Pickin’ up a chickie

Yeah, that’s a Peg+Cat reference.  Mama loves PBS.

So, it’s winter.  And it’s about this time of winter that we get really tired of soups.  Cue the white meat.  Here are some of our go-to chicken meals that I’m adding back into the rotation this week.


1.  Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:  chicken (boneless) and salsa (fresh or jarred)

Put boneless chicken thighs or breasts (frozen or thawed-beautiful, right?) in the bottom of your crockpot.

Add 2/3 of the container of salsa (keep some for topping your tacos)

Note:  If you’re feeling fancy, you can add taco seasoning, cumin and/or chili powder, a can of green chiles, a can of black beans or corn, or whatever else you think you might like.   But if you don’t, it’s still going to be delicious.  Seriously.  It will surprise you.

Set the crockpot to low for about 4 hours (or leave it all day, it will be fine)

Shred with a fork and serve with normal taco fixings–at our house, that would be tortillas, avocado, sour cream, cheddar, spinach, and salsa.


2.  5-Ingredient White Chicken Chili with Avocado

INGREDIENTS

    • 6 cups chicken broth
    • 3 cups cooked shredded chicken or cubed chicken breast
    • 2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, drained
    • 2 cups salsa verde
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
INSTRUCTIONS

Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, beans, salsa verde and cumin to a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Serve with cilantro, sour cream, crumbled tortilla chips, or (our fave) avocado.

3.  Thai Peanut Chicken
We LOVE this recipe.  It has sort of evolved over the years into this easy, delicious version adapted from many others.
While you bake 1-2 pounds of chicken breasts/tenders, get out a small sauce pan and add:
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (we buy it and then freeze it in muffin tin pucks, which happen to be 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • a dash of cayenne pepper

4.  Chicken BBQ/Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce Wraps/Slow Cooker [Chicken] and Mango Quesadillas

I love the blog post about 2 ingredient meals from Andie at Can You Stay for Dinner.  Her story is inspiring and her recipes are delicious with an appropriate ratio of health and indulgence for my liking.  A snippet from the post:

“Here it is: You can combine any meat (chicken, beef, pork) with any pre-made bottled sauce (marinades, salsa, marinara, you name it), and set it to cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, and what you will be left with is nothing short of marvelous.

Just two ingredients. One of which you didn’t even make yourself.

Chicken and salsa? It works. Pork and honey barbecue sauce? It works. Ground beef and marinara? Don’t make me say it again.”

I’m picky about bottled sauces because we don’t eat crap we can’t pronounce and I despise high fructose corn syrup.  That said, there are some out there that don’t have creepy ingredients and just finding one or two would make these recipes so handy and helpful.   Take a look and see what you find.  We like Annie’s Naturals Organic Smokey Maple BBQ Sauce and Andie used Ken’s Steakhouse Honey Teriyaki Marinade.


5.  Whole Herb Roasted Chicken 

We are still using a version of this recipe from Wellness Mama after all these years.

  • A whole chicken (I buy them marked down and freeze them regularly)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp sea salt, and about 1/2 tsp each of basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary

Oil or butter your crockpot and throw it all in.  Turn it on and leave it for 8-10 hours on low.  Ta da!


I had intended to throw in a few recipes from Facebook friend recommendations here, but M just woke up early from her nap.  Party over!  Sorry, guys.

What’s your easiest go-to dinner (preferrably with clean ingredients)?  Send it to me!

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8 months/26 months

We are making some enormous strides in babyland.

Miss M

Weight: 20 pounds
Clothes:  18 months all around with a few 6-12 month Gap and Old Navy outfits thrown in
Diapers: size 3 Target, biggest in the one size cloth GroVias
New Tricks:  Sitting up by herself with no support happened right after her 7 month mark; saying ba ba ba. mamama. dadada; singing, squealing, growling; a little dialogue making noises back at me or Si; rolling over and over to get across the room (lasted about a week); army crawling backward!; spinning in circles on her belly and navigating about a five foot diameter–she can definitely get to a toy if she commits to it; flapping arms and trying to wave; “soooo big” motion with her arms; crying if Si takes her toy; going from sitting to belly and then crying because she is stuck; this past week week, she finally figured out the sippy cup, lots of solid food, and the pincer grasp (but still refuses pureed food altogether)
Sleep:  up at 12 and 4 at night, two 2-hour naps and occasionally a short evening nap
Loves:  choo choos, bath time, her brother, the Tonka firetruck, chewing on the bath foam letters, anybody singing Jingle Bells, pulling Silas’s hair (he usually thinks it’s funny… usually), NOT getting dressed or taking medicine for her ear infection
Teeth:  4, and two more on the way.  Right now she has two (giant teeth) on top, two on bottom

