Monday, September 30, 2013

A Few of His Favorite Things

Today Ben is officially closer to 40 than he is to 30. In honor of his 36th birthday, Kelsey and I put together a this presentation about his "Favorite Things".

Acting by Kelsey
Singing by Anita
Words by Anita
Music by someone else who is famous and I can't remember his name right now...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Candid Cook: Taco Seasoning

Have you ever done sand art? You know, where you take those little clear plastic containers and fill them with different colored sand?

Yeah, this is better than that. In what way, you ask? Well, here's why:

1) It smells better.
2) You can make it over and over again.
3) You don't have to figure out what to do with it when you're done. It goes in the spice cupboard.
4) It tastes amazing and you'll save a ton of money on MSG-filled taco seasoning packets.

This is the way my taco seasoning looks before I shake it up. I love this recipe, and my sister wants to pin it (thank you Pinterest!) and so it becomes a blog post.  Happy day!

Taco Seasoning

1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp cumin
4 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
Optional: If you like your taco seasoning spicy, add 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Put it in a small container with a lid, then shake it up good! It makes a little over a 1/2 cup seasoning.

Home Improvement Post #1

With the help of the family, I spent Friday night and a big portion of Saturday working on the house. There is a lot to do and most of the flooring is being replaced. The kitchen and hall currently have vinyl stick-down tiles, and the carpets throughout most of the house have been cut up and/or stained. Because the tile is going in this week, my goal was to get the kitchen, hallway, and foyer walls done. This was no mean feat. Primarily because of this visual monstrosity:

I know what some of you are thinking.
"So what? It's navy blue. Not a color I might have picked, but what's the big deal?"
The big deal is that they painted OVER the existing wallpaper. 

Fortunately, we know people.
Kind people.
Talented people.
And this guy, right here, really saved our bacon this weekend.

This is Shane. He has some mad texturing skills, as well as the equipment and know-how to address the problem we had in the kitchen. For the sake of time and sanity, we REALLY didn't want to have to strip the walls. Thanks to him, less than 4 hours after we bought the house, the problem was solved.

Saturday morning Kelsey and I primed the kitchen, and Saturday afternoon Ben and I painted it this lovely shade called "Ocean Cottage" or something like that.

This color makes me happy.

And even better - here's a closeup of the texture work that Shane did. Looks great, doesn't it?

In fact, we liked the color SO much that we decided to transform the dark brown, cave-like walls of the foyer by putting it in here, too.

It would look better without that 70's tile on the floor. Don't worry, it's coming out this week.

Ben is such a great painting buddy!

And while we still have a loooong way to go this week, it's moments like this that make me smile.

I can't decide which I like more: Kelsey's dramatic pose or Olivia's expression. Both are pretty typical of my girls. I love them both!

For my next project, we're tackling the master bedroom... here's a sneak peak:

Looks like fun, dunnit?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Something to Smile About

Well, it's official. Not quite as bad as birthing a baby, but close. We have bought a new house, and our first ever foreclosure. Pretty soon I'm going to be posting before and after pics as we are renovating the inside, but for now, here's a few pictures and a funny Kelsey-ism.

Here's the front. It's not going to change much in the next two weeks.

And the backyard:

And our new monster-sized shed:

Earlier this week, Kelsey came up and started talking to me. We had the following conversation:

Kelsey: Mom, I think I need a trip to the spa.

Me: What do you need at the spa?

Kelsey: A foot massage, and a back massage, and those cucumbers on the eyes, I'll eat those.

I could go for two out of three of those myself. I'll let you guess which two.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Candid Cook: Perfect Grilled Chicken

Ben and I make a great team, if I do say so myself. There are several meals we make that just wouldn't be the same if we weren't both working on it.  Grilled chicken is one of those things. With my prowess in the kitchen and his skill at the grill (notice that cool rhyme there?) we have perfectly grilled chicken 98% of the time. Not too dry, not overcooked, perfectly seasoned... yum! And the flavor is just right. You can eat it alone, on a salad, on a quesadilla, shredded in an enchilada, in chicken salad - you name it. But I'm not telling you this to rub it in. I'm going to tell you how to do it. I can tell your excited, but try to contain yourself.

Before I get started on the marinade, there's a step that you cannot skip. It's a big part of the secret to getting evenly cooked grilled chicken. This is my favorite part, actually, because I get to beat something with a heavy mallet. Well, beat it gently. You aren't trying to turn your chicken to mush, after all.  Here's what you do:

First, trim your chicken. I like all the tendon-y stuff off mine and the fat trimmed. This is what is left when I'm done.

Next, loosely cover the chicken breast with a piece of plastic wrap and grab your meat mallet.

Firmly (but gently) pound the chicken breast with the smooth side of the mallet. I start at the thickest side and work my way down to the thinner tip. I don't usually flatten the tip at all, but try to make the rest of the chicken breast the same thickness as the end.

Like so. See how nice and uniform that is? It accomplishes a couple of things. Most importantly, it makes it possible for the chicken to cook evenly so the middle will be done before the edges dry out. Secondly... well, take a look at the next picture.

See how the thick part of the chicken breast breaks up a little? That's good! While you want your chicken intact enough that it won't fall apart on the grill, those little cracks you have created will help soak up the marinade you are about to make.

On to the marinade recipe... You'll need some ingredients.

