Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cookies and Calzones

Two posts in one day…crazy, I know!  I’m going to have to file this week in the “success breeds confidence” annals because I seem to have the Midas touch in my kitchen this week.   I’m creating gastronomical gold!

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch.  But, I seem to be doing better than average, and I’m gonna run with it, eh?  I wanted to share two recipes with y’all.  The first is one I found on Pinterest (duh), so I’m just going to link to the recipe but also show you some pictures of my results:

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Snickerdoodles, aka, a stack of happiness

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She loved them. In fact, I had to cut her off!

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At first he asked, Where’s the chocolate chips? But the “cinnamon cookies” grew on him ’til he was asking for more!

The next recipe was also Pinterest-inspired (duh), but I needed things to be easy tonight, so I improvised.  Following this tutorial, I made this:

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Ham and mozzarella calzones.
I left it in just a wee bit too long, but the taste was fabulous!

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The ham and cheese was so gooey-good, especially dipped in the marinara.

Ingredients:
Pillsbury pizza crust (I know there’s a whole-wheat version; I’m going to try this next time)
several slices of deli ham, cut into strips
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese (just depends on how cheesy you like it)
1 egg
jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I LOVE Bertolli)

Instructions:
Heat your oven to 400-425 degrees (follow the instructions on the crust tube for your specific pan).  Spray the cookie sheet with Pam; lay the dough in a rectangle.  Put slices of ham down the middle, then top with cheese.  Following the tutorial, using kitchen shears, cut strips of dough and then fold over the toppings in alternating pattern.  Make an egg wash (egg beaten with water) and brush the top of the dough.  Bake for 10-15 minutes(?) until golden brown (I’m still not sure on the correct time because our oven is super-hot and it’s always a shot in the dark the first time I make a new recipe!).  Slice while still hot (so the cheese oozes!) and serve with marinara in a ramekin.

 

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Chicken-n-noodles

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This is a recipe I sort of made up on my own, so forgive the less-than-specific instructions!

Ingredients:
shredded/cut chicken from at least 2 roasted/rotisserie chicken breasts (I threw in some dark meat, too)
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrot sticks, sliced (I used about a cup of matchstick carrots)
1/2 onion, diced
Tblsp. olive oil
tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
package of frozen Reames egg noodles (the 20-minute kind)
2 boxes (8 cups) of chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
Cut up/shred the chicken and set aside.  Cut up veggies.  In a large stockpot, saute veggies in the olive oil until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes on medium (on my stove).  Add the chicken broth (I had only 6 cups chicken broth, so I added 2 cups of water and I really liked the flavor of the broth), thyme, bay leaves, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a steady boil and add the noodles.  Near the end of the cooking time, add in the chicken.

The finished result was a bit soup-y, but we loved it.  If you like your chicken-n-noodles to be thicker, make this earlier in your day, refrigerate, then warm up for dinner (reserve some chicken broth and add in to heat it up and re-separate your noodles).  You could use other veggies, you could throw in some minced garlic, you could certainly add in some extra spices, but this was warm and delicious comfort food on a freezing cold night.  I hope you enjoy!

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Goals

In my last post, I promised to share my goals for 2013.  And I warned y’all, I mean business this year!  Even if I don’t accomplish all that I list here, I’m going to give it my darnedest.  I’m going to TRY!  So without further ado, here goes (in no particular order):

  1. Plant a garden.  Since we got married, Marty and I have lived in a townhouse, a loft, and a condo — none of which had outdoor space for our use.  We now live in a tiny rental house but hey, it has a YARD!  And we are allowed to use a certain area for gardening, and I’m so STOKED to do this.  I’m thinking I want to try my hand at tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers, zucchini, green and red peppers, and…not sure what else.  I will take any/all suggestions on this!
  2. Create a vanity table area in our bedroom.  This has honestly been a dream of mine since I was old enough to form thoughts.  My grandma had one, my mom had one (and doesn’t now, but I miss hers!), and for heaven’s sake, I WANT ONE.  My grandma always had her lotions and jewelry and picture frames and just special items on display.  My mom had the same, including her perfume (Anais Anais) on a lace doily, and a blue hairdryer tucked in the right drawer (the things you remember from childhood!).  I don’t mind getting ready in the bathroom, but I’ve always wanted this special place to sit and get dolled up, applying makeup and curling my hair while listening to music, being surrounded by fresh flowers and pictures of my beloved and my babies.  I’ve pinned several ideas on Pinterest, but I love looking at this image for inspiration:
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    Now, this is way too girly — even for me — but it has all the right components:  soft lighting (but still strong enough for makeup application), feminine colors, a great chair, and so forth.  I can’t wait to get this project completed!
  3. Get a part-time job.  One that I really, really feel good about doing.  Marty and I have discussed this and I’d like some extra money for doing things, like the project I just mentioned.  However, I really believe that my primary job is to be at home, raising my kids and taking care of my house, so whatever job I get has to feel worth the sacrifice of time away, and it must be limited in hours to what I feel comfortable with.  I realize that this is not just a tall order, it is a skyscraper.  But — I’m on the hunt and thankfully, I’m in no hurry.  I have the luxury of being picky so I’m going to be!
  4. Read at least 2 books a month.  I’m in a little book club and we tend to read about one book a month, so the other one shall be up to me (although I have choosing power for the book club, too).  I think 24 books in a year is about right for my schedule, though I wish I had time to read far, far more.
  5. Get on a good cleaning schedule with my house and stick to it.  I have already devoted hours upons hours in 2013 toward this goal.  My thought was to get my house sparkling and organized from top to bottom, then maintain it on a daily/weekly schedule, as written out in my dayplanner.  And can I say that I’m kinda proud of myself for the progress I’ve made?  My pantry and a couple of closets are organized; I have to finish in the kids’ room and the master bathroom, but I’m more than halfway there with the overall organizing.  I’m almost completely done with the major clean, so starting next week I’m going to begin my “maintaining” effort.
  6. Write blog posts as often as I can, and stay current reading my friends’ blogs and other blogs that inspire me (and don’t shame me or make me feel inadequate!).
  7. Go on a date with Marty at least once a month, and twice if we can swing it (and get childcare).  Between Christmas and New Year’s, my parents offered to watch our kids for us one night so we could “run away.”  Well, we ran straight to the theatre to watch “Les Mis” and oh. my. stars., was it an amazing experience.  I bawled like a baby into my popcorn napkin and was a sloppy mess by the time the movie finished, but I could honestly have sat through another screening immediately after.  If Hugh Jackman doesn’t win an Oscar for his performance, I might boycott the Academy Awards for the rest of my life and unto eternity, Amen.  But I digress.  Marty and I had just the best time, and we really love having the chance to focus on each other and hold hands and just be in love.  Big priority here, date nights!
  8. Be dedicated and stay committed to our financial plans.  Which are a bit loosey-goosey at the moment, but they do consist of paying off our debts and saving money (duh).  We are still working out the specifics, but we have already saved more money than usual for any given month, and we’re about to pay off a debt that’s been bugging us.  Yay!
  9. Learn to sew.  This is a biggie.  My friend needs a partner for a sewing class, and I’m still debating it.  I’d like to learn in a class, but I don’t want to spend the money, especially when my mom has a machine and could teach me, but she’s so busy and kinda short on spare time.  So, like I said, still debating.  But I see so many great — and supposedly easy — projects on Pinterest:  a Christmas tree skirt, dresses and jumpers for Lucy, skirts for me, doll baby clothes, aprons, table linens.  Yeah, I really want to do this!
  10. Host tea parties.  That’s right, tea parties!  I’m growing a collection of pretty china, and I love getting together with girlfriends, and remember, now I have a yard.  I would love to set up a table, brew some tea and coffee, make some fun little desserts and a fruit salad, and have some girls over.  Maybe girls who don’t necessarily know each other?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be watching a period-piece film or show (Downton Abbey, anyone?) and think, I really wish I could live like that.  Well, this is an idea I had to insert some old-fashioned elegance and beauty and fellowship in my life.  (Let me know if you’d like to come to one; I’ll put you on my list!)
  11. Host playdates, at least one a month, for my kids.  And of course, go to playdates as often as we’re invited.  I love playdates.  It’s probably my favorite thing about being a mom of kiddos this age.