Master Si:

Weight: 31 pounds 27 pounds after his stomach flu 😦
Height: 35 inches (he has grown an inch since November)
Clothes: 18-24 and size 2 pants, size 3 shirts (monkey arms like mama), size 7 shoes
Diapers: size 3 (it’s lovely and hilarious that they wear the same size)
Sleep:  Nighttime is 7-7 and he is still napping 2-3 hours midday
New Tricks: climbing out of the crib (sniff sniff) so he’s now in our bed until we move and have another bed for him, building his own train tracks, narrating his play in lengthy soliloquies, asking for detailed things (“oh!  the other one”, “these, mama”, “all done these, more those”, “bath and daddy and popcicle please” “more firetruck? oh!  there it is! yeah.”), naming colors mostly correctly (I’m not pushing him–he has picked it up from reading books with me at this point), reading books by himself nonstop, identifying every object on every page aloud, making everything plural (blocks-es, stacks-es, chips-es), riding his trike, playing farm with his barn and animals, requesting walks up the lane, asking to go bye bye a lot, which I think means back to our old house.  That’s diminishing, thankfully.
Loves: peanut butter on a spoon (but don’t you dare put it on bread)
Silas has been sick literally since we moved, which was December 12th.  He had a cold, it got better after the holiday and then we got another cold that was nasty.  I ended up taking him in for really persistent green snot last Monday and while we were there I noticed (too late) that he played with the only kid with the stomach flu.  Cue the pukes.  He has been sick for almost five days and is just now on the upswing.  Poor baby.  He was miserable and is seeming super skinny.  I’m happy that his appetite is back in nearly full force and that he is all about playing trains again today.

More pictures to come after I find the camera cord…  This will probably be our last monthly update in the woods.  Weird!  We’ll be urbanites again this time next month.  We.  Can’t.  Wait.

Hibernating

We are sort of hibernating in the woods. Pardon the radio silence.

The word hibernating implies something restful or recuperative. I guess at least we are doing the latter of the two. Silas has had a cold since before the holidays and it was holding on for dear life, so he and his whiney misery are now on an antibiotic.

In the mean time, Mare got her fourth tooth and is enthusiastically testing them out on people food (and on me, unfortunately). She still reacts hideously to puréed foods, so we will be going even more with the baby led feeding approach with her than we did with Silas.

We are adjusting to Tim’s later work days and learning how to enjoy mornings at home. Silas is learning to sleep in a big boy bed pretty successfully and without much drama the past few days. Whew. I am, as expected, totally stir crazy and a little cranky from the woods and the messy house and the kvetching children. The Volvo is in the shop, so that hasn’t helped.  I’m legit grumpy lately.

But you know what DID help? Kenzi’s visit for the last four days. My house has never been so clean, my laundry so sorted, my sides so sore from laughing… And also we watched a lot of Scandal. It was really the best time. We love her.  Tim’s trying to convince her to move here.

This week we are trying to recover our healthy, smiling children while we talk to structural engineers about the new house, pick out flooring samples, and try to stay on top of the mess in our tiny, tiny, tiny living space.  It’s a constant battle and one that, thankfully, is short lived.  We are set to close three weeks from Friday.  Holy cow.

Silas literally just threw a football at Maren’s face and shouted “CATCH!”  That’s so my week.

Adios, 2014

Is it just me or does 2015 seem really futuristic and far away?

Well, it’s practically here. Time waits for no (hu)man. Per our usual, we are spending some time thinking about the last year and finding ourselves feeling all sorts of things.

This time last year was a really rough spot for us as a couple, as a family, and as residents of Lafayette. It was not good. Tim was away and I was pregnant and Lafayette felt very lonely and disappointing. I cried. A lot.

Since then we have finished renovating a home, had a child, finished grad school, embarked on the terrible twos, sold a house, moved to Bloom, and bought a house. Clearly we have trouble sitting still for long periods.

Which brings me to our theme for the coming year:
slowing down.

I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes. We are not good at slow anything. But this time around we are feeling ready to stay put for a long, long time. Like decades. We bought our house in the woods knowing it was too small and too isolated for the long run, so we always looked at it as an investment. Lafayette was more ambiguous, but it didn’t take long for us to miss B-town like mad.  We were careful about our house hunt because we knew it was for good. I won’t lie, it was a lot of pressure for nomads like us.

Knowing what we know now about ourselves, here’s where we’re headed in 2015.

