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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Newlywed in the Kitchen Recipe #13: Popeye Spinach Muffins

I've been really struggling lately to be sure I'm getting some fruits and veggies in my diet that has recently consisted a lot of peanut butter, saltine crackers, and string cheese.  So when a friend posted a recipe for muffins that were jammed full of spinach, I knew I had to try them.  They turned out to be really good, a recipe that I will be keeping on the shelf for sure!

The Boy from Texas Rating:  4.

The Boy from Texas Comments:  "It smells so good in here."  "Wow, these are really good."  *After I told him the reason they are green is they contain a whole carton of spinach* "Well, maybe they're not as good as I thought.

Popeye Spinach Muffins
[Original post here]

1 C all purpose flour
1 C whole wheat flour
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I only had cinnamon sugar, so I used that)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C canola oil
3/4 C milk
1 (6 oz) bag fresh baby spinach
1/2 C mashed banana (about 2 bananas)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 and line two 12-muffin cups with liners.  (I did't have these, I just sprayed them with Pam).  

Whisk together dry ingredients in large bowl:  flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.

In blender (I used my magic bullet), place oil, milk and spinach.  Blend on high for about 30 seconds or until completely pureed.  Add banana and vanilla, blend on low just to mix.

Pour green mixture into dry mixture and fold together with rubber spatula until completely combined.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full and bake 18-20 minutes.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Advice for the Bride

I don't know about you guys, but my mailbox is full these days of wedding invitations and baby shower invites.  As I know jack about babies (which should make my own shower and the rest of my life very interesting), I feel like I did learn a few things about being a bride with my own wedding experience.  In light of that, I thought I'd share my wisdom in today's blog.

1.  The first thing you'll need is a rough head count of how many guests you expect.  

I've watched lots of girls try and start planning by figuring out a reception venue or figuring out a date or picking a church.  I promise you, before you can do anything else, you need a rough head count of how many people are going to be there.  That's the first question any venue or church is going to ask you.  How do you get that rough head count, you ask?  I made a rough list.  Started off with family, added in family friends, added in my friends, and then did the same for The Boy from Texas.  We weren't right on, but honestly, for jotting down names off the top of our head, we were pretty close.  You can pretty much assume about 40-60% of the people you invite will show up.  Start here, and it will make your next several steps easier.

2.  Set a budget.

For the love of all things good, set a budget.  I know, I know, this is not the fun part.  It's much more enjoyable to taste cakes and look at pretty magazines and plan bachelorette parties.  The most important thing you can do is set down and come up with a budget.  Be realistic about it.  And then make yourself stick to it.  I promise you, if you don't do one, you'll rack up $15,000 worth of bills without blinking.  And if you start cheating early on your budget, you'll wind up $15,000 over your set limit before it's said and done.

3.  Decide up front what items are important to you.

This is related to budget setting.  In a perfect world, you'd get exactly what you wanted at your wedding.  For those of us living in reality, that ain't gonna happen.  So you need to figure out what things are important to you.  For example, having a reception (food and band) that could fit a very large guest list was important to us.  We chose to make that a priority and spend less elsewhere to make that happen.  For example, I did not put a single decoration in the church.  That didn't matter to me and I didn't care to spend my money there.


4.  Enlist talented family and friends.

This really should be the first thing on the list, because our family and friends made our wedding.  The Boy from Texas's grandma made the cake, we just paid for the ingredients.  His cousin did all of our flowers, we paid the flower cost and gave her a totally insufficient little tip.  My aunts did all of the snacks at the reception.  My brother cooked at the rehearsal dinner.  Our neighbors and friends helped us collect decorations and put them all together at the reception venue.  Three of my friends served as our photographers.  Without these people being willing to share their talents, our wedding would have been a major bust.

5.  Get a thank you note schedule and stick to it!

First off, if you have any thought that you can get away with no thank you notes, you better think again.  At least in my part of the world, not sending a wedding thank you is like flipping someone off in church.  You just don't do it.  So, knowing that, I made a schedule.  I was fortunate that my showers and wedding were pretty spread out.  After each shower, I gave myself one month to have those thank you notes done.  I did the same for wedding gifts.  I wrote it in my planner and if that meant I had to stay up until midnight to get them finished, I made sure they were each done within 1 month of the gift arriving.

One more helpful thing here that I did not do, but will be doing for my baby shower.  If you print labels for either your shower invites or wedding invites (I hand addressed wedding, but the hostesses printed them for the shower), print an extra set of those address labels.  That-a-way when it's time to send the thank you note for gifts, you've already got labels ready to stick on the envelope.  That would have saved me a ton of time!

