Thursday, March 31, 2011

Veggie Bars and Fabulous Chicken: As Good as it's Name Suggests

      As I sit here typing, I can here the rain falling softly outside, which is such a peaceful sound.  A less peaceful, but more endearing sound that I can hear is Lily not-napping in her room.  We call it the "Lily Comedy Hour" (or two . . . ), because many days, instead of napping she sits in there and yacks.  She talks to her Lambie and Kiki (her two favorite lovies), and she reads to herself and recites the alphabet.  One day it sounded as if she was ushering out a great crowd of people by saying, "Thank you.  Good bye.  Thank you." just like we do when people are at our house.  I know many years from now I will look back fondly on this - today I wish she were sleeping, because she so desperately needs it as she demonstrated quite demonstratively by screaming at me and others as we were leaving Mother's Day Out.  (She did say "sorry" in the car.  I made her.)
      While I was cooking, the girls were enjoying one of their favorite pass times: Lily pushing Bella in the swing.  This delights them both so much that I am glad I caught this little part of our world since Bella will soon outgrow the swing completely.

Swing 1
Swing 2

      Anyway, onto the recipes.  I made these for dinner last night, and by all accounts that I heard, they turned out pretty well.  I got the Veggie Bar recipe from the Fellowship of NWA cookbook, and I got Fabulous Chicken from my fabulous sister, Ellen Davis.

Here's what you need for Veggie Bars.

2 packages crescent rolls
1/2 cup mayo
8-oz package of cream cheese (softened)
1 envelope Hidden Valley ranch dip
Finely chopped vegetables
Shredded Cheddar Cheese

(Note: the number of vegetables shown here is too many.  Sometimes I get a little carried away, and these veggie bars actually had broccoli falling off of them, since there was so much of it, and I only used 3 of the tomatoes)

Lay crescent rolls flat onto a cookie sheet and press the seams together to make a "crust."


Cook 7-8 minutes at 350 degrees.  Mix mayo, ranch dip and cream cheese and spread it onto the crust once it cools.


Chop all your veggies.  I used a food processor on all of mine, but it was definitely a little overkill (hence the escaping broccoli).  However, it would have been fine if I had used a little less.


Sprinkle with your finely chopped vegetables.  Fun thing about this recipe is that you can use veggies that you like, or like me, that you don't like but may like better when paired with cream cheese and crescent rolls, i.e. Carrots.


Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.  I did it the day before and refrigerated overnight, which also worked fine.  Top with cheddar cheese.


Then broil for 3-4 minutes until the cheese melts.  Ta-da!  Veggie Bars.


Next up, Fabulous Chicken - here's what you need.

4 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup melted butter
1 lg package of shredded Swiss Cheese
1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 C White Grape Juice
1 package Good Seasons Herb and Garlic


Place chicken breasts into baking dish.  (I used five and actually made two pans worth since I was doing Food Co-Op and having people over.)


Top with cheese.


Mix the soup and juice together.  (really, it will taste good later)


Pour it over the cheese and chicken.


Mix the seasoning mix with the melted butter.


Pour it over everything.


Bake at 350 for 1 hour, and presto, fabulousness will be ready to eat.  I love that this is simple and easy to prepare, and kids seem to really eat it up.


We had dear friends over last night who happened to be in town, which is part of why I was cooking.  It was such a joy to see them, and I wish that we still got to do life together.  It was so fun to see Lily play with their sweet little boy, Liam.  There was so much fun to be had - thanks for blessing us, Lawsons!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Love Affair with Apothecary Jars

      I feel like apothecary jars are such a handy decorating tool to have in my tool box.  I had liked them for a while, and this past Christmas season I found some discounted at Kroger, of all places.  So I bought four. Never let it be said that I do anything half way.  I was reminded of my love today while I was shopping at Hobby Lobby (a place that I frequent so regularly that the staff recognizes me and notices when I get my hair cut. . . ).  I was perusing the Easter decor aisles and found myself taken with shiny Easter ornaments.  Lily was also taken - I had to keep telling her to put them back.  I thought to myself, "Those would work wonderfully in the apothecary jars and be so very springy!"  I thought the same thing about the Bunny Mix M n M's - seasonal M n M's suck me in every time.  ♥.  So I spent a little time this afternoon filling and fluffing my apothecary jars to brighten my house.  So fun.

