Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Loaded Baked Potato Chicken Casserole

I found a great recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Chicken Casserole from "My Sweet Little Steiner Family" and had to try it. After all, with a recipe title like that, what isn't to love?

Since the cutting up of the ingredients and the pre-roasting of the potatoes takes a little while (and since my husband has no patience when he is hungry and thinks every meal should be ready by 5:30pm), I prepared the potatoes the night before so that they were ready the next night for the chicken and other ingredients.

Here's how you can make Loaded Baked Potato Casserole!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs chicken breasts, cubed or shredded
  • 10-12 small red potatoes diced (I used 6 medium red potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce ( I added this for a little kick)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. oregano (I added this just because I like a little herb taste in my taters)
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tbs. garlic powder
  • 2 c. Mexican Blend Cheese
  • 1/2 c. crumbled bacon (I substituted "real" bacon bits)
  • 1/2 c. chopped green onion (I forgot this ingredient, oops)
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Wash and cut your potatoes. As I said above, I had medium-sized red potatoes so I only used 6. I also use an apple corer/slicer to cut my potatoes because it is SO much easier than quartering them by hand. I just half the potatoes then use the apple slicer to cut them into pieces. If the slices are too large, I just half them.



2. Mix the olive oil, Tabasco, garlic, pepper and salt. Pour over potatoes and shake to really coat the potatoes in the seasoning.

3. Place the potatoes into a greased baking dish, leave as much of the mix as possible.  Bake potatoes for 1 hr, stirring the potatoes every 15-20 mins. Check with a fork to ensure the potatoes are done.


4. While the potatoes are baking, cut your chicken into hunks and pour in the bowl that that potatoes were seasoned in. Mix the chicken around so it can be covered in the leftover seasoning from earlier. Pour the chicken into a skillet and cook through until chicken is practically done (just a little pink)

5. Combine the cheese and crumbled bacon (or bacon bits like I used) along with the green onion (which I didn't use) in a separate bowl.

6.  Once the potatoes are finished, dump the chicken on top of the potatoes, spreading out as evenly as possible. Cover the chicken & potatoes with the cheese mixture. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees and put the dish into the oven. Cook about 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the chicken is cooked through.


7. Serve with sour cream or ranch dressing (or nothing at all) and enjoy!


Monday, January 27, 2014

weekend update

This weekend included shopping for toddler clothes, margaritas at noon and finding my child covered in paint.

Saturday, I dropped Sawyer off with my parents, grabbed my friend Dana and headed to Raleigh to pick up my friend Hope and hit Carter's.

Never did I think I would be so excited to go shopping for toddler clothes. They had a great 40% off sale and I had a coupon along with some Carter's Cash so I got $250 worth of clothes for $130! Being the OCD person I am, I went online before we left and added all the items I wanted into my cart to see my exact total (and plan how to wisely spend my limit of $150, thanks Josh) and then printed out my cart. Planning ahead usually keeps me from going crazy when I see sale (which happens more often than not).


I also took a look at some lanterns at Home Goods and TJ Maxx... I do believe my pockets aren't deep enough to go for the look I want, sadly. Back to the drawing board (aka Pinterest) I go!

After shopping, we grabbed some lunch at Chili's at Brier Creek and treated ourselves to some day drinkin'. After all, Hope had a bad week with her husband being quarantined with the flu and having to keep her 7 month old away from him, so we needed to celebrate her freedom. If you haven't had Chili's new Blueberry Pineapple Fusion Margarita, go try one right now. Seriously.


Once I got back to Tarboro, I decided I'd let Sawyer paint for a little while so that I could wrap some of his new clothes to give to him for his b-day. In the 5 minutes it took me to put the clothes in the spare bedroom and get out the wrapping paper I noticed he was being VERY quiet. I went to check on him in the play room and found this:

Paint everywhere. Needless to say, his little easel got put away and his paint has been hidden.

