Monday, December 23, 2013

Must be Santa and a Chicken Pot Pie

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE Christmas! I always have. I would beg my Dad to get the decorations out as early as possible and spend all day placing the little trinkets, and wreaths, and angels, and nutcrackers around the house. Growing up we had a hodge podge of old decorations from before I was born like a ceramic white tree with blue plastic pieces that you stuck in the branches and then it lit up,  handmade ornaments, paper angels with ripped wings, smooshed wreaths that needed sprucing up every year, and I didn't care how new or old it was, the more decorations the better. I would personally thumb tack lights around my sister and I's windows and climb on chairs to hang plastic mistletoe. I was only satisfied when the house was covered in a Christmas explosion. Every year my poor Dad would spend hours outside wrapping lights around bushes and climbing the ladder to hammer lights across our roof just for my sister and I to delight in. Finally we would journey out to a shopping center Christmas tree lot and pick the perfect tree. My parents were all for a nice big tree but our downstairs ceiling was only so tall and the goal was to get one so the angel almost touched the ceiling....or at least that was my goal. So we would pick our tree, put it in the pick up truck and head home. Once home my Dad would eye up the tree and the ceiling situation, then trim some more, eye up again, and trim some more. Then he and my Mom would try and get the tree in the stand while they bickered about how someone wasn't holding it straight. Once the tree was finally placed we could add all the ornaments. Of course the good ornaments get front and center placement while the older, uglier ornaments go in the back...of course.

I loved these traditions. It was always such a magical time of year. We would bake cookies with Mom in the kitchen and wear aprons that were too big for us and make a huge mess. I would lay in bed every night and pray to Santa and Jesus to bring me all the gifts I wanted. Then that amazing day came....Christmas Eve!!!
We would eat cookies and my Mom would go pick up wings and a party sub and we would munch all day on sweets and snacks, watching movies, and listening to Christmas music. My sister and I loved "sleigh ride" and would gallop around the house like we were horses over and over and over listening on repeat and cracking imaginary whips.
One Christmas eve my sister and I were attempting to fall asleep in her room together but we just couldn't sleep. It was the same thing every year. We would stay up talking about what gifts we hoped to get and couldn't fall asleep no matter how hard we tried. We are laying there and begin to hear a sound coming from the air duct in the floor. It is a rustling sound and some low voices. All at once we both sprung up out of bed and ran over to the vent and put our heads on the floor listening. It was paper, paper rustling and being cut. Who was down there? Was is Santa? Was he bringing our gifts already?
We listened some more and heard the voices again. Very familiar voices. It was Mom and Dad! What the heck were they doing down there?! Don't they know Santa could be here any minute!
So I yell down the vent; "HEY! MOM AND DAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
silence. then "uh we are just watching TV"
"oh we are just helping get things ready for santa. he can't wrap everything all by himself."
"yes - go to sleep!"
"no go to sleep"

I think the conversation through the vent went on a bit longer than that because I was one stubborn kid...but at some point my sister and I looked at each other a little confused and crawled back in bed.
I think that was the beginning of realizing that Santa might not be real. Either way we tried to accept that Mom and Dad were just doing a little prep work, closed our eyes, and waited for morning and all those wonderful presents Santa (or my parents) was bringing.

So I made this recipe several days ago and wanted to share. I have been in the mood for comfort food with the snow we have already gotten and it being the holiday season and all. So I found this awesome recipe for chicken pot pie casserole. I added a half cup of diced carrots and a half cup of diced celery too. I highly suggest doing that, but here is it.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie Casserole Recipe

  • 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 large chicken breast halves)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried sage, divided use
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, divided use
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables, unthawed
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups homemade biscuit baking mix, (or Bisquick®)
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup strong chicken broth
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
  • 1 cup fine-shredded Cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 375 F.

Pour melted butter into a 9- by 13-inch glass casserole dish and swirl to evenly coat the bottom.

Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch chunks. Spread evenly over the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the sage, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, then the pepper. Top with the frozen mixed vegetables, onions, and roasted red peppers.

Whisk together baking mix, onion powder, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon the sage and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Using a large dinner fork, stir in milk just until combined. Slowly pour over the chicken and vegetable mix.

Whisk together chicken broth and condensed chicken soup until combined. Again, slowly pour evenly over the baking mixture. Finally, top with the Cheddar cheese.

Bake the casserole for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Edition: Its Thanksgiving Dah-Blame-it!

My mother was notorious for forcing second and third helpings on guests at dinner and at times on my Dad, sister, and I. She wouldn't boast about her food or put it down like some adorable plump Grandmas do.."oh now this isn't my best pudding but I guess its edible"....she just wanted you to eat and eat a lot of it. ....And she wondered how I became so round as a kid.....
Now one of her specialities was her mashed potatoes. She really made some creamy, fluffy, wonderful mashed potatoes. She used to make a really lovely spread for Thanksgiving actually.  Of course we had the turkey and stuffing, but we always did stove top. I don't think she liked the idea of stuffing the dressing inside the bird. We usually had some simple corn from a can, probably green giant. There were always rolls in one of those big clear plastic bulk bags from the grocery store and she would warm in them in the oven and it was a good as fresh baked bread to us. Gravy of course but she always got several jars of turkey gravy from giant and we didn't care, we always loved all of it. OH OH cranberry sauce from the can in that slimy jelly cylinder, which I loved. I started bringing my green bean casserole and if you remember my post from last year, apparently I was the only one who liked that one. Lastly was Mom's mashed potatoes. That was one of the only things she did from scratch and like I said, she did it well. That big beautiful yellow tinted glass bowl would come out on the table just steaming with its white fluffy buttery peaks of potato glory.
We all sat down at Mom's big oval wooden table, where she probably laid out some festive fall place mats with pumpkins and leaves on them, which we were NOT allowed to get one drop of food on. Fresh baked cookies and a pumpkin pie lingered on the edge of the table teasing us. We got out Mom's yellow ceramic plates with the brown painted flor de lis on them and started piling on the food.
Sometimes it was just the four of us and we would sit and eat all fast and furious and be done in 15 mins and Mom would always comment about how it took all morning to make this silly meal and 15 mins to eat it and would huff at Dad for finishing first.

Well one year she was determined to serve Dad some more mashed potatoes after he had finished his meal. I don't know what got in to her, but she was just funny like that sometimes and she probably just found it amusing to force some more food on him. I remember her asking if everyone liked the food and wanted more and I remember her asking Dad a few times if he really liked the potatoes. I don't think she was very proud of them that year. She either made them runny or lumping. Now of course Dad said he liked them, that he liked them a lot. The next thing I know Mom is up at the stove grabbing the pot of extra potatoes and walking over to Dad with it. She says "well have some more then". I think she was convinced that he didn't really like them. He said he was fine and he did like them. She has the spoon full of potatoes now out of the pot and hovering over his plate. "well then you should have some more, are your sure you liked them" she said.
"Yes Connie, I liked them, they were just fine, I liked them fine."
"Well then have some more if you sure you really did like them."
And finally Dad exclaims...
"Connie! I liked the Mashed Bah-Dah-Blame-Potatoes!!"

Now my Mom wasn't the only one with little sayings. When Dad wanted to curse so bad but couldn't because little ears in the corn field were near, then Dah-Blame-It was his go to. My sister and I even wrote a song called "Dah-Blame-Daddy" once after he accidentally backed into a parked car at the Burger King in the Manassas Junction and yelled; "Dah-Blamed-it, Where'd that car come come!?"

Well to drive home his love, on this day, for my Mother's mashed potatoes, Dah-Blame had to come out. I I think everyone at that table knew once and for all that he liked those potatoes.
He got an extra helping, Mom sat back down, and we all finished our meal.....Dah-Blame-it!

