Thursday, March 31, 2011

Oh Snappy Day - Fave Foto

Got this new Fave Foto idea from Kelli, and thought I'd share. There are several pictures that come to mind when I think of a favorite photo, but I am going to limit to just two this time, from the same "shoot" (if that's what you can call turning on your point-and-shoot camera in the back yard one summer evening).

For me, these pictures are a memory, which is what makes them so special. After all, isn't that why we're all so obsessed with good photographs? Photography used to capture only special moments - a wedding, perhaps a new baby, a senior portrait. Now, it captures the best memories of living. The day to day moments.

What Makes This Picture Special:

1. When it was taken: This photo is in my album "My Last Summer at Home." I was engaged, excited for a new life, but very mindful of all I would be leaving. This particular evening the entire family was outside. Mom and Angela were in the garden, the older boys were mowing the grass, and Dad was teaching the little guys how to drive a tractor. It was one of the last days of summer, still warm, yet with a chill, crisp breeze sneaking up your arms or down your neck at times. The girls and I were romping around by the swing set, tickling and chasing and falling down into the grass, exhausted. 

2. Who it was taken of: My Little Sunshine, Anna Sophia. There is a special bond between sisters. My sister, Angela and I are best friends. Being only 18 months apart helps that. My littlest sisters are my best friends, too, but each in their different ways. Aliza and I are pals. We just get each other, because we are so very alike. Anna, like Angela, is very different from me, though. And like Angela, I've found Anna brings out the better part of me - in a way only a sister can do. Age has nothing to do with it, and somehow, I want to be the best I can be when that little girl is by my side. 

3. The Picture Itself: As far as the actual picture goes, I think it's dead obvious this was taken by an inexperienced photographer on a lil point and shoot (yours truly). However, there are aspects of the picture that I do like. Her face is glowing. The setting sun cast a little ray over her face, giving it just a hint more warmth than the rest of the picture. Her orange shirt also sets off the deep green on the grass, and the blue in her jeans and the swing's ropes. I also love the big, silly grin in the first, and the half smirk in the second. (And the always-present baby doll head :)).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Multi-Grain Pancakes

The Newly Wed Kitchen is not the only cookbook I use. Our grocery bill would be much higher if it were, and I would be in the kitchen three times as long. The Newly Wed Kitchen is our way to enjoy a good meal at home that's a little out-of-the-ordinary. For the days in between I will either whip something together - like tonight's grilled chicken and spring mix salad - or use another, simpler cookbook.

One of my favorites is The $7 a Meal Cookbook that I received as a shower gift from my sister-in-love's mother-in-love. I love it. :)

We have only begun to scratch the surface of this great book. One of the things I love about it, is the basic grocery-list ingredients. Most items you will already find in your pantry or refrigerator, so it makes filling in those extra days on the menu-plan a bit easier. Monday night we enjoyed Multi Grain Pancakes.

In case you can't read the fine print, it cost only $1.38 to make 12 pancakes! That's definitely a price that makes our budget smile. They were just as delicious, too.

Budgeting has been an aspect of married life that I've actually enjoyed. It's a fun challenge to have X amount of dollars and X amount of needs. Daniel takes care of the "big" things, like insurance, car care and maintenance, medical bills, rent and utilities. I'm in charge of the more ordinary, day to day things that keep our household of two running smoothly. Like trash bags and bananas.

Initially I used the envelope system. As long as I could keep track of my receipts, divide up my purchases, and consistently balance my envelopes it worked fine. (Which means it worked for about 4 months). The downside of the envelope system is that you are carrying around a lot of cash. Many months I would turn into a frantic woman as I crunched numbers into a calculator, certain I had somehow lost $36.18 from our Grocery envelope. In short, I found it stressful. Once cash is gone, it's gone, and tracking it is a lot harder than simply keeping every receipt. 

We're now using, which reminds me of an online version of Quicken, only colorful and fun, with lots of neat features.

The goals are still the same, no matter what system we use, though: make what you need to live, but always live below your means.

Saving was something we knew we weren't doing enough of, so this year we've purposed to do more of that every month.

With five to seven part time jobs between the two of us, depending on the month, our stream of income is not steady, but making ends meet has not been hard. There has not been a single month where we have been biting our nails waiting for the next paycheck to clear. God has been good in providing us with many opportunities to make money, and also blessing us with spontaneous and sometimes anonymous gifts - financial and material.

But trusting God to provide the money is different that making the budget work. That's our responsibility. We're learning discipline and commitment are important to use the money as it's supposed to be used. We're learning sacrifice is important to use the money for needs before wants. We're learning planning is important, so that we don't spend all our money by the 5th of each month. It's an adventure. :)

There. I'm sure I've rambled enough. I really only meant to talk about those yummy $2 pancakes....

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Two Weekends With Ashley!

I have been waiting for these last two weekends to come since before Christmas... and now they've come and gone. While I can hardly believe it, I am also thankful for many great memories with my dear friend, Ashley.

She arrived Friday afternoon, and since Daniel was out of town we got all of Friday evening to catch up and do girly things - like go shopping and watch a cute movie! :)

Saturday our mutual friend, Josh, came to visit and we went to lunch at Chilli's, played Cranium, Scrabble, and Clue (not consecutively, though), hit the dollar (or $2) theater for replays of the latest Narnia movie, and had homemade pizza and beer (well, the guys had beer) for dinner. 

Sunday Daniel pulpit-filled for a congregation in Mount Holly, North Carolina. Ashley and Josh trooped with us, and then we headed to Greenville for the afternoon. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch, though, because we were all ravenous and old fashioned country cookin' sounded real nice. ;)

Once in Greenville, Ashley took some beautiful pictures of Daniel and I. They are not yet in my possession, but Ashley shared several at her blog, and they are fabulous! I am so excited to get them all and hang up some pictures of us where we aren't in wedding garb - though I am still in love with our wedding photos, mind you. 

Taking photos is hard work, whether you're smiling at the camera or holding the bag, but especially if you're the one behind the camera. :) We bought some penny candy and dollar sodas and sat down at a table to relax until we had to say good-bye to Ashley for weekend #1. 

The following Friday I drove down to the Gaffney Premium Outlets in South Carolina, to meet Ashley and her Aunt Kathy and cousin Jessie. Aunt Kathy sweetly treated us to a yummy chinese dinner, and then we found a few bargains in Bath and Body Works and Gap. We found lots to talk about the whole way home, and were still going strong when we did get home, so we put a movie in and watched what we could until our eyelids drooped too far shut to see anything. 

Saturday the rain came down all day long. We had a lazy morning and afternoon, then decided walking around the mall was better than sitting in the house, so we did that. We were greeted by a pair of florescent pink men's shorts by Ralph Lauren. I'm all for Ralph Lauren, but pink shorts are a little too much. Salmon, maybe. Soft pink, perhaps. Hot pink, no. (except, perhaps, on a trendy black man with a clean bald head and definitely a different shirt... I could see that.)

We tried Yoforia, which is now my latest and greatest obsession! Holy smokes is that stuff good! I'm ready to do free advertising. Our favorite flavor was definitely the taro, with peanut butter in second. Pineapple, banana, mango and dark chocolate were also good. 

Frozen yogurt in a dozen different flavors with custom toppings galore!
I may have over-reacted a lee-tle bit. But. It. Was. So. Good.

It was so good that Ashley and I had to go back on Sunday! Carolyn joined us this time, and we talked and laughed away a good portion of the afternoon, even after our bowls were empty.

And then it was time to say good bye. But with good friends, good-bye is never the end! We're already talking about summer vacation. :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Columbia Zoo

Friday the kids had school off for a teacher work day, which meant a full day with them! We decided at the beginning of the week to go to the zoo in Columbia, SC.

It's about a two hour drive, and the constant stream of questions from Michael helped to keep me alert. "What's the most popular color car? I think it's white." "Do you think a pink limo or a purple limo is more rare?" "What state was that licence plate?" "Do you think that car is going to the zoo, too?" "Do you get car sick? I get car sick." "Have you ever been to the zoo before?" "Who is the most famous rapper?" " Do you know what I want for Christmas?" and on and on and on. 

Not once, though, did he ask, "Are we there yet?" 

Maura just hummed along to her MP3, and inserted a comment here or there, if she thought our conversation was worthwhile.

Once we arrived, mid morning, the sun was hot and bright. I was shocked by the ticket prices for this zoo - $11.95 per adult, and $9.25 per child!

I loved the flowers! The entire zoo was well taken care of, and a pleasant place to spend the day. The paths were leisurely, and there were lots of little things for the kids to enjoy....

like these bronze statues:

We spent a lot of time going through the fish, reptile and amphibian exhibit. There were lots of nasty snakes, cool frogs, and gross lizards. Michael had a ball, of course, and Maura had her share of excitement, too.