Apoth 1
Apoth 2

I love that you can put anything cute in them and turn it into decor.  Those roses are left-over from a bouquet John sent me while I was in Wichita, and I thought I might be able to get a little more mileage out of them.  Apothecary jar to the rescue!  During the Christmas season I filled them with ornaments and candy (I am picking up on my theme).


I look forward to filling them with other thing in the summer and fall, since they are so versatile.  Keep your eyes peeled for your very own!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cute Food: Cake Pops, Breakfast Pies and a Gift

      Here are two things that I have made this week.  I took both to a brunch with my women's Bible study, which I heartily enjoyed.  I also ate a TON of deliciousness and did not feel bad doing it, because that is what a good women's brunch should be.  Here is what I took - Little Chick Cake Pops, copied from Bakerella (a baking blog that routinely has the cutest treats EVER♥).  (I just learned how to insert hearts into my text - insert thrill here ____).


Lessons learned while making these.  1) Cake Pops taste really good.  I knew this already, but this exercise reinforced that concept.  2) Almond Bark may not, under any circumstances, be colored with liquid food coloring.  It turns into a horrible, crumbly paste.  3) You must use gel food coloring to get your almond bark the right color, and in this case, I needed even more than I had.  That is why my chicks are not as bright yellow as they deserve to be.  4) Understanding how to make little cake treats opens an entire world of cute baking possibilities that makes my mind spin.

I took Breakfast Pies as my main dish for the brunch.  I ♥ this recipe.  (I know, I really could go overboard with this ♥ thing.)  It can be customized a million different ways depending on what you like.  I used sausage with a can of chopped green chiles, and then I added a little onion powder and garlic powder to my milk and egg mix.  I also halved my biscuits so they wouldn't puff up as much, and so the recipe would yield more.  After about 18 minutes in the oven, they were perfect and ready to go.  Good stuff.


And, I received a delightful gift from a dear friend on my birthday.  It spoke to me on many levels.  Cute food.  Tasty food.  Included with the cookie bouquet was actual dirt and seeds to be planted once I cleaned out the cookies, which did not take long.  I am hoping that my black thumb may become a thing of the past and that little zinnias will be able to thrive in my care.  (I may put them where a sprinkler will get them and set us all up for success.)  Thanks, Lindsay - great idea, I loved it!


Things I Did Not Expect about Motherhood

      The last couple of weeks have been a blur since I have traveled two out of the last three weekends and will be gone again this weekend (Birmingham - here we come!).  In the middle of packing and driving, I have been trying to do other things around the house - cook, clean, random craft projects (insert regret that I have not yet finished the plaid wall, though it is coming along).  Before I left for Wichita, I tried to finish sorting through all of the girls' clothes that they have outgrown and replace them with clothes for the upcoming season.  This is just one of the piles that I was making.


Which got me thinking. I did not expect this part of being a mom.  I did not realize that managing my children's wardrobes would be such a gigantic overhaul at least twice a year.  More if I was better organized.  With little drawers like this that need to be filled and accessible so that getting dressed in the often rushed mornings is no more drama than necessary.


And I didn't really think through that I would have BINS of clothing.  For which I am so thankful, truly, but really, BINS of clothing?  I just never contemplated it.


All of this got me thinking about my expectations coming into this great adventure of motherhood.  There are a lot of things I knew to expect and that I awaited with differing levels of eagerness or anxiety.  I expected to love my children more than I imagined possible.  I expected to change nasty diapers.  I expected to have to die to self more and more as little lives depended on mine.  However, parenthood has had its share of curveballs - good and bad.  Here's my list.