In honor of the holiday I made an interesting turkey meat loaf that I am calling Thanksgiving Meat Loaf.
I made it with a really nice homemade and simple squash casserole. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Turkey Meatloaf

1lb Ground Turkey
2 med mushrooms (baby bella is best)
1 Tsp fresh rosemary
2 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup small diced red onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
salt and pepper
Lily helped

mix all ingredients together and make into a loaf. Place on a baking sheet or roasting pan and cover with tin foil. Cook at 350 for about 30 mins. Check and give more time if needed.

I also made a simple country gravy with bacon grease, flour, and milk and poured that over top.

Squash Casserole

3 med yellow Squash chopped
1/2 med red onion chopped
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light cheddar
1/2 cup light mexican blend cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper

Saute Squash on med with olive oil until barely soft. Add onion and cook till all are nice and soft. Turn off heat and mash a little with a potato masher. In a bowl mix the rest of the ingredients and then add veggies from the stove. Pour mixture into a casserole dish and cook on 350 for about 25 mins.
Lily says "Cheese! I liked this casserole!"

Friday, November 15, 2013

Honey Brine Chicken with a Mohawk

So I kind of have a Mohawk now and the decision to do this was a scary one.

 Ever since watching a the season of Project Runway with Anya who was the gorgeous beauty queen from Trinidad turned fashion designer who had the sides of her head shaved, I was very intrigued by this style.

After that season aired I started noticing more and more people with this strange haircut. You leave the top long, in some cases very long like Anya, and shave the sides and back. The next thing I know there is another girl on Project Runway with a similar cut, Pink has a version of that haircut, and then the haircut that shocked the world was Miley Cyrus. Once I saw her version of the haircut, I really wanted to try it. In no way am I a real fan of her or her music, but I do think she looks amazing with the haircut and has some catchy tunes.
So I go to my incredible stylist Vickie at Salon Vie and show her pictures of....Miley Cyrus.

We talk about the cut and decide to take baby steps. No clippers came out that day but I ended up with a pixie on one side and a very textured short bob on the other. As the hair was flying off, I got nervous and my heart was pounding. I wasn't even going for the full shaved sides but it was still scary and that says a lot for me because I am pretty adventurous with my style. I remember watching the transformation in the mirror and nervously joking; "uuuhh wow, I can't believe I am doing this...."
Well that was nothing!
I ended up loving the cut and felt it made me feel younger and prettier and made my face look thinner...
All things that are very important to a woman of course.
I got a great reaction from friends and guests at my current job and so that gave me the confidence to finally, after about 2 years of thinking on it, go for shaving most of my head!
I show up at the salon again with pictures of Miley... again. I sit down in the chair and Vickie says; "OK, what are we doing today". My current cut and color had grown out a lot and was almost unrecognizable to the original style at this point so I had lots of options. I took a deep breath and said; "we are doing it, we are buzzing my head today."
She was instantly thrilled as we looked over more pictures and talked about how this was going to go, what color to dye it, and before I even knew it, the clippers came out and the first row of hair was on the floor. No turning back. Other stylists were coming over to my chair to watch and talk about it. It was the buzz of the whole salon. Patrons were talking about it and watching it all buzz buzz buzz off on to the slick black floor.
We painted on the bleach and now it was time to just sit and wait and hope I didn't make a horrible decision.
It took what felt like forever. Part of me was scared but part of me was really excited. I remember waiting for the color to process and kinda praying that Nick would like it, and that the other Moms at the play ground wouldn't think I was strange.
Why was I even doing this? I guess I am taking this time in my life to really enjoy life. I get to be home with Lily and I have a pretty neat little part time job, I finally lost all the baby weight, and it just felt like why the heck not. I am 33, Im still young and fun, and this is me. Who cares what the Mom's at the playground think. I wanted to try something really different, I wanted a change, I wanted to challenge myself in a way and be brave.
So I did it, and it came out great. People have been lovely about it and although I do think most the Mom's at the playground wonder what type of person I am....and are pretty curious if I am gay. Let them think what they want, and if I were gay, shame on them for judging me for that! Shame! A haircut doesn't define a person, but it can very well express something about them. My lady Mohawk says I am fun, adventurous, and daring....and I like that!