Sunday was spent being at church, being lazy around our house then taking hte laziness over to Josh's parents' house so I could get some snuggle time in with our precious niece, Karlie. Isn't she precious (side note: those aren't my hands in the picture haha)?!

Friday, January 24, 2014

the good husband.

On this day nine years ago, I started dating Josh Edmondson. He was a pretty good boyfriend, but he is a phenomenal husband. He is my best friend, my confidant and I can't imagine my life without him in it. But what about him makes him my idea of a great husband?

He challenges me. If I am wrong, or being ridiculous about something he'll let me know. If we disagree on something, that's okay, that's what makes us, US. We don't have to have the opinions on everything, and Lord knows we don't. He makes me look at things from a different point of view. How boring would life be if we all agreed on everything?
2006, little babies.

He listens to me. he lets me rant and rave about an issue and doesn't try to solve "the problem" unless I say, "what should I do?" He just lets me talk, is my sounding board for things I can't figure out and sometimes catches the brunt of my anger when I am actually angry at something else.



He knows when I 'need a minute'. Josh can look at me and realize, oh crap, she is about to lose it. He just knows when that moment happens that he needs to leave me be, and let me get over something. He doesn't push for me to "let it go" or try to stay and talk me down.

For example: the time he got a tattoo and I found out he was getting it because our lovely friend Chris Mitchell tagged me in a photo of him getting on it Facebook. Wrath like you've never seen, folks. He just gave me time to get over it and told me I could spend the same amount he spent on the tattoo in clothes. Done deal. 


He is an amazing father. I get confused when people say stuff like "how amazing is my husband? He watched little Johnny so I could finally get some rest, because I'm sick"... ummm that's what they're supposed to do, they made that kid too. Josh is a champion father. I don't have to ask him to do something for Sawyer or beg him to look after him while I cook supper, he just does it. In fact, he is often a more attentive parent than I am. But I realize that not everyone has the luxury of a husband that is an involved dad, I take it for granted. 


He is passionate. I can't imagine being with a man who doesn't have passion for something. Whether it's a sports team or a hobby. Josh is passionate about things like his job and growth in our downtown area, our Pirates and about raising Sawyer right. He is also passionate in other ways.... that I won't mention here if you catch my drift.


He loves my friends. I don't mean that he tolerates them and is polite when they come over, I mean he has conversations with them and counts them as his friends too.

He still puts up with me after 9 years of being together and almost 5 years of marriage.
the earliest picture of us, in 2005
Happy Dating Anniversary Joshua, and don't worry, I don't expect you to remember this anniversary on top of our wedding anniversary (just as long as you can always remember that one).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

sookie the snow ruin-er

I am not the person that sees a few snowflakes, throws on her snow gear (aka a hoodie, North Face & several layers of leggings) and then jumps on social media with snowy selfies. I do not like the snow. I have managed to wreck twice in the ice and generally try to avoid any circumstances that involve me slipping and sliding around in the stuff.

My child however, LOVES the snow. As does my husband. So Tuesday night when it started big-time snowing I began dreading the ice that would soon be covering our roads, but Josh and Sawyer immediately ran outside to play.


I was sure it wouldn't stick, there would be no accumulation (because that is a super rare occasion in eastern NC) but sure enough, we woke up to this:




Come Wednesday morning our road was disgustingly icy and ECU was still operating on a two-hour delay (despite all the local schools being closed and such, ugh). Thankfully I have an amazing boss and he let me get some work done from home so I didn't have to brave the black-iced highways (and endanger everyone else on the road).

We spent a good two hours playing in the snow before we trekked to Sawyer's daycare and Josh went to work so I could actually work from home.




Then Sawyer discovered icicles....



...but so did Sookie. And she literally stole three right out of Sawyer's hands.

Look at Sawyer's look of utter betrayal in that last picture!

Sookie also enjoyed ruining snow angels, mainly because she assumes any time someone sits on the ground, she needs to sit too, in your lap or on your face, whatever suits her best.


