I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chicken Caesar Salad Sliders.

Look, it's not that I hate salad.  I don't.

Well, I kinda do.

I just feel like salads have their place, and that place should not ever be a main course.  Except chicken salad.  Chicken salad is fine.

Every once in a while, I will get the itch to make a salad for a main course.  I'm always awake by midnight to have some s'mores.  I just need more substance than what a salad can generally provide.  My problem, however, is that I actually really love the flavors of some salads- Caesar in particular.


So I made it into a sandwich.  I can't promise that I won't have s'mores later, but I can promise that it won't be because I'm feeling famished.

What you'll need:
Mini ciabatta rolls
Garlic powder
Romaine lettuce
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Grilled chicken
Caesar dressing

First, let's talk about the proper ingredients in a chicken Caesar salad.  The lettuce is important, and it's got to be Romaine.

You have to have shredded Parmesan cheese.  Do not add grated Parmesan cheese to this salad.  Just don't.  That's good and all on some yummy pasta.  It has no place in this salad.

You have to have croutons.  Garlic is best.

You have to have a Caesar dressing.  Anchovies or not, this is kinda what makes the salad a Caesar.

You have to have chicken.  Now, excuse me while I rant for a moment.

There is a right way and a wrong way to grill chicken.  I will be doing a separate blog post on this in the near future...it's no big deal, but if you do it the wrong way, we can't be friends anymore.

Now for the sammich.

When putting together a sandwich or a burger, order is key.  I had no idea either.  I learned that from Todd Wilbur from Top Secret Recipes.  I make his In-N-Out burgers, and that's no joke.  Put it together wrong, and you do not have a double double.  You have a random burger with thousand island on it.

Keeping this in mind, my sliders start with a toasted mini ciabatta roll. Butter it, sprinkle the slightest bit of garlic powder (don't over do this, fellows), and toast.  Tada!  Croutons.

On both sides of the rolls, spread a bit of Caesar dressing.  I used Kraft because I had Kraft.  I'd suggest going a bit better quality.  It's not that this is bad...it could just be better.

Add a layer of shredded parm.



Top on.



The Waiting

This summer has been...interesting...

I have spent the last several years being very busy.  I have been finishing up my college degree (and by finishing, I mean not finishing at all), having babies, starting homeschool, buying and renovating a house, getting involved in our new church home, investing in relationships, planning multiple trips, and all the other countless little things that life has thrown our way.

Then this summer hit.

For the first time in a very long time, I found myself at home with nothing going on around me except our normal home lives.  (Something, by the way, that I did on purpose.)  For about the first week or so, it was awesome.  Hello, HGTV.  Look at all the new shows you've been hiding from me.  Shame on you.

Then, it was less awesome.  Lately, I've taken to making Izzy sit quietly in front of me so I can perfect french braiding.  She loves it.

And by loves, I mean hates.

I've been going stir crazy for a while now, but what is worse, it seems like the kids are catching my crazy bug.  There are only so many times a 3 and 6 year old can play with play dough or watch Veggie Tales without wanting to explode.  This has resulted in a less than pleasant time at home, and I hate that.  How can I make a home that is peaceful and full of grace when the kids have taken to screaming and biting?!  (Answer: I can't....not when I feel like biting them, too.)

Don't worry.  I'm working on my biting issues.

With another month until we planned to start school, I fear I'm going to have to up the date just to save Izzy's hair from falling out...

HGTV, you can have your secrets.  I want my full schedule back, please.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Italian Loaf.

You know that moment when you realize your Pinterest addiction caused you to burn your bread that was baking?

Yeah.  Me, too.

I wanted to share this anyway because it's still so good...we just won't look at the bottom of the loaves.

So I've posted this link before with the bread recipe I always use. It's very simple, and it's very yummy, but sometimes I just need....more.

I'm sure Bird could attest to how difficult that makes me at times.

Tonight for dinner, I'm making lasagna (which I'm doubling the recipe, packaging it, and freezing half for another day) but I wanted some bread to go along with it.  Since our grocery budget for the week is maxed, I opted to make some, but the basic bread just wasn't doing it for me.  I decided today, I'd go for an Italian-inspired carb.