6.  Consider a holiday shower.

I was fortunate to have lots of people who wanted to celebrate our wedding with showers.  One such group was the ladies from my old law firm in Albuquerque.  Instead of a normal shower, they wanted to give me a theme shower.  I would chose a theme and their gifts would all follow that.  Some examples were a tool shower or a cookbook shower or a kitchen gadget shower.  I opted for a holiday shower, and it was the best!  I ended up getting some really great holiday decor (Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas) that I never would have bought myself!  It was a lot of fun and something I had never heard of before!

7.  Think about multiple photographers.

Now, understand that this one will implicate #2 and #4 above.  Photographers are expensive.  Lots of people spend over $2,000 on one photographer.  If you are doing that, the thought of hiring more than one will make you break out in hives.  What I did, however, was ask three of my friends to photograph the day.  It could not have been better.  They sort of divided up the tasks--for example, Ag Teacher Friend went out where the boys were getting ready to do those shots.   High School Friend took care of a bunch of the detail pictures.  Super Mom handled our post-wedding photos.  We ended up with so many amazing photos of so many different things and different angles, it was unreal.

8.  Take time for a few post-wedding shots.

We took almost all of our photos before the wedding.  Afterwards, we quickly snapped a few at the church with the wedding party and our families, and then everyone was off.  While the guests headed to the reception (where drinks and food were already being served), Super Mom took The Boy from Texas and I off for maybe 10 or 15 minutes of post-wedding photos.  These shots are hands down some of my favorite of the day, and it was really great to be able to take a beat, look at each other, and breathe, before heading into the chaos of a reception.

9.  Assume you will have one hour less than you have to be ready.

I honestly don't know where the time went our wedding day.  We were way ahead of schedule even after running the Wedding Day 5K and having breakfast.  But I think that all the girl talk got us distracted and I swear I blinked and it was time to go.  Just tell yourself you need to be ready one hour before you do so that you've got plenty of time and are not rushing around.

Wedding Day 5K
10.  Forget all the advice you get and just do what you want.  It's your day!

People are all full of opinions about what you should do and not do, myself included, obviously!  People told me the Wedding Day 5K was crazy, I loved it.  People said we invited too many guests, I wouldn't have left anyone off.  People said four months to plan would never be enough, it was plenty.

Take what works.  Ignore what doesn't.  And move on.  Every couple is different, every wedding is different, and there is no advice that you have to take.  (Except the thank you note thing....write those!)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Funny Conversations with The Boy from Texas (Part VI)

I know we just did one of these, but seriously, I had 5 more in the last week.  It's been interesting at the Little House on the Prairie.

TBFT:  You don't throw up correctly.
Me:  Excuse me?
TBFT:  I mean, it sounds more like coughing and hacking.  It's like you're hacking up.
Me:  Um.....sorry?


*One Saturday morning after I had started my day "hacking up"*
Me:  Okay, I made breakfast.
TBFT:  Awesome, what are we having?
Me:  Eggs and cheese in a tortilla.
TBFT:  What, no bacon?

(FYI.....probably NOT the best thing to say in this situation.)


*Meeting our doctor for the first time.*
Doctor:  I know this is your first, so there are no stupid questions.  There may be a lot you guys don't know yet.
TBFT:  Just assume we know nothing, doc.  Absolutely nothing.


*Looking at baby items for our registry.*
TBFT:  This is stupid.  There is too much crap and it's all way too expensive.
Me:  I know, but we have to choose a carseat.
TBFT: *Almost screaming.*  Well then I like this one.  Look at that, you could probably throw it against the wall and the baby would still be fine.
Me:  You stop that right now or we are leaving this store!
TBFT:  What did I say?

(And now we are on some Child Protective Services watch list.)

*Leaving said store after looking at baby items.  Woman comes in lugging a big box with something baby related to return.  The Boy from Texas turns around to gawk at her.*
Me:  What are you doing?
TBFT:  I need to see what she's bringing back so we don't put it in our list.


*After a morning of me throwing up (you see this is pretty much all we talk about)*
TBFT:  I think maybe you should drink a beer.
Me:  What?!?
TBFT:  Yea, drink a beer.  Maybe that will help, there's carbohydrates in there.
Me:  You know what's in here causing this, right?
TBFT:  Oh, yea, I mean, probably one beer wouldn't hurt that much.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bad Calls

Last Saturday night, my hometown high school basketball team was playing for the State Championship.  The stage was set.  Small town boys from across the state took the floor at The Pit to duke it out for the blue trophy.  When the dust settled, my hometown team was defeated.  The worst part was that the game was lost on a last second questionable charging call made by an official that took away the winning basket we scored.

