Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chicken with tomatoes, apricots, and chickpeas.

This is a fast, healthy, and tasty. It's one of my stand-by recipes pulled from an old magazine.


4 boned, skinless chicken breast halves (I butterfly mine to make them thinner, so a pack of 3 breasts gives me 6 pieces after they are cut. If you aren't sure how to butterfly go here.)

salt and pepper

1 T. olive oil

3 minced garlic cloves

1 T. sugar (or splenda)

2 tsp. cumin

1 1/2 tsp. coriander

1/4 tsp. cayenne (I use extra for a little kick!)

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes

1/3 c chopped dried apricots

1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley (I think it tastes better with cilantro)

Sprinkle chicken breasts with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, then add the cumin, coriander and cayenne (I know it seems like a lot of spices, but it won't be too much so don't skimp). Add chicken and cook until golden brown, turning once, about 6 minutes. (Don't mess with the chicken, walk away if you have to. It won't get a nice crust if you flip it too soon.) Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add can of diced tomatoes, apricots, sugar and garlic. Return chicken to pan and let it simmer covered until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and 1/4 cup of chopped flat leaf parsley or cilantro. Cook until heated through. Serves 4.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Strawberry Festival

We had a jam-packed weekend. Strawberry-jam packed.

We had plans to meet up with Micah's good friend and his wife in Charlotte (more about that in another post) so we decided to swing by York, SC on the way to see my sister Bekah, my brother and his wife and all of her family at their strawberry festival. It was yummy.
All of Thomas and Margaret's nieces and nephews (on the Hall side) were there, and they let Skylar go into the chicken coop and get the newly laid egg. She was thrilled. Then she got to ride a horse. She died and went to heaven. Then she came back to life and saw the beehive. Magical. And so it went for the next two hours......
The festival had a dual purpose, it was also a distractor while everyone, especially Thomas and Marge, waited for the results of draft day. Fortunately, several hours later, after a process I couldn't even begin to explain, Thomas is joining the Minnesota Vikings! We are so excited for them! And yes, Thomas is carrying around a tiny coconut purse.....
I've decided Margaret needs a Viking name, now that she's a Viking wife. So after an in depth study of Viking history (as in the first website I came to via google) here's what I came up with.......Astrid....or maybe Gunnhild. As for Thomas, I was thinking maybe Thorald or Thorkell, although Olaf is a classic. (Those Viking's sure knew how to make someone sound hot). Let me know if you have any suggestions....I need something to stencil on their viking hats.
Micah was excited about the BBQ, and according to him, this was a pulled pork sandwich even his dad would have approved of--and that's saying something.
I think he liked the bees even more than the kids did.
She should have been born a farm girl.....
Sunday was spent celebrating Papa's 82nd birthday! And of course, Skylar thought it was her birthday again...

Friday, April 23, 2010

To sleep or to hypothetically decorate.......

It's late and I'm tired, but I haven't been able to sleep much the past two weeks. Partly because we are about to enter into the greatest debt of our lives, but mostly because I have a giant blank canvas waiting to be filled and the possibilities are endless. I've never known ahead of time what the house I was moving to was going to look like. This is a first. I've got the furniture mentally arranged in all the rooms, and now I'm pretend-sewing curtains and throw pillows. Why didn't I think to measure the windows during those 20 minutes we had at the house before we left town?

Decorating aside, this whole house-buying thing is turning out to be pretty stressful. It doesn't help that we're in South Carolina, the seller is in Seattle, our lender is in Connecticut, and the realtor and house are in New York. It's a logistical nightmare getting all the necessary paperwork to all the necessary places with all the necessary signatures. Then there's the home inspection, which was great except for one teeny tiny not-so-little problem.....a water leak from the master bath on the second floor to the basement that will require tearing out the kitchen wall. The seller agreed to our offer on the condition that we take the house as-is. So as soon as we close, out goes the kitchen wall. (We got an estimate, and it really isn't nearly as serious or expensive as it sounds.)

But that means after we patch up that wall it will need to be PAINTED!

