Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homestyle Chicken Spaghetti

Here is my recipe for Homestyle Chicken Spaghetti. This recipe could also be known as Nana's Chicken Spaghetti because it originated from my mother in-law's recipe. I've made a few tweeks to it though so I feel confidant in calling it my own :)

This was my original set of directions for this recipe. One day, like four years ago, Ryan said that he would love for me to make chicken spaghetti for dinner that was just like his mom's. So I called her and scribbled down her directions on an old folded piece of paper. This pitiful paper has survived a long time so I figured it would be good for me write it out in a blog post. Also a few people have asked for my recipe and this makes it easier to email. Plus, I honestly love cooking with recipes online now much more than using a cookbook because you can see all the photos. Pinterest is my new Betty Crocker. Also you'll notice that my recipe leaves lots of room for variations and I've listed a few alternatives. I believe in cooking with love so I don't follow recipes exactly.

 Here is the cast of characters for this recipe:
* Chicken breast (or tenderloins)
* Spaghetti
*  Rotell
* Sour Cream (I use the low fat kind but the regular one would probably taste even better)
* Velveeta (either regular or 2%)
* Can of cream of mushroom soup
* Onion
* Not pictured: I also use Italian dressing when sauteing the chicken and olive oil when sauteing the onion.

Can you tell that I buy the discount brand? I kind of wish that I'd bought name brand for the sake of the photo, but whatever. It's mostly the same, just don't buy cheap chicken.

Step 1:
Cut your chicken into tiny pieces. Saute in Italian dressing until the chicken is thoroughly cooked but not too dried out, about ten minutes on medium heat. Alternative: I have often just thrown chicken breasts in a pot of water and boiled them for about ten minutes. After they are boiled I shred them in my food processor. Either way works fine, the way I chose today adds a bit of flavor.

Step 1 and 1/2:
Start water boiling for spaghetti. Cook spaghetti while you are doing everything else. I've tried making this recipe with gluten free pasta instead and it was edible but not nearly as good.

Step 2:
Slice the onion. Cutting an onion makes me cry so I use my amazing food processor. Nana's recipe called for 1/2 cup of onion. I usually use a whole white or yellow onion unless I happen to only have half left over from another meal. Either way tastes good. Saute the onion in olive oil for about five minutes over medium heat. 

Step 3:
Combine chicken and onion. (If you time everything right you can start the chicken, cut up the onion, saute the onion and then throw it all in the chicken pan). Reduce the heat to medium low so that your chicken doesn't over cook. Cut the Velvetta into cubes and add to pan. Add rotell. Let the cheese melt and mix into the chicken/onion mixture. When the cheese is bubbly add the sour cream and cream of mushroom soup (not pictured because it doesn't look beautiful). My sister in-law, who is a great cook, actually makes this without sour cream and her recipe tastes good. I've tried using half the sour cream and Velveeta and it was okay, but obviously the more cheesy, creamy goodness you add, the more your dinner companions will like you.

Step 3 and 1/2:
By now your spaghetti should be finished. Drain and put in a large baking dish. * Sometimes I add just a little bit (maybe 1/2 cup to 1 cup) of the pasta water back into the recipe. I can't decide if I prefer that or not. Add the chicken mixture and stir well. Cover and put in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight if you have time. If you are making this recipe and didn't plan enough time to let it sit for a while that's okay too. It will turn out fine.

Step 4:
Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Cook for about 30 minutes or until heated all the way through. As I was posting these photos I realized that my original recipe says to sprinkle with cheese at the end. I should try that next time.... I guess if I haven't remembered that part in a few years it must not make that much of a difference either. That's the good part of cooking with love :)

I served this meal with stuffed zucchini and garlic bread tonight and it was delicious. And of course the rule in our home is that if I cook then Ryan does the dishes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July Jubilee

So I guess I've been a little bit busy keeping up with Eva and have fallen a bit behind on the day to day photos of what we've been doing. There is nothing amazingly significant about these photos other than that captured our amazingly fun life in July. Instead of making a super long post with all the photos in a row I decided to create a few collages using PicMonkey.

