Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Busy, busy

We've been busy around the Gafford home.

We are moving! Houses, not blogs. :)

We are getting some major renovation done in the new house so we won't be moving for 4 weeks or so. Don't worry, I have before pictures! (I love seeing people's before pictures, too). Y'all it's going to look nothing like it did when we bought it. It was a well-cared for home just a little outdated and in need of a face lift. We aren't going anywhere else so it's worth it to get it all done before we move in. We'll be able to enjoy it all for years!

Because of all this house updating blogging is last on my list. Don't worry I'm still cooking, we're gobbling leftovers and up to our usual shenanigans. But, right now, I'm focused on paint colors, tile, countertops, etc. I'm almost done picking all of it out (thank goodness) so I'll be back here before you know it. I'll still pop in and post my menu plan or a meal we've loved. You can't get rid of me so easily!

Until my next post, keep on cooking and checking back. I'm here, just in and out.

P.S. I'm checking out blueberry bushes. I'm going here for my needs (Daniel's cousin used them and gave good feedback). Anyone do any gardening? I've tried tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapeno peppers the last 2 years but I just didn't get much out of it. But blueberries I cook with a lot and the girls eat like they're going out of style. And they come back year after year. I like that. Now, I just need to keep them alive so I can reap the benefits of them. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Penne

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Penne-modified from Southern Girl Cooking

1 bottle of Lawry's herb and garlic marinade
4 large spoonfuls of pesto
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; cut into one-inch strips
-Place all ingredients in a gallon size bag and marinate up to 24 hours.

16 ounces pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
4 spoonfuls of pesto
1 cup of chicken broth
16 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups half and half

Cooking Instructions:
1. Boil water and start cooking noodles, drain when ready.
2. Pour entire batch of chicken, marinade too, into skillet and cook chicken fully. The marinade will evaporate and cook down to about half. When complete, remove from pan.
3. In now empty pan, heat olive oil, cook garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pesto, then chicken broth and simmer until half is cooked down. Add tomato sauce then half and half. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp flour if it needs to thicken (I thought it needed it). Stir in drained noodles and then the chicken and it's sauce until combined. Serve.

We loved this, even our Naomi loved it. She couldn't get enough in her mouth. It's creamy and has tons of flavor. It made so much I had enough to put a few servings in the freezer. This would easily serve 6 people when you serve it with a salad and vegetables. And the one jar of pesto I bought will make another batch of this. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Menu Plan Monday- January 21

We've had a busy week. It's been full of doctor visits, a sick mommy, getting work done in the house and a death in the family. I'm tired! We all are. I'm thankful for the family we have here and the love we've received from our church family. It's been an emotional week.

Last week, despite all the craziness, I stuck to our menu! We got a little behind but I made a Wednesday's dinner for lunch on Friday. So glad I did, too. The duchess potatoes were amazing!!! Try them, you won't be disappointed.

I've got another week of good eats planned. I've really enjoyed getting back into the kitchen. Just another 6 weeks or so and I'll be cooking in my new kitchen! :) I can't wait to create more memories in our new home.

January 21-27

Monday- garlic pesto chicken over pasta {new recipe} and vegetables

Tuesday- spaghetti, garlic bread and salad

Wednesday- chicken tortilla soup 

Thursday-chicken breasts with a special rub, baked potato and vegetables

Friday- pizza

Saturday- America's Test Kitchen taco's (these are the best, I never make anything else), black beans, mexican rice and lemon pudding cake {new}
(I gave my parents a gift certificate for Christmas, for dinner once a month with us)

Sunday- spaghetti leftovers

What's cooking in your kitchen this week?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Duchess Potatoes

Y'all these are amazing little wonders. They are fun and a different side item than just a baked potato. And surprisingly, so so simple to make. I was really surprised about how simple they were. Try them. You won't be disappointed!

Duchess Potatoes- from Cook's Country (aka America's Test Kitchen)
Printer-Friendly Recipe

3 pounds russet potatoes
1 cup heavy cream
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces and softened
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of nutmeg (yes, really!)
vegetable oil spray

Cooking Instructions:
1. Prick potatoes all over with a fork. Place in microwave and for 18-25 minutes, turning potatoes after 10 minutes. (Mine took right at 20 minutes, total)
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
3. Remove from microwave, cut in half. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and place in large bowl. Mash until no lumps remain. Add cream, 3 Tbsp butter, egg and yolk, salt, pepper, baking powder and nutmeg. Continue to mash until potatoes are smooth. Let cool to room temperature, 5-10 minutes. Gently fold in remaining 3 Tbsp softened butter.
4. Transfer potato mixture to piping bag fitted with 1/2 inch star tip. *(I used a gallon size ziploc bag and didn't use a star tip). Pipe eight 4-inch wide mounds of potato onto rimmed baking sheet. Spray lightly with vegