Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi {Crockpot Recipe}

Okay super busy moms (and dads!) out there wondering what to make for dinner tonight! I have a great new recipe you should try. Back when my husband worked for Olive Garden one of my favorite dishes was their chicken and gnocchi. Since dinners out at Olive Garden are pretty infrequent for our family now (because we don't want to be that family with the crazy toddler) I decided to create my own version. If you are not familiar with gnocchi, it is an Italian style dumpling made from flour. I found mine at Super Target (I haven't seen it at our local Walmart). I am a huge fan of crockpot cooking since I would rather throw together a meal during nap time than in the hour before dinner when everybody is hungry and more easily frustrated. Plus it makes the house smell amazing when my husband gets home from work :) Here is my recipe for Crockpot Chicken and Gnocchi.
 

Ingredients: 
1 lbs of uncooked chicken breasts cut into small strips
1 bag of gnocchi
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cup of half and half
1 white onion
5 green onions
1 TBSP garlic salt
2 TBSP butter
Ground pepper (as desired to top off)
Parmesan cheese (as desired top off)

Directions:
1. Place thawed chicken breasts in crockpot.
2. Cover with gnocchi.
3. Pour in chicken broth and half and half.
4. Chop white and green onions. Add onion and garlic salt. Stir slightly. Add butter in slices on top). 
5. Cook on low 4-6 hours.
6. Mix around so that chicken pieces are towards the top. Shred slightly with a fork. 
7.. Top off with ground pepper and cheese when serving. 

This recipe is easy and delicious! My husband and toddler really liked it. I served it with a side of glazed carrots for a simple weekday dinner. Enjoy :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Update in iPhone Pics {7.28.13}

I haven't done a weekend in iPhone pics in 2 months, so I figured I should share what we were up to this past weekend! Our weekend started with celebrating my Grandma Dede's 81st birthday party. Our family met up at Texas Land & Cattle on Thursday night. My Uncle Paul flew into town and was staying with my parents so we decided to spend the night there too to get time to visit with him. The more the merrier, right? Ryan and I got to sneak away Friday morning for a coffee date and then hung out at my parents' house while Eva napped. 
After nap time we headed to Royse City to hang out with Ryan's family. Our nieces were already staying there so we got some fun aunt and uncle time with them. We played Racko and Skipbo. It is so fun hanging out with them and getting to know their personalities as they grow up and aren't quite so little any more. 
Friday night we celebrated birthdays for my sister in-law, Amanda, and my mother in-law. Lots of cake. Lots of pie. Lots of little girl cousins laughing and playing everywhere. Have I mentioned that I absolutely adore my 3 nieces? We weren't planning on spending the night but it was already late and we had a tired munchkin with tired parents so we decided to sleep there.
Eva decided to wake up around 5 am (instead of 8 am like she normally does) and consequently fell asleep when we were two minutes from home. We let her take a morning nap and thankfully she also took an afternoon nap. Between naps we went to the community pool to play in the water all together. Check out the handsome "merman" in the top right photo. Saturday evening we went to Walmart - somebody is loving taking selfies of herself on Mama's iPhone.  
Sunday morning started with a bountiful breakfast for Eva. This girl must be getting ready to grow like a weed because she has been eating nonstop this past week. Every time I turn around she is saying "Eat, eat!" Where is all that food going? Sunday afternoon we watched Despicable Me - so cute! - and face timed Nana to say, "Happy Birthday!" Eva loves using face time to talk to her grandmas. Our weekend was wrapped up with our youth group at our house. The 3 college interns led Sunday night and they did an excellent job teaching about integrity. Now on to a new week as I get ready to take a big leap into.....POTTY TRAINING! Prayers for wisdom and patience appreciated :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bye, bye!


Earlier this week I have written two posts about the great anniversary vacation I got to take with my husband. There was a very special person who didn't get to go along - my baby Eva! Oh my goodness. It was SO HARD to leave her for that many days. When the possibility of planning a child free vacation I knew it would be good for our marriage and good for me. But oh man, was it hard that last week to plan to be away from her. I had never left her for more than a night, meaning I've also seen her every day of her sweet life. We are mostly together all day, everyday and I wouldn't choose for it to be any other way. As our trip got closer I kept trying to talk Ryan into changing our reservation for only two nights instead of three. Of course he didn't. The morning we were leaving I cried and felt so guilty even though I knew it would be a good thing for all of us. We dropped her off and said goodbye. 