Sometimes, you get bad calls in life.  Politics causes you to be overlooked for a promotion.  Lung cancer appears in a body that never puffed a cigarette.  Infertility prevents a dream from becoming a reality.  A layoff spirals into bankruptcy.  The wedding ring you want to badly appears nowhere in sight.

You get bad calls in life.  It's a hard lesson to learn at 17, and I can tell you, it's not much easier to learn at 31.

I trust that these boys will learn that lesson and how to move on to great things.  I hope that they will realize the great accomplishment that bringing home a red trophy is, even when they wanted blue.  I hope they will appreciate the support of our tiny community that spent the last week hoping and cheering and painting red and white signs.  I hope they will relish the physical ability to play basketball at all, regardless of the outcome on the scoreboard.  I hope they will appreciate the friendships they have formed with their teammates.

Mostly, I hope they will spend the rest of their lives working hard, keeping their heads down, and fighting for whatever championships they seek to achieve.  Because sometimes, you get bad calls in life.  It's how you respond that will really matter.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Remembering the Green River

All the way back in 2012, I checked off a bucket list item by celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Chicago.  Today, my only celebration will be trying to get down a green smoothie containing spinach, so I thought it would be fun to look back and remember seeing the green river.

In case you don't know, every March, they dye the river green in Chicago to celebrate St. Patrick.  But more than that, the whole city turns out for a massive party.  Pubs open at 8:00 am.  There are parades.  Irish music everywhere.  Everyone wears green.  Green beer flows freely.  If you don't have this on your bucket list, get it added right now.  You won't regret it!

Looking back at these pictures make me smile.  ND Friend and Tiny Dancer had not yet started dating.  Today, they are less than 2 months away from welcoming in their first baby.  I had no idea The Boy from Texas even existed, and now, we're hitched and knocked up.  A lot can change in three years.  But I think if you're doing life right, at whatever stage, you can look back on great memories and look forward with anticipation for even better ones.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!

Friday, March 13, 2015

What's Been Going On 'Round These Parts

I know, I've been blogger MIA.  Here's what we've been up to.

- Despising daylight savings time.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love it in the afternoons.  When I get home from work and have plenty of sunlight left to walk the dogs, I think it's a great idea.  But when that alarm clock goes off and I have to be out of the house whilst it's still pitch black outside?  I hate it.  I cried when the alarm went off Tuesday morning.  It happened.

- Little Cowboy turned 8.  I know, you all want another session of Ask Little Cowboy.  I'll get on it.  Last weekend was his 8th birthday party.  It was Ninja Turtle themed (apparently these are still cool?)  He got a ton of great presents, including  go kart, ducks, lots of guns, money, and more.

- I'm still sick.  In case you were wondering,  yes, I still spend a great deal of time hurling in the bathroom, courtesy of one The Baby from Texas.  Please do not offer any more advice, I've tried it all.  At this point, we're just trying to survive until it ends.  Which it will, eventually.  It may be when the baby is born, but there will be an end.

- Budgeting.  Now that we're finally moved into our own house and settled, we've got our budget put together, which makes me feel good about life.  You know that I'm incredibly organized and a huge saver, so I'd be lying if I didn't admit knowing the budget is in use makes me sleep better at night.

- Watching Gold Rush.  Do you guys watch this show?  We love it.  There are very few shows we both like.....I'm more a fictional drama watcher (Chicago Fire, ER, The Night Shift) while The Boy from Texas prefers scientific/factual shows (How It's Made, Myth Busters, History Chanel).  There are, however, a few we both enjoy.  Gold Rush is #1 on that list.  (Others are North Woods Law, Incredible Dr. Pol, Fixer Upper, and Top Gear).

- Gearing up for the sheep sale.  The first lamb sale will be here one month from today.  We've been home a couple of times to try and help get things ready.  I cannot enter the lambing barn....apparently being around lambing can cause miscarriages in pregnant The Boy from Texas has helped my dad in there while I feed and what not outside.  I don't love being left out of where the real action is, but you do what you gotta do, I suppose.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Funny Conversations with the Boy from Texas (Part V)

There have been some good ones lately.  He's clever, that husband of mine.