Perfect Grilled Chicken

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 Tbsp apple juice
6 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 heaping Tbsp minced garlic (4 cloves?)
1 tsp Nature's Seasons (or salt/pepper to taste)

Place the chicken in a gallon-size ziplock bag and add the marinade ingredients.

Squeeze the beg gently to mix well and lay it flat so the marinade will coat the chicken evenly.  See all those cracks at the bottom I was talking about? There are bits of garlic all over the place, too - yum!

After 2-4 hours, you can grill these babies. Warm up and clean your grill. Ben also likes to spray the grate with non-stick cooking spray so the chicken won't stick. According to the Grill Master, you have to cook it on a lower heat and flip frequently so the chicken won't get too black on the edges. He also cuts a slit down the middle once the outside is nicely done so he can see inside and check to make sure the insides are not pink.

Once you remove the chicken from the grill, let it rest for 5 minutes or so before serving. It just makes it better. I don't know why, though I'm sure there's science behind it somewhere.

Enjoy for dinner, leftovers, and a midnight snack!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

And then there was one...

My question is this: 

How will he be able to talk and eat when they are all gone and thee new ones haven't come in yet?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Things I Hate About Moving #1-3

As our family prepares for the upcoming move, I am reminded of the many things I dislike about this endeavor. Here's a few that are on my mind tonight.

1) Rooms that look like this ------------>

I mean, seriously. When the den looks like this, I have to ban the little guys from going in there. Fortunately the weather has been cooler and I can throw them outside on the covered patio instead. Rain or shine.

2) A barren pantry. Because I knew we were moving, I haven't been "stocking up" on the little things while grocery shopping. Tonight, this translated into running out of taco seasoning (and the ingredients to make more). And, since desperation is the father of invention, we are having "fajita enchiladas" instead. Will they be good? We'll see. But it's just not the same.  And speaking of dinner, that leads me to the next item on my list.

3) Late dinners. Normally, at THIS time:
we are finished with dinner. Not tonight. Tonight the aforementioned enchilada experiment was sitting on top of the cold oven at this time. Maybe we'll get to eat by 7:00. Is this entirely due to moving? Well, I spent so much time talking to mortgage people and insurance companies, that I just couldn't get moving to start dinner before 5:30. And then, of course I was out of things that I needed to cook with and had to come up with a backup plan. So, yes, I'm going to blame this one on the move.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Summer Veggie Feta Dish

Ben and I love our veggies THIS way... The feta adds a lot of flavor and the Italian dressing makes it all stick together - yum!

Bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes are our faves, but you could also use zucchini or yellow squash, mushrooms, anything your little heart desires.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Do Grown Ups Do?

I was tucking Connor into bed tonight and he asked me, "Mommy, what will I do when I grow up?"

I turned the question back around to him and said, "I don't know, Connor. What do you think grown ups do?"

After he answered, I was tucking in the girls and on impulse asked them the same question. Here are their responses in the order received:

Connor: They can make food all by themselves! (This is an appropriate answer since he's always asking me to make him something to eat.)

Kelsey: They boss people around and make them work.

Olivia: Why? Why? Why? They get a job. They get married. They have kids. They go to the grocery store and buy food. Why?


Connor likes to eat the fresh veggies that we cut up for salads and dinner. Cucumbers and bell peppers are his favorite. I didn't think much of it until I was halving jalepenos this afternoon. I walked out of the kitchen for a minute, and the next thing I knew Connor was looking at me in desperation and said. "I need water!" 

Then I knew...

Two glasses of milk and some bread later, the barfing started. 

At least his mouth quit burning.

The Best Laid Plans...

Anita being very businesslike with the kids this morning: "Here's what our plan is for today..."

Kelsey interrupting with an earnest plea: " Please say there's ice cream involved."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles

We've got the trains and automobiles... still working on the planes.

Photo: Having fun with trains!

These toys you can build with are so much cooler than the stuff the girls went through - ponies, Barfies Barbies, etc. I just don't get the point behind having gender-specific toys. If they like 'em, let them play with 'em! I just wish I had figured it out sooner. And while my boys and girls most definitely play with the same toys differently (i.e. my sons have enjoyed cradling the baby doll before sitting on its head), it's all good!

The One that Survived...

Several weeks ago, Kelsey found that our flowers in front had five caterpillars munching away on it. I gave her permission to capture and raise two of them. She named them Sara and Pokey. We didn't take any pictures of the ones we caught, but they looked something like this:

Picture from here.

After some intense research on Google, we were able to identify the critters as Buckeye caterpillars. Kelsey fed them, and changed their food (plants), cleaned out the jar a few times, and watched them every day. Before long, Pokey had formed into a chrysalis overnight. A couple days later, Sara followed suit.

In the process, we learned something really cool about these caterpillars: they shed those spiky things when they make their chrysalis. Again, we didn't get a picture, so we are borrowing someone else's here. You can kind of see the ball of spikes behind the chrysalis in this picture:
Picture from here.

After about another week, Kelsey found the second chrysalis empty. Sara had emerged!

We looked closely in the jar, and sure enough - we had a butterfly.

(Which eventually found its way out of the jar.)

It was so much fun watching it, so we took a video, too!

Kelsey also found this little 8-legged critter while she was on the steps watching Sara. She named him Jasper. And then she killed him. Black widows are not allowed to live in our yard.

And Pokey? Pokey never came out of the chrysalis. We assume one of the freakishly intense 100 degree days roasted him alive. Kelsey was really sad and cried about it.  She's such a tenderhearted gal.