Collage 1: We got to meet one of my high school best friends, Sarah, and her 2 year old, Maddie at Stonebriar Mall in Frisco. This was Eva's first time in the play area. I'm sure it is covered in germs, but the girls had fun. Sarah lives in Iowa so I only see her once or twice a year and it's crazy how much Maddie has grown. I wish we could play with Maddie more often! We've actually had several play dates with friends over the past few weeks but this is the only one I remembered to take photos of.

Collage 2: We met up with my best friend Ashley to go bridesmaid dress shopping. Ashley is getting married in October and I am honored to stand up at the altar with her. I love the dress she picked out for me to wear and I will honestly probably wear it again. Eva has already picked out her wedding gown to wear in 30 years. She wants her Daddy to have plenty of time to save up his money.

Collage 3: Happy Birthday Dede!!! My grandmother turned 80 yesterday but we had the party for her last week. Eva had a fun time celebrating her great-grandmother even though she looks a little sad in some of the pictures. We were up past 7:30 PM. It was a late night.

Collage 4: Happy Birthday, Amanda! My sister in-law turned 30 last weekend and we met her at Texas Roadhouse to celebrate! Don't worry, Amanda, you don't look a day over 21. Ryan's best friend Cooper was also there with his 6 week old baby, Kinsley. I'm sure there are plenty of teachers from their high school that can't believe these two crazy guys have babies of their own now.

Collage 5: Cute baby. I had to throw in a few random photos from around the house. What has Eva been doing? Wearing her Moose Caboose jammies from Ruidoso. Wearing a winter hats and boots with her jammies just to be funny. Pulling up at the back door to look outside. Sleeping all curled up in her crib. Teaching Daddy how to crawl. Laughing with Daddy. And soaking up some sun early in the morning. The life of a 10 month old is good.

Monday, July 23, 2012

These Boots Were Made For Walkin'

On the left above, are the cutest pair of baby snow boots. Those little boots kept my baby's toes warm all winter long. Ironically, they fit her perfectly right now. You know, when it's 100+ degrees outside. I can only hope she will be able to fit into them a few times in the fall.

And on the right above are the sweetest baby feet that took their first all-by-myself steps today!!!! Eva let go of my hands and took several steps! Repeatedly. Of course, it was always to walk right into my arms but I still count those steps by herself as walking! I think she has a few more weeks to go before she'll want to walk much on her own but she had enough balance and coordination to take a step out on her own.  Pun intended.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Anniversary Weekend

Friday night Ryan and I had our anniversary celebration. But let's flash back to the night before....

"Oh, what a sweet young couple," you might be saying, "I bet they had a nice romantic dinner on their anniversary." Well we did have a nice night on our actual anniversary but it wasn't quite picturesque. We ended up eating some reheated leftovers (from different meals) at our table. We did light a candle. We also had to take care of Eva's bloody nose while we ate since she had just fallen over and smashed her face on the floor right before we sat down. It was real life love.

Friday afternoon we dropped Eva off at Nana & Papa's and started our celebration with some pizza and window shopping in downtown Royse City. It was a million degrees outside so we didn't shop too long.

We used all of our saved up credit card reward points to stay Friday night at the Hilton Bella Harbor in Rockwall. Our anniversary getaway last year took us 4 years to save up our points. This year we had plenty of points since we had to pay off all of our hospital bills from having Eva. Moral of the story, having a baby is expensive but can get you one free night in a nice hotel. Worth it.

For dinner we headed across the harbor to Texas Land & Cattle. We were hoping to eat on the patio but a storm was coming through so instead we dined inside.

After dinner we walked around the harbor. This is the exact spot where Ryan proposed to me almost 5 years ago! We shared our engagement story with a the highschool girls that we asked to take our photo and they were pretty impressed. 

Back at the hotel, we decided to take a quick dip in the pool. It was quite the Bachelor moment - sitting in the hot tub, watching the sunset over the lake, laughing with my love.

Then we headed down to the pier. The sunset was so beautiful.

Finally we ended our night by taking a moonlit sailing cruise. I think we may have to make this a yearly tradition!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

To The Man That Stole My Heart

Happy Anniversary to the man that stole my heart! I am so blessed to call Ryan Bradley my husband. He is a wonderful man who loves God, loves his family, and works hard to provide for us. I would follow him anywhere!