And then it was really all okay. I became a spontaneous, carefree person. I had time to concentrate on my husband more. I enjoyed a break from being constantly responsible for another tiny person. Yes, I missed her. But it was more like, "Oh I love Eva. I hope she's having as much fun with her grandparents as I am having here with Ryan." It wasn't as hard or sad as I thought. We face timed her on my phone the two middle days. I was glad to see her on the phone even though it made it kinda sad when we said goodbye. Then on the last day as we were having lunch it suddenly hit me how ready I was to get home and see her.  That last 30 minutes of our car ride home I was just itching to give her tons of hugs and kisses.
I share all this to encourage other mamas out there to one day take an extended trip away from your child. Even though it was hard, it was so good. It was refreshing. It made me appreciate my husband and my roles as a wife and mother more. I am so thankful to spend my days with her, but a small break every year or so is nice.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

5th Anniversary Vacation - Part 2

Here is part 2 of our vacation story. Saturday was set aside as our "adventure day." I thought it would be magestic to start our day off with seeing the sunrise and end it at sunset. Ryan, being a loving husband, went along with this idea and we set our alarm for a few minutes before sunrise. Beep, beep, beep. We were up and waiting on our balcony for several minutes....until we realized that we were facing the wrong direction and trees were blocking the sunrise from both our porches. Back to bed. It was a nice idea.

Ryan had gone horseback riding at camp in June and really liked it. Since I had never ridden a horse before we decided this would be a good thing to do. My horse was named Sleepy so you can imagine his personality. We got a while to practice in a corral and then were led by a guide around the ranch. The scenery was so beautiful. At one point there was nothing around us but wide open prairie! I kept thinking about how the pioneers would have felt riding horses through undeveloped land. 
 Saturday evening we went zip lining. We were up in the mountains as the sun set which was so beautiful! For part of the zip line we had to walk across an air bridge.  I love zip lining because it is thrilling without being scary.
Sunday morning we enjoyed our last breakfast at the resort. Let me tell you, this place knows how to make breakfast. Each morning we had a choice between french toast, cobbler, and waffles or pancakes plus eggs, frtitata, a biscuit with gravy, turkey bacon and fruit. It was all so delicious and way more food that I could ever eat in one sitting. They even had fresh fruit toppings (like jelly or preserves) that were made from the fruit in their orchards. Amazing hospitality, scrumptious food, good coffee - can somebody please make this happen for me every morning? What a perfect way to start each day. 
Our last big adventure was to take our first try at canoeing. We went out on the Lake of the Arbuckles. We were actually sharing one canoe, we just took our pictures separately. Canoeing out with the tide sure is a lot easier than canoeing back to shore against the tide. It really was enjoyable and we were able to row out as far or as close as we wanted. Sometimes we just rested a bit and talked. Finally we cleaned up and headed home.....
Well, we thought we were headed home. And then we drove past the new Chickasaw Cultural Center. We had originally planned on visiting here but didn't end up finding time and hadn't realized it was right near our canoe location. We decided to seize the day and make one last stop here for a while. We learned more about the Chickasaw Indians. We walked around on an insanely hot day to see pretty sights. We ate buffalo burgers in the cafe. It was a good time. I would recommend visiting this place on a day when the temperature was not 100 degrees but I'm still glad we stopped. 
Then we really did head home. I have been wanting to try a Dairy Queen dip cone all summer (I've never had one before) so we stopped on the way home. Turns out it was national ice cream day!

I am so thankful that we got the chance to take a vacation. I'm already ready to go on another one. I loved spending quality time with my husband without so many distractions. He's a pretty fun guy :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

