Friday, October 30, 2009

Fall leaves and Perfect Roast Chicken

Micah has been on leave all week and we just got back from a little getaway to Denver (more on that in another post). So we've had a lazy week of just hanging out and doing fun things....except for the fact that Micah has gotten multiple work phone calls a day which annoys me to no end. (Seriously, can he not have a week to himself????)

Anyway, I really wanted to get pictures of Skylar in the leaves like I did at exactly this time last year. Fortunately we did right before the blizzard hit. Unfortunately, there was something foggy on my lens and I didn't realize it. Oh well, photographer I am not, but it's fun to compare this year to last and see how big she's gotten (sniff, sniff).

And now for a couple of my favorite cold-weather recipes!

I adore Ina Garten and started making her Perfect Roast Chicken a few years back. The name does not lie, it turns out exactly right every time. If you've never tried roasting a chicken before you NEED to try this recipe. (And if a whole raw chicken grosses you out like it does me--suck it up. It will be worth it!) Just 10 minutes of prep time and your work is done. Make your husband carve it.


1 5-6 pound roasting chicken

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch of fresh thyme (there is no substitution for fresh here!)

1 lemon, halved

1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise

2 T. of butter melted

1 spanish onion thickly sliced

1 cup chicken stock

2 T all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 425. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out, removing any excess fat and leftover pin feathers. Pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Liberally salt the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the thyme, both halves of lemon, and all of the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Scatter onion slices around the chicken.

Roast for 1 1/2 hours or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove to a platter and let rest under foil while you prepare gravy.

(Gravy isn't my thing.....I don't do gravy, but in case you do--here it is.)

Remove all the fat from the bottom of the pan, reserving two tablespoons in a small cup. Add the chicken stock to the pan and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, until reduced, scraping the bottom of the pan. Combine the 2 T of chicken fat with the flour and add to the pan. Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan and season it to taste. Keep it warm over a very low flame while carving the chicken.

The finished result:
I usually serve it with Ina's Caramelized Butternut Squash, which I could eat as a meal on it's own. The condensed version of the recipe is as follows:

Peal and chop 2 medium butternut squash (4-5 pounds total). Toss with 6 T. melted unsalted butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher Salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Roast for 45-55 minutes, until squash is tender and caramelized.

So go on with your bad self, and roast up a chicken.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A few of my new favorite things.

I just want to share a few things that I am currently loving.

I am obsessed with Back to Nature products, especially the Apple blueberry granola. It is SO GOOD and only has 2.5 grams of fat per serving. (They're packaging is also "green" but that's secondary to the taste.) They also make awesome Chocolate Chunk cookies made without high fructose corn syrup or white sugar. If you can find them in your store, you need to try them. It also happens to be the cheapest brand where I shop, so that's a plus.I also love the Mossimo Tissue Tees from Target ($9.99). They come in 6 colors and are perfect for layering under sweaters/jackets/short sleeves without over-heating. I love how long they are and they aren't too shear, so it's also cute by itself or with a scarf. I currently have it in 2 colors, but will probably end up with a few more by the end of the year. They frequently go on sale for $8 and I wear the two I have every.single.week. You need to try them!
Another favorite around here are The First Years disposable kids cups with straws. Skylar loves drinking from a straw, and these are perfect. The lids have never popped off and the straw fits snugly so there are no leaks. Best of all, they are "disposable" (even though you can reuse them forever) so if you lose one somewhere--or in my case melt the lids in the dishwasher---it's okay!! They aren't "baby cups" so they're great for older kids too and only $3.50 for a 4 pack.
I love getting recommendations from people, so if you have any please pass them along!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Sunday crunch.

Why is it so hard to get out of the house for church? Especially considering we have TWO adults and ONE puny child to get ready?

You would think after 18 months we would have the hang of it by now. We kind of do: I pick out Skylar's clothes, Micah gets her dressed, I do her hair, he checks the diaper bag, I make the sippy cup, he puts her in the car, etc. So really, she's the easy part.