I started with my normal recipe, but instead of vegetable oil, I used pure olive oil.  This will change the flavor, but not drastically.  I also added about a tablespoon and a half of dried Italian seasoning.

Instead of putting the loaves in loaf pans, I free-handed them onto some parchment paper to have more of a rustic feel.  I covered them, let them rise, and then brushed a layer of olive oil on top.

Now here is where I did a step that I've discovered I truly love doing when I'm making bread that I want to be crusty yet chewy.

I preheated my oven to 400, taking care to make sure it was completely heated.  Then, I placed the bread in on the top rack, all the way to the back.  I filled a bowl with about 5 cups of ice cubes.  After I put the bread in, I threw the ice cubes directly onto the bottom of the oven.  IMMEDIATELY close the oven door and DO NOT open it again until you can smell the bread.  Reduce the temp to 350, and it will bake for half an hour or so.

As soon as it comes out of the oven, butter up the top crust.

This bread is so good.  Totally worth the bit of extra work, but really took me no less time in all than running to the store would have!

Sunday, July 28, 2013


It's so hard to believe for me, but tomorrow, Bird and I will have been married for seven years.

When I look back on these last seven years, I'm amazed at how far we've come.

We had 3 kids.
We bought a house.
We lost my grandpa.
We started homeschooling.
We became members and started growing in a new church.
We went through a few jobs.
We moved twice.
We renovated parts of our home.
We went through three vehicles.
He went to South Korea, Canada, and all over the US DJing.
I nearly finished my degree.
I started a blog.
We got a dog.
I learned to cook.
We learned to build things.
We bought some land.
We celebrated a ton of birthdays and holidays.
We read a thousand books to our babies.
We made a thousand bottles.
We changed a thousand diapers.
We laughed so much.
We cried so much.
We grew.
We changed.
We fell so much deeper in love.

I'm so grateful for my sweet husband.  He has taught me so much, but my marriage to him has taught me even more about the character and love of God.

Best seven years ever.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Do As I Say

My mom and I were having a conversation the other day about students in her past classes and their grammar.  I told her a story about how Isaiah had said something was "difficult" and how I was impressed with his vocabulary.

"It's all in what a child hears," my mom had said.

If a child hears a more extensive vocabulary, they will use a more extensive vocabulary.  If a child hears his parents say things like "...and we was like..." that's exactly how they are going to talk.

That got me thinking: what else do I do that my children imitate?  If I keep a clean home, odds are, they will as well.  If I'm fiscally responsible, they probably will be, too.  If I live a healthy lifestyle, they are probably going to find ease with that.

And here's a big one that sort of crushed my heart right inside my chest: If I am not loving to people, neither will my children be.

Well, uh oh.

Believe it or not, I don't always get my way.  (Crazy, right?) When I don't, I can sometimes voice my opinion to my husband.  Now, he tends to be pretty good at shutting me down if I feel the need to gossip or state my negative opinion about someone, and that is especially true when I'm spewing my ugly in front of our kids.  Our house rule is pretty simple: Say nothing negative about others, but if you absolutely must, say no names.

I break this rule.  My word, I break this rule so many more times than I'd care to think about.

But the truth is, if kids simply repeat what they hear because what they hear or see is what is acceptable in their eyes, my children could very easily grow up to be unloving, bitter people.

Scripture tells us in more than one place (Matthew 12:24, Luke 6:45) "from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."

When I consider the fact that my children's mouth are being unloving, I can somehow handle it.  The thought that their hearts are, well, that pretty much murders me. And for myself, I hate how an unloving heart pulls me away from my Lord.

My prayer for myself today is simple: God, fix my heart so that it overflows with love and kindness and You.

That is what I want my kids to imitate.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Spread The Nice.

There are only 49 days until our school year starts, so naturally, I spent the day yesterday running around the city like a crazy person getting everything I would need.

Actually, my mom is a kindergarten teacher, and her year starts much sooner than mine. We decided to go catch all the sales, but we did spend nearly the entire day going from place to place.  It was a ton of fun, but it was hot and hectic and tiring, too.  (none of which would stop me from going again, by the way)  When we got back to my mom's house, I picked up the kids and headed straight home.  I knew Eva was sick, and my house was a disaster.

That's when I noticed the box that had been delivered for me.