5th Anniversary Vacation - Part 1

Our 5th wedding anniversary was July 19th! We decided that we should take a get away with just the two of us. I was thinking about it and realized that we hadn't taken a trip with just the two of us in four years. It was definitely time for a good vacation. 
We dreamed about going to a Caribbean Island. Too expensive. We considered going to the beach. Too far to drive. We finally decided on Sulphur, Oklahoma.  It was only about a 2 hour drive for us which was nice...of course when you add in dropping off Eva, stopping in Denton to get gas and put air in my tires, and stopping for lunch it was more like a 4 hour drive. Our lunch date was at the Prairie Kitchen in Ardmore, OK. This place is delicious! I am making a point to include this just in case you happen to be traveling on 35 this summer and need a good place for any meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner - they have it all and the food there is good! 
We stayed at the Echo Canyon Spa and Resort. It was located right by the Chickasaw National Park. Our room was so big and beautiful!  I happened to look at their facebook page and found a great special they were running so we ended up with a much nicer room than we originally planned, plus a massage and dinner at their restaurant (although I'm sure all of their rooms are beauitful). I really liked this place because it wasn't as obsessively floral as some bed and breakfast places. You know those places where the "Blue Room" means that every square inch will be decorate in blue flowered wall paper, complete with blue linens, and blue bath towels? This wasn't like that. The resort was perfect for a romantic get away but would also be nice for a women's retreat or similar trip.
We also had a long private balcony. It overlooked a really pretty area where deer would walk through and from our balcony we couldn't see anybody else. We had some good conversations in those rocking chairs while enjoying wildlife or looking at the stars.
After checking in our Thursday we wanted to go hiking and swimming at the Chickasaw National Park. We saw the signs for "Little Niagara" and thought it might be amazing. Well....maybe not . It was quite little. We were laughing at our failed expectations. But hey, we got to splash around in the natural spring water with only 100 other people. Then we hiked around....most of our "let's hike over there" moments ended up in dead ends, a campsite trail, or tiny loops. After picking up a map at the park center we found a better trial and hiked .6 miles. Yeah, we are adventurous. But it was perfect for us.
Friday was our most relaxed day. We were only 15 minutes from Turner Falls and chose to drive up to the overlook for the falls instead of hiking around in the park (based on our hiking experience the previous day). I had been there before and while it wasn't quite as big as I remembered, it was scenic and peaceful up on the overlook. We were reminded that when traveling with only each other you are mostly able to take photos of only one of you at a time.
 Then we drove down the road to the Bedre chocolate factory. We missed the speaking tour for the day but were able to watch a lady packaging wrapped chocolates into a box. Yeah, that is pretty much all we could see through the window. Haha, maybe our expectations for things were generally too high?! Really though, we were just enjoying time together and weren't disappointed although we did laugh at our selves a lot. We also purchased some chocolates which were all consumed within a few hours.
Friday afternoon we enjoyed a nice couple's massage that was part of our resort package. I love getting a good massage! The entrance to the spa was literally right across the path from our room so they told us to walk over in our robes. {Spoiler: I staged this photo after the massage. I promise I am dressed underneath my robe.} Our spa experience was so nice and relaxing. Perfect for our anniversary day.
Finally on Friday evening we had dinner at the resort's fancy restaurant. Wow. This was probably the best meal I've ever eaten.  Our entree included filet mignon, duck, and halibut. They also serve their "famous" peach hibiscus drink which was so much better than I had imagined. For dessert we got chocolate mousse cake and cheesecake. Did I mention this meal was amazing? Thankfully you can take home leftovers and my food was my lunch AND  my dinner the next day as well.
Friday was such a wonderful, relaxing day. I love this man! I'm so glad that he asked me to marry him.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Toddler Bed

Last Thursday Eva decided to make the leap from baby crib to toddler bed. Literally. During nap time she refused to sleep and apparently spent her time alone learning to to climb out of the crib. Yikes! So I did what any good mama would do....I asked all my facebook mom friends what I should do. The consensus was pretty clear - move her to a big girl bed.  I was super nervous. My little girl is so full of energy that I was worried that she might never stay in a regular bed. But I knew it was time to give it a try. We considered putting her in the full size bed we have but she wasn't tall enough to climb up onto it. I knew she could climb out but I wanted her to be able to get back in! Luckily her crib converted to a toddler bed and that option has worked great for us so far! I've waited almost a full week to post anything because I didn't want to jinx us....and knowing toddlers I realize that anything can change at any moment....so please know that I'm posting this update with humble hopefulness for continued nights of good sleep :)
How seriously adorable is this tiny daybed? We had to take her crib skirt off a year ago when we lowered the mattress to the lowest level but now without the front piece there we can use it again! This bed skirt was one of my favorite parts of the baby bedding we chose for her. You can't see it that great in the picture but it has ruffly inserts that match her polka dotted sheet. A friend gave us separately the blanket with Eva's monogram and it matches everything so well and is the perfect size blanket for a toddler bed.  Who wouldn't want to sleep in such a cute bed?
 