So as part of enjoying life more, I am cooking again and blogging again...yay!!
So in honor of the new do, I wanted to try something new with chicken that I had never done. Chicken can be pretty darn boring but I have created some great marinades that put flavor through all the meat and Im pretty proud of them. However, I usually grill chicken and the weather is turning colder so I thought....whats a way I can get great flavor through the whole piece of chicken, keep it moist, but bake it. So I thought why not brine it. I do that with pork chops and its awesome.
So I looked up a couple things on honey brines and thought, yep that's the ticket.
So I created my own brine and then made honey lemon carrots and simple pan roasted brussel sprouts to go with it.

Honey Brine Chicken
1/3 cup sea salt
1/2 gal of hot water
2 cups vegetable broth
1 1/4 cup honey
3-4 handfuls of ice
chicken breasts ( I used two but you could do up to 4)

In a large bowl combine salt and hot water. Stir until dissolved. After that add veggie broth and honey. Stir.
Add chicken and immediately add ice to cool down the water. Cover and place in the fridge for several hours. I started the brine at 9:30am and took it out at 5:15pm

Pat dry the chicken breasts and place in a greased baking pan. I sprinkled the breasts with garlic powder, parsley, pepper, a little lemon juice, and a little more honey drizzled on top.
I cooked them for 25-30 mins at 375.

Honey Lemon Baby Carrots
2 lemon slices
2 T butter
about 2 cups of baby carrots
honey 1-2 T depending on how sweet you want it
salt and pepper

Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add carrots and boil about 5-6 minutes until just getting tender. Drain the carrots and add back to the pot. Next add lemon, butter, and honey. Cook on med for about 5-6 mins until nice and tender and the carrots have a bit of a glaze on them. Add a little salt and pepper to finish it off.

The whole thing came out amazing! It was the best baked chicken I have ever made!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Holiday Edition: Grandma's Breakfast

We have always loved breakfast in my family. These days I don't always eat it, even though I know I should, but on the weekends I usually just have to cook one big breakfast. I love the smell of toast in the toaster and bacon sizzling and the color of that bright yellow egg yolk just waiting for a buttery piece of toast to be dipped in it.
When I was a kid my Mom made eggs every weekend too and we always had "dippin" eggs. I had no idea until I was probably 12 that dippin eggs were usually called over easy.
Part of my love for breakfast and I have to assume my Dad's great love for the most important meal of the day, is my Grandmother.
My beautiful Grandma Ruby when she was a young woman

We used to visit my Grandparents in West Virginia almost every Thanksgiving and I always loved it so much. It was exactly how Thanksgiving should be. Driving hours down country roads, over the mountains, and through the woods to Grandmother's house to share a massive meal with our equally massive family.
Before some of the bigger highways were built, our trip was six hours long and involved some of the scariest mountain roads I have ever seen. Barely any guard rail, these steep narrow rounds wound up and down mountains, past rivers and through valleys. Steep grades with runaway truck exits and roads signs warning of falling rocks. I remember always looking up this one cliff to see three crosses in the ground, watching over the farmland. I remember blue skies with huge fluffy clouds as far as you could see and the leaves turning all the colors of the rainbow. It was the longest, sometimes scary, but most beautiful drive.