When I got home, I dropped all the kids at the door and set the box on the table.  I found the hubs (whom we hadn't seen for nearly 2 days), and we proceeded to have a mini family reunion.

...how was your show?...how were the kids?...did everyone sleep?...was your shopping trip good?...

All very normal questions after Bird gets home from DJing some show. (I know.  My husband is so cool.)

...what's that box?... That was a new one.

Inside I found cookies and brownies and the sweetest note from a dear friend.  "Because you probably deserve these once in a while without having to do any cooking.  Enjoy and don't worry...it gets easier."

Total surprise, and my day was totally made.

And with that, I want to challenge you, ladies.  If you ever have a rough week, rough day, rough moment...remember that another lady somewhere else probably does, too.  Find something kind to do for them.  Send some cookies or make them an unexpected dinner.  Bring flowers or send them a kind note.  Say a prayer for them.  Smile at them.  You have no idea what an impact a sweet gesture of kindness can have on someone's day.

Now go spread some nice and make someone's day.  I promise you won't regret it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dr. Pepper Time

I am not a coffee drinker.  Every few years, I give it a shot, and every few years, I woefully regret it.  I always feel a bit childish as my dear husband watches me spit it out into the sink.  If you drink coffee, well, good for you.

That junk is nasty.

And I'm a bit convinced no one really likes it.  Perhaps everyone hates it as much as me, but perhaps they haven't made the same beautiful discovery as I have.

Dr. Pepper.

I mean, why drink a terrible, hot, black, bitter concoction when Dr. Pepper is widely available?  The caffeine content can't be much different, right?

Every morning, I don't turn on a machine on my counter top.  I don't grab a mug from the shelf, and I don't need anything to add to my drink.  Every morning, I wake up, pour cereal for 3 kids, sit down to my computer while they watch cartoons, and pop the top of my ice cold soda pop.

Aaaaand relax.

When the can is empty and the caffeine has been thoroughly injected into my body, I can function as a normal human being again.  Time to play.  Time to read.  Time to homeschool.  Time to clean.

But respect the Dr. Pepper time.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Banana-Nana-Fo-Fana Bread

Bird doesn't often eat dessert.  That was such a blow to me because in our first several years of marriage, that's pretty much all I could make.  It would bum me out if I went to a lot of work to make him a cake to eat after our canned tamale dinner, and he wouldn't even touch it.

Enter: banana cake.

A couple of years ago, I asked him if I could make him a birthday cake.  I really wanted to do something special for him, and baking was what I could offer.

"Could you make me a banana cake?  The one your mom makes...?"

Uhh yes!

This recipe is my mom's, and it's actually a Christmas and Thanksgiving staple at our house.  It's so versitile.  I cook it in a loaf pan and it's banana bread.  I cook it in a muffin tin and it's banana muffins, or I cook it in a cake pan and make a delicious banana glaze for it and it's banana cake!  It's one of those simple recipes with only basic ingredients that I keep all the time, so it's wonderful to keep tucked away in my recipe box for a simple, relatively quick dessert.  (It's also a wonderful breakfast!)

What you'll need: 
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1/2 cup of buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, keep reading)
2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 cup pecans
1 tsp vanillia
1 cup of very ripe bananas

If you don't keep buttermilk in your house (like me) you can substitute it for 1/2 cup of regular milk mixed with 1 tbsp of white vinegar.  This will sour the milk and give you the same desired effect.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Start by creaming the sugar and shortening together in a big bowl.

You might need to scrape down the sides to get it all mixed together.  

Once it's light and fluffy, add the eggs and mix again.

This is usually the point when I mash my bananas.  I'm sure you know that baking is literally a science, so resist the temptation to add more bananas.  Trust me.  I've done it, and it does NOT turn out pretty.

Now add the milk, vanilla, and bananas to the bowl and mix.  Be aware...it's going to look nasty.

In a separate bowl, mix your flour, soda, and pecans.  I like to chop my pecans up a bit, but not too much.  Then add the dry ingredients to the wet and give it a stir, just enough to combine.

Notice how it looks like batter and not disgustingly gross nastiness?  