Eva is doing so great sleeping in her new bed. The first night we talked to her about how proud we were that she was a big girl now and how it was important to stay in bed so she wouldn't be tired in the morning. She got up once that first night, walked to her door, and then climbed right back in bed. {Sidenote: I know lots of people leave the door open for their child. We have always kept it shut so we continued that since she is used to it. We figured it would bother her more if we left it open. Plus we have stairs and didn't want her wondering down stairs in the night if she did wake up.} The first morning she woke up a bit early so I went in and told her to try to keep sleeping and she did. I've heard other moms say that sometimes kids actually sleep better in a regular bed and that's kind of been true. Even on the night that Ryan put her to bed because I was out she did fine and slept through the night. A couple of times at naptime she has popped up but she generally goes right back to her bed. She knows we can see her on the video monitor and the one time she started opening her dresser drawer I walked right in and put her back on the bed so she hasn't tried playing around very much. 
Speaking of the video monitor - I love this thing! I love watching her play with her baby doll. I love seeing her snuggle up on her pillow. I love her sleepy stillness. It has also been helpful to see her fall out of bed. I didn't realize before that she loves to sleep completely on top of her pillow, as in her whole body lying across it. Instead of a bed rail we just put 2 pillows on the floor so when she does slide out it doens't hurt and she always just climbs right back up and goes back to sleep. Also now she is so quiet when she does wake up that she will seriously just go stand by her bedroom door and not make a sound. I've told her that when she wakes up she can knock on her door and call for me. She always had a loud "mommy....Mommy...MOMMY!" wake up call before in her crib so I'm not sure why she is so quiet now.  She is pretty consistent on her wake up times in the morning and after her nap so I know when to be looking for her on the monitor and I'm guessing she would call for me if she got tired of waiting.
From the wisdom of others we did decide to wait on getting rid of her binkie. I am so proud of her for adjusting to her toddler bed and if she had been distraught over loosing her binkie I wouldn't have known if it was the bed or the pacifier she was crying about. I know the day will come for saying goodbye to her beloved binkie but today is not the day yet. Oh my goodness, I love my little girl so much. Her sweet sleepy face, her warm snuggles....she is my favorite. Thank you to our friends and family that said prayers for this transition. Sleep is truly a blessing!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sew What?

I recently found a dress for $1 at a thrift store. At first glance I wasn't so sure about it but decided to try it on anyway. It was a size too big and not exactly stylish but I thought it might make a great sewing project. "Oh, you sew?" I hear you asking. Umm, not exactly. I can hand stitch a pant's hem and I can reattach a button. But I have been wanting to learn to do so simple sewing jobs so I thought this might be fun. I figured that buying the dress for $1 was actually cheaper than buying fabric to practice on. I borrowed my mom's sewing machine a while back in hope that I could accomplish something. Then on Tuesday night I had a sewing night with a friend which mostly resulted in me learning how to be great at taking seams out as I kept struggling with the machine. Ah! It can be tedious to try the same thing over and over when it isn't working. Finally I figured out what the problem was and was able to complete this project in about an hour's time (minus the 2+ hours that I spent figuring out what the heck I was doing). 
My before and after! What a  difference. Before: frumpsville. After: stylish. Basically I took off the sleeves and reseamed the shoulders, hemmed the dress by 2 inches, and fixed up the belt so that it ties at the front instead of in a huge bow right about my bottom. Much better! I really enjoyed working on this and may have found a new hobby for myself. Although I've promised Ryan that I won't start trying to make all of his clothes quite yet :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Date Night {Fort Worth Stockyards}

Sunday afternoon my love and I headed to Fort Worth for a date full of fun in the stockyards. The past few weeks have been hard and busy so when my mom asked if I wanted her to come over and babysit for a few hours so we could go out I said yes! We were definitely ready for a date night! 
I've grown up around DFW my whole life and have never visited the Fort Worth Stockyards. It was like stepping into the wild west meets modern restaurants and shopping.  There was so much to do and see, we definitely want to take Eva back in the fall so that we can do more of the family friendly stuff to.
For dinner we just wanted something small because neither of us were super hungry. We went to Trailboss Burgers and ordered the Western Quesadilla. Oh my goodness. This was the most amazing quesadilla I've ever had in my life. Yeah, that seems like a lot of excitement over a quesdilla but it was that good. It was made with shredded brisket and other western ingredients. We split one since we weren't that hungry....and then we attempted to stop back by at the end of our date to get one to take home....unfortunately they were already closed. I will definitely visit this place again! 
Somebody was like a kid in a candy shop! We stopped in to this place and it smelled so deliciously sweet! We didn't end up buying any candy but it was fun to see it all in huge barrels. They had everything. 
Then we headed over to Billy Bob's for some dancing. We used to go back in college but it's quite different to go early on a Sunday evening. Why did all my college friends always make me go late on a Thursday night? This was waaayyyy better. 
Since we weren't there to enjoy the bars (on an early Sunday evening....) we did take time to walk around and look at all the country music memorabilia. Then we hit the pool table. Hahaha, we had never played pool together and it was so much fun. We played by our own rules and laughed so much.
We had the dance floor all to ourselves! Seriously, we joked that this must be what it's like to be on a date on The Bachelor. There were other people there but a lot of the time we were the only ones dancing and other people were just watching us while the music played. It was fun and romantic and goofy all at the same time. I love dancing and going two stepping again was one of my things on my "before I turn 30" bucket list. Having the dance floor to ourselves at 7pm sure beats sharing it with a hundred other people at 11pm.
We really had such an enjoyable night and I'm so thankful that my mom was able to babysit. It's good to get a break from everything. Of course, just in case our life felt too much like a reality TV show, our little girl woke us up with a scary coughing attack about an hour after we had fallen asleep. She seemed like she couldn't breathe. It was one of those parenting moments when you aren't sure what is wrong and you don't know at what point you need to consider taking your child to the hospital. So scary. We ended up letting her stay in our bed all night long so we would know she was okay. Not much sleep was had. I guess that's real life. This morning she asked to take a nap at 10am (3 hours early!) so I'm keeping an eye on her today. So grateful for a wonderful evening of memories to get me through a possibly exhausting day.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kick a ball. See a cow.