I am used to the shark exhibit at the Cleveland Zoo, which is rather depressing, and in sore need of expansion. The shark exhibit in Columbia was beautiful, though. The coral and underwater plant (don't know what else to call them) varieties were colorful and bright, and there were schools of fish and eels hiding out amongst the sharks.

Maura had a great time trying out my camera with the flamingoes and penguins.

My favorite part was the monkeys! I could sit and watch the howlers for hours. There was a baby baboon, too, that was adorable to watch. He hopped around, darting this way and that, too fast to catch a decent picture. 

baby  & mommy baboon

Did you know that a baboon's bottom is tough and leather-like to provide a cushion when sitting on hard, rough surfaces, like trees and rocks? Wonder why God made it pink, though...

The kids got some Dip-N-Dots since, they were, "...just so hot, Ashlee!!" When I told them to smile for a picture, Michael said, "Alright, but make it fast. I've got food to eat, here." Gotta love that kid. :)

On the way home Maura and I turned on Taylor Swift. Michael wasn't too happy about it. Even though we promised only three songs, he was still complaining away. Finally he came up with his own solution:


This past weekend was also enjoyably spent with my dear friend, Ashley, and one of Daniel's good friends, Josh. What pictures I do have I will post after Ashley's second visit next weekend. Check out the  first weekend from the lens of a real photographer here:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Newly Wed Kitchen Cookbook

It has not died, I promise. I have been faithfully using it, just not faithfully using my camera, or faithfully blogging. Honestly wondering if y'all even like reading recipes? :-/

But, we did have a little bump in the road there for a couple of weeks. Seemed like everything we were making we didn't like.

Such as, 

- Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
- Turkey Sausage, Parmesan and Artichoke Bake
- Creamy Kale Gratin

There are several things I also didn't get pictures of, and a few recipes I skipped, because I knew we wouldn't like them, (like the Curried Crab... great recipe, just not to our liking.)

But we have also found a few new favorites, and those are what I'm going to share with you.

Warm Roasted Potatoes with Basil Pesto

As Rachel Ray would say, YUM-O

1 1/2 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bit sized pieces
4 T e.v.o.o
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch or two of red pepper flakes
Basil Pesto:
2 cups fresh, packed basil
2/3 cup e.v.o.o
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper

Place potatoes on lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt, pepper and red pepper. Toss to coat. Bake potatoes 20 minutes, then flip and bake 20 more until golden brown.

While potatoes cook, make basil pesto. With a food processor, grind up all the ingredients at once. Add extra olive oil if pesto is too thick.

Transfer hot potatoes to a bowl and coat lightly with 1/2 cup of the pesto. Serve warm, and eat any left overs cold.

Cheddar, Ham, and Dill Biscuits

I don't know if I'll be able to make regular biscuits again. These were over-the-top.


2 cups flour
2 T cornstarch
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3/4 cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup diced ham
3 T chopped fresh dill
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg yolk
2 T whole milk

In a large bowl stir together dry ingredients. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry blender, or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cheddar, ham, and dill, then stir in the buttermilk until just combined. (Take care not to overmix, or your biscuits will be tough).

In a small bowl combine egg yolk and milk, whisking together.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and pack into a large rectangle just over one inch thick. Cut into eight square. Place squares onto baking sheet. Lightly brush the top of each biscuit with egg yolk mixture.

Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot out of the oven!

Chicken Piccata with Mushrooms and Leeks

Leeks I love, mushrooms I could do without, unless it's a plump portobello on occasion. But, even without the mushrooms, this dish was mouth-watering!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T grated Parmesan
3 T flour
3 T unsalted butter, divided
2 T olive oil
1 cup sliced cremini mustrooms
3/4 cup sliced leek, white parts only (about one large leek)
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
3 T lemon juice, fresh
1/3 cup chick stock
3 T dry white wine
2 T capers, drained
3 T fresh parsley, chopped


Butterfly the chicken by slicing through the center parallel to the cutting board/ widthwise, stopping before you cut completely through. Open up the meat, and the result should resemble a butterfly.

Pound chicken until each breast is 1/4 inch thick. Season the chicken very lightly with salt and pepper. On a plate combine flour and Parmesan.Dredge chicken in mixture.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat melt 2 T butter, add the olive oil. Cook the chicken breast until cooked through, but still juicy. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add mushrooms and leeks to skillet and saute until softened. Add garlic, lemon juice, chicken stock, wine, capers and parsley. Reduce the liquid in the pan by about two thirds, until the sauce is thick and syrupy. Add the remaining butter to the sauce, stirring to combine. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

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