Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Delicious, fast and cheap

Delicious, fast and cheap...those are three great words to describe our meal last night...and who doesn't love that combination?! Most of the ingredients are in your pantry or fridge already. I spent about $5.00 to make this + corn muffins ($3.00 for 1 pound of chicken thighs, $0.50 each for the beans and a can of creamed corn that I added to a Jiffy cornbread mix). I usually don't like really spicy things and especially not jalapenos, but this chili has just the right amount of kick...enough to clear your sinuses, but not so much that you can't enjoy the flavor of the food.

Spicy Chicken Chili
(from foodandwine.com)


2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound skinless chicken thighs (about 4), cut into thin strips
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with their juice
2 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 2/3 cups drained and rinsed pinto beans (one 15-ounce can)--or 1 can "chili beans with sauce")
1 2/3 cups drained and rinsed black beans (one 15-ounce can)
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
garnish: sour cream, shredded cheddar


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook until they start to soften, about 3 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to moderate and stir in the chicken strips. Cook until they are no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Add the jalapeƱos, the tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 25-30 minutes longer. Serve topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro.
Food and Wine's Menu Suggestion: Wedges of corn bread are always a good complement to chili. Or serve the chili over macaroni or rice or mashed potatoes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin patch

Saturday was absolutely gorgeous--mid 60's, sunny, blue skies. The perfect day to head to the (non-muddy) pumpkin patch! Luckily we live close to a great one on Sauvie Island, a beautiful farming community about 15 minutes from our house. The drive there is the quintessential "out in the country" experience, passing large fields of hay and grazing cows, llamas and horses. The pumpkin patch is a huge production! Hundreds of visitors park in a field and then walk to the activities...a corn maze, petting zoo (well, more of a "just look, don't touch zoo"), country store, food booths, and a tractor-pulled hayride out to the pumpkin patch and back. Maddie was in heaven! We went with our friends Jason and Cheryl and their cutie-pie, 9-month-old Lucy. Then back to our house for a comforting Autumn dinner of chili over mashed potatoes, salad, and warm apple-pear crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert. How perfect!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In Sickness and in Health

In sickness and in health...this is a vow, a promise we make to our spouse to love them and take care of them in happy times and in bad, and it's also a vow we make to our children...to care for them no matter what the circumstances. Now, don't get me wrong, just because Maddie has been battling a fever for the past two days doesn't mean it's anything major, but still the thought applies. (Maybe the vow should also include "in frustration and fatigue"!) :-)

Most days we lounge around at home, go swing at the park, and run quick errands, but Wednesday is our "big day out". We head out early to Bible Study from 9-11:30am at Good Shepherd Community Church (a 45+ minute drive), then afterwards we always meet Nana and Papa for lunch (so they can get their Maddie fix). Then usually grocery shopping at Super Walmart and home by around 2-3pm. One Thursday a month I also go to the Mom-to-Mom group at Good Shepherd to hear a great speaker and catch up with my girlfriends. Well, wouldn't ya know it, Maddie woke up with a fever on Wednesday morning=no Bible Study for us (plus my mom was going to babysit until dinnertime, so I was *super bummed* to lose out on that!). Instead, it was a day of laying on the couch in pajamas, Maddie wanting to be held all the time (which means I can't get anything done), and lots of general fussiness/whining/crying at the drop of a hat, and both Keith and I getting up multiple times during the night to rock a crying toddler. Ditto for this (Thursday) morning, so I missed my mom's group. So today my mom called and rescued me from a day trapped in the house with a sick kiddo!

(This was one of our sources of entertainment over the past two days: a homemade bowling set using Maddie's old bottles filled with rice! Trying Playdoh for the first time, coloring and watching Ratatouille/Lady and the Tramp/Cinderella/Singing Babies Nursery Rhymes DVD's were also a big hit.)

We took Maddie to the local library and then to a cute new store that was right up my alley...Autumn home decorations, lots of pumpkins, adorable fabrics and candles, etc. (see photos in the collage). Then we stopped next door for a latte, chai and a "big girl" hot cocoa for Maddie.