One of my favorite moments of our wedding day was when we had time with just the two of us before the ceremony. We had one of his friends playing guitar and our photographer in the corner, but other than that we were alone in the chapel.We enjoyed a few minutes to talk and laugh and pray. I remember that after that time I had no worries about how the rest of the day would go, I knew my groom was there and was excited to marry me, so everything else would be fine. Plus I walked down the aisle to him for our quiet time, so technically, I got to walk down the aisle twice :)

My other favorite moment was our first dance together. We danced to It Had to Be You and he spun me around the dance floor in my huge wedding gown. Too bad neither of us likes to be the center of attention.....

Happy Anniversary, Ryan! We've had 4 amazing years together and I love you so much!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Money Saving Mama

I was in need of a few shopping items yesterday. Eva needed a new pair of shoes because her feet seemingly grew like three inches in the past month so her old shoes were too tight, and she needs comfortable shoes since she likes to walk now. I needed some new shorts because (1) it's summer time in Texas (hot.),  (2) I've lost weight so the ones I bought back in March for my post baby body are now way too big (yay!), and (3) I got rid of my old smaller clothes back in December because I thought they'd never fit again (oops.) Like lots of people, our family budget doesn't have a lot of extra $$ to put towards shopping. Lucky for me, a friend had told me about a place called GW Boutique in Keller. It's actually right down the street from the office I used to work in and I had driven by tons of times but never knew anything about it. Guess what the GW stands for? Goodwill - as in the place you go to buy a funny Hawaiian shirt for a theme day at work. Their boutique sells all of the higher end brand clothing that people donated to Goodwill for only slightly more than regular Goodwill prices - brands like Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, Express, Gap, etc. I decided to stop by and check it out. It was awesome! Of course there are the occasional items that were probably purchased from those stores back in the 90's, but overall they had tons of good, stylish clothing that you couldn't even tell was used. I ended up getting a pair of NY&Company shorts, an Ann Taylor Loft top, and a Gap skirt for only $25! I probably would have spent twice that just for one of those items purchasing it new at those stores. I will definitely be going back in the fall when its time for me to get a new pair of jeans :) If they asked me to be in a commercial to tell everybody how great this place is I would do it. Seriously, if you live anywhere near Keller at all it would be worth going to. I even saw a few items there that I own in my closet.

Then I still needed to get Eva some shoes.... so we drove a minute down the road to Kid to Kid, a kid's resale clothing place. I ended up getting her two pairs of Carters shoes because they were on sale for 25% off. I only spent $5 for both pairs of shoes. They are cute and don't look like they've ever been worn (one pair still had the tag on them). It was a successful afternoon of shopping and I love finding great bargains!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Tradition

When my mom started nannying for the Butler family 12 years ago they invited me to use their pool sometime. Invitation accepted. I have been swimming in their pool every summer since I was 16 years old. Back then I would go over and hang out with their daughters (or babysit) and swim almost every day. They had the best, most comfortable pool floats and a stero system that would play my CDs over the outside speaker. It was awesome. Since becoming a grown up I haven't been able to go as often, but I still try to stop by for a visit a few times each summer.

Today was the first time I took Eva with me to enjoy swimming with her Aunt BB. I was happy to pass down the tradition of swimming in the Butler's pool with my sweet girl. She loved floating in the water and playing with Brooke.

Wish they lived a little bit closer and we'd go back again tomorrow! Maybe in a few weeks...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

10 Months Old

Dear Eva Kate,

Happy 10 Months!!!! Wow, what a month. I think that you have had the biggest life changes (moving and your first vacation) and your biggest development (crawling!) this month, and ironically I've taken the least amount of photos of you. I've been too busy moving us and keeping us with you to take many pictures.

 Peek-a-boo! I might be stuck here guys....

It has been absolutely amazing to see you grow and change this month. You crawl. You pull yourself up to a standing position from the floor. You push yourself back from your tummy to a sitting down position. You hold onto furniture and cruise along. You can walk just holding onto me with one hand. You wave hi and bye-bye all the time, and a lot of times you make sounds that are pretty close to hi and bye-bye. You make the sounds for mama and dada, although I don't think you are actually saying them to us that much. You feed yourself all sorts of soft finger foods like peaches and peas.

 You pulled yourself up to the table and started "reading" Daddy's Bible yesterday. So precious. 