Challenges I didn't fathom:
--  I didn't grasp the level of sacrifice having a child is physically.  I knew it would be hard.  I knew my body would change.  Until I did it, I did not understand that pregnancy is a totally consuming experience.  When I looked at the diagrams for what was going on inside my body by the end of the pregnancy, I realized that it is by no means sustainable, and is, in fact, a serious medical condition.  It is a good thing it doesn't last any longer - but then, there's breastfeeding.
--  I did not expect breastfeeding to be a challenge - and with Bella, it has been great!  But with Lily - oh, it was not.  And to be honest, even having a great experience, breastfeeding is not my favorite thing ever.  The round the clock experience that it is definitely took me off-guard.
-- I didn't realize the ways my life would change.  I knew it would, obviously.  However, I didn't think about the fact that I would need to make friends in a similar stage as mine in order to survive.  Since college, I had basically done life with John and not had to make friends on my own.  It was strange to make friends without him, and I didn't like it at first at all.
-- I did not know how hard disciplining our child would be.  I never in a million years imagined that I would have to spank my child over 15 times in a row for the same infraction before she capitulated.  She needed to know that I was serious, and I had to win.  It takes an enormous amount of energy to determine what consequences should be and to be consistent, loving and patient.  It has drawn me to the Lord in a new way, since I have felt at much more of a loss than I ever imagined I would.
--  I knew it would challenge our marriage, but I didn't realize in what ways.  Having children drew some lines for us that we didn't have before.  It is what we have always wanted, and I am so thankful to be able to stay home with our girls, but it is hard for John and I to live in such different worlds.  It takes more intentionality and creativity to know how to balance family life, work life, social life, ect., all while trying to learn how to serve one another better.  Which is a constant challenge.

All of that said, I wouldn't change a thing, because the wonderful things that I didn't think of make up for it all.
--  I knew that it would be special to have children with my best friend.  I didn't realize the true depth of love that is borne out of this experience.  The Lord allows us to create a family - little lives that we cherish, out of the love that he has given us for each other.  What a privilege and miracle.  It is truly amazing to share this journey together.
--  One of my favorite things that I didn't think to anticipate - when Lily willingly and joyfully wants to hug me.  Because she wants to.  Because she loves me.  Because it is her idea to give me a hug.  I love it.
--  I had a feeling that it would get more entertaining when Lily started talking.  And I was more than 100% right.  Having children is more entertaining than I even dreamed it could be.  And getting to laugh with John about the big and little things that happen really can make my day.
--  Seeing the love that my girls already have for one another is more wonderful than I could have thought.  They LOVE each other (especially since Bella cannot yet take toys away from Lily)!  They make each other giggle and laugh, and I so look forward to the what I hope will be a dynamic friendship for life that they are building.  I love looking down in the double stroller to see that Lily is holding Bella's hand.  Too precious.
--  Because we have had some extreme situations with Lily and discipline, we have already gotten to see some great payoff in the area of discipline.  I didn't realize how rewarding it would be to see my child learn how to obey and to want to please us.
--  Seeing the way that God creates each of us uniquely right from the very beginning is pretty amazing.  Bella and Lily are already so different, because God has designed them to be so.

I really could go on and on.  There are great days, and there are harder days - just like in most people's lives.  I am really thankful to be where I am at for right now, whether I knew what all it would entail or not.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I Hit a Deer. Again.

      So, life feels a teeny bit crazy right now, mainly because I keep going places every weekend.  Which has involved a lot of driving with little friends - who, thankfully, have done really well.  As I was headed to Kansas this past Friday, I had the very unfortunate experience of hitting a deer.  It was 11:30 a.m., which means that deer should have been fast asleep somewhere else, far from me.  Sadly, I think that deer had a death wish and jumped right in front of me, and I hit it with my left headlight.  I am quite squeamish, and I was so shocked, that by the time I pulled over, I was too far away to really know the fate of the deer.  However, since I was going 80, his little deer chances are not very good.  Stupid deer.  Here is the car.  John was on the phone with the insurance agent when I texted him this picture.

He said, "Go ahead and run the claim."  When I got to Siloam Springs to pick up Ellen to ride with me the rest of the way to Wichita, her husband, Luke, helped me get the broken pieces out, so that it looks like this now.


Yes, that is my battery you can see now that the headlight is completely gone.  I am so thankful that the Lord kept us safe and kept me calm.  The last time I hit a deer was about 8 years ago when I was driving with my mom.  I screamed and cried a lot that time, but this time, since I was the mom, I kept it all together - Lily never even knew something bad had happened.  Though, every time she walks past the car, she says, "Broken car."  It really is just such a hassle, but we have good insurance, and cars can be repaired, so all in all, I am thankful that we are all right.