TBFT:  *Inspecting my plate after dinner.*  You left three pieces of chicken.
Me:  I know, I don't want them.  I ate all the rice and vegetables.
TBFT:  Eat the chicken right now.
Me:  I don't want it.
TBFT:  You are not getting up from that chair until you eat the chicken.
Me:  I'm not eating the chicken.
TBFT:  I'm going to sit on your stomach and make you eat it, it's for the baby!
Me:  Think about that last statement.
TBFT:  Okay, I won't sit on your stomach, but eat the chicken.


TBFT: What is this stuff?
Me: Pudding and cool whip for a pie.
TBFT: Why is it sugar free and low fat? You need to gain weight, quit buying healthy food.
Me: Not sure, but I don't think pudding and cool whip are ever "healthy food."


*Ongoing discussion about wills and Godparents and guardians and all that adult stuff.*
Me:  Do you just want to worry about it later?
TBFT:  No.  This is the kind of stuff you have to talk about so that you're not a sucky parent.  We're talking about it!


*Watching America's Next Top Model.*
TBFT:  YOU watch this crap?
Me:  I know it's bad, but I just got sucked in.
*10 minutes later, he starts shaking his head.
TBFT:  I need this baby to be a boy. Please, a boy.


Me:  What will we do if our kid wants to play soccer?
TBFT:  Well, I guess that would be okay.  Not my favorite sport, but okay.
Me:  What will we do if our kid wants to rodeo?
TBFT:  Ugh.  We'd really have to talk about that idea.
Me:  What will we do if our kid wants to be in the band?
TBFT:  We'll bust his butt and tell him to be serious.


TBFT:  I don't like this shirt, it doesn't fit right.
Me:  Yea, your shoulders are too big, that's the problem.
TBFT:  *Giggles* You're the one that's going to be a problem for in a few months.


*Eating at this hibachi restaurant we like.
Me:  This is so good, the baby must like hibachi.
TBFT:  Good.
Me:  Maybe we're having an Asian baby.
TBFT:  We sure as heck better not be!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thin Places

You might remember that as part of my 15 in '15 list, I recently read Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.  In that book, there is one chapter called Thin Places that put forth an idea that I really loved.  Here's an explanation from the book.

"Thin places: places where the boundary between the divine world and the human world becomes almost nonexistent, and the two, divine and human, can for a moment, dance together uninterrupted. Some are physical places, and some aren't places at all, but states of being or circumstances or season."

This got me thinking about the thin places in my life.  Those times, circumstances, places where God felt so close.  And there were many.

The adoration chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas in College Station where I spent many nights praying and hoping and seeking peace about what the future would hold.  The morning I woke up and decided to completely change my planned law school and despite it being too late to really make that change, it worked out perfectly.  The Grotto at Notre Dame.  Riding horses across the open pasture. Seeing the worn kneeler used by St. John Paul II in Poland.  Praying with The Boy from Texas during our wedding ceremony.  Services at the Washington National Cathedral, built as a place of worship for all.

It is a beautiful thing, the thin places.  And as wonderful as those places and experiences are, we know that when even the thin line is gone and there is nothing separating the human from the divine, it will be even better.

Praise God for the thin places.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Newlywed in the Kitchen Recipe #12: Rosemary Chicken and Cornbread Dumplings

This is a recipe that I made a few times while single and I have to admit, I wasn't really quite sure what The Boy from Texas would think about it.  There is no beef, no potatoes it's healthy, and it came from Diabetic Living.  Well, happy to report, he approves!  I, however, failed to take a picture.   Maybe next time.

The Boy from Texas Rating:  4

The Boy from Texas Comments:  (1) We're eating what?  (2)  This is actually pretty good.  I'd eat it again.

Chicken and Cornmeal Dumplings

2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/3 C corn kernals (fresh or frozen)
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced  {You know I don't use onions.}
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 chicken thighs  {I don't care for dark meat, I use two chicken breasts.}
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 tablespoon flour
1 batch cornmeal dumplings (see below)

Combine first 9 ingredients (through chicken broth on the list) in the crock pot.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

After cooking, remove chicken to cutting board and chop, return to crock pot.

In small bowl, mix milk and flour, stir into the crock pot mixture.

Drop cornmeal dumping dough into mounds on top of crock pot mixture.  Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cornmeal dumpings
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon banking powder
Dash of salt
1 egg white
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon canola oil

In medium bowl, mix flower, cornmeal, baking powder, salt.  In small bowl, mix egg white, milk, and oil.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stir until moistened.

Monday, March 2, 2015

15 in '15 List Update: January and February

So the surprising addition of The Baby from Texas to the midst sort of slowed down my 15 in '15 accomplishments these first two months.  Other moms assure me that I'll stop throwing up and being so exhausted I'm asleep at 9:00 every night soon.....let's hope they are right because this list needs some work!

