Monday, February 28, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Lazy Soul

Today with gusty winds and rain drizzling down, it was a comfort food kind of day. What says warm and cozy better than a vat of chili and some cornbread?! Okay, so it's not chicken soup, but it is just as classic.

I love that chili is a 'use what you have' soup, and that's what I do. Today I used black and garbanzo beans; two cans of garbanzo, four of black and two cans of diced tomatoes. Dump 'em all in a slow cooker (I have a large oval), draining the juices of the garbanzo beans. If you're opposed to canned goods, feel free to sub in beans that you've soaked overnight, but I am just not that planful. 

As I layered in the beans, I added about a palmful of chili powder, a healthy sprinkling of cumin and about a teaspoon of salt. You could also use a pouch of chili seasoning. This is great on its own, served with Greek yogurt and shredded cheese or whatever you like on chili. However, my carnivorous J has requested meat in his chili so I also browned a pound if lean ground turkey, seasoned with chili powder, cumin, salt pepper and about a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Stir it all together and let 'er rip in the crock pot all day.

About a half hour before serving I made Mark Bittman's skillet cornbread, using liquid egg whites and maple syrup in place of the sugar, and 3/4 c. greek yogurt and 1/2 c. milk instead of just milk. I love not only how simple this is to prepare, but also the fact that you warm the fat first and then pour the batter on top, creating a perfectly crunchy crust, while still getting a bread that's not dry (I just really don't like the word moist) in the middle. 

Cornbread muffins and pancakes are a big thing in Massachusetts, and when I was in the hospital having Charlie, they were on the breakfast menu...and I ordered them every single day. I now have an affinity for the flavor combination of cornbread and maple...makes me think of that sweet baby boy when what I have now is a crazy roaring toddler.

Dinner is served!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Monkey Socks by Cookie A.

I thought I'd make these socks a few years ago and was always too intimidated by them. I'm not sure why because they're the simplest repeating pattern. After the first few repeats, you don't need the chart anymore. These are a great pattern to take with you to knitting night or when commuting (if someone else is driving, obviously) as they are super portable and don't require a ton of concentration.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Whew! It's been a crazy few weeks. I'm fully into the swing of marathon training now, and am starting to feel confident and, dare I say, excited about completing a full in June. You can read all about my progress over at My Sole Sister. It's Superbowl Sunday, which means I'll be rewarding myself post-run today with pizza or some other ridiculously high calorie grease-fest. Go Packers!

On the knitting front, I've made significant progress on Tree of Life, with just one row of trees left to complete, then the border and I'm done. I went to 'the' mall for the first time since we moved here yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised that I'm able to fit in shirts two sizes smaller than before. I love that the scale isn't the only way to measure change.

In planning out my month, I'm realizing that this is the only weekend I don't have something on deck. Between running, birthdays, guests coming to town and just plain life happening, I'm booked almost solid until the weekend of the marathon and H's last week of school.

Which brings me to a couple of conclusions I've come to in my life. I'm ready to admit that I need help keeping my house clean. I'm not talking about someone to do my laundry or the dishes, or even making beds and vacuuming. But hells yes, I am talking about someone else to scrub my tubs, the stovetop and the inside of my microwave. Not to mention dusting and even washing the windows. H is starting swimming lessons this week and I know that life will only continue to get more hectic.

Speaking of throwing money at your problems: J and I decided this summer that we wouldn't put anything on our card we couldn't pay off the following month. We just want to have it in use, but won't be carrying a balance. So far, so good. All of our home projects have been paid for from our account so far, with only deposits for vacation rentals put on the card, and I feel really good about it. The down-side is that the house is coming together slowly, the upside being that I'm able to live in it and see how I really want it to be before making any rash decisions.

The next project I'm ready to tackle is tiling the bath surround in the master (good-bye wet walls everytime I let the kids bathe in my tub) and the backsplash in the kitchen. Keeping in mind this isn't our forever home, I've decided to stick with the simple tumbled tile that we already have, but in a rectangular shape in a subway pattern. For the bathroom, I'm taking it up to the windowsill...will that make it look too boxed in? Yes, I'm really asking for your opinion.

In addition to not accumulating new debt, we're committed to having zero debt when we purchase our next house (in about 5 years), excluding our mortgage, but including student loan debt. Anyone with experience with aggressive debt reduction while still having some luxuries and fun is welcome to leave a comment with a program you followed or things that you found worked for you.

I watched Oprah's special on happiness and it cemented my desire to give my kids experiences over giving them things. Did you know that the income at which happiness is no longer increased caps out at $75,000 a year? That was surprising to me. Additionally, joining a club in which you are expected to attend once a month increases your happiness the same amount that doubling your income would. It's all about feeling a connectedness to those around you, and having experiences rather than things.

So, of course, I immediately went online and bought the two pair of shoes (not on credit, mind you) I'd been coveting. What?! I'm not expected to experience everything with sub-par footwear am I? I know...all over the place with this one, but that's what happens when I go so long without posting.

Lastly, in exactly a month, I'll be having quite an experience as I celebrate my friend's 40th birthday with her at Kelea Surf Spa (paid in advance, thank you) on the North Shore of Oahu. This mama has worked long and hard and I feel like I deserve this break. Here's the thing, I hadn't even questioned that fact until people started looking at me in wonderment when they heard what I was doing, where I was going, and that my husband was okay with being left to fend for himself and the kids. Well, I guess my boss was right: You'll never have to worry about Wutzke getting her needs met. I do appreciate the support of a spouse who hasn't questioned my deserve level either. There, J, I said it.