After a final steep, winding, hilly road, passing cows and sheep and old homes that looked 100 years old, the road would level out, the trees opened up, and there was Roscoe and Ruby Swanigan's home. My Grandma and Grandpa's Lincoln would always be in the drive and sometimes they would even be waiting on the front porch waving a warm welcome back. It was a simple brick front rambler with cream siding and a huge open yard. When we came inside, it always smelled the same, like food had been cooking and I believe my Grandma's perfume. Their favorite cushy rocking chairs were always in their place in the front room and our cots were popped open and waiting for us in the guest room. Kick-knacks were placed on every shelf and dresser. Ceramic men and women holding flowers, or an old coal miner carrying a pick ax.
In the game room was a pool table. all of my Grandpa's guitars and banjo, and a wall of pictures of all of my Aunts and Uncles high school portraits. I used to stare at the soft black and white photos and compare each face, seeing how my relatives looked so alike and marveling in their youth and beauty and thinking how their faces had changed but how beautiful they all still were to me.
We would settle in and hours of looking at old photos, playing under the pool table, and listening to Grandpa's stories and jokes would ensue.
Once all of our cousins and Aunts and Uncles arrived, there would always be the turkey, and stuffing, and my Grandma's amazing home-made mashed potatoes but that isn't my favorite meal or memory.

Two different Swanigan family reunions

I have always been an early riser and never slept well because I was afraid of the dark so I would lay in my cot and pray for morning to come and to hear my Grandma's humming coming from the kitchen.
She always hummed when she cooked and that's how I knew it was ok to come out of bed and join her in the kitchen. She would be up before the sun making fresh from scratch biscuits and would see me and always say/sing something like "good morning, morning glory". It would be her and I sometimes for a couple hours before everyone else rose. I would rattle off all the millions of stories and Ideas that were in my head while she hummed and pat the dough and would say "whew honey, doesn't your tongue ever get tired!".
She would sometimes pull out a coffee can full of change and give me a few coins. I remember being so amazed by all the coins she had. I thought she was rich. It was a tiny little kitchen with one small window over the sink and barely any counter space, but my Grandma made the most delicious food there and I loved our quiet time in the morning together.
Then once everyone was awake, and the coffee was brewed, and the gravy was bubbling, we would eat. In a small dining room with an organ in the corner, we sat around a large wooden table and I would pile eggs, bacon, gravy, and biscuits on my plate. I would mix it all together in one big, messy, gooey, hill of breakfast delight and devour the entire plate.
A big home-made breakfast always makes me think of my Grandmother and reminds me of the holidays, no matter what time of year it is.

So with the holidays fast approaching and for the first time in many years, I made pancakes.
 These weren't just any pancakes though. There were Cranberry Almond Pancakes with Honey Orange Sauce.
Super easy to make and so delicious.
I followed the recipe for thinner pancakes on the Bisquick box but added a handful of dried cranberries, a handful of sliced almonds, and a little vanilla extract to the batter.
It made about 12 medium sized cakes.
Then for the sauce I took about a 1/4 cup of orange juice, the juice from half of a fresh orange, a little orange zest, about 1/4 cup powdered sugar, mixed that, then added honey until it got to the consistency I wanted. It was a little thinner than syrup but the pancakes soaked it up and it was heaven.

I served the pancakes with bacon and sausage and the house was just filled with great smells of breakfast for hours. I thought of my Mother and my Grandmother as I served pancakes to Lily for the first time.

Happy Thanksgiving to you Mom, Grandma and Grandpa. We miss you!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Simple Easy Side Dishes that I love!

A great side dish can just make a meal sing and sometimes can be even more exciting than the entree. I tend to focus a lot on sharing recipes for entrees and realized the other day that I have some super simple, healthy, and delicious side dishes I have come up with that deserve a post as well.
I love veggies and a typical dinner in my home usually includes some type of protein and a veggie side dish. I don't make a lot of starches at dinner time and actually try to avoid too many carbs as a general rule. I know it could seem easier sometimes to open up a box of rice or instant mashed potatoes but these side dishes are just as quick and better for you.
Nick and I both love asparagus. I have found that my favorite way to cook it is to roast it in the oven.