Inevitably one of us (me) forgets to eat breakfast and ends up drinking diet coke and eating goldfish (or whatever snack I find in the car) on the way to church. And one of us (me) never knows what their wearing until 5 minutes before we walk out the door, as though anyone cares. It doesn't help when your husband tells you it's warm outside, but it's really only 33 degrees. Besides he can wear the exact same outfit every sunday and feel absolutely fabulous.

We prefer the early service, but this morning Skylar slept until 9 am, so late service it was. We actually made it to the sanctuary with 5 minutes to spare, but I was exhausted and ready for a nap by the time we got there.

This picture pretty much sums up the morning:
(I think she was upset because Micah said she looked like a Librarian with her button down shirt and cardigan.)
The service was great as always, and I honestly don't know how we will ever find another church like this one when we move. We have been doing a worship series for 23 weeks, and today was the culmination. Woodmen Valley incorporates so many creative expressions of worship, it's been really awesome. It was almost 1:00 when we pulled out of the parking lot so we popped Skylar's binky in and hoped she would fall asleep like she always does.

Then we drove into this:
Nice, big wet snowflakes.
Skylar decided the snow was worth staying awake for. She didn't remember it from last winter (just four short months ago) and was really excited. As soon as we got out of the car she ran around pointing to make sure we were seeing what she was seeing.
Since we are about to head south to a warm, snowless South Carolina winter, I'm happy it's snowing too. (I really do like snow--just not 8 months out of the year. I think all four seasons should have equal opportunity.)
Her excitement was infectious. She didn't care that she was getting all wet. She didn't care what we dressed her in for church. She didn't even remember how upset she was when the nursery worker accidentally knocked her head against the door while passing her over to me.
She was just happy.
It occured to me that if a toddler can worship, then that's what she was doing. Or maybe she's just teaching her parents.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We're snotty around here.

Since I've been sick the past couple of weeks, Skylar has seen me blowing my nose a lot. Now it's one of her favorite things to do:

At least she throws them away when she's done.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Yes, Rachel Ray is a wee bit obnoxious, but I'm going to post one of her recipes anyway. If you've eaten at my house in the past five years, you've probably had this---it's a favorite around here:

Chinese-Barbecued-Chicken Lettuce Wraps

2 cups fresh shitake mushrooms (I use button mushrooms)
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders
2 T. vegetable or peanut oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger root, finely chopped or grated
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
1 small tin water chestnuts, drained and chopped
3 scallions, chopped
3 T. Hoisin sauce
2 large heads of iceburg lettuce, cores removed, heads quartered (I use a red or green leaf lettuce)
1 navel orange

Remove and discard stems from mushrooms and brush caps with a damp towel to clean. Chop mushroom caps.

Chop chicken into small pieces. (The finer the chop, the more "PF Chang-y it is:)

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add oil to hot pan. Add chicken to the pan and sear meat by stir frying a minute or two. Add mushrooms and cook another minute or two. Add salt and pepper, then garlic and ginger. Cook a minute more. Add orange zest then bell peppers, water chestnuts, and scallions. Stir fry another minute. Add hoisin sauce and toss to coat mixture evenly.

Transfer barbecued chicken to a serving platter and pile lettuce wedges along side. Garnish with orange wedges.

Serves 4.

For convenience, I recommend prepping all of the ingredients before you start, because once you start stir-frying it goes really fast. A microplane is a handy tool for this recipe (orange zest and ginger) so if you don't have one, I highly recommend it. It will soon become your favorite kitchen gadget.
Last night Nicole and Natasha came over and made dinner for us: pork chops, butternut squash soup, salad, bread and then the most amazing chocolate cake ever. If you like chocolate you MUST try this recipe. It starts with a cake mix, so it's fast and easy. (Go here for the recipe). Thank you ladies for an awesome meal, you are welcome to come and do it again anytime!And just for the heck of it, here's a picture of Skylar looking like a homeless child after her daddy dressed her in nothing but baby legs and a hoodie. And as for the hair....we won't even go there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

DIY Baby Legs

***Edit: My original link to the instructions wasn't very clear, so go here to learn how to make them.

I am so excited about my latest project that I am inspired to blog two days in a row!