Today, the snow is almost melted and while I am happy that I can now drive to work without having a complete meltdown (no pun intended), it was nice to spend even a few hours playing in it with Sawyer (and Sookie).


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Naked Porch

This past weekend was spent introducing my girl Kate to Hobby Lobby (love at first sight, of course) and being as lazy as possible. And thanks to another sinus infection (because it can't be fall/winter unless I get at least four or five), it was just just what the doctor ordered, literally.

Since I was being lazy, I also found several projects that I want to do around the house on Pinterest.

With all the Christmas decorations gone, my front porch has looked exceptionally naked.


I loved how my porch looked with something on either side of the door and I am thinking that some lanterns would look great there, like they do at this house (except without the Christmas garland and such):
via
But since lanterns that tall are super expensive, I think I would need to add a table or something underneath smaller lanterns to raise them up a little. I really would like to recreate the planters holding the topiary trees that are pictured below except enclosing the top and with a larger monogram, maybe in the same color purple as my front door? Then fill in the empty space with some greenery & hydrangeas

via

Thankfully, this coming weekend I am making a trip to Raleigh to spend some Carter's Cash (Sawyer's birthday is in less than a month!) and visit my best friend Hope. There is a Home Goods and a TJ Maxx right next to the Carter's store so I do believe I will be making a stop to hunt for some cheap lanterns like the ones below:

1...2...3...4

In the mean time, I am making a new wreath for the door like the one I made before (but had to auction off for Relay instead of keep). See that tutorial here.



I also want to do some galvanized buckets or planters with our house number and "The Edmondson's" on the front steps. I love the examples below and think I could easily re-create them!

except in the same color as our front door?

How do you decorate your front porch or front door?

Friday, January 17, 2014

excitement in a small town

I posted back in August (read here) about how our little town of Tarboro in eastern NC is growing and how my husband is playing a part in it. It is awesome to see Josh enjoying his work, he truly loves nurturing our passionate fellow Tarboro-ians and helping them put their plans to fruition.

Well, one of those plans is about to become a major reality.

With the help of a Main Street Solutions Fund grant (and lots of proof-reading by me, I might add), Inez & Stephen will hopefully start work soon on turning one of our downtown buildings, that was once a service station into the Tarboro Brewing Company.

Both Inez & Stephen are ginormous supporters of our town and public schools, and their restaurant, On the Square is one of my favorite places to eat (along with their sushi truck). It is also one of the top 100 restaurants in America (according to Open Table).

Inez is a Tarboro native and moved back to Tarboro from NYC shortly after 9/11 with Stephen. She has a great blog you should check out and you can see her in action promoting the brewery on their indiegogo page!

Inez & Stephen in On the Square
What makes me so excited about the brewery is that it will be family oriented. There will be a game room and you can bring your own food into the tap room. Not to mention it will be a great location to host parties & other gatherings. And we desperately need some night life and a place to go do stuff in town!

I am also happy that a beautiful older building is getting the face lift it deserves. I hate to see empty store fronts in our downtown and hate even more when a building doesn't get to reach its potential. I know that Inez & Stephen are going to turn their Sullivan building into a place that makes Tarboro proud.

check out the high ceilings in that bottom right picture, PERFECT for giant tanks of beer!

I'll keep you updated on the fun progress of this endeavor. In the meantime, support local! Buy what you can from your in-town stores and support your community by giving back to local business owners. It not only helps them, but helps you and your town!




Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pinterest: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I love Pinterest. I grab recipes from there, outfit inspiration and even pin my Christmas lists for my parents so they have a one-stop place with links and everything they may need to know to get presents. However, it has its ups and downs.

The Good
How awesome is it to organize all your thoughts, dreams, wants and recipes in one place?! Yes, you could always just bookmark a page, but on Pinterest you can have a visual of links organized by subject (an OCD person dream!).  I especially love it when I need inspirations for party planning, printables or other design-related things.