One of the joys of being married to a youth pastor is that you get to go and do lots of fun stuff. And other times you get to pretend to be excited about what you are going to do (like play any sport) because you want others to have tons of fun and enjoy the time together. Sigh. This is how I felt about playing kickball. I do not love to run. I do not love to sweat. I do not love scenarios when teams are picked, therefore forcing someone (usually me) to be the last player chosen. But I do love people. So I showed up for our youth kickball night. 
Having shared my deepest honest thoughts on playing sports, I will now state that I did in fact have a great time! I didn't score, but I did get to kick and run the bases with Eva. The other team was merciful enough to let us run one base each time and we made it all the way to third before we were inevitably gotten out. The weather was perfect for being outside. Sweating was minimal. My team won. And I got to hang out with some great students. There. I said it. I liked playing kickball. These words may not be held against me for future sporting events.
Eva may grow up being the world's best tag along buddy. She adores all of our youth and always wants to be right where the "big kids" are. Thank you to all our youth who love our daughter and try to include her. She thinks you are so cool. 
Backing up a week, I also wanted to include a good baptism night. One of our youth, Jake, decided to be baptized a week ago. We were very proud of his decision to walk with Jesus the rest of his life and look forward to being around to share some great years with him. 
The Beard family is so incredible. I'm sure they are not perfect (because no family is) but we love the example of love they have for each other. And their daughter Gentry is one of our favorite babysitters - we will be so sad when she leaves for college! 
The home where Jake was baptized was on a large piece of land in Decatur. Since land equals room to run Eva was happy as could be. See that girl racing through the long grass? I told you last time, she belongs on the prairie.
We got to go see the cows and feed them grass. Fun times. 
The sunlight casting through. The antique wagon wheel fence. The pigtails in my daughter's hair. Be still my heart.
I hope we can share lots of wide open space memories together....this girl loves the land! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The great outdoors and some good friends.

There have been times in my life when I was pretty sure that I was born in the wrong decade. I think I would have loved to grow up in the 40's or 50's. If that is true then I think that Eva should have been born in the pioneer days. My little munchkin loves to run and be outdoors so much and we just live in a time and place that sometimes limits her. Well on this beautiful summer day that thankfully wasn't even too hot we got to go and play at my friend Megan's house. Megan and I met in college, and she and her husband recently bought and are renovating the home she grew up in. It is not too far from us but it is more removed from the normal suburban area. I guess you would consider it the country? They are doing an awesome job making little changes to make it into their own home but what I loved best about their home was the big open yard and outdoor areas for the kids to play in. 
You know that amazing feeling when you are walking around and suddenly there is a horse right there? Well now Eva knows that feeling. Our other friend Sarah was in town visiting so she and her daughter Adaya came out to Megan's too. I think Eva just really enjoyed playing outside and being with other little friends (although we've definitely hit the time in toddlerhood where you have to learn how to play nicely with friends....). 
Megan's little man, Liev is so blessed to not only have such great parents but a great place to grow up in. His adventurous spirit just shines out of him!
And let's not forget the littlest, squishiest friend, Ellin. Seriously. How cute are those cheeks? I saw her when she was a newborn and have seen tons of photos online but getting to kiss those little arms in person was even better! We had such a relaxing morning and I'm thankful for old friends like Megan and Sarah. They are such great mama's and you can see how much they love their babies!