So let's talk paint colors, because that's so much more fun than sleeping.

The house is already painted in great neutral colors and doesn't really need to be painted. But neutrals are safe, and I've never been one to shy away from a bright paint color. I've painted walls various shades of red, blue, green and yellow. For some reason I always get hung up on blue. I love it. I love the idea of it. But once I slap it up on my walls I just can't live with it.

All this to say, I think I'm ready to give blue another try. It's been 8 years since my ill-fated blue walls. Maybe we can be friends again.
I've decided to approach it differently this time: I'm not even going to look at the color swatches. All those varying shades make my head hurt and cloud my instincts. Instead I'm going to find my colors either in pictures or objects around me and take them to the store. The paint mixing computer can match any object I can carry in there.

I started looking around my house and I have a lot more blue than I realized. It's definitely snuck it's way into my life.

I've always been drawn to blue glass and I think if I went around the house and gathered it up I might be getting dangerously close to having a.....gasp....collection.

It might sound crazy (Micah thought so) but I really want to paint my kitchen walls aqua. I love aqua and red together. I know it's hard to imagine, just trust me. Fabulosity in a can:
The only thing holding me back is the floor. It's a checkerboard with kind of a muted turquoise-y color. I think I need something more neutral with it. So I'm thinking an aqua with more grey. I'm going for tranquility, not a punch in the face.
I've never done real grey before, so I think I might give it a try in the dining room. It's neutral, but different for me. I kind of like this one......
But this is a little more dramatic, and I do like drama on my walls.....

And you see the turquoise color in my shower curtain? I have big plans for that turquoise.

There is an amazing consignment shop down the road and it has all kinds of great, cheap, vintage furniture finds. I have vowed (in the wee hours of the night) that I will paint something that shade. Maybe a dresser. Maybe a bed. Maybe a small woodland creature. Not sure yet. But it's going to be cute, cute, cute when I'm done.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daddy's girl.

Skylar sure does love her daddy. We go to the pool in the late afternoon and wait to see him drive through the gate. Then we rush home so she can tackle him in her wet bathing suit.

She has no idea that she only has a few months left with him before he leaves for a very long time. Army life is so unfair for kids.

It makes me really sad to think about how much she's going to miss him.......
And how much he's going to miss her.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Grands

This weekend Skylar got to meet her other set of great grandparents (Gayle's parents) for the very first time! They drove up from Florida along with some of Micah's great aunts and uncles. We went over to their hotel to meet up with them and Puppa scooped Skylar right up. She gave him hug and then tried to figure out who he was:
On Saturday we took everyone to Ft. Jackson to do a little sight seeing tour. Skylar was excited to have some people in the back seat with her and to show everyone around her favorite park.
Her entourage of eight adults followed her around the playground and watched her play from the shade of a pavilion. Skylar and Mumma even wore matching colors:Here are Uncle Art and Aunt Karen. Uncle Art was in the Army for 32 years and fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He told us some amazing stories, including the time he jumped into Normandy at the age of 17, just like in the Band of Brothers series (except he was in H Company, not E Company like in the movie). He also has a purple heart. I wish we'd had more time to hear the rest of his stories!
Skylar loved Uncle John and Aunt Jeanie. They have a little grand daughter almost the same age, so they've had lots of practice with little girls!

We had a great weekend hanging out with family we don't get to see very often! Skylar was spoiled rotten by all the sweet gifts and attention. She just assumed it was still her birthday, and wanted us to sing Happy Birthday to her....again. I guess we'll just keep on celebrating right up until the 3rd birthday. Why stop now?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Banana Bread

Sounds fattening right?

But it's actually better for you than the regular kind. No oil. No butter. No sugar, except for some chocolate chips. You don't have to feel guilty giving it to your kids.

And if fiber is important to you like it is to me, than you will be excited to hear that this loaf has over 40 grams of fiber in it. Except that it's super moist and tastes like dessert. I was skeptical too, so you're just going to have to give it a try. It might even change breakfast as you know it.

I decided to make a loaf while Skylar was busy potty training herself this afternoon. (Incidentally, she peed in the living room like usual, but it's the thought that counts).

