Food

Fall Flavor Favorites

Say that three times fast!

I know, it’s not officially fall, but in Wyoming it gets cool pretty early so it absolutely feels like fall — we turned on the heater this week! There are little hints of fall cropping up around the house even as I toil away at all our renovation projects… (sigh. That is a post for another day. It’s totally worth it though. And now I’m realizing there’s a lot I need to update here.)

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There’s going to be a mantel there soon! Anyway. I wanted to share a few favorite fall/cool weather recipes that we’ve been enjoying, and please share yours in the comments, I’m always looking for something good!

This Creamy Chicken and Corn Chowder is a big favorite around here, especially if you go to the effort of cooking and crumbling bacon and having green onions on hand.

Mmmm… I probably make it a little too often though.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

There are millions of versions out there, I just sort of invented my own after having some at a friend’s house and loving it. This one always brings back memories of Sunday night dinners with Mark and Danielle when we were all newlyweds in our tiny apartments at BYU… eating dinner off of trays or their coffee table because none of us even had a proper dining room table ha ha.

So here’s my version, it’s pretty easy too because it’s a crock pot recipe (yay!) and mostly uses cans — I know, super healthy.

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Ingredients:
2-3 chicken breasts
2 cans petite diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1 small can diced green chiles, drained (Don’t just do Rotel because rotel is in water, whereas the tomatoes come in tomato juice (ish) — I learned this the hard way)
2 cans of beans (I like to use kidney and chilli beans, but any type of reddish beans works)
2 cups chicken broth
Taco seasoning (one packet)
Frozen corn (about 1 cup — you can do a can but it tastes so much better frozen)
Fresh cilantro, chopped finely
Optional: Top with grated cheddar/fiesta cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, sliced avocado, and tortilla chips.

Instructions:
Put chicken in crockpot with the chicken broth and some taco seasoning on low for about two hours or until cooked (or high for faster cooking — I always use frozen but if it’s just raw then it’ll obviously take less time. You know your crockpot.)

Once the chicken is cooked, shred it or tear it into small pieces, then dump in all the cans and the rest of the broth, as well as any additional taco seasoning (I just do this to taste). Cook on high for about two hours, and in the last 15 minutes or so add in the frozen corn and cilantro.

Serve with grated cheddar/fiesta cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, sliced avocado, and tortilla chips.

Zuppa Toscana is another one we love, and honestly I like it better homemade than at Olive Garden (which is a good thing because we don’t have an Olive Garden anymore anyway!). I just use an online copycat recipe like this one, but I’ll add this: use HOT Italian sausage. Mild is weak sauce and also won’t give you very much flavor. You have to use hot!

My mother-in-law has a delicious Pasta e Fagiole recipe that we really like too, but that’s a family recipe so I’m not sure if I’m allowed to share… 😉 But there are plenty of copycats online, I’ll just share a few helpful tips: again, it’s better with HOT Italian sausage (you can do half ground beef, half Italian sausage, that’s my favorite way to do it), and cook and serve the pasta separately — meaning don’t let it sit in the soup and get all soggy, let people add their pasta in separately when they are served the soup and store it separately as well if there are leftovers. Also, in the Hispanic section of the grocery store, you’ll find these little mini bags of pasta that are the perfect size and portion for this soup — we usually use the small shell pasta.

I do make other things than soup in the fall… How about a fabulous dessert? We discovered this Pumpkin Praline Bread Pudding last fall and it was pretty fabulous.

It’s the sauce/syrup that really makes it though. We had extra so I’ve been using it on pancakes, ice cream… it would be delicious on an apple crisp too!

Speaking of which… Apple Crumble. I learned to make this by watching my teenage BFF’s mother (she’s French-Italian and is an amazing cook) make it off the cuff in her kitchen. It’s so simple, but soooo good! Essentially: dice up a whole lotta apples, pack them into a baking dish (don’t skimp on the apples, it cooks down so pack them in there!) and pour a little bit of water over, and sprinkle in some brown sugar and cinnamon (easy on the cinnamon). For the crumble part, use your fingers to work salted butter into flour and a little brown sugar then crumble it on top as you go (this is essentially pâte brisée — 2:1 ratio of flour to butter). Bake until the apples are a bubbly, sticky mess and the crumble is slightly golden (probably about 45 minutes). Voilà!

And my friend Laurin makes an incredible Hot Apple Cider that I’m probably not at liberty to disclose, but the key is topping it with fresh, homemade whipped cream with a little cinnamon in it… This copycat recipe might help you out though!

Okay I think that’s enough recipes for now… What are your fall favorites?