And this is where you have to figure out what it is you want to make.  I went with a loaf pan and an 8x8 pan.  I'm going to end up with one loaf of banana bread and a small banana cake.  You can also do a 9x13 cake, two loaves, or 24 muffins.

I like to add extra pecans to the tops of my loaves.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you grease your pans!

I baked both of these for around 50 minutes, just until a toothpick comes out clean.

If I'm making the cake, I always make a quick glaze to go on top.  I suppose you could use a store bought icing (maybe cream cheese...that would be good!) but I just prefer something lighter on this.  I simply mash up another banana and add about a cup of powdered sugar.  Mix it really well, pour it over the cake, and spread it out.

No matter how you decide to use this recipe, you really can't go wrong.  This classic sweet bread is sure to satisfy!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Homeschool Mother's Prayer

I remember the night before we started kindergarten with Isaiah, I was a nervous wreck.  I didn't sleep.  I couldn't eat.  I could barely breathe.  The weight of my child's education rested on my chest, making itself quite comfortable.  It lived there for weeks before I felt I could move under it again.

Today I decided to bust out our curriculum for this coming school year to figure out what all I needed to get.  (If you're wondering, we use My Father's World.)  As I sat in the living room floor with the books scattered about my feet, I began to feel that familiar shortness of breath in my chest and butterflies in my stomach.  It was as though I hadn't spent a year of my life doing this already.  All my experience went out the window, and anxiety began to overtake me again.  Could I really do this?  

In that moment, it felt like too much.

Rather than face this fear alone and crumble under the pressure, I want to start this school year off prayerfully, not just for us, but for all the homeschool families we know.  This year, I will be praying for...

Peace. I want to be comforted to know that this is still the right choice for my family.
Love.  I want to know I'm doing this out of love for God and love for my children- and for no other reasons.
Humility. I want to rely on the wisdom found in scripture, not on my own plans and ideas of how I should go about our daily lives.
Joy. I want this experience to bring joy to my family, not frustration.
Wisdom. And please, God, lots of it.
Patients. I really really really really need this.  Really.
Faithfulness. It is so simple to skip a day...skip a week....skip 4 weeks when you have a baby...such a big prayer this year will be that God impress the importance of this on my heart, not because faithfulness to math is important, but to help teach my children that faithfulness in His word is necessary.
Obedience. I want to show my children the importance of not just reading God's word but also doing what it says.

I'm sure there will be so much more as time goes on, but to begin, this is where my heart needs to be focused.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The more that you read, the more things you will know...

This kid is such a lover of books.

He's so not like me.

The first book he ever got was something about a kitten and the moon.  We read that book so many times.

He went through a phase when he wanted to read "Goodnight Moon" every night before bed.

He knew all the words to "The Foot Book" by the time he was 2.  In fact, for your listening pleasure, here's my favorite video of all time ever.

And now, we sneak into the living room, and see him reading, all on his very own, to his little sister.  How is that even possible?

Please God, make time stop- even if only just for a season. I need to absorb every moment...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

When Work Is Home And Home Is Work

I want to preface this by saying that I, in no way, take for granted the fact that I get the chance to stay home with my kids.  It can definitely be a struggle financially, but it's a struggle I will gladly bear to be able to see the sweet faces of my children day in and day out.  I don't want it to seem like I'm complaining.  I'm not.  I simply would like to talk a bit about my struggles lest this diary of a blog turn into something fluffy and flowery that my life simply is not.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard.  I can imagine a world where staying at home with your kids with a nanny and a house keeper and plenty of cash to go out to dinner every night would be lovely.  That's just so not my world.  When you live where you work, there's a frustrating sort of feeling that can always be happening.  Bird comes home at 6 or so, and he's finished.  I'm "on the clock" from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep.  That's difficult, and there are moments I feel as though I will never rest again.

This morning, Izzy asked me for some leche, so I poured her a cup and set it on the coffee table in the living room.  I forgot the cardinal rule of having a babyish toddler: keep everything out of reach.  Not long after I settled into my cinnamon toast, Mt. Dew, and morning Pinterest peruse, (What?  Isn't that what everyone has for breakfast?) I heard the dreaded "MOM!!!"  I looked up to see a very innocent looking Eva, empty glass in hand, and milk covering her feet and the carpet surrounding them.  I grabbed a towel and began to blot.  As I cleaned the carpet, I heard "Uh...mom...."