I got the recipe from the Feb 2009 issue of Sunset Magazine (the west coast equivalent of Southern Living--love it!) and have loved it ever since.


12 oz pitted prunes (Yes I know prunes are gross, but you won't even taste them)

3/4 cups mashed bananas (I just use 3 medium ones)

2 eggs

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I like Hershey's Special Dark)

2 tsp each baking powder and cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chopped walnuts (I omit these)

1/2 cup banana chips (I don't like them so I substitute 1 cup unsweetened coconut)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a small saucepan, bring prunes and 2 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until prunes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter and 5 x9 inch loaf pan and line bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.

3. In a food processor, whirl prunes and bananas until very smooth. Add eggs and whirl to combine.

4. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. Stir in banana mixture until evenly moistened. Stir in nuts, banana chips and/or coconut, and chocolate chips. Scrape the thick batter into a pan and spread level.

5. Bake bread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out a little chocolaty but not gooey, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool for an hour before slicing.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dazed and Amazed.

***This ended up being a long post, and I promise I tried really hard to edit out most of the boring details!

I want to give a big thank you to everyone who prayed for our house hunting expedition this past weekend. What happened up there was nothing short of a miracle! No amount of HGTV and House Hunters could have prepared me for the experience.

Honestly, last week we were kind of panicking about all of this--the plane tickets were booked, hotel reservations made, rental car secured, 3 nights for Jack and Sabot at the doggy hotel, Bekah was coming to take care of Skylar, and we had a realtor that was very nice and we were really hoping was good. I kind of stumbled across her while looking at listings and she was so helpful and great about keeping in touch that she just sort of became our realtor--probably not the recommended way to find one.

The weekend had the potential to be a huge waste of money and we were nervous. All of our top houses from a few weeks before had sold. We had gotten a new round of listings that week, and as we would find out when we got there, they had all sold too. When we got off the plane in Syracuse it was 32 and snowing. I knew we were moving somewhere cold, but I guess I was in denial.

After spending the night in one of the nastiest hotels I've ever seen (it was midnight, we decided to suck it up) we drove off in our rented minivan while Micah munched on sausage biscuits and listened to the best of the 90's satellite radio (I'll admit, I got a little excited when the Spice Girls came on). We pulled up to the rental agency and sat in the office waiting for our realtor for almost an hour, she was a half an hour late. I just knew we had made a huge mistake. I felt like throwing up.

Then she walked in the door and turned out to be the most competent realtor we could have asked for--the city's #1 realtor for the last 25 years. She was a local and had been in every house in town and sold most of them several times over. The lady could multi-task like nobody I've ever seen and we hit the ground running with our wish list in tow. Our choices consisted of Victorian houses that ranged from large to gigantic, and one 70's era ranch that reeked of smoke and was filled with fake cherubs, crosses and baby pictures. Wierd. They all started blurring together around the 20 house mark.

We realized very quickly that there was a reason these houses hadn't sold. They had a lot of charm, and all of the Victorian maintenance--in desperate need of updates, renovations, structural problems, peeling paint, bad neighborhoods and on and on and on..... Of course I saw the potential and wanted to take on these gigantic projects like knocking out walls and adding bathrooms, but Micah was much more rational and nixed that. Thank goodness.

It was all going from bad to worse. We saw a nice one in a prime location but it was out of the question because it had one bathroom in the whole house. That wasn't going to work for us. What happened if Micah was camped out in there having his sacred toilet time and somebody else needed it? What if Skylar was potty training and couldn't get in there? What if it had a serious clog and we were without a toilet and our neighbors didn't want to share their toilet? That was a deal breaker.

We headed back to the office in the afternoon to re-group and I started flipping through a real estate magazine. A house was in there that had caught my eye several times, but I always skipped right over it when I saw the price. Doris hadn't even considered it for us, but she agreed to show us anyway. It was a house where she had played as a child. She had known the lady who had built it 110 years ago.

