Thursday, September 6, 2012

Patio Project

Well, we finally did it. It was a scorching 100+ weekend, but Chris had an extra day off, so we put the labor in Labor Day this year. Thank heaven for my wonderful brother-in-law, Joshua, who cheerfully donated his time and talent. We started the patio expansion by marking off the area, and then the digging began. That's about the time I decided to go shopping. (Unfortunately, I'm being totally serious.) The first day that's about all we got accomplished. Day 2 (Sunday) we went to church bright and early and tried to get back to work before it got too hot. Fail. It was hot when we woke up. Anyway...we finished constructing the form for the concrete, leveled the area, filled with sand, and tamped it down. We were ready for concrete by that evening, but it couldn't be delivered until Tuesday morning because of the Labor Day holiday. Monday, we just took a break. Not too shabby. Tuesday Chris and I got up at 5:30. Ouch. Haven't seen that time of the morning since Little Toot started sleeping through the night. Concrete man arrived at 5:45 and it was still dark outside. This was nice because it wasn't too hot yet, but kinda stinky because it was still a bit difficult to see (especially for people with bad night vision, such as myself). We had read DIY blogs and watched YouTube videos for weeks, but you still don't quite know what to expect until you've done it once yourself. But everything considered, I think it went pretty well. It looks nice so far, and in a few days we'll be able to put our patio furniture in place and get some pretty, fall plants in pots out there and I'm sure I will LOVE it. Here's some pics of the process, and I'll put a few more up when it's "decorated!"

Friday, August 3, 2012

Steamed Veggies

This is going to be more of a "how-to-make-dinner-with-the-fewest-amount-of-dishes-possible" post than a recipe.  The other night we made spaghetti, which we do quite often because we all enjoy it, including Rachel.  I decided to make fresh green beans and broccoli as our veggies.  I thought I liked green beans before, but I really like fresh ones.  They taste so much different than the canned ones.  Of course, I'll still use the canned stuff when they are out of season, but we are enjoying fresh ones for the time being!  And they take no more work than opening that old can.  Here's how I did it:

I got a very large pot as a wedding gift from my wonderful Uncle Mike and Aunt Deb.  It can with a steamer basket you can put in the top.  Now a steamer is basically just a colander that can withstand heat.  So, in interest of saving dishes, I dumped my snapped beans and broccoli florets into the steamer to rinse.  I prepared the spaghetti in the large pot.  With about 6 minutes left on the pasta, I placed the steamer basket right on top of the cooking pasta and covered with the lid.  I normally cook my pasta uncovered, but you need the steam to stay in for the veggies, naturally, and it does not bother the pasta one bit.  I gave all the veggies the same amount of time, but in the future I will hold the broccoli out another 1-2 minutes because I like it more crispy and less mushy.  And that's all there is to it!

Rachel wanted in on the veggie action!

Snapping the ends

My awesome pot on the right: pasta in the bottom, veggies on top

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Update

Well, the cat is out of the bag (on the professional front), so I feel I can finally share it here: Chris will be starting a new job in August!

About a month ago we stepped into a whirlwind.  Chris came home the day before we were supposed to start vacation and said he had been told that the owners of the company were interested in selling and his job would be "questionable" after the holidays.  If you have ever experienced job loss, undesired relocation, or something similar, I'm sure you can relate to the situation.  A million questions go through your mind: "Should we wait it out and look for a job closer to the end of the year?", "If we are going to have to move, when should we sell our house?", "Oh no! Where will I put our Christmas tree if we are in an apartment?!?!?". I know that this sounds silly and like a major overreaction, but these were honestly some of the thoughts that went through my mind within the first five minutes of Chris telling me.

And then there are the home projects we had been wanting to do.  We decided to put everything on hold until we knew if we would be staying or not.  So that awesome patio furniture I bought before we expanded the patio has just been chilling in our grass.  Classy, I know.

Chris and I decided to go ahead and take our vacation.  We thought about using the time off to job hunt, but I had really been looking forward to some time with Chris (Mom was keeping Rachel for us for the first time).  We were gone for 4 days, and had a really nice time.  And we had plenty to talk about on our 11 hr drive!  The following week Chris had the unpleasant task of visiting each location in Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska to visit with managers about the new situation.  At the end of the week was our family reunion, and I am positive I couldn't count the number of times Chris got asked, "So, how's the job going?" Um. Not good, folks.

Then a crazy thing happened.  Someone who used to be Chris's office-mate in graduate school called and basically said, "Hi Chris!  I know you have a job, but for some reason I thought of you today.  A banker in Edmond wants to hire someone with a masters in AgEcon ASAP.  I wasn't interested, but for some reason I gave them your info."  Well we all know that "some reason" was a direct answer to my 88 year old grandmother's prayer for us to find a new job.  I'm pretty sure she knows how to pull some strings! :)

All of this big long story to say I have a new empathy for people who have lost their jobs.  I never really felt badly for people in this situation before; I always thought ok, go find a new one!  But it's so unsettling.  And even though it was just 5 weeks from the day we found out about Chris's current job until we received this new offer, life seemed to be completely on hold in that short time.  No matter how much you try to plan your life, sometime God has other plans for us.  And I am actually thankful for the reminder that He is in control, and not me.

Now that all of this is settled, I'm very excited about the new job.  I think Chris will like the work (aka challenge) and I know I will like the much more family-friendly hours.  Now we are just waiting for the 100+ degree weather to pass so we can think about that patio again. :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Totally Awesome

Wow. I've been away for a month. And not just from the blog; Rachel and I were out of our home for 3 weeks and then she was sick for the first several days of being back home. Talk about a busy summer! My parents kept Rachel so Chris and I could go on a vacation back in June. It was my first time away from her, but it went really well! I think everyone had a good time (Rachel and Nana included). Then we had two solid weeks of family time including Grandma's 88th birthday and MaryBeth's crew being in town for the 4th of July.