Travel

France: Going Home 2017

There is so much to say about our trip to France this year, I hardly know where to start. Our visit to Switzerland (Incredible. I want to move there.), the beach (not nearly enough of it), family, the Paris temple, more family, friends, Adelina playing with other kids in French, a beautiful wedding, some crazy days traveling with two kids under the age of three… oh, the food. The food. It was all very hard to leave behind, but as my wise uncle once said, we stored up buckets of sunshine for the long winter months ahead.

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Plenty more to come.

Holidays

Independence Day 2017

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We headed down to sunny St George to visit family for the fourth of July, and it was blazing hot, but the trip didn’t disappoint! We spent as much time getting wet as we possibly could, because that’s how you cope with the heat in my book.

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(Ha ha. I love cousin photos) Water play, and eating snow cones on the patio or relaxing inside my in-laws’ beautifully air-conditioned home! (she was a lot happier about this than she looks)

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Ahhhhh. How I miss air-conditioning (there are very few homes in our area that have it, people just go without since the winters are so long).

I’m sure many of you can relate to this next photo… This is what happens when you try to get a picture with your child: the only one where you’re smiling is the one where you have crazy eyes because you’re trying to get them to look at the camera. Oh boy!

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Jonas loved exploring (he was fascinated by that vacuum cleaner hose!) and of course getting kisses and cuddles from everybody. And yogurt.

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I love having all this attention around them too — Andrew and I actually managed to sneak out on a date night! We saw Wonder Woman, and it was awesome. I loved it! I think what I loved most was that she was a mind-blowingly powerful fighter (all those slow-mo action scenes were sooooo cool, and watching her bring justice upon bad guys is incredibly cathartic!) but she is also vulnerable, sensitive, innocent in the best of ways (her reaction to the first baby she’s ever seen just melted me!), and compassionate. The much-discussed no-man’s-land scene is perfect ❤️ She brings the best of femininity to an awesome superhero, and that’s why I loved her the most. She embraces her AND without embarrassment or complication: “well what do mortal women wear when they go into combat then?!” I loved her relationship with Chris Pine’s character! I could also go on about spiritual analogies — they were abundant — but I’m turning into my dad ha ha so I’ll just stop at how much I love how she comes to her decision that humanity is worthy of love and of her saving. And I loved the movie.

Anyway! Adelina loved running wild and playing with her cousins. Sophia sure is patient with this girl!

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Of course, we ate our share of appropriately-themed patriotic foods (below, a jello-raspberry-angel food cake trifle) and wore red white and blue…

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Because what are holidays for if not dressing up your kids in cute clothes? Ha! I look forward to getting more into the history and meaning of holidays as our kids grow older — with Adelina I think it was limited to “yay hot dogs” this year (ha) but really, how do you explain abstract concepts like “freedom from tyranny” and “the pursuit of happiness” to a 2-year-old? We’ll keep working on that one, to be honest, with packing and traveling, I kind of dropped the ball and was just looking forward to relaxing.

It all ended with some good ol’ fashioned at-home fireworks. We let Adelina stay up late with the cousins and I think it went pretty well! I have some great memories of fireworks with my dad when we lived in Virginia, and trying so hard to stay awake even though we were exhausted and couldn’t keep our eyes open! I think she’s on the right track to making those memories herself 😉

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The next morning, the 4th, we packed up and headed home, full of Fiiz soda and jello trifle and hot dogs and chips and everything else that goes with Independence Day picnics. We skated into town with enough time to put the kids to bed and enjoy our small town’s INSANE fireworks display — and this is before the actual fireworks show started!

(This doesn’t really do it justice but it’s a taste — everyone was lighting up the sky with these crazy aerial fireworks! And yes, our kids seriously slept through the entire thing.) Next year is going to be a blast.

 

Life

Jonas’ First Haircut

Snip snip… and just like that, Jonas had his first haircut this week!

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Not really much of a difference, but he was getting some serious wisps around the edges. My mother-in-law was brave enough to hold him as he squirmed and tried to grab the scissors, and I had to make it brief so I wouldn’t poke out an eye! It’s not exactly perfect, but I at least managed to trim it and clean it up a bit around the ears.

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And there you have it! Love those teeny baby hairs! Our boy is growing so fast… 7 1/2 months old already!

Life · Motherhood · Parenting

Ain’t That a Kick In the Head

Hi guys! I’m still here, I promise. Things have just been a little wild lately. A project I joined early in the year has been essentially taking up all my spare computer time and my toddler decided she wants to make things super fun and stop napping. So things have been interesting around these parts… That, and I swear I’m tired all the time now, even though Jonas is sleeping really well these days (putting him in his own room a month ago was the best decision we’ve ever made! He immediately started sleeping almost through the night!)