Roasted Asparagus

Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Clean and trim asparagus and place on a cookie sheet or baking pan. Drizzle olive oil on asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Mix around the spears to make sure each is coated with a little oil and seasoning. Cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of your spears so I would check on them after 10 mins and then continue cooking until you reach desired doneness. I love to get mine a little crispy!
You can enjoy the asparagus just like that and it tastes great but you could also squirt a little lemon juice on them or drizzle a little soy sauce on them depending on what your entree is.

 I came up with this next recipe one night when I noticed we had some tomatoes that were getting soft and needed to be eaten.

Roasted Italian Tomato Slices

olive oil
salt and pepper
shredded motz, Parmesan, and or cheddar

preheat oven to 350. Clean a couple small tomatoes and cut into thick slices. Spray a cookie sheet or baking pan with cooking spray and arrange the slices on the sheet. Drizzle a little olive on each slice. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese on each slice and it almost doesn't matter what type of cheese you use. I have tried all kinds and they always taste really yummy. Then top each slice with a little oregano.
Cook slices in the oven for about 10 mins and then check on them. Continue cooking until the cheese is nice and melty and maybe even a little browned.

I adore brussel sprouts and make them really often with a piece of grilled chicken. That is a summer meal go to. I also love that you can season these brussel sprout several different ways and they just suck up the flavor.

Pan Fried Brussel Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts
olive oil
salt and pepper
minced garlic
red wine vin
optional: lemon, Italian dressing, Parmesan cheese, wine wine

Clean brussels and chop each one in half long ways. Place brussels in a skillet on med heat with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and minced garlic. Cook brussels until they begin to get bright green and a little softer then add a little vinegar and any or all of the optional ingredients. Turn up the heat to high and stir often. The goal is to get a little brown crust on the veggies but to not completely over cook them.
enjoy! The picture below shows the brussel sprouts with some grilled chicken and a little guacamole.

This next one is super simple and very summery!

Herb and Feta Cucumber slices

1 Cucumber
Any Oil based Salad Dressing like a vinaigrette, Caesar, or Italian
salt and pepper

Take your cucumber and clean and peel it. Slice up and either put in a bowl or right on your dinner plates. drizzle with your favorite Italian style salad dressing. Sprinkle feta on top and season with a little salt and pepper. Done!

I just came up with this next one last week and Nick and I both were crazy about it! This one has more fat than the other recipes above but its still pretty healthy and it has avocado in it which is a super food.

Avocado and Crab Salad

1 avocado
1 cup imitation crab meat
light mayo or sour cream
minced onion flakes
old bay
minced garlic or garlic powder

Slice avocado in half, remove seed, and scoop out chunks into a bowl. Add 1 cup of chopped imitation crab meat. Squeeze a little lemon juice into the bowl then add old bay and garlic and how much just depends on your taste. Next shake about 1 tablespoon of minced onion flakes into bowl and then a tablespoon of mayo or sour cream. You can add more if you like the salad wetter. Mix and taste and add more spices, lemon, and/or mayo if you like until you get it just right. chill the salad for about 30 mins.
You can serve as a side dish or put over salad greens and eat as your entree. Add bacon if you are feeling crazy.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and I will share more healthy and easy side dishes soon!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Today was a good day......

