Monday, February 24, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken pot pie is a meal we usually reserve for Sunday. With the prep work involved, it usually doesn't cut it for a weeknight dinner. We got lucky yesterday and had a nice reprieve from the cold. Temperatures got into the mid-sixties so we opted to spend the day outside and fire up the grill.

The cold weather returned all too quickly, and now they're forecasting snow tomorrow night. From spring weather back to snow in two days time... is it just me or has Mother Nature gotten really flaky?





My mother requested I make them chicken pot pie. She and Dad both love my chicken pot pie so I doubled the recipe for all of us to share. Good food and family... it just doesn't get any better than that!

Chicken Pot Pie recipe

Ingredients

1.5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
3 carrots, sliced*
2 celery stalks, sliced*
3/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 of medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 pie crusts
** I usually don't measure these exactly, I just eyeball it. I like a 50/50 ratio of meat to vegetables.

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large stock pot, combine uncooked chicken and vegetables. Fill with water until ingredients are just covered. Over high heat, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes. Do not overcook or your chicken will be tough. 




Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Once onion is cooked, add all seasonings.  Add flour, stir and cook the paste that is formed for about a minute. Slowly add chicken broth and milk, stirring constantly. Once incorporated, cook until thickened, stirring frequently. 




Drain chicken and vegetables. Line a pie pan with one of your pie crusts. Top with drained chicken and vegetables. Slowly pour gravy over the filling. Top with remaining pie crust. Use a fork to seal the edges and cut vents into the center of your pie. Place pie on a baking sheet to prevent spills in the bottom of the oven. (Not fun. Learned this from experience.) Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.




Enjoy! 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tough Decisions

After a lot of thought and agonizing, I've decided to leave my job of nine years. This wasn't a snap decision and it certainly wasn't taken lightly. After doing a lot of thinking, number crunching and even more thinking, my husband and I decided that now would be as good a time as any for me to leave the workforce, finish school and stay at home with Bubba.

There are many people that will (and have) made comments about how bad the economy is, don't you think you're making a mistake walking away from a decent paying job, what will you do if you can't find another one, etc... And all I can say is, I refuse to be afraid of the economy. Yes, not having enough money to pay the bills is a very scary thought. However, we have made sure that we are financially secure enough for me to be able to do this. We will have to budget, yes, and in some cases, we will have to do without. But all of the necessaries we will be able to pay for.

Credit: www.mycutegraphics.com


There are multiple factors behind the decision. The biggest factor, for me, was the blurring of lines. When work starts to consume your entire life, it's time to look at making a change. When everything at work take priority over everything else in your life, your children's lives, your husband's lives, it's time to look at making a change. When you cannot sleep at night because you are going over every little thing you didn't get done at work and going over every little thing you need to get done, it's time to look at making a change. When you get home from work and are so mentally drained that it takes you hours to unwind from the day, it's time to look at making a change.

So for now, the plan is to take a few months off, work on finishing school, spend time with my little man, take care of the house, work in my garden and to refocus. Refocus on what really matters -- family. Refocus on my life, our lives, us. And if that sounds selfish, so be it. When Robert starts school in the fall, I will more than likely rejoin the workforce. Hopefully on a part-time basis.

Boring post today, hopefully I'll have a better one tomorrow.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Day


Well, we finally got some snow worth talking about. This is the most snow we've gotten in at least four years. So far, we've gotten 12 inches and they're saying over the course of the next 6 hours, we may get another 6 inches.



It's very rare for me to miss work but I haven't had a real snow day with my kids in ages. Actually, now that I think about it, Bubba has never had a real snow day. Sure, we've gotten snow in his four and half years, but for the most part, we've only gotten a dusting of snow here and there. For now, we're staying in and staying warm but we'll get out and play for a bit later on in the day.

Bubba snuck into our bed in the middle of the night. So peaceful!



With everything buried under snow, it's hard to foresee springtime, with everything green, lush and flowering. It's amazing to think that in two month's time, I'll be sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings. I know that I have a lot of work to do now, even with all the snow, to be ready for spring. I know this, but my mind still has a hard time comprehending it. "Plant these now? With the ground still frozen? Craziness."  

I'm thankful for the extra day at home. In addition to fun with the kids, it will give me a little more time to take care of some things I had planned for the weekend. I've got seeds I'd like to get started and I'm hoping to make the final arrangements on a set of utility shelves I'm building to hold my flats. 



If you don't already know your frost date, you can look it up here. And there's a lot of great suggestions on when to plant (including when to start and transplant seedlings) here. I've gotten my planting schedule worked out, for the most part.

This weekend, I'll be starting onions, celery, peppers and lettuce indoors. I'll start my tomatoes the following week. My next batch of seedlings will be in March - cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, and squash. The remainder of my seed - beans, carrots and peas will be sown directly. I've never grown lettuce and I think I may try direct sowing some as well as transplanting. I'll experiment and see what works best. 