Goal #1: Be an active part of our community
We have actually never felt connected to a community.  I mostly didn’t care about this, but it’s something that has become a higher priority in the past year, largely stemming from the loss of the small Bloomington community we had created and left.  It feels so right to be back here now, knowing the things we missed once we headed north.  We’re hoping we can be more disciplined about our free time and actually do these things this time around.

This year we have the glorious chance to be within walking distance of downtown. We are going to resist spending all of our free time on renovating our old house and actually go to church every week, do movies at Bryan park, play at the park a block from the new house, go to story time at the library, and hit up the bluegrass jams at the farmers market.

Goal #2:  Find the Work-Life Balance
Last year was fraught with driving, hormones and doing what we had to do to make things work.  This year will be much different, we hope. We are going to attempt to be much better about balancing what we have to do and what we want to do.  Bloomington was nationally ranked as one of the best cities in the nation for work-life balance, so maybe it will rub off on us.

Goal #3: Focus on our family
It’s been a recurring struggle for us to get into a routine with fitness, enjoyable family outings, and just general structure with our little family of four.  We are hoping this is our year for really hitting our stride with parenting and working and doing what we do in the daily grind.  To this end, we will be traveling less this coming year than the previous years.  We are committing to staying home for half (!) of the months of 2015.  That means we will actually have a weekend routine!  The hope is that it will be easier to carve out intentional time for things that nurture us or bring us good vibes.

Three goals is way enough for us.  In fact, it’s probably too many on top of trying to make the ol’ Granville house a home in the months to come.  But we’re going to try anyway.

Tim and I are staying home to have quiet conversations about the last year.  Last year we did this series of questions and loved them.  This year we’re going to use the questions below for a jumping off point.

How do you ring in the new year?

Take time before the end of the year to really review and reflect. Use this Year End Reflection guide to help inform your plans for the new year!  -Running Hutch

2014 in a Nutshell

Just because it’s hard to keep up, here’s our year in a nutshell.

January:

It’s a girl!  Silas learned how to walk (finally) and had his first real snow day.  I made friends intentionally and did a good job!  Tim went back to work after winter break and was gone all week again.  Silas weaned at 14 months.  We discovered Goose the Market in Indy and LOVED it.  I did the first Minimalist Challenge, which I ended up doing two more times throughout the year for a whopping total of more than 1500 items out of our house.  Booyah!

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February:

We met Jared and Melissa, our best friends in Lafayette.  Had a long weekend in Indy with Tim’s family.  I started watching the L-P kiddos and was feeling super pregnant…  I now realize how much Silas was still a baby at this point.  Committed to a positive parenting game plan (we adore Janet Lansbury–follow her on FB).  Finally started feeling better about marriage and life in Lafayette after a hard winter.

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March:

Spring break trip to Michigan City with Matt and Alyssa and their babes.  Amazing trip!  Low key, wine and conversation and hanging out sort of trip.  I had lots of Braxton Hicks contractions that were freaking me out.

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April:

Fell down the stairs and fought off labor for the rest of my pregnancy.  Bummer!  Had to quit my job and stop lifting Silas.  Tim still working out of town and jet setting to seminars while I was jealous and fat at home.

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May:

We had a baby!  May 13th, Mare-bear was born at 8 in the morning after back labor and no sleep the whole night before.  She was worth it.  We just love her!  We snapped prego pictures six days before her arrival.  Good thing we didn’t put that off any longer!

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June:

June was a blur.  Newborns often do that to a routine.  I have no idea what happened in June.  Except it was Father’s Day and we had our house painted and I was in a huge postpartum funk.

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July:

Fourth of July with just us in Bloomington–amazing.  Family vacations!  Two of them.

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August:

I turned 31 but life was sort of funky, so it isn’t really full of happy memories.  I didn’t get a party organized (I love birthday parties–not necessarily my own, but still) and Tim and I were in a funk.  He quit his job to student teach and it was pretty stressful adjusting to him being around all the time.

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September:

The house was constantly a mess.  Tim was home all the time driving me crazy.  🙂  He fell in love with second grade teaching and Silas got to see his first parade in Frankton.

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October:

Tim and I did some serious work on our marriage and on the house to get it ready to list.  Surprise!  It sold in 36 hours.  We about died.  Tim’s 34th birthday, Rog’s 60th birthday and subsequent retirement came and went with great excitement.

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November:

We did a ton of packing since our closing was set for before Thanksgiving.  Just kidding!  We won’t actually close until December 19th.  We spent a week in the woods and Tim interviewed for work.  It was beautiful and a perfect sidetrack from packing.  Maren got two teeth. Silas turned two and discovered hot chocolate and The Polar Express.