Needless to say, Chris didn't have the luxury of being gone for 3 weeks, so he has been "holding down the fort" for the past two. Again, needless to say, Chris managed to make a lot of laundry during my absence and those toilets don't exactly clean themselves. I'm not nagging here; I have actually asked Chris to refrain from doing laundry because he doesn't do it the way I want it done. And he did vacuum and keep the plants watered like I asked!

Today I decided Rachel was feeling well enough to entertain herself while I started cleaning. It seems I always stand in front of the cleaning products in the store until all the bottles start looking the same and I end up picking a product that isn't the cheapest, but not the most expensive, either. And it seems the results are always the same: they get the job done, but it's nothing to write home about....until now! Mom told me a while back to buy "Totally Awesome" from the Dollar General to try in place of "Shout" because it gets just about every stain out and was pretty darn cheap. I tried it, and it does indeed work very well. Today, when I went to get my bathroom cleaning supplies, my bottle of median-priced-who-knows-what was empty. On a whim, I grabbed my "Totally Awesome" and let me tell ya, now I know why they named it that. When attempting to get the soap scum ring out of Rachel's bathtub, this stuff is completely, totally awesome. Just spray, wait a couple minutes, and literally wipe with a wet towel. It was like one of those dumb infomercials. It was magic!

So if you are looking for something to make your life with kiddos a little easier, get Totally Awesome. You'll be totally glad.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Grilled "BBQ" Chicken

Wow. I haven't blogged in a very long time. Whoops. Rachel and I have been garage sale-ing, using her new pool, and enjoying our new "patio." Ok. So we don't have a new patio. But we do have new patio furniture! I found a set very similar to what I was looking for at a garage sale for a decent price, so we went ahead and bought it even though we haven't expanded our concrete slab in the backyard yet. And for my birthday present we bought cushions, an umbrella and stand, and a deck box to keep the cushions in so they will stay nice. We are planning on expanding the patio fairly soon. I'll post pics when we get that done! We have eaten about half our meals out there since we bought it, so I think it's worth it even though it is currently sitting on half concrete, half grass. Here's a few snapshots of what we've been up to lately:

4th anniversary cake

Attempting basketweave for the first time. Had to do something with the left-over frosting!

We just took PB&J to the park one evening. It was a lovely night off.

"Father's day"...a week early

We are still in grilling mode over here so I thought I would share a recipe for grilled chicken that we got off of "Good Eats." (I have mentioned this one before, but at that time I didn't have any details because Chris did everything solo.) This is the only picture on the grill I ended up with:
Sorry about all the smoke. Apparently, that stuff shows up REALLY well with the new camera!
So you could buy a whole chicken and cut it up to be more economical, but the thigh pieces are my favorite so we just bought a package of those. I honestly don't remember how much these weighed; it doesn't really matter for the marinade or the rub, you can use this recipe for 2-4# of chicken.

Marinate chicken for 1.5 hrs in 1 qt of water, 6 oz honey, and 3.5 oz kosher salt. Dry with paper towel and set pieces on a cookie sheet or cooling rack. Combine 1 Tbs chili powder, 1 Tbs curry powder, 1 tsp Adobo powder (no idea what this stuff we didn't use it), 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 2 tsp cocoa powder. Seal in a ziploc bag and kneed into chicken. Let sit on cookie sheet for half an hour, while your fire is getting ready.

Sear each side for approx 5 minutes. Move to lower heat and continue to flip/rotate and grill for another 12 minutes. That's all the info I have because I am not in charge of the actual grilling process.

And the best part....Dessert!
Homemade chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwiches...mmmm!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Homemade Pizza

Ok, I thought Chris was crazy when he told me 4 years ago that he wanted to make pizza.  Make pizza?? That was odd to me because I think of pizza as the ultimate "I don't want to do dishes nor spend a lot of money on dinner" idea.  But, as usual, homemade is completely different, and I admit, better.  You can put as much or as little of anything and everything, which is nice because I don't like a lot of sauce.  And the crust!  Yum yum!  I honestly doesn't take that much time, but you do tend to make a bit of a mess, and you probably spend as much money as ordering it (depending of course on where you buy) because cheese isn't cheap.  So here's how you do it:

1/2 c. tomato paste
1 can petite diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped onion
1/8 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin

Stir everything in small saucepan over low heat. Let simmer until ready to use.

1 pkg yeast
1 c water, warm
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp oil
2 1/2 c flour

Dissolve yeast in water.  Stir in remaining ingredients. Work into a dough ball and set for 5 minutes before rolling.

Topping Suggestions:
bell pepper
Italian sausage
basically anything

**Note: This dough recipe makes 2 pizzas in about a 9x11 sheet.  Of course, you can make your pizzas any shape or size.  The sauce makes much more.  I can usually get 4-6 pizzas out of it.  Whatever I don't need the first time around I just freeze for the next time.

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Celebrating Summer...Porkchop style

Mmmm.  I love it when Chris grills.  I get a night off in the kitchen (or at least I don't have to prepare the main dish) and we get to enjoy the weather.  I also enjoy eating something a little different from time to time, which is what grilling usually allows!  Tonight Chris grilled porkchops; I made steamed broccoli and new potatoes that Dad dug from the garden for me while I was home on Sunday for Mother's Day.  I especially love new potatoes.  I could eat them like candy.  Dinner was very simple: Rub garlic powder, rosemary, paprika, curry powder, salt and pepper (all to taste) into chops and grill for approximately 8 minutes.  I put my potatoes in a large pot and brought to a boil; about 12 minutes into the boiling process, I dropped my steamer basket full of broccoli into the same pot for the final 5 minutes.  That's it!