All total, I've made at least some form of progress on 8/15 items.  I'm on track (of ahead of schedule) for 5/15 items.  Here's the low down.

1.  Visit 2 new states.  (1/2 complete).

In January, I headed to Atlanta to speak at the Southern Dairy Conference.  Georgia has officially been checked off the list!

2.  Print Instagram photos in Chatbooks.  (No progress).

I have no reason for not having this done, especially after College Roomie gave me gift certificates to pay for this for Christmas.

3.  Read 12 more books.  (1/12 complete).

I just finished Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.  She's got the best writing style, she's hilarious, and I wish I knew her in real life so we could be friends!  Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book:

"It is not hard to decide what you want your life to be about.  What's hard is figuring out what you are willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about."

"When I pray, I ask for God's help, that I will be able to see something I wasn't able to see before, or at least something I wasn't able to see before, or at least trust Him to do the seeing."

4.  Run another half marathon.  (No progress....likely will not happen!)

So yea, having a baby in September means that half marathon I had planned for the end of July is kinda out of the question.  And the odds of me being ready for a half marathon by the end of the year after having a baby are probably not that good.  We'll play this one by ear (there is always Tulsa in November....) but it may get modified to be running a post-baby 5K.

5.  Take a fun trip for The Boy From Texas' 30th.  (No progress.)

So the plan for the big trip to either Hawaii or Ireland has been baby proofed as well.  We're kinda needing to keep vacation days for the big arrival, so we're looking at a few ideas of long weekend trips that might work better for us at this point in time.

6.  Plant flowers in our yard and the fun pots we got.  (No progress).

Well, the pots are officially placed on the front porch waiting for action, but because it keeps snowing, there is nothing planted yet.

7.  Cook 52 more recipes in the Newlywed in the Kitchen series.  (5/52 completed).

Things on this front were really rolling, and then morning sickness hit.  At this point, we're just excited if I can handle the smell of food and choke it down, so gourmet meals have been put on hold.  Hopefully I can get back on track though!

8.  Finish Uncle Black Belt's book.  (Some progress made).

We've been editing on this and hope to have the first four chapters done within the next month!

9.  Complete one study a month.  (2/12 completed.)

I really enjoy the app.  I'm not very techy, so I resisted for a long time, but several of my friends use it, so I decided to try!  It makes it so easy to do my daily reading, particularly when I'm on the road.

In January, I did the "New Day, New  You" study by Joyce Meyer.  It was a great way to kick off the New Year!

In February, I completed the "Breathe Spiritual Passing Into Your Marriage" study by Gary Thomas.  It was a great study to help you keep the focus on the bigger picture and purpose of your marriage.

10.  Complete 5 Pinterest projects (other than recipes).  (No progress.)

I'm hoping the baby pins I'm finding will motivate me to really get rolling on this.

11.  Knock off three more bucket list checkmarks.  (1/3 completed).

- Meet a blog friend in person.  I actually did this twice, first when I met Dairy Carrie in Atlanta (and learned we were both secretly pregnant and due on the same day!) and second when I met up with my long-time blog friend, Katy, in Washington DC.  Katy requested an official Figuring Out the Plot name, and I deem her Dixie in DC.  If you are not a reader of her blog, go here now!

Me and Dixie in DC posing in the subway station.

12.  Order books/prints/canvases of our wedding photos.  (No progress.)

Another that I just need to sit down and get cracking on!  We've pretty much got the new house decorated, except that we have one---ONE---wedding picture in the entire joint and it's a 5/7 in a frame on my nightstand.  Fail.

13.  Listen to the New Testament.  (Minor progress made).

I was doing so good on this one, listening as I drove to work, but then I somehow stopped doing that and kinda forgot.  Back on it now!  I've currently made it through the first ten chapters of Matthew.  Onward.

14.  Pray Novenas for 12 friends and send them notes to tell them about it.  (2/12 completed).

This is easily my favorite list item.

In January I prayed a Novena to St. Anne (the grandmother of Jesus who was barron for over twenty years herself) for a friend suffering through infertility.

In February, in honor of Valentine's Day, I prayed a Novena to St. Joseph (patron saint of worthy husbands) in honor of my single friends.

15.  Organize my pictures.  (No progress.)

When it's all cold and snowy and I'm stuck inside, this would be a great time to tackle this project.  What have I done instead?  Napped and watched junk tv.  Awesome.