One of the library books..."sick as a dog" and "sick puppy" were appropriate mottos for this week!

"Big girl" drinks with Nana.

By the time we got home, Maddie was feeling better and we all enjoyed an awesome meal that my mom had brought for us...roasted lemon chicken with potatoes, peppers and carrots, homemade chunky cinnamon applesauce, French bread with homemade roasted garlic and chocolate chip cookies. How can you have a bad day when you end it with a meal like that?! By 7:00pm, Maddie was a happy camper again, chattering nonstop and playing with her toys. THANK YOU, MOM!! :-)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Snapshots of Today

Ali Edwards is a scrapbooker/author/photographer from Eugene whose style I love and I follow her blog daily. She often has projects or creative challenges that she poses to her readers--this week it's to make an album of "Everyday Life". I am usually good about taking photos of events or random pics of Maddie, but they often just sit on my computer and therefore fail to tell a story. So I'm going to try the project--photograph and journal a normal week-in-the-life of my family. The exciting. The mundane. The unfortunate. All the little ways we choose to spend our time during a typical day.

I use the photo software Picasa and today I happened to notice a button called "collage", so I tried it out. *Why didn't I discover this sooner?! It's the coolest!* (Side note: Tonight I also started an album of all our trips and activities this summer and many of the pages have a design that looks like this grid, only with 4 pictures. Can I just tell you how much faster this collage tool in Picasa will be VS *hand-cutting* 120+ pictures?!)

So here's a snapshot of my morning with Maddie:
1) Eating breakfast in the bathroom so that I can take a shower (happens often!)
2) storytime for 2-year-olds at the NW 23rd library, which we have started going to every Friday
3) today the librarian gave out free Corduroy books to all the kids!
4) Maddie goes crazy when they do bubble time
5) after storytime we walk up NW 23rd to Starbucks and get a snack together...nonfat pumpkin spice latte for me, petite vanilla scone in a mini cup for her
6) when this sign goes up in Starbucks, you know Fall has arrived!
7) enjoying her snack in a big velvet chair by the fire
8) I think that's just about the physical limit on how high laundry can be stacked...hey, at least it's clean, right?
9) playing with her wagon of blocks, just before they all got dumped on the floor and she climbed inside to give herself a ride

At the library today, we rented a DVD called "Singing Babies Nursery Rhymes", since they do songs with motions during storytime and it seems like I'm the only loser mother who doesn't know them! (Double shame on me, since I was an elementary school teacher for 10 years! But, hey, I guess that's why I never taught preschool or kindergarten--it's better for everyone if I just avoid the whole singing thing.) Maddie's been playing it nonstop since we got home and loves it! The thing is, the babies on this DVD creep me out!! It's the babies' bodies, but older kids' mouths pasted over the top and singing the words, so it looks all distorted and freakish. Good thing toddlers don't catch on to those kinds of things. :-) Anyways, Maddie is still awake in her crib right now (yes, it's 10:15pm!) and is singing Ring-Around-the-Rosey to herself (as she says, "wing-a-wosey")...ah, what a sweet way to end the evening. I sure love that girl! :-)
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She brings me joy

How could you not feel happy when you get to see THIS beautiful face every day?! Madeline is at such a fun age right now--curious about everything, learning tons of new words, getting better at playing independently. Lately she's really into *hiding* (as in "Mommy, I hiding!"). Behind the shower curtain is her favorite spot--usually giggling like crazy with just her feet sticking out below. :-)

I am so blessed that about 90% of the time Maddie is in this kind of mood! The funny thing is that she's getting good at being talked into/talked out of things--like if she's being grumpy, we can talk to her about whining and she'll say (often in her whining voice) "Yeah, no whining!" to herself. She even said that to the Nursery teacher at church this week--HA!

Lucy and Maddie are such good buddies. Here they are searching for the neighbor's kitty...each for very different reasons, I'm sure! :-)

Do you spot that baby pumpkin hiding in the background? I LOVE FALL! I held out as long as I could, but once it hit October 1st I rushed out to decorate!

Now if I could just find my wreath of Autumn leaves, this picture would be complete!