      I was headed to Kansas to celebrate my mother's upcoming nuptials with her bridal shower and bachelorette party.  We had a great time at both, and I am so thankful for the Lord's provision in her life of a new companion - what a blessing.  Being with all the girls is always a lot of fun.

(sis Ellen, Bella, me, Mom, sis Laura, sis-in-law Ashley, and Lily)

And, there is nothing quite like seeing your mom decked out and drinking from a giant bride pimp goblet.


Then, we went wedding dress shopping for my youngest sister, Laura, who got engaged last week - congrats LJ and Ryan!  She found her dress, which is not pictured here, and we had a great time giving opinions and seeing how radiant she will be.

(not THE dress, but a pretty one none-the-less)

The little girlies did great with many hands to hold them and each other to entertain.


My brother changed his first diapers this weekend while he kept the girls during one of the parties - it was so wonderful to see him love on my children, and to see Bella eating his arm.


She seems to like the bottles just as much as her older sister did.


Lily had a great time playing with my Mom's dog, the only negative consequence of this being that she is now telling our cats to "STOP" doing things.  She has also tried to tell me to "STOP," which I quickly put an end to.


      All in all, it was a great, productive visit, and we are looking forward to seeing marriages blossom from these weddings.  And now, it is good to be home.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

      I am now 30 years old.  I feel pretty hip-happening, and it has been a wonderful day where I have been happy like a clam for almost all of it.  (The one glaring exception being that we had to take my car to the insurance adjuster first thing this morning since I hit a deer on my way to Kansas last week - another story entirely that I will post.)  For my birthday, John took the day off and told me I could do anything I wanted to do all day long.  I got my hair cut this morning and got a pedicure all without my little friends.  Then, this afternoon, we drove to Petit Jean Mountain and hiked down to Cedar Falls.  After that, we ate at Marketplace in Conway.  Yum.  Since the girls and I just got back from a trip, I wanted to spend time all together as a family, and these opportunities were simply perfect.  John gave me the perfect gift - TIME (and I get to schedule a spa day later on this month. score.).
      Here's a recap in pictures.  When I got home from the pedicure, this is what I found.


Along with this.

BD 6

Even though I had only had breakfast, I decided to dig into my delicious (and Beautiful!) cake right away.  Someone else had the same idea and grabbed a plate and asked for her own bit of "Birthday Cake," which led to this.


The weather was spring perfection, and I was glad we got to take our little girlies outside.  Thanks, Pereas for the extra baby backpack - 17 pounds of baby Bella fun would have been a lot harder to carry otherwise.  The girls loved being outside, and Lily especially enjoyed the scenery and pointing out "Rocks!  More rocks!  Other rock!"

BD 1
BD 3

      The hike is one mile each way, with a strenuous stretch at the very beginning, but it levels out for much of the way to the waterfall at the end.  It is beautiful, and I highly recommend it if you are in the Central Arkansas area.  We got a lot of comments from strangers about our little friends and made a game out of coming up with witty comments that we would never actually use in return, but could serve to entertain ourselves greatly.
      Once we got to the waterfall, we hung out, and Lily and John did some rock throwing into the water, while Bella and I enjoyed sitting and taking in the scenery.  The baby backpacks really are great.

BD 2
BD 5
BD trees

I do particularly like redbud trees this time of year.  All in all, it was a gorgeous hike on a delightful day. Happy birthday to me.


We finished off the day at Marketplace Grill with a Flaming Queso and a Chocolate/Peanut Butter Mess, among other things.

BD 7

(That last photo cracks me up.)

So far, 30 is rocking my face off.  I feel like this day would not have been possible without help.  Thanks, Facebook, for telling everyone else to wish me a happy birthday.  Thanks, Lily and Bella for being so wonderful and truly behaving sweetly.  Thanks, Mom, for bringing me into the world those long 30 years ago.  Thanks, super-awesome husband for making me feel like the most special person in the world - I look forward to celebrating many more birthdays together.  Love you.