  12. Host dinner parties for other couples/families.  We’ve been living in our house since October, but we have yet to invite anyone over.  Honestly, it’s just taken me awhile to get things situated, but I think we’re there.  It’s time.
  13. Be healthy.  Lose a few more pounds (not obsessively) or at least maintain my current weight.  Do this by eating good foods and taking the kids on walks in their wagon.  When I have time, do more reading/research on eating well (it’s becoming a pet subject of mine; for example, I’m interested in the raw foods aspect of a healthy diet.  I notice that I feel better when I’ve had an apple or an orange or a raw carrot during the day’s eating.).
  14. As part of #13, get back into yoga!  My sister Katie and I used to take yoga classes together and we always had so much fun, and it was a great way to build in sisterly time with her into my schedule.  If you’re reading this, Katie, you’ve been notified.  🙂
  15. Establish and discipline myself into keeping a good bedtime and awakening routine.  Maybe this is too much of a true confession, but I let my kids wake me up in the mornings, and boy, do I really abuse bedtime.  I’m a night owl but it’s sort of spiraling out of control at the moment because I’m staying up until 1 and sometimes even 2 a.m. (what can I say?  I like me time!).  However, in an effort to not force a zombie mom on my kids in the mornings, I want to actually (gasp) set an alarm and make coffee and get the day going before they wake up.  I know this won’t happen every day, but hey, it’s a goal.
  16. Become more active in our small-but-growing church.  We haven’t joined it yet, and we’re not 100% sure that we will, but for right now it’s meeting our needs and we’re enjoying it, and I think there’s no better way of figuring out if a church is a good fit than by pitching in and/or getting more involved.  There’s a Bible study I’ve been thinking about attending, and I feel I should help out in the toddlers’ class once a month or so.
  17. Keep on top of my kids’ photo albums.  I compile a photo album for each year of their life (2 for the first year since there are just SO many pictures), and right now I’m almost caught up with Lucy’s and only 2 behind on Will.  I love doing them and I love getting them at a deep discount by checking for Shutterfly deals online.
  18. Give my kids really great birthday parties.  This is a goal of mine every year.  I hate spending a whole lot of money so I start planning in January (both of them have summer birthdays), so that way I can pick up items here and there instead of having a huge expense all at once.  This year I’m planning a rainbow birthday party for Lucy, but I’m undecided on Will’s.  Maybe helicopters, or Thomas?
  19. Complete and begin potty-training, for Will and Lucy, respectively.  Will is really coming along but there’s still a bit of a gap between him and the finish line.  Lucy is very interested but not exactly cooperative at this point.  I’d love for them both to be out of diapers by this time next year!
  20. Continue to save money, wherever, however, whenever I can.  This kinda goes along with #8, but it’s a bit different because it’s all in the amount of effort I can put into it during any given week.  Sometimes I feel like clipping coupons and following ads and price-comparing, and sometimes it’s just too much energy to spare.  I’d like to do it more, so again, that’s my goal, but I’m allowing myself wiggle room on this one.
  21. Get more painting/decorating done in my house.  This one’s a bit tricky, because anything we paint we are required to re-paint back to the original color upon leaving our house.  So, I’m certainly not going to paint every wall.  We’re leaving the bathrooms as-is, as well as the hallways and such.  My kitchen has a vaulted wall, so I’m not doing that one, either, nor are we doing the half-wall that surrounds the kitchen (it’s part of a great room).  But, I am thinking I need some color in my living room, maybe two walls in the master, and definitely the kids’ room.  I really think kids’ rooms need color, don’t you?  I have some ideas for their room but I’m scouting about on Pinterest to really clarify them.  (Have you picked up yet that I’m a certified Pinterest freak???)
  22. Continue to build a good wardrobe.  I’ve really started to shop more wisely, and by that I mean spending money on really good clothes that won’t wear out or whose time will pass all too soon trend-wise.  For example, Anthropologie clothes are definitely not cheap, but I’ve noticed that my Anthro clothes really stand up well to wash and wear, plus I always get compliments on my pieces.  Also, I think certain trends are not going away anytime soon, so I’m building a collection of scarves, puffy vests, and leggings for winter; and skirts, good tees, and sandals for summer.  I would also like to say, my husband is an absolute gem when it comes to this.  He loves to take me to Anthro, or Ann Taylor Loft, or Von Maur to look at the pretties, even if we don’t buy.  He pays attention and he has given me a surprise sweater or two before.  Yeah, he’s a keeper, that one.
  23. Force myself to do more “kid” time.  Please don’t misunderstand this one.  I love my kids more than my own life, but “play” doesn’t come easily to me for some reason.  I have to fight the urge to jump up and get to the laundry or the dishes, or even just sit and Facebook while my kids watch a cartoon, but my kids love to have me do puzzles with them, or play tea party, or zoom little airplanes about the room.  I make it a point to always stop when they request my participation, but I want to be better about initiating or joining them uninvited.  They love that kind of attention and they deserve it.  The laundry can wait, and I need to remember that.