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  December:

Moved to Bloomington before we closed and held our breath.  Finally closed on our house!    Bought a new house in town within a week of being here.  Tim started his job two days after we got here.  Traveled for eight days to see families for the holidays before we are staying put for several months to work on the new house and enjoy being our own family of four.  Excited about life!

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We are so ready for 2015.

Holidays and Hopefulness

We are brimming with presents (literally) and hope (figuratively) as we settle back into the woods after the holiday travels.

We got to spend four days with Tim’s side and four with mine, all of which resulted in thoughtful, practical gifts and lots of quality time for the kiddos with their relatives.  I’m amazed at the thought that goes into the things we receive and it reminds me how lucky we are to have the huge families we have.  Tim and I survived 8 days away with one spat about ten minutes before we headed home.  The holidays tend to exacerbate all those lovely family dynamics.  We all have ’em, right?

While we were away, our house in Lafayette closed, the money cleared our account (thank god), and we officially bought the house in downtown Bloomington.  Ahhh!  Simultaneously, Silas learned how to climb out of bed on the first night (yay) resulting in drama at nap and bedtimes for the entire trip, Maren got a front tooth on Christmas day after lots of fussiness and poor sleep, and the lot of us ended up with disgusting colds without our NoseFrida and general remedies.  Call me selfish, but it’s so much easier to stay home.  BUT I’m so glad we didn’t.  We typically go for one night when we visit our hometowns, so having four days felt relaxing and made room for some good visiting, and I love the holidays.

I had a weird time this year with the holidays.  It was sort of emotional for me, which is unlike me.  I think it was a combination of waiting to decorate until after we moved (which was less than a week before we left for Christmas traveling), the stress of being in limbo for a whole month with our closing, the pressure of finding our next home knowing it’s forever, and having our first year of Christmas at my parents’ new house.  I feared it would feel wonky or lacking.  All worry was for naught–it felt just like home and we had so much fun.

We’re wrapping up 2014 and it was quite a year.  I will do a year in review shortly and we are working on getting our brains focused on 2015 goals and hopes.  We will yet again be revamping a house and we will NOT be having another baby.  Today, Rog and Mary Kay are here, so we’re taking advantage and cleaning our house, packing up a few things (oh my god didn’t I just do this?), and getting all giddy about the possibilities of our new house.  Our closing is set for January 30.  We’re not rushing it, because being in the wintry woods with Karma and Elizabeth feels like its own present of sorts.

What sorts of things do you do for the new year? How do you reflect on the past year and make goals for the next?  Any traditions?  We’re all over the place these days.  I need a little focus.  Recommendations welcome.

Times, They Are A-changin’

Let’s recap the last five days.

Thursday, we pre-signed our house away since we moved before closing, Tim did background checks and drug testing for his new job, and I squeezed in an impromptu doctor visit for Maren the day before our move.  Turns out she isn’t sick, she’s just getting FOUR teeth on top and they are all swollen and painful-looking.  Yes, she did just get a tooth last week on the bottom.  Apparently my offspring sprout a mouthful of teeth at 7 months old, because Si did the same thing. Two front teeth for Christmas was simply not enough.  Mare-bear wanted to be ostentatious.

Five o’clock rolls around the night before our move and Kenz comes over to visit just in time for a phone call from Budget.  “Sorry, we don’t have a truck for you in the morning.”  Pardon me?  Apparently UPS had dibs on all the Budget trucks and, well, forget the rest of you jokers who had made reservations two months ago.  Tim.  Was.  Livid.  After bouncing around from person to person about four times and getting some pretty shady responses, I found a uHaul truck an hour away and they just happened to have a 26 footer and just happened to be on a time change and just happened to be willing to wait on Tim to get there. Corporate was supposed to pick it up and never showed, so I’m pretty sure there was some divine intervention there.  Thanks to Kenzi for driving him to get the truck after finishing her exams, which I’m positive is exactly how she wanted to spend her first evening of winter break freedom!  Poor Kenz.

By 7pm, all was well and a giant truck was in our driveway.   FYI, this is the second time in three years we have attempted a Budget truck rental only to be screwed at the last minute.  Just use someone else.  Seriously.  Because a panic attack on top of a delayed moving day is so not worth the forty dollars you’ll save.

Friday we got an early start (thanks, Logie!) and broke down beds and cribs before our help arrived at nine.  It took four hours to load up and we filled a 26 foot truck.  Last time we had two 20-foot trucks, so it feels like a huge accomplishment to have added a child to the brood and still have downsized to one truck.  We are anxious to move even less this next last time!