The second we pulled up, I was in love. It had an attached garage, perfect for winter and absolutely unheard of in an old house. As soon as we walked in it I knew we had found it. Each room got better than the last culminating in a master bedroom with two closets and a bathroom. No matter that it was pink tile. The house had vinyl siding and didn't have to be painted. It had a new roof. It was move-in ready. It had every single thing we wanted and so much more. By the end of our tour, Micah was in love too. But we both knew it was out of the question at the listing price and we weren't about to get ourselves in over our heads with more house than we could reasonably afford.

The search continued until 930 that night when we finally told Doris we were calling it a night (she would have kept going) and we went to get some dinner. We were exhausted....and still in love with the expensive house.

In the past year the Lord has really been working on our hearts about investing our money in things of eternal value. We've been very careful with our purchases and we are honestly trying to seek the Lord first in what we buy. I've been doing a study on Randy Alcorn's book "Money, Possessions and Eternity"...not a fun read, but very convicting. So buying a house was not something we took lightly. We weren't out to find our dream house or a show-stopper, just something livable that didn't need much work and would have good resale. We also really wanted a closet in the master bedroom, which seemed like a reasonable request, right? (I had given up hope of finding a master bathroom).

I realize now that the whole time we were looking at houses we kept thinking about room for guests and space for entertaining. That might seem silly, especially considering we will be living in a town on the way to nowhere, but hospitality really is one of our biggest ministries and we want to use our house for that. I didn't realize any of this until I thought about it later, but I think God honored that desire.

We prayed about it and slept on it and I woke up in the middle of the night with a nightmare about one of the houses. (I seriously wish I had never gone in there, it was absolutely gorgeous but there was something majorly demonic in that house. All 3 of us were creeped out and had hair standing up before we even talked to each other about it. I dreamed about it last night too. Creepy.) We decided we had nothing to lose, so we made a low offer. It was already listed below what the seller had paid for it years ago and she had just dropped the price, so we weren't optimistic.

We kept looking at houses as the negotiations went on with the seller. She counter-offered, we counter-offered, she counter-offered, and when reached our predetermined limit we decided to walk away. It wasn't meant to be. We had less than 2 hours before we left town. We went back to our only other option, a distant second, and took pictures and tried to figure out how to make it work. If we finished the attic and kept our clothes in the hallway closet we could do it. We didn't love it, but it was affordable. We decided to sleep on it and maybe make an offer in a couple of days.

Then again maybe we weren't supposed to buy a house. Micah suggested Skylar and I stay in South Carolina and he move to Drum alone until he deploys. Or we could live in a hotel until we got our 2 bedroom house on post, even if it really did take 9 months.
So we were going to fly home without a house. We were really discouraged and completely exhausted.

We got in the car to leave, and Doris had of course been on her phone this entire time. We just tuned her out after awhile. She turned to us and said "Let's go over to YOUR house now and take some pictures. They accepted." WHAT???? I don't remember Micah's reaction because I was busy screaming. The seller wanted to get rid of her house and was willing to take a huge loss. It was ours! Talk about an emotional roller coaster.

And here it is......

We still can't believe it's ours. We feel like God answered our prayers ten fold. Not that we aren't terrified by the responsibility. We are.
I am so looking forward to having lots of company, hosting play-dates and dinner parties. I want everyone I know to plan a trip to Niagara Falls or Montreal and come visit us. I'll serve you breakfast on the sun porch:)

I won't post all the pictures on here, but I will give you a sneak peak of my favorite room of all. The door to the left leads to a butler's pantry with floor to ceiling cupboards and drawers. I won't be able to fill them all and I've never had that problem.
On the other end of the kitchen is a nook with a butcher block counter perfect for a baking station. I'm feeling inspired already.

If you want an excuse to see New England, this is your chance:)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Naptime Crafts.

I am a mom and I am 30. You know what that means?