I woke up this morning to a very happy baby girl and Nick bringing me a cup of coffee in bed. So far this day was getting off to a great start! Lily went down for a nap around 9:30 and slept long enough for me to workout, tidy up just a bit, and take a shower. This day was still going great! I laid out some clothes to wear for the day and found my favorite underwear was clean and whenever that happens, I know its going to be a good day! I wasn't even upset when I realized that I didn't have any clean jeans that really fit me. I found a pair that would button enough for me to function and have some lovely muffin top, threw on an over sized sweater and accepted that this outfit and how it fit was ok for today. Then I scooped up little Lily from her crib and headed to Wegmans with gift certificates I got for Christmas. Could this day get any better?! I love Wegmans and I love free groceries from Wegmans. It was super crowded and some snotty woman fresh from the gym was rushing around the store with zero regard for anyone else and I had the unfortunate luck to run into her several times but...I did not let her bother me because I was wearing my favorite underwear and it was a good day.
I got to the register and watched my grocery bill go down to almost nothing with those wonderful gift certs and then headed to the car with my goodies and my sweet girl. I got to the car and was unloading the groceries when a nice older woman asked if she could help me and then take my cart. WHAT?! this is such a lovely day. She chatted with me and kept an eye on Lily while I packed up my car and it was a really nice moment. She waved goodbye and took my cart and I got Lily in her car seat and headed home.
Lily ate well at lunch and laughed while I made funny faces and sang to her and then went down for her afternoon nap. She slept long enough for me to clean my kitchen floor, empty trash, clean the guest room and bathroom, put away some Christmas gifts, and eat lunch myself.
She woke up happy and I found her playing in her crib with her bear and her blanket and she smiled at me when I came to get her.
My house is cleaner, groceries put away and I have a full fridge and freezer, I feel great from excising this morning, and Lily is playing in her bouncer so I can type up this post.
I am so very lucky to have this life. I am so blessed to have a beautiful and loving family (on both sides) that has a close bond and isn't too far away to spend time together often. I am thankful that I have experienced great love and great loss and learned so much from both. I am so happy for the time I got to spend with my Mother before she passed and for the fantastic childhood her and my father gave me. I am so very thankful that 2012 was a good year for me and my family for the most part. So many precious babies were born this year in my family and to my dear friends and this was a year filled with life and love instead of fear and loss.
I don't know what 2013 holds but I hope its full of more good days, happy babies, exercise, and just being happy for the little things like...your favorite underwear.

A man was found shot dead in my neighborhood last night just a few yards from my house. I don't know who this man was or why this happened to him. He was found in his car and the details still haven't been released. It is so scary to know that something so horrific could happen just a few feet from your doorstep.
I woke up this morning and held my daughter tight and was so very thankful to be inside my warm house, close to my healthy and happy family. Today was a good day because I had today at all. Anything could've happened today but I started it with a smile and a hug and the thought that I was very blessed to have the sun rising up in my backyard to shine on me and my family. I think of my mother whenever I see the sunrise, which is another story, but she shined on us today and reminded me of every wonderful thing I have to be thankful for this year.

and here are some pictures that make me happy....

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Powering Through Yoga and Being a Temporary Stay at Home Mom

I recently made a huge life changing decision to take a leave of absence from my job of 10 years to stay home with Lily for a little while. She has had some troubling stomach issues since she was born and then after a few concerning events at her daycare, I just decided I needed to be home with her. It was one of the hardest and scariest decisions I have ever made actually. On one hand I get to stay home with my sweet baby and protect her and teach her and give her all the one on one attention I was missing with her.

