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!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Whew!  We have been busy around here, as usual, as everyone is!  I painted my laundry area.  I  went to my parent's for several days while Chris was out of town on a business trip.We all went to Guymon for Chris's youngest brother's Confirmation.  Just when the laundry mayhem was dying down I received an e-mail informing me that Dillard's was taking 30% off the clearance...score!  I was super excited to find a couple of "closet staples" for myself: a black and white sleeveless blouse and a black pencil skirt (which I have been looking for for about 4 years, no exaggeration.)  I also bought a set of 8 Wusthof steak knives for our house for $15!!! Originally these would have cost $120.  Safe to say, this may be my favorite purchase of the day!  And I also bought several items for the growing weeds children in the family. 

During all this hustle bustle, I made pancakes a couple of times.  I had never made pancakes from anything other than a box before I married Chris, and I didn't think this was a problem.  And actually, it isn't.  But! It is so super easy to make them without a mix, and then you don't have yet another cardboard box in your pantry.  Also, the recipe we use (my mother-in-law's) makes very fluffy pancakes and they are oh-so-tasty!  My mom used to put chocolate chips in our pancakes for us from time to time when I was little and I always enjoyed that.  So naturally, I continued to do this with the homemade pancakes.  One Saturday I was sad to discover I was out of chocolate chips, but I did have a few butterscotch left.  Best "mistake" ever!!! Butterscotch have definitely become the favorite pancake embellishment in our house.  You should try it sometime!

I also make some blueberry ones for Christopher
 The recipe makes quite a few, so if you are only making these for 2 people, you could probably cut it in half.  However, we like to have them leftover for easy breakfast for the next few days.  Here it is:

2 c flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 c milk
1/3 c vegetable oil

Whisk together dry ingredients.  Beat eggs; stir in milk and oil.  Combine and beat until mostly smooth (batter should still be a bit lumpy).  Cook until underside is golden brown and bubbles appear over surface; flip.  Cook another 1-2 minutes and remove.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Home Improvement

I'm going to blame it on the wonderful Spring weather we've been having: I've got major home improvement-itis!  The first big project was the removal of the pear trees, which took place this morning (it was delayed earlier this week because of rain).  I don't have a great shot of the yard we inherited upon purchase (unfortunately), but I do have a couple of snapshots for anyone who didn't get the chance to see it:
Mom is standing between our front flower bed and the street. Please notice the ring of pavers (which are the strait kind, never meant to be put in a circle) around the massive red tips.

Behind me you can see the pear trees; the greenery in the middle of the pic is the ring of shrubs. (Please ignore the "I'm a new mom, who just moved to a new house, in a new town attire.")

There was also a "berm" (fancy way for saying a mound that would be ridiculous to mow over) between the house and the ring of shrubs. Nice.

So last year, our goal was to remove the shrubs and berm, and to establish some grass. Accomplished! This year the goal was to remove the trees altogether since they are being a liability in any kind of stormy weather. If you remember, this is what our yard looked like before:
And here is what it looks like now! With a few "in progress" pics.

I also painted the ceiling and walls of my laundry room yesterday; it was such a little space, but the paint is a big improvement!
Why do appliances have to make so much dust??

Fresh, white ceiling!
After (the lighting in the before and after isn't great, but it looks so much better!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easy Quesadillas

Continuing the "it's-too-pretty-to-be-in-the-kitchen-cooking" theme, and in answer to a request made by sister Megan, here's another quick and easy recipe.  Last night we had chicken quesadillas, black beans, and chips and salsa.  I used the super easy, super fast salsa recipe I have mentioned before.  Seriously folks, you need to try it.  You'll love it.  For the quesadillas all you need is 1-2 lbs chicken breasts, tortillas, cheese, and whatever else you might want.

Chicken:  Place large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with nonstick spray.  Once the skillet is hot, arrange chicken breasts evenly and generously coat with cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder.  There are no measurements here just sprinkle each spice til you get a good coat.  Immediately flip and spice the other side.  Sear over medium-high on each side for about 4 minutes (depending on how thick your pieces are).  Remove from heat.  Cut chicken into thin slices and return to pan.  Continue cooking over medium-low heat until chicken is done (about another 8-10 minutes). 

I made this part ahead of time so when Chris got in from work all we had to do was heat the skillet back up, throw in a tortilla, grate the cheese, and add the chicken.  Heat until cheese melts, the chicken is warm, and the tortilla is a nice golden color.  Super simple and yet still pretty tasty!  I make chicken enchiladas quite often in the fall and winter, but again, I don't like to have my oven on for that long on a warm day, so this is a nice alternative.