I cannot stress enough what a great resource local cooperative extensions are! They have a wealth of information specific to your area, will take any questions you might have and if they don't have the answer will research it and get back to you. Many also offer low-cost (or free) soil testing. If you haven't checked out your local extension office, here's a directory. I'll be attending two "Sustainable Gardening" classes offered by my extension office in March. I'm really looking forward to it.





Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Learning to Knit

Whew, the last week has been exhausting and feels like it's flown right by. Working in the grocery business can be trying at times but I'm thankful that I'm able to provide for my little ones and I enjoy the customers and vendors that I work with.

In my down time, I like to find quiet ways to let out some of the day's tension and stress. Some days, I find it difficult to change gears from the fast-paced work front to the slow comforts of home. Getting out in the garden is my go-to way to wind down but currently there's not much doin's in the garden.

A bag I crocheted for Banana Girl


In the winter months, when I'm not planning my garden or nurturing seedlings, I crochet. I've been crocheting since I was 7. My mother can crochet anything. She's the one that got me started. I'm still a novice compared to her skilled hand but I do enjoy it.

Blanket Punkey knitted for Bubba
One thing that my mother cannot do that I've always wanted to learn is to knit. My mother-in-law, Punkey, is an amazing knitter and some of her creations have filled me with awe. I found some videos on YouTube and picked up a couple of cheap knitting needles to try to teach myself.

Another blanket Punkey knitted.


I found casting on to be a bit tricky and was close to giving up when I couldn't quite get it.. but I perservered and was finally, after dropping the needles about a hundred times and getting the yarn tangled a hundred more, able to get it. I feel like I'm getting the hang of the basic stitches. I'm practicing nightly and making Bubba a scarf as a result.

Scarf I'm working on. My stitches aren't quite even... Oops!

Once I'm finished with that, I should be comfortable enough to move onto the purl stitch. I've been browsing the web looking at knitting patterns and I'm very excited to finally be learning. Who knows, by next winter I may be able to knit the kids (and myself) some sweaters. It's so much more thrilling to use something you've made by hand yourself than to pick something up off a sales rack.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mother-in-Laws

I think we've all heard those horrible stories about mother-in-laws. About how overbearing, controlling and malicious they could be. About how miserable they could and would make your life. Maybe all those stories are baloney or maybe I'm one of the lucky few. Because my mother-in-law is wonderful.

Punkey stayed at home with her six kids. She and her husband (who passed before I ever got to meet him) put all of their kids through private school, shuffled the kids back and forth to swim meets, soccer practices, etc., came home and cooked dinner every night and kept the house spotless in the meanwhile. 


Bubba, with his Johnny Rockets hat. February 2, 2014.

She's got a lot of spunk and verve. She's an amazing story-teller. That sold me from day one -- I've always been a sucker for a good story. She's very adventurous and amazing with kids. Hands down, when it comes to advice with kids, she's always spot on.

And the kids? They adore her. So of course they weren't going to pass up a lunch invitation from Grandma! We went to Johnny Rockets. (Yes, yes, I know, it's terrible for you. But we only go maybe twice a year.) And this is how GENIUS my mother-in-law is... Knowing in advance that the kids would get restless waiting for the food, she brought a game with her for us to play while we waited.


Banana Girl and Punkey. February 2, 2014.

It wasn't anything fancy. It didn't have all the bells, whistles and noise that most games these days have. It was a simple dice game called "Left, Center, Right." The object is to win the jackpot in the middle. If you roll a "L", you pass one of your coins to the left, "C" you put your coin in the jackpot, "R" you pass to the right and if you roll a dot, you get to keep your coins. The kids enjoyed playing and before we knew it, our food was being served. 

It's amazing that some of the simplest things can keep the kids happy, entertained and quiet. What could have become a stressful situation was totally prevented, resulting in a relaxing, pleasant lunch for us all. I can't say enough how thankful I am to have been blessed with such a great woman for a mother-in-law!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stocking up on books

Books have always had a magical quality to me. There is something so soothing and comforting in reading a well-thumbed book. Losing yourself in a story, absorbing new-found information... it's, well, magical. For as long as I can remember I have been reading anything I could get my hands onto. So I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that my favorite place on earth (besides home) is our local library.


Bubba at the library, February 2, 2014


As a child, I would pore over titles, debating which of the hundreds of wonderful books I should take home with me. I always limited my selection to three. A quick trip to the library would take hours. Thankfully, my father is a patient man and understood my love of reading.

Banana Girl's "Potato Pal", January 30th, 2014

My children, too, have a love for reading. I have read to them since they were babies. During the winter months, it's not unusual for us to go to the library 2-3 times a week. Our library has a lot of great programs for kids. Our favorite is the Terrific Thursdays where you can make a craft as a family, free of charge. They've had some interesting ideas, that's for sure.



With the weather being so cold, we've been stocking up on books. Here's today's latest loot. (Obviously I don't stick with only 3 books anymore! Ha!) I'm really looking forward to spending some time poring over them. If anyone has any suggested books to read, I'd love to hear it!