I can focus more on taking care of my home, making delicious dinners, running all those errands that fell to the wayside, and garden in the spring. On the other hand I have been working since I was 15 years old and juggling that with school and/or theatre and I am so used to being very busy that part of me worried about how I would handle all this home time. I also haven't even mentioned that I am not getting a paycheck anymore so that is scary as well.
 It has been a big adjustment. The first couple weeks it didn't feel real and I had a little anxiety in the evenings because I kept feeling like I needed to get ready for work the next day. It has been almost two months now I guess and I am settling into a little routine and I think I am finding a new kind of happiness. It is different and still a little scary but spending time with Lily and having a tidy home is really lovely. Lily is sleeping until 7am usually and after waking up at 5am or earlier for work for a long time, 7am is a dream! I have discovered that I love the Ellen show and really look forward to 3pm. I have taken many walks and now know which neighbors seem to have homes and yards to be proud of and which seem like they are secret hoarders. I cleaned my dishwasher and discovered that it was full of goo in the corners and that was super gross. I have developed a love for HG TV so between that and my gardening and cooking, I am feeling very Martha stewarty these day.  I also have added in workout time during Lily's first nap of the day and that has really made me feel like a new person.
I have realized that I can't just sit on the couch when she naps or while she plays. As long as I stay busy for the most part, then I feel useful and content. So I started with a yoga DVD I have had for years, then added some Teabo and Pilates. I recently stepped it up and added in a short Insanity workout. If you haven't heard of Insanity then just know that it is called Insanity for a reason. I literally had to take a break after the first two minutes of the workout. Nick was working on his computer and watched me struggle through this thing and we both laughed from time to time when I would just stop and say; "oh I am NOT doing that". I pushed through and made it to the end of the workout and actually felt great.  So I have kept at it and also added in a power yoga DVD. I have never done yoga like this because I am just a novice but I have begun balancing and twisting in crazy poses and I have been so proud of what I have been able to do. I know people who do yoga really advocate for how amazing it makes you feel and how great it is for stress and the benefits just go on and on and I am here to say, it's true. Since I started yoga again I feel great! It has been just a couple weeks but I see and feel my muscles toning, my energy level has increased, my state of mind is calm and centered, and my back is getting stronger everyday. I might have found yet another hobby and I am really excited about it.
I am on a brand new journey and so much has changed in the past 9 mos. There were moments in the beginning where I was so tired and exhausted and I wondered if I could handle this new life. I wondered if I could give up my selfish, fun loving, and at times a little immature ways. I knew I was ready for a baby and a life change but there is nothing in the world that can prepare you for what it is really like. Since losing my mother I look at the world very differently and it changed me in many ways. I grew up a lot in those weeks while she was sick. Even though I already thought I was responsible adult, I had further to go and I felt this new sense of responsibility to be the woman she wanted me to be and to help take care of my family. Now that Lily is in my life I have found an even deeper maturity and have grown so much more. I think I finally really feel like a grown up and that feels really funny to say that at 32. Its the hardest job I have ever had but the most fulfilling. I never ever thought I would be the stay at home Mom type, but maybe I am. Maybe I am good at this and maybe it is enough. There are always going to be tough days but then there are days like today where Lily is being so cuddly, my home is neat and tidy, I am finally seeing weight lose results, and I made an awesome kick ass dinner!
So tonight I made the best turkey burgers I have ever had so I really hope you like this one. Its another one of my Mom's magazine recipes but I do a few things my way of course.

French Onion Soup Turkey Burgers

1 Pound Ground Turkey (or beef)
1 Can Campbell's French Onion Soup
Sliced Swiss

Seasoning for Turkey Meat:
3 T Worcestershire sauce
several dashes garlic powder
2 T Italian dressing
several shakes of grated Parmesan cheese from one of those cans
salt and pepper
bread crumbs

Mix together all seasoning ingredients except bread crumbs. Add turkey meat and mix. Add in bread crumbs until the mixture thickens up a bit. Once you get the meat to the point where you think it will make some decent patties, then form meat into four equal patties.
Place burgers in a large skillet and brown on both sides. Once browned, remove burgers and set aside. Add 1 can of french onion soup to the skillet and bring to a boil. Stir often to get up any bits left in the skillet from the burgers. Once the soup reaches a boil, add the burgers back to the skillet. Reduce heat and cook on low, covered. Cook 5 more mins or until burgers are done. Add cheese to burgers and once melted, remove from skillet.

Place burgers on a nice toasted bun. Pour remaining soup into a bowl use for dipping.

We didn't add ketchup, mayo, or any condiments to the burger because it was so packed with flavor that it didn't need it. I also made some sweet potato fries on the side. I just peeled and chopped a sweet potato and cooked the fries in a cast iron skillet with very hot vegetable oil and seasoned with sea salt. They were a little soggy so I am going to do a little research and figure out how to make them crispier.

Enjoy! This is one of my favorites.