Monday, April 2, 2012


A big thanks to my sister Megan for redoing my blog.  I love the new background!  Peonies and hydrangeas are my favorite flowers.  And speaking of flowers, things are almost in full bloom over here!  This time last year Rachel was still tiny and Mom and Dad spent a lot of time in Edmond helping out with her and revamping our front yard.  Originally, there was a majorly overgrown planting of Red Tips in the front- placed directly on top of a berm, and in between two overgrown Bradford Pears.  Talk about terrible.  The front flower bed had a nice look at first glance, but I quickly discovered everything in there was dying because it hadn't been planted properly (aka...roots need to be below the surface of dirt people!!)  All this to say that last Spring was dedicated to pulling out lots of things and laying sod in the front yard (and transplanting my beloved peony from Mom and Dad's house!).  We didn't really get around to replanting much until the fall, when yet again Mom and Dad helped me do a quick makeover while Chris was out of town for work.  We added some clearance plants (you should always check to see what's left at the end of the get great deals and it's a perfectly OK time to plant perennials!) and hung shutters.  SO! This is my first Spring to go outside each day and see the changes my little plants have made over night!  My irises (transplanted from MaryBeth's old place in Stillwater...tear!) are blooming a beautiful blue, my pink Knockout Rose (transplanted from Mom's because Dad spotted several of these beauties on a clearance at True Value in Fort Gibson) is completely leafed out and even has a couple of blooms, and the clearance plants from last fall (decorative grasses and azaleas) and doing wonderfully as well!  Of course my pansy border is fading, so it is time for me to decide what to plant in it's place.  I will definitely need to pick something that can handle full-sun because we have an appointment to have the two pear trees out front removed next week. Eeek!  I am SO excited for them to be gone.  They are such a mess to clean up after in both the spring and the fall, and sort of a liability since some of the limbs are dangerously close to the house.  I know I will miss the wonderful shade they provide (we are planting another tree in their place, but obviously it will be a few years before we can expect any shade!) but I think in the long run this is the best choice.

My Free Stillwater Irises and Bargain Ft Gibson Rose

Free Ft Gibson Peony

It's going to be beautiful!

Shot of entire house with massive pear trees. I'll post a new pic when they're gone!

Note: I really shouldn't say some of these plants were free.  Mom and Dad have a lot of time, energy, and (unfortunately) gas money invested in these!

I am so glad Rachel likes to be outside because that it definitely where we have been lately!  She already has a little tan line from her T-shirts, which I think is hilarious!  With all of this outdoor time, dinner plans have been put on the back burner.  This is the hardest time of year for me to make myself cook!  And this is definitely when I would be coercing Chris to run to Braum's so that we could skip kitchen cleanup and just enjoy being outside...except for that little eating-out rule I made at the beginning of the year.  So BLTs to the rescue!  Now, I have to admit that Chris and I are majorly spoiled to Nolechek's bacon.  It's from Wisconsin and it is 10 million times better than anything you can buy here.  We stock up on it when we go up there to visit, and ask relatives to bring us some when they come down our way.  I was saddened to discover I am on my last package from the freezer when I realized that my sister-in-law Michelle's graduation is coming up in about a month, and some of the Wisconsin clan is planning to come down!  Yay!  More bacon (and probably cheese) for us!  If I can talk them into it.  Wish me luck!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Post-Dinner Club

Chris and I have had such a busy, but fun weekend!  Saturday was our dinner club, and I think everything went really well!

Side Story:  I found chargers like I had envisioned at Hobby Lobby last Thursday but never found any great napkin rings.  I refuse to pay retail prices for something that is just OK.  So Friday morning Rachel and I went yardsaleing (or as I tell Rachel, "treasure hunting") and I found napkin rings just like I was wanting! It was a bag of 10 new, silver napkin rings with the Dillard's tags still attached.  I got 10 of them for $7! Yay! AND I found them in time for the dinner party! Bonus!

Back to Saturday...Chris wanted to get the yard looking nice before everyone came over, and it has rained to much this past week (to clarify, I am not complaining!) that he had to do it all on Saturday morning.  With a 17-month-old and  Christopher in the house, there's pretty much no point in cleaning ahead of time, so of course I waited until Saturday to do most of that, also.  Then I had to make Pasta Fagioli and Lasagna.  (We had made the tiramisu the night before.) So it was a very busy day, but I think everyone had a good time!  It is so nice to have a break from the usual dinner routine, and we had some excellent company!  Thank the Lord for church families, both new and old.

Sunday we made a short trip to Stillwater.  I always try to think of things to do on the weekends since Chris likes to have plans, but rarely likes to make plans.  So Friday night I called a couple of friends and thankfully they planned to be in town!  I got to eat lunch with one of my oldest friends, Julie Brown.  (Sorry Julie, I still call you Julie Brown!)  We had a good time catching up!  And then I got to spend the rest of the afternoon with my cousin Lydia!  Rachel loved running around campus, but of course she was too busy to take a nap so it made for a long day for her.  Thankfully, we were able to keep her up on the car ride home, and she slept like a baby all night long!  Oh what a difference a good night's sleep makes!

Campus Tour

Rachel has hit the going limp phase. Why do kids do this? And where do they learn it??