I got this idea from a lady I have never met, but her father was sitting at the same table as Micah and I at an MCYM luncheon where Micah spoke a few weeks back. He was telling us about his children and grand kids and told me I just had to check out his daughter's blog. So I did, and while she is far craftier than I (she has lots of cute projects on her blog), this looked like something I could actually do--and so can you.

They are baby/kid legwarmers made out of women's knee socks and they seriously take 10 minutes to make (more like 20 minutes the first time while you figure out the directions). I bought 3 pairs of socks on Ebay for 1.25 a pair and decided to give it a shot last night, and here is the end result:
Skylar wasn't being a very cooperative model so I'll just leave her whiny little face out of this picture:)
Okay here's her face (studiously ignoring me) and her new leg warmers in action. (The dress is a hand-me-down from Addison Hilton--thanks Amy!!)
Considering BabyLegs are $12 a pair, these are well worth the few minutes it takes to make them and way cuter than most tights. I also anticipate them being perfect for potty training whenever that happens. At any rate, I am totally hooked now and Skylar will definitely be sporting these all winter.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I need to vent.

I detest the Ft. Carson commissary. I realize it's a military benefit and I should be grateful to have access to it's inner sanctuary. But I'm not gonna lie, I can't stand the place.

To be honest, it isn't even that much of a discount. In fact, the more I shop in regular grocery stores the more I realize that I'm actually paying more for some things in the commissary. Add to that the fact that Colorado has no sales tax for food, but the commissary tacks on a hefty surcharge, and the "benefits" really diminish.

The exception to this is the meat and dry goods. You can't beat the price of chicken at the commissary, even if it does sometimes smell funky after just a day in the fridge thereby causing me to throw it out and waste money. However, frequently when I go there isn't a single package of chicken or turkey to be found. Apparently they have stocking problems.

They also can't hold a candle to King Sooper's free kids cookies, penny horse rides and pimped out car-carts. It's like Disney Land for Skylar. But I don't expect the government to waste money on that stuff, so we'll that one slide.

One of my biggest frustrations (besides the fact that there are no carts during "busy hours" which could be anytime of the day and the fact that I am always overcharged for something) are the cashiers. They are so incredibly unprofessional. They go on and on about their personal lives, nights out, and are usually cussing like sailors while they check you out. I've had to ask them to please refrain from using those words in front of my child, resulting in dirty looks (and I swear broken eggs one time). Usually they are discussing all of this with the bagger or worse, yelling it to the next cashier over. The Chic-fil-A people need to do a commissary take over and teach them some customer service.

The breaking point was this past summer when my cashier was talking about her severe constipation with the neighboring cashier. I couldn't BELIEVE it. The other cashier was giving her lots of helpful advice (involving the nuances of enemas) which apparently she had already tried. Do I really have to listen to your poo-problems while I'm buying food?

That one warranted a complaint letter, not that it probably did much good.

All of this to say, the commissary does have brief shining moments that keep me coming back. For instance, in the past month they have had an incredible cheese sale. The 8 oz Kraft blocks, bags, sticks, slices, etc have been on sale for $1.25. And then if you buy six they give you a $5 off coupon making the grand total for 6 things of cheese, ahem....$2 or .66 a pound. I've come across this sale 4 times now, and that's a whole lotta cheese in my freezer and some in Nicole's too.

This is also the time of year when the Christmas things debut, which mostly consists of yummy imported European delicacies. I'll admit, my inner fat-kid did a happy dance when I saw the Bahlsen ginger bread cookies. I've missed them so.

I may have eaten 3 for lunch today with a side of milk. Think what you will, but they were yummy and I might do it again tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Winter is here. Again.

