon salsa over cheese layer. 
  • Bake chicken breasts until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, 20 to 25 minutes.  
Another recipe off of All Recipes! Because I am lazy and did not want to bother with dirtying and washing another dish I used a cast iron skillet and simply put it in the oven when it was time to bake. It is really tasty and goes great with rice and refried beans. Heck, if you wanted to you could shred the chicken after it bakes and just make burritos or fajitas or tacos or, well, you get the idea :)

~ Happy Friday ~

Friday, January 3, 2014

Let's Catch Up

Remember that one time when I was all like "hey I am blogging again!" and then I made good on that for like, oh I dunno, two days? Yeah..... good times....

So let's catch up!


Leo and his Papa

Leo is now 10 months old (!) and has a mouthful of eight teeth. He crawls and even pulls himself up on occasion. He has one of the strangest crawls I have ever seen - his right leg basically stays crooked beneath him (like he's in the sitting position) but the rest of him is in the crawling position. It makes him off-balance so we have had falls aplenty, especially with the hardwood and tile floors. He babbles a fair bit and seems to show a growing understanding with "mama" and "dada" but it's not consistent yet. He is a sweetheart and tends to be very warm towards others, but he does have a fiery temper and when something happens that he doesn't like he finds a way to express it! 
- 2 -

Leo was the sheep the grandkids' Christmas pageant. Naturally he stole the show....

- 3 -

Every time it starts to snow this is all I want to do

That right there just might be the best moment in movie history

- 4 -

Ben and I continued our tradition of spending New Year's Eve watching a kid's movie. This year we sipped wine and nibbled on cheese and crackers while watching Over the Hedge. We didn't even bother trying to stay up until midnight.

- 5 -
Long story short we put our house on the market about a week before Christmas. It happens to be the worst time of year to list a house so if you feel like sending some prayers our way we would sure be grateful! 

- 6 -

My side project
So a few months ago we decided to get a door for Ben's office. We wanted it to be a solid wood door so that it would match the other doors of the house but as it turns out solid wood doors are $$$$! So I was on the phone with my mom and lo and behold she has a free door that is exactly the size we need and if we want it it's ours! I didn't realize that it was painted so when it arrived I was a little disappointed but hey, free is FREE! I decided that I was going to refinish it and set up shop in our garage. Suffice it to say that my little side project did not end up being so little after all. Instead of taking me a week or two it took me a little over two months and God knows how many hours. Our contractor felt so bad for me that he lent me his sander AND installed it for free! It's hard to express how good it feels every time I see that door (poorly stained as it is). 

- 7 -

This is one of the best things I have ever seen <3

~ Merry Christmas and Happy New Year ~