Well, it’s a weird number to have, but there you have it, all 23 of my goals for 2013.  Okay, maybe that does kinda go together?  Anyway, I hope to share progress and updates here on each one.  Stay tuned!

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Try

I’m sitting at my desk, finally enjoying a moment of peace in an otherwise crazy morning.  I ran around town yesterday, hunting/gathering supplies and groceries for my house, and shopping for late winter/early spring clothes for my kids (Will went from a 3T size pants to needing a 4T practically overnight).  When I came in, I unpacked the groceries but a pile of bags and boxes just sat in the hallway because kids can’t wait for dinner, baths, and bedtime.  And of course, when that’s all said and done, what mama doesn’t collapse in front of the TV?

So this morning was a whirlwind of activity — putting away, organizing, straightening, cleaning — and I hadn’t even yet begun on today’s regular to-do list.  On top of all that, we’re in full-boar mode with potty-training Will, and right when I bragged about his progress on Facebook, he had an epic accident.  Pardon me, but it was the mother of all poops.  I had to give him a bath and scrub down the bathroom and start another load of laundry, and just when I got everything situated and sparkling again and Will back to his play, I realized Lucy had a dirty diaper.  Honestly, in that moment, I could have cried.  There are only so many days in a person’s life that she can spend elbow-deep in excrement before tears fall.  Instead, I got the kids settled for their nap so I could just bring to an end a morning that just didn’t go my way.

Yet here I am with the afternoon ahead of me, looking at the traffic jam of clean laundry that needs to be folded and put away, hungry for lunch, and sorely tempted to chuck it all and just go take a nap.  Next to me is my dayplanner listing today’s chores, a stack of coupons to go through, and a cup of cold coffee that I never got to drink.  Not to mention all the baking and cooking I have planned, because I refused to buy processed foods at the store yesterday (I can make it better at home, right?  Well, right, but I still have to *make* it…)  All of these things just whisper “you’re so behind,” and “you’ll never get to it all,” and “what’s the point?  There will only be more messes and chores and meals to deal with tomorrow!”

All of this might be true, but you know what?  It’s a new year.  And I’ve decided to do better this year, and so far, I’ve been succeeding here and there.  Nothing monumental, but I have made small steps that have upped my domestic game.  A couple weeks ago, like everyone else, I considered making some goals for this year and resolved to at least take a stab at all of them.  My very highest goal is to be the master of my domain and not let it defeat me day in and day out.  Since becoming a mom, I’ve realized that I can no longer do a burst of cleaning on a Saturday morning and call it good for a week (oh, those were the days).  Nope, it never works out that way and there’s simply too much to handle all at once.  It’s a classic how-do-you-eat-an-elephant situation.  One bite at a time, of course, and staying on top of things means constantly chewing.  I don’t like it.  Not at all.  But it is, truly, the only way.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a weary mom taking the afternoon off for a nap or a hot bath.  But those have to be the exception, not the rule — at least for me.  Becoming better at anything requires discipline and persistence and commitment.  And as much as those words grate on me, especially in my current mood, I still have to rise to meet them.  Well, take that back, technically I don’t.  I could do just enough to get by and go take a nap, but that’s not how I want to live.  Not this year.  I want to do better this year.  I mean, I won’t be a candidate for Mom of the Year and Martha Stewart certainly has serious job security, but I know I can do better and like I told myself, just take a stab at it.  Try (are you humming that Pink song in your head?).  See what I can accomplish; see how far I get!