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::cough:: favorite child ::cough cough::

I jest! But our daughter is giving me a serious run for my money these days. To be honest, it’s hard right now. I am losing my mind. And I know I need to be better at regulating my own mood and behavior, but man… when there’s a tiny person permanently glued to your side who whines and cries at the drop of a hat and refuses to sleep so she NEVER EVER goes away… it’s rough. (I know, poor me. I’ll stop my complaining. Shortly.)

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A very rare moment of peace. The constant battles are exhausting.

I know what you’re thinking right now. “But didn’t you just write about getting over the no-nap slump?” hahahahahahaha. Bedtime was getting to be a nightmare and she wouldn’t fall asleep until 9pm or later because she wasn’t tired, so I finally had to bite the bullet and get rid of naps. I know, right? Life. And the folly of a still-learning mom who thought she’d figured something out.

Oh, and want to laugh? Potty training has gone completely down the toilet too. We couldn’t get past #2, and I was sick of literally washing human excrement out of everything, every day (remember, I have a baby too…), so we gave it a break. Whatever.

Let’s see, what else am I awesome at right now: Being nice to my toddler? Really struggling. We have our ups and downs. Responding to emails quickly? HA. Screen time under control?

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Meh. It could be worse. My own media consumption has been pretty bad lately — whenever things get rough I tend to bury my head in my phone to escape. Time for another media fast… an acquaintance recently shared that she logs off all social media every other day these days, and I kind of like that idea. Or what I’ve done in the past, only looking at my phone when the kids are asleep (WHICH MEANS NEVER THANKS TO A CERTAIN SOMEONE). Ahem.

So yeah, we’re really winning around here. Lest anybody be under the illusion I have even a semblance of my crap together… I don’t. I know one-on-one time with her is what she craves and needs, and we do have good moments — she’s really into reading books now so I love doing that with her — but then her brother wakes up and I need to nurse him and she’s literally climbing on top of him to interpose herself… deep breaths. We’ll get there. This is what we call the trenches of motherhood, right? At least she makes us laugh plenty too!

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On the plus side: there’s been a lot of exciting stuff this summer already, and we are going home to France in one month! My sister was married this month and it was insanity for the kids, but it was so fun to be a part of it all, to spend time with my family, to relive all the excitement of a wedding and a new life.

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Reminded me of these kids…

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Ha! We were such babies! So much has happened since then. Life is a lot more complicated, and a lot harder. (man, parenting! careers! home-ownership!) But it’s good to have this guy at my side to go through it all.

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Clubfoot

World Clubfoot Day — June 3rd, 2017

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I’ve written a lot about our son’s clubfeet and all the medical care he’s received as a result. June 3rd is World Clubfoot Day and we spent a lot of time reflecting on our journey so far and what our sweet boy has been through. He’s come so far!

We’re the lucky ones — we only live two hours away from a top-notch clinic at a Shriners Hospital for Children, we live in the first world and have health insurance and access to plenty of information. And, clubfoot is a congenital birth defect that’s relatively common and completely treatable. It’s not life-altering. But it could be, if we didn’t have access to all of this. If you ever feel like it’s hard to make a difference in the world, here’s one thing you can do:

  • Donate to MiracleFeet: they provide organizational, technical, and financial support to over 150 clinics throughout the world in order to provide treatment to children born with clubfoot. The treatment costs, on average, only $250 per child and is free or extremely low-cost for the families who receive it
  • Support Shriners Hospitals for Children

The Wyoming Shrine Bowl is next week. We attended a few years ago when we lived in Casper, but had no idea at the time it would become personal. Sitting in the stadium then, we never imagined we’d someday be beneficiaries of local Shriners’ fundraising efforts a few years later!

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We are lucky his birth defect is mild and treatable, but even then, it’s not cheap, and Shriners helps make it all so much more affordable.

For anyone who might end up here after receiving the initial diagnosis: there is a lot of joy to come, even though it may be hard at times. Just wanted to share some encouragement as we celebrate our own precious little one! ❤

photography

Love

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I got to shoot my little sister’s engagement photos this past weekend, and it was so much fun. First of all, photographing adults is WAY easier than kids. No question. And second, I made these two college students wake up early on a Saturday morning to take pictures, but I think it was well worth it to get that gorgeous morning light!

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It doesn’t hurt that my sister is pretty much gorgeous either — and her fiancé isn’t half bad either 😉

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We are all pretty excited for their wedding this summer — but probably not nearly as much as these two love birds!

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