This weekend was a four-day for Micah. That's definitely a perk of the military--they celebrate every holiday and usually tack on an extra day while they're at it. Unfortunately we had freezing rain on Saturday and an ice storm that night so on Sunday everything was a frozen tundra. We entertained ourselves watching the dogs slide around on the ice when we let them out to go the bathroom. Poor little Jack couldn't even get back up the steps to come inside.
There was a 50 car pile-up on the highway, but that didn't stop us from going out. Oh no, we had things to do. What can I say, we are motivated like that. Or just stupid.
One of Micah's dreams came true this weekend. He has long wanted a recliner. To me a recliner is like the station wagon of furniture--sure it's comfy, practical and good for taking naps, but in most cases they are also a huge overstuffed eyesore. So I've always said he could get a recliner as long as it didn't look too much like one.
So in the midst of the bad weather, we went to American Furniture to shop for a filing cabinet with locking drawers to consolidate all of our many filing containers. I guess our impending move is motivating us to get organized. While we were there we ended up looking at recliners (no filing cabinet was purchased).
There was only one that fit my criteria and Micah deemed it uncomfortable and too expensive. Alas, it was not meant to be. Oh, but wait! We then went to World Market to look at the one filing cabinet they have since I had a whole bunch of gift cards and there it was......The Recliner (again, no filing cabinet was purchased).

I have never seen Micah so giddy about a piece of furniture. He said it was perfect, it was comfortable, not quite the head support he was looking for but he could use a pillow. In short, a good compromise. And best of all--$800 marked down to $600 marked down to $400 with a 25% off coupon brought it down to $300. Then I used my gift cards. You can't beat that.

Micah wanted the living room rearranged so that the recliner was in a prime TV-viewing location. He also declared he and Skylar are the only ones allowed to sit in it. Well, and Jack. (He later said I could too...but I don't think he meant it.)
As if a recliner wasn't enough excitement, Micah also had a ticket to the Rockies play-off game on Sunday. I was feeling pretty yucky in the afternoon when he left, but by last night I was full-blown sick with a 102 temp. To top it off, Skylar decided her big girl bed isn't that great after all. She woke up at 1230 and cried until 430 this morning when I was finally able to get her to sleep again. Two hours into the ordeal it finally occurred to her that she can get out of her bed whenever she wants. I found her down in the kitchen looking for a snack at 2:30 am. It was a miserable night.
But at least Micah had fun:
Not feeling well and being stuck in the house has made me a little desperate, so I decided to let Skylar use her sand table inside. I haven't gotten any sand for it yet so I put water in it yesterday (I don't know what I was thinking) and that was a huge mess. Today I decided to dump a couple of bags of dried lentils in it so I could blog and Micah could study in peace.
As I was finishing this up I looked over and saw this:
That's the price we pay for ignoring our child for 30 minutes. There are lentils everywhere.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lion Bait

I almost had a heart attack at the zoo today.

After a nice snowfall last night, we had a very brisk day. Things cleared up this afternoon and we decided it would be fun to go to the zoo for a little while to get some fresh air. There were low clouds on Cheyenne Mountain, which I always think is cool:
I also thought these leaves were pretty:
We don't normally go to the zoo at the end of the day, but as it turns out it was the perfect time. There was barely anyone else there AND it was close to feeding time, so the animals were really active. Especially the big cats. They were ready to eat. And Skylar looked like a yummy pink marshmallow.
Two of the lions paced back and forth, keeping their eyes on her.
Even though they were on the other side of inch thick glass, their enormous size and the intensity of their stare gave me the creeps. They were watching us. I've never been so close to one before. I also found it a little unnerving that there was 3 foot crack in the glass where one of them had tried to get through.
She didn't know that they wanted her for dinner, she thought they were fascinating (which they were) and she wasn't scared a bit.
We walked to the other side of the exhibit to check out the rest of the harem:
And then it happened. In a split second the pacing lioness we had been watching dashed over, lunged right at Skylar and swatted at the exact place where her head was:
In that moment I forgot the glass was there and I thought she was going to eat my baby, so I screamed. Then Skylar cried. It was some serious zoo drama. The onlookers certainly thought so.
I would not want to run into one of these in the wild:
Maybe I should just go ahead and scratch African Safari off of my To-Do-Someday list.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

She sleeps.

That's right, Skylar is SLEEPING. By herself. In her own room. All night long. Thank you Jesus.