So…I have to ignore the siren call of my pillow.  I have to embrace the quiet of naptime as my chance to catch up, and not my opportunity to check out.  I have to TRY.  Wish me luck!!!

Note:  My next post will be a list of all my goals.  Buckle up…I’m pretty hard-core about seizing this year!  Carpe…annuem?  🙂

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The Next Chapter

Just over my shoulder, the sun is beginning to set behind a thin cloud cover in muted, grayish pinks and oranges over the snow-covered landscape of my neighborhood.  The cold almost-colorlessness of it all makes the world seem to be asleep and on pause, yet the calendar declares that a new year has begun.  And as tempting as it is to be lulled into complacency by appearances, I feel compelled by the calendar to seize this new year, this new day, and yes, this new chapter.

I’ve been blogging on and off for just about a decade now.  And interestingly, with each new major change in my life, I’ve felt the need to start fresh.  I’ll pick a new name, a new theme, a new perspective.  Because as we all know, life changes.  Perspectives shift.  Priorities shuffle.  And when this happens, what we’ve written before sometimes doesn’t seem to fit us anymore.  I guess, for me, blogging is like shedding old skin.  When what I’m wearing doesn’t feel right, I put on something new.

I last blogged in early June of 2012, over 6 months ago now.  At the time, I was living in Tennessee with my little family, and enduring an illness that would only get far, far worse before it got any better.  Because of that illness and for other reasons as well, my husband and I made the decision to move our family home to Indiana, despite not having a job here.  It was a leap of faith…and we’re still mid-leap.  In fact, an excellent way of describing our situation is that we are very much up in the air.  Marty works in Tennessee during the week while I single-parent our two children.  We all live for the weekend, and honestly, sometimes there’s just too much pressure on our weekends to be full of love and bonding activity.  Sometimes the pressure puts us in a bad place, because we resent it, because we are fed-up with the situation.  But everytime we talk about the chain of events, we agree that we would have made the same decisions again and again.  There even seems to be something of the inevitable about what happened this year.  And for two people who like control, and who can’t be described as anything resembling passive, this has been tough to swallow.  Yet, here we are.

The truth of the matter is, we have given this whole journey to God.  And no matter how hokey this might sound, we feel very much that God has asked us to do this hard thing.  For some reason, Marty and I need to grow, as individuals and in our marriage, and this is the path of that growth.  We accept that.  We don’t love it — we fight that resentment feeling — but we do accept it.

I’ve handled some hard things in my life.  I once battled infertility.  I’ve been laid off.  I’ve been divorced.  And each time I’ve been given a hard thing, I always go through a period of processing, grieving, and ultimately letting go, choosing to make the best of things and even reinvent myself as necessary.  This time is no different.  I can’t tell you how easy it would be to just sit in the unfairness of things and wallow in self-pity.  But I know from experience that it gets me nowhere except deeper down a dark hole, and I’m a girl who loves to live in the light.  I gravitate toward happy.  So when it’s not given to me, I create it.

Which brings me to this blog, this next chapter of sharing.  Writing makes me happy; participating in blogs makes me happy.  I’ve read more blogs than I care to admit to reading, and there’s a rainbow of flavors out there, including girls who take their blogging so seriously that they want to create a brand and make their lives a business.  I have no problem with that (to each her own!) but that is sooooooooo not me.  I’ve always thought of blogs as sort of a kitchen table.  Each blogger has her own table, where she shares her thoughts and invites her readers to discuss and share in return.  That’s it — that’s all I want from my blog, anyway.  I’ve never had a huge following on any of my blogs, but I have made some amazing friends and connected with other women on a level that’s unique to this medium.  I miss it, and I crave it.  So here I am, back to blogging, ready to write this next chapter.  I hope you’ll come to my kitchen table!

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