The Bad
Some times, it makes me spend money. Which is mainly my fault, but I like to blame Pinterest too. I have found so many new, great boutiques and shops through Pinterest and I've purchased a great sweater or dress or piece of jewelry from a Pin... only to find out if I had taken the time to shop around I would have found it cheaper somewhere local or at the mall. Or I will find a top I have to have on someone's Pinterest boards only to discover it's an old Pin and has been sold out for like, ever.


The Ugly
It makes me envious of other people, to the point of angry jealousy and also coveting. I can't even pretend I haven't looked at a pin of someone's vacation pics or super long, perfectly curled hair and thought, why can't I have that? And don't even get me started on the clothes, amazing bodies or beautiful homes. I look through pins and pictures and I have to remind myself that I am blessed with tons of things and I need not fret over not having a thigh gap or a J. Crew Excursion Vest.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Read with Me: Cassandra Clare

I have been obsessed with Cassandra Clare books lately.

It all started with reading the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones. 

I liked City of Bones. It had a great story line, and left you on the edge of your seat for the next book in the series, City of Ashes. But, for me,  it was missing something. The characters are 16-18 so they're a little younger than the characters in other books I read and therefore it was quite as... steamy as the others. The writing, oh the writing is amazing though, without the steaminess. It's original and the characters quote Tennyson and Dickens for goodness sake. 

Check out a synopsis of the book here (I would write my own summary, but I am terrible at it because I get too excited and spill important spoilers & get way too detailed). 

I mentioned that I loved the series and was sad about the lack of passion and sexual tension to which my friend Bridgette said, "Oh, well you have to read her prequel to The Mortal Instruments, a trilogy called The Infernal Devices then." 

Thank you, Bridgette.


The Infernal Devices books were unbelievable. I read all three of them in the span of two days and stayed up all hours of the night finishing them. I got so emotionally attached to the characters and apparently got way too into the story since I woke Josh up twice with gasps & "oh nos!" while reading. I lost sleep over these characters and was so sad when I finished Clockwork Princess the other night. 

Here is the synopsis of Clockwork Angel, according to Goodreads: "The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them..."

I can't tell you enough how much you should read the trilogy. I admire Cassandra Clare's work so much and can't get over her amazing attention to detail. 




Want to know what else I'm reading? Check out my Shelfari at the bottom of my blog (you have to go to the home page to see it) !


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

explaining death to a toddler

One of my oldest, and best friends Dana lost her sweet mema, Mrs. Hilda last week. Mrs. Hilda was a spitfire of a lady and was always smiling and laughing. She played the organ for our church for as long as I can remember and we just had a special day just for her last year when she decided to retire her organ seat to another member of the church.

My favorite Mrs. Hilda moment was a few years ago. We were at choir practice one Wednesday night and she had really jammed out on the organ during one of our songs. I told her that she had done a great job on that song and she proceeded to dust off her shoulders and say "I know".

Mrs. Hilda with Dana's son Colton
Last Tuesday night was the visitation at church and I had to take Sawyer along (since our heat went out and I had to leave Josh home to figure out that situation).

When we got to the church I explained to him that Colt Colt and Dane Dane's mema was going to be with Jesus and that we were going to go hug them and their family and tell them we love them and we were praying for them.

When we got inside the church, Sawyer saw Mrs. Hilda's body at the front of the church and said, "Mommy, why is Dane Dane's mema sleeping in that box?" (insert me starting to ugly cry here)

I was at a loss for words. What do you say to an almost-3-year-old about death and why we put a body on display? So I told him that when people die we put them in a special box so we can see them one more time before Jesus takes them to heaven.

His reply was "Well I hope they have a piano in heaven for Dane Dane's mema to play." I laughed and told him that Mrs. Hilda played the organ, not the piano to which he replied "Mommy. I have seen her play it every day at church. She plays the piano." Bless him.

We made it through the line and got to Dana and her family and Dana & I immediately burst into tears upon seeing each other. We hugged and cried (and held up the line) then said our goodbyes so she could see the hundreds of other people waiting to express their condolences.