I try not to complain about her bad sleeping habits too much because she's otherwise a really happy, healthy, normal child. However, the last 3 months things have gone from bad to worse. It got so bad the last few weeks that she would wake up screaming every 45 min-1 hr. It would also take me an hour to get her to bed in the first place, often longer. I got lots of advice from people, most of whom had kids who were really great sleepers and thought I should just stick her in her crib, close the door and come back in the morning. That works for some kids, but I didn't feel like it was right for Skylar's personality.

Reading and applying sleep book principles became my part time job. I tried everything, from the No Cry Sleep Solution (including precise lighting to mimic the moonlight, correct temperature, white noise, music, memory foam toddler pillow that cost twice as much as mine, etc) to Ferber (the big guns!).

Crying it out didn't work. The first night she cried for over 4 hours with one of us either checking at intervals or laying on the floor by her crib. By the time we got it down to about 45 minutes we went on vacation. I wasn't willing to put either of us through that again. Honestly, I didn't feel like it was the best route to go in the first place but I was desperate. In the end, I think it only made things worse.

After wracking my brain for the better part of a year and praying constantly for an answer, it hit me last friday. She hates her crib, stop trying to make her like it. I called Micah at work and asked him what he thought of a big bed in her room. He was all for it. We took down the crib and put up the bed that night, and she was thrilled.

She loves sleeping in it. She even goes to sleep by herself. No fighting, no's miraculous. She went from waking up twice the first night to not waking up at all by last night. Every time she walks in her room and sees it, she gets excited all over again. She doesn't climb out either. I listened to her lay in bed and jabber over the monitor this morning until I went in to get her and I laid there thinking so this is what it's like.

Even better, she's happy all the time from all the rest she's getting! She barely whines at all.

Did I already say, thank you Jesus! Oh I did? Well I am having a revival right here in the family room.

Now I just have to teach myself to start sleeping through the night. I am wired to wake up at one hour intervals and I'm having a really hard time going back to sleep.

Skylar had her 18 month appointment today and she weighed in at 23 pounds, 6 oz and nearly 32 inches tall. Can somebody hit the pause button please?

I decided to follow her around one afternoon and document her life in pictures. It mostly consisted of weird toddler things like laying on the steps staring at nothing for an impressive length of time: Trying to sneak things in the trash can when she thought I wasn't looking:

Lots of climbing:
Sitting and pondering:
Eventually she caught on to me and started hamming it up:
I liked having a toddler before, but having a sleeping toddler is perfection.

Monday, October 5, 2009


On Saturday we decided to take a little family outing and go for a drive to check out the fall foliage:
We ended up at the Donut Mill in Woodland Park. This was no accident. Micah had a definite destination in mind...and it definitely involved donuts.
Skylar inhaled 3 donut holes in about as many minutes which made her daddy proud. Then she wanted his donuts.
Later that day we headed up to Castle Rock with Nicole to met up with Kristy, Andy and Andy's mom Betty for Oktoberfest. As soon as we got out of the car Skylar was ready to go, no holding hands for her thankyouverymuch.
This Oktoberfest wasn't about the beer. It was more like a family carnival that was called an Oktoberfest with one beer vendor. So the day consisted of Skylar and her entourage of 6 adults going from place to place and watching her have fun while simultaneously eating bratwurst, cotton candy, funnel cakes, etc.
Nicole went through the obstacle course with her:
I got to ride on the flying orca's. (Why not airplanes??)
Every child should get to experience cotton candy 3 times the size of their head. It's what childhood is all about.
Kristy volunteered for petting zoo duty.
Skylar especially loved this hairy little pig. I think it reminded her of her puglet Jack.
We decided this llama's parents must have been siblings:
Micah took Skylar on the pony, probably the highlight of her day. She's been practicing on the penny horse at King Soopers and wasn't scared at all.
The signature look:
Andy, Betty and the funnel cake:
Andy took one for the team and volunteered to take Skylar on the swings even though he had just washed down his funnel cake with a beer.
We had a really fun day and can't wait until Micah starts his TWO MONTHS of vacation!!! He only has 2 more weeks in his job before turning over the reigns. We are looking forward to taking some more day trips before leaving Colorado!


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