It means I wear Bermuda shorts to partially conceal my spider-veiny legs. It also means I only wash my hair every other day because it's too much work to dry and straighten it every day. It means my eyebrows don't get plucked like they should and my toenail polish is always half gone. It also means I go to zumba with all the other desperate housewives where we pretend we're 18 in a club and shake our jiggly tail feathers in the semi-dark with a disco ball going and leave feeling fabulous even though we only burned 40 calories. (Every time I hear Tik Tok I lose control and break out my zumba moves. It doesn't matter where I am. I have no dignity.)

It also means I do nap time crafts. Lots of them.

I always have something in the works, but lately it's been several things all at once. My craft supplies are taking over the (very small) apartment. I don't post about many of my projects on here because 1) I honestly don't consider myself a crafty person, I just like to make things and 2) I don't want to turn this into a craft blog and get crafty people's expectations up and 3) when I think about crafts I think about crocheted Kleenex box holders and we all know those are just stupid. Then again, maybe when I'm a retiree I will suddenly feel an overwelming urge to outfit my bathroom in crocheted splendour. I'll find out when I get there.

Anyway, I've had several inquiries about Skylar's birthday outfit, so I thought I would share how I made it so that you can see how easy it is. It all started last year on her first birthday when I ordered a "1" shirt. Thus began the tradition of the number shirt/tutu combo. I plan to dress her in a number shirt and tutu every year until she is either too old or too cool, whichever comes first.

The thing is, once I got her shirt in the mail, I realized I could have totally made that myself. So this year I did.

All you need is a t-shirt or onsie. I already had a leftover pack of white 18 month onsies on hand, so that's what I used. Then grab some fabric, whatever you like. I got mine at Hobby Lobby for 40% off, which made it $4 a yard. You don't need much fabric, a half of a yard is enough to make a batch of these. Don't forget to pre-shrink your shirt and your fabric. Then pick up a pack of this stuff:

There are so many different kinds of iron-on adhesives out there, some of them come on bolts. I honestly don't know what the differences are. Just ask the people that work there and they can explain it to you. I would advise against the heavy duty kind since it would be too stiff for this.

All I did was go to Word and pick a font and then I blew up a giant number 2 (I think it was font size 580). Then you just print it off and cut it out. (I actually had to trace it off the computer screen because our printer isn't working. again.) You could certainly draw it by hand if your cool like that. Once you've cut it out, you have your pattern.

Just follow the instructions that come with your iron-on adhesive (I won't put it all on here, just know it's very straight forward). Then stitch around the perimeter with a sewing machine to make it machine-washable. You can whip-stitch it by hand but that takes FOREVER. I know because I tried it. Find someone with a machine if you don't have one. Or find an adhesive that is strong enough to be washed without reinforcing it with stitching.

I had a three pack of onsies, so of course I made three of them......

........And I think that is enough craft nerdiness for one day!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Skylar is two today and pretty excited about it!

You'd be pretty excited too if your birthday festivities lasted for four straight days and you had endless packages coming to the door for you with lots of fun things like art supplies, horsey pajamas and lollipops the size of your head!

Not to mention a sweet new ride in your favorite color with a K-State wildcat on it!

You might think you were a princess if you were hand-fed cupcakes.....

And given more kisses than your little cheeks could hold.......

You would probably think you were a pretty big deal if you had all kinds of family gathered around.....

.....and they all sang the "happy" song to you while you just soaked it up.

Skylar is pretty secure in her cuteness after this weekend.

It would take a lot to convince her that she isn't the center of the universe. She's pretty confident that she is.

Soon enough she'll find out the truth...that there are lots of other people in the world just as important as her, and they aren't all going to tell her how pretty she is and want to be her friend. Hopefully she'll be grateful for her blessed little life. But for now, being two is pretty great and there isn't much to worry about.
She is one of the sweetest and most affectionate kids I've ever met. She's been giving kisses since she was 9 months old, and now she saw "Yuv you" to top it off. She's so compliant and she rarely ever gets upset and has a tantrum. If she doesn't like what you tell her, she only cries for about 10 seconds and it's over. It totally makes up for her difficult infancy.

We've been having so much fun, this past year has just flown by! I could just eat her up. All 25 pounds and 4 ounces of her.

I think we'll keep her.


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