Me and Sawyer got to the car and he said, "Mommy why did you and Dane Dane cry?"

I told him that we were sad that Mrs. Hilda was going to heaven and not staying with us. In his little country accent he said, "Well, you need to stop 'cwying' because Jesus wanted her too."

While I hate the reason behind our tears, it is nice to know my Sawyer knows that death is not the end and that me and Josh are at least doing SOMETHING right in raising him to know about the Lord.

Please be in prayer for Dana and her family and Mrs. Hilda's husband, Mr. Ralph. They would have been married 60 years this year and he was the light of her life.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Old People Debt



This is a rant. I realize it is irrational and I may or may not sound like a spoiled brat, but I am going to just let my fingers type what my mouth is too ashamed/well-trained to say right now. 

Our heating system broke on Tuesday. Yes, the day that it was 14 degrees in Eastern NC.

Well, we need a brand new one. Insert me crying and thinking of becoming a stripper on the side (jk mom). So, we've been staying with my parents since then with hopes of getting back into our house tonight.

While I am happy we are able to put a new unit in (with help from our credit card), I am also a little angry.

I work hard and I love my job, so why does it feel like we are always struggling to make ends meet? Granted, we got paid early in December so that long stretch from 12/23/13 to 1/15/14 is supppper hard, but why can't we spend money in FUN ways!?

I want to have cool, young people debt that comes from going on too many vacations or getting a little crazy in the Lilly store, not from multiple hospital stays for my toddler or from school loans and tires!

So, I try to focus on what we do have. How blessed we are to even have a roof over our head (even if it is a cold roof right now) and how grateful I should be for the things I have that others go without.

Then I remind myself of this:

"Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" Luke 12:15 (NIV)


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Copy Cat Salads

Texas Steakhouse has an amazing salad called the "Harvest Salad" that I always order with grilled chicken on top. It has citrus fruits, poppy seed dressing and pecans so what's not to love? The $13 price tag, that's what.


So I set out to make my own version of it at home. First, I made poppy seed dressing from this Betty Crocker recipe and some sugar-roasted pecans using this recipe.

Then I made my salad:
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 can of mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 can of pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1 grilled chicken breast
So yummy, delicious and more nutritious than most lunch meals I would usually eat. 

I loved that salad so much, that I decided to recreate another favorite salad of mine from Wendy's, the "Apple Pecan Chicken Salad". With chunks of blue cheese, green & red apples, pecans and dried cranberries, it is amazing and has similar ingredients to my other fav so I knew I could recreate it easily. 
I used the sugar-roasted pecans I made earlier and a bottle of Hidden Valley's Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing top off these ingredients:
  • Romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 a Granny Smith Apple (cut into wedges)
  • 1/2 a Red Delicious Apple (cut into wedges)
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 grilled chicken breast.
With these recipes for yummy salads, it's been a lot easier to eat lunch in the office, saving time & money!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

the pirate ship bed, it sank.

So remember this post about the awesome pirate ship bed Santa got for Sawyer for Christmas in hopes he would get out of our bed/room?



Yeah, it didn't work.

Christmas night he was pumped couldn't wait to go lay in his bed and go to sleep. Grabbed my hand and walked me to his room and climbed up in there and requested to watch Bubble Guppies. Well, Bubble Guppies ended and then he realized "oh crap, I am laying in a bed in my own room and will not be snuggling with my daddy." Then the screaming started.

And it lasted for two hours. He was hyperventilating, gagging, hitting his head on the wall (I am not even exaggerating).  So, I gave in (well really, Josh gave in because he's a giant softy). He got in our bed.

And stayed there for two nights before we went on vacation to the mountains.

When we got home from the mountains, Josh sailed the ship into our room (without the sail). Sawyer slept by himself in that bed all night since then. So, baby steps people, he will hopefully get used to the bed now that he is actually in it then we will eventually move it back to his room.

Angry ginger toddler drinking juice and watching a DVD in his bed.