Once we arrived in Bloomington (I came a few hours earlier when the babies were ready to nap, so I had already begun decorating our house for Christmas–no joke), we had the rest of Friday to relax until the unloading help came Saturday morning at 8.  We used Better Way Movers.  We had them last time for loading and I cannot say enough happy, lovely things about these guys.  They’re courteous, speedy, funny, and willing to help you get your space exactly like you want it in record time.  They had all our belongings unloaded among three levels inside a 2 hour window.  Huzzah!  We’ll use them for loading AND unloading next time and it will be a breeze.  If you have never hired loading/unloading help and you’re moving, trust me when I say it’s worth it.  We pack and drive our own stuff, but we pay for the help.  It’s a few hundred dollars on each end and it’s worth every freakin’ penny.  Take it from us.

Saturday evening Tim surprised me with a ginormous Christmas tree!  You guys, this thing is pushing 11 feet and is the most glorious tree I’ve ever seen.  I’m serious.  She’s a beauty!  Later, Tim drove Rog halfway home to meet Royce since Rog had driven the moving truck down for us.  What a guy–getting that sucker down our lane and back out was a sight to behold thanks to the switchback halfway down.  He did it!  We’re grateful for his CDL license for sure.

Sunday we went to our old church and it was so lovely.  I cried.  People were happy to see us, even people I didn’t realize knew who we were, and Tim met a fellow Cubs fan.  He and his wife have three kids under 6 and are great potential friends for us.  Score!  The babies fell asleep in the car right after, so Timmy and I drove around and looked at about twelve properties.  Depressing.  The one out of town was too far out for me.  The ones in town were way too close to other houses and had no yards at the top of our price point.

We were heading home feeling dejected and Don called.  We love Don!  He’s our real estate savior down here.  “Hey, the 8th street house just dropped in price.  I think we should look at it again!”  We had just gotten done talking about how much space it was for the money. We saw it again yesterday and were sold.

We are putting an offer in today, so we’ll see how it goes.  This house has 1600 square feet, four bedrooms, a big wooded back yard, a corner lot, a spot on a hill on a dead end street, walkability to the farmers market (six blocks away) and all of downtown, and is in our price point with almost all cosmetic repairs.  Don’t get me wrong–there are a LOT of cosmetic repairs, but it’s an old four square and we love her.

The best part?  When we first started house hunting in Bloomington (we lived in Anderson then), we drove down to see this very house.  That’s the day we met Don, and that’s the exact house we considered then but didn’t buy because it needed a ton of foundation/floor leveling work that has since been completed. We came here, saw 8th street, bought the A frame, left, came back to the A frame, and are potentially going back to the house that started it all.  I love how full circle life can be.

In other news, our Lafayette house is closing on Friday (YAY!) and Tim is in training this week for his new job and he LOVES it!  More on that after the holiday.  We leave Thursday night for a week, so I should be packing. I finally finished shopping today and I really need to wrap!

Happy days ahead!

Happiest Holidays to You

We are not sending out cards this year, despite my love for the pen and paper medium.  Instead, enjoy the digital version.  Print it out and put it on your fridge if you wish, knowing that it comes your way with loving thoughts and all good wishes for the coming year from the Garner-Ballard abode.

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7/25 month progress

We have some new tricks that I forgot to post with pictures yesterday but wanted to document for baby book purposes (as in…this IS our baby book.  I don’t keep one).

Silas:  speaking in 3 word sentences, singing entire songs (of which you can’t understand words, but he can carry a tune!  Thank goodness), listing things that he did or saw, answering questions with legit answers, identifying two of something and telling you about it, shaking hands (learned from The Snowman), fetching things based on colors or “other” directions, loving the tiny tree he decorated and exclaiming “thank you mama tree!” at least three times a day.

Maren:  high pitched singing going on, two teeth!, lots of hair, ready for her to start sleeping at night again after two teething rounds and a stomach bug, flipping to her belly constantly, shaking her toys to make noise, giggling at Si, loving the bath and Baby Bjorn but not the Ergo, peekaboo, not interested in any sort of human food whatsoever, so over the paci and still boycotting a bottle.  Generally the happiest baby ever… until she’s pissed, at which point she is hilariously, intensely pissed.

We love ’em!  Can’t wait to see families at Christmas and share them with everyone.

December

It’s December and it hardly feels like Christmas since we haven’t decorated.  Today, I got out the tiny outside tree and let Si go to town with a handful of plush ornaments.  He’s in love.  He says “ho ho ho MEEERRY tismus” and also sings Jingle Bells and Fa la la la la.  In lieu of monthly photos, I snapped these with our little tree for fun.  Maren will be 7 months this week, and Si 25 months the next.  Where does time go?

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