You've got to be kidding me, kid.

A less innocent looking Eva stood there, yogurt cup empty in her grimy little fingers, and second mess on the floor.  At least I had a towel out already, right?  Look at me...the eternal optimist...

Before the yogurt mask covering the floor was even cleaned, I heard the sound.  Every mom knows it.  Tinkle...tinkle...tinkle...diaper leak, and carpet cleaning number 3.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard.

Sunday was especially difficult.  Saturday night, I had quite happily spent two and a half hours (no...seriously..) making dinner, then delivering said dinner to my parents and my grandma.  When I woke up for church Sunday morning, the kitchen was still in such disarray that I knew it would take more than two dishwasher loads full to clean all the dishes.  Because of the holiday week being so chaotic, laundry was piled to the sky, and walking in from church, hungry and tired and not feeling 100%, I lost it.

"Please can't we just go out to lunch?" I whined.

I knew it was a waste of money.  I knew it would probably be a huge hassle, and ultimately, I would've gotten overly frustrated with a crying, tired baby and two kids who had just spent their one hour a week practicing great restraint to run and scream.  I did not care.

So I whined.

And I got angry.

I just knew Bird didn't understand.  This was my life.  I spent every day cooking and cleaning.  Couldn't I just have a break from this....this....job?

So what's a girl to do?  Why, Angrily clean of course.

But as I cleaned, my heart began to ache.  What if my children feel like they are my job? Like I'm doing this because I have to...not because I love them? That's when I realized it.  Maybe the words I was saying to my husband (who, let's face it, did not deserve to be berated like that) were "constant cooking and cleaning makes me feel like I never get to leave work," but the truth is, what I meant was "I'm so tired of this responsibility."  That included everything- kids and all.

So I began to pray that God would fix my heart and rid it of the selfishness that is there- that my time be spent serving others, not waiting to be served, and that my children would feel a warm, loving, peaceful home that their mommy created through scripture and obedience to God's word.

I opted to clear the table and make a special lunch for them.  "Pizzadillas" is what they dubbed them to be and do you know what?  Watching them play and giggle turned the chore of taking care of family into a blessing.

I am not finished being fixed yet, but I will continue to pray that my children and the home Bird and I make for them feels like a joy, not a job.

But if we could keep the carpet cleaning to a minimum, that'd be nice, too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pretty In Pink Photo Shoot

I've taken a few crash courses in photography through the years (nothing impressive at all), and I've always heard that if you want to get really great pictures of your kids, photograph them as newborns, 18 months, and 3 years old.  Well, I got great newborn pictures of Isaiah, but then I failed past that with him.  I got a few decent pictures of Izzy as a newborn, but nothing at 18 months.  I got nada from Eva as a newborn.

After Izzy was born, I took her and Isaiah to Target and spent almost $200 on sincerely mediocre photos, so Bird let me "invest" in a great camera with the understanding that I'd never take them to a professional to get photos taken again.  I had the means, I had a bit of the know-how, but I had no idea how much I would lack the drive.

Fast forward to three years later, and I knew it was now or never.  If I didn't bust out the camera on Izzy now, that junk wasn't ever happening.

I had seen some pretty inexpensive photography backgrounds at a teacher supply store, so I picked up a couple of them and set up shop in my living room.  (The brand is Ella Bella) The cupcakes and stand are from Cracker Barrel, and the tea set...I have no idea where that's from.  I think my mom got it for Izzy right after she was born.  The chalkboard is from Hobby Lobby, and the jewelry is from various places.  All but one necklace was used for our wedding activities, and the bottle of pink lemonade I picked up from Aldi.  It was originally filled with carbonated lemonade, but after we finished it off, I soaked the bottle in hot water to get the labels off, washed it, and now it's usable for parties!

I know my kids can be outgoing, but I just saw them (in my mind) melting down in front of another photographer while the tab was running.  I knew an at-home shoot was going to be necessary.  I figured since all kids have their limit, I would split this en devour up into more than one day. Day one was just of Isabella, and I dubbed this shoot "Pretty In Pink." This is about as girly as we could get, and it really matches what Izzy is at 3 years old! Love this girl...