I am so proud of you for being such a friendly baby. When we go places you smile and wave and babble at everybody you meet. I LOVE that your sweet personality can be such a blessing to others. You enjoy being around friends and family and make everybody laugh with you all the time. You are such a joyful baby.

Does anybody want to play with me?

You like to get out lots of toys and can entertain yourself for a few minutes if I'm busy in the kitchen. The other night you sat and rolled a ball back and forth with me and Daddy and it was so neat to see that you totally understood that we were playing a game. Today you sat and watched yourself playing and talking in a mirror that was down on the ground. You like to explore any new place we set you down. You make the sweetest baby sounds. You like it when you make a funny face/sound, and we do the same thing back, and then you do it back to us - over and over and over again. 

This is what my Mama prays for me to do every night.

Eva, I love you so much more than you could ever imagine. Just writing this letter to you brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes. How am I so lucky to be your Mama? I am so happy to spend my days loving on you and laughing on you. I love your sloppy kisses and your big wide grin. Even though I am pretty exhausted most days from waking up with you a few times a night and chasing you around all day, there is no better reason in the world to be tired. You are worth every bit of it.

love, Mama

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fun Filled 4th

Our family had a day full of fun for the 4th of July! It was Eva's first 4th of July, so we made sure to celebrate a lot! I am so thankful that we live in a country where we are able to enjoy so many freedoms. We have much to be thankful for. I'm also appreciative of all the soldiers and their families that make great sacrifices so that we can enjoy our freedoms.

Our morning started with the Trophy Club parade. Bara Church made a float that was representative of George Washington crossing the Delaware Rive. They won first place! I know that a lot of time was put into making such a creative float and was very happy to hear that they won and got to lead the parade. Eva and I sat with some friends, including sweet Isabella who made Eva laugh the whole time.

Following the parade we came back home for a rest. We tried to watch Airplane but I think Ryan and I both fell asleep within the first 20 minutes. After our nap time we were back out the door to go to a cookout at our friends' house.

For the evening we went to the town festival and fireworks celebration.  There were lots of food and games booths that I think Eva will enjoy more in a few years. We mostly sat and listened to the awesome band and visited with friends.
Eva did a great job watching the fireworks! I love the photo above that shows her expression. She would watch for a while and then look back up at me as if to say, "Look Mama! There are big, loud lights in the sky! Did you see that? Is that really okay?" She didn't cry at all so I guess she wasn't scared.

We're ready to rock the rest of the summer now! Bring on the icecream, pool time, and playdates :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Other Side of the Fence

One of my favorite things about summer time is going to the pool. Nothing is more refreshing than playing in the cool water on a hot summer day. When we step out onto our patio, this is the view we see. A beautiful pool. Sadly, we live on the other side of the fence. This pool is part of the Trophy Club Country Club, not part of our townhouse community. We're the people that fence was intended to keep out.

At our old apartment I would take Eva to the pool almost every day. Since Ryan is a Hawaiin Fall's chaplain our family does get a season's pass, but I have to admit that it's not quite the same with a baby. We still have fun when we go but it's a lot of work and effort to pack up, drive there, make it through the parking lot and into the wave pool or lazy river. When it's just Eva and I, I would rather go to the pool, especially if we're only going for half an hour.

Yesterday I was hoping to use our old pool one last time since it was the final day of our lease. After lunch Eva and I put on our swimsuits and lathered on the sunscreen. I called ahead and asked if the pool was open (I had to go over to the old place and turn in our keys anyway). The girl said that it was closed for the day for cleaning. Bummer. So we changed out of our suits before heading over there. When we got there I stopped at the mailboxes to make sure we didn't have any leftover mail. Guess what? The pool was open. We saw all the other moms and kids having fun. At this point it would be way too much work to drive home, change again, and drive back.

Later on in the afternoon I decided that we'd go check out the Trophy Club community pool. (I didn't want to go back to the apartment pool after handing in our keys.) Again we put on our swimsuits... right before I noticed that it was raining. Never one to give up on a dream, I checked the weather online and it showed that the rain was light and would be passing. We'd perservere on. I loaded us into the car drove the 2 minutes down the road to the pool. I decided that it was worth it to get a pool pass rather than paying per time. I filled out the paper work and gave the nice cashier my card to pay for it.... right before I thought to ask to make sure I could keep Eva in her floaty to swim. Nope. They don't allow floats expect in the small kid splash area. Double bummer. I figured that it wouldn't be as much fun to take Eva swimming if I have to hold her the entire time, so I politely asked the cashier if they could cancel my just purchased membership and refund our $. He was so nice about it and understood but said he'd have to get the manager to do the transaction because he'd never had anybody cancel before. The manager was nice too and actually lives in one of the townhouses down the block from us so we chatted a bit. I thanked him for being so understanding and we were on our way. Back to the car, while it was still raining. Then I noticed that the kids play area (where floats are allowed) was actually much bigger than I had realized when I was standing inside the pool area. Hmm, maybe it would be worth it to bring Eva here and let her play in her float there just to get out of the house. However, I couldn't possibly be the crazy mom that brings her baby to the pool while it was raining who decides to buy a pass, cancel that pass, chats with the manager, walks to the car and then changes her mind again. Nope. I can't be that awkward.

So, we're going to Hawaiian Falls today.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Crazy Crawler

Look who's crawling!!! After a few weeks of being almost there I would say she's officially a crawler now. Sometimes her crawl looks like a combinataion of being a frog/lizard/bear but regardless of her crawling style this girl is definitely on the move and going everywhere she wants.

Hmm, wouldn't this be even better on video? Yes. However Eva won't perform for the video camera and sometimes my blog doesn't load videos correctly so I just took a progression of photos. Thank you sports setting on my camera for letting me capture each magical moment.

Once she gets what she wants she either rolls over or claps for herself. Yay for Eva!!!!

 And she's on the go again....

So much for my life of being a stay at home mom that sits around eating bon-bons and watching soap operas. Oh wait, that was never my life. SO PROUD OF MY LITTLE GIRL!!!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Vacation to Ruidoso: Days 3, 4, & 5

Here we go - the last 3 days of our vacation. I took a few hundred pictures so I did good to narrow it down to two blog postings. Above is our official family photo. We had to do a balancing act with my camera set on top of a van, supported by a case of diaper wipes, and set on the time function to get this photo but it was worth all 30 tries! By the way, out of the 30 attempts to get this photo, the last one was actually the best. Ironic.

On Tuesday the men all went golfing so the girls set out to the nail salon. Kiersi and Kayden were stylin' as usual - especially in the dresses that their favorite aunt gave them back in May for their birthdays. 

 Kiersi orginially picked out a fun turquiose color but them decided on purple instead. So Aunt Kate decided to put the turquoise on her toes! I've never gone with this color before but I really liked how it turned out. I think I'll be picking up a bottle of turquoise at Walmart to use at home.

 Most of the family went to lunch but Ryan and I stayed back at the house with our little sleepyhead. When she woke up from her nap we took a few photos out on the deck.

Tuesday afternoon the bigger girls went shopping in downtown Ruidoso. We strategically planned it so that the men could stay at home with the babies and it was a good idea! At one shop we got a little silly trying on some hats!

 Back at home we all hung out and watched the deer while Brian and Amanda grilled up some burgers and hotdogs. I think Mallory was pretty excited every time she saw one!

Wednesday morning we went to a fun and games place for some putt-putt, bumper boats, and go karts. Ryan almost won at putt-putt, but he was at a slight disadvantage with a baby on his back.

Look at me go! They almost gave me a speeding ticket for driving so fast! Haha... just kidding. I may have been the slowest go kart driver that ever set foot on that course. I just preferred a leisurely drive along the track. I'll leave the racing to everybody else.

Wednesday afternoon Ryan and I took Eva to the downtown area to walk around for a little while. We found Texas Street!

 Somebody loves being carried around by her Daddy!

For our last night everybody went out to eat at Farley's. During ski season this place is supposedly packed all the time, but since it was summer we were able to get a table for 12 right away.

On Thursday it was time to start the long drive back home. We stopped along the Texas-New Mexico border to celebrate making it that far.

 Mallory and Eva both LOVE TEXAS! 

Eva watched Wall-E for the first time during the ride home. If you haven't seen the movie, the girl robot in it is named Eva and it is actually where we first heard the name Eva and fell in love with it while I was pregnant. I don't think she noticed that they were saying her name over and over. Maybe when she's older.

Thank you Nana & Papa for taking everybody on such a fun trip! We love our family so much and really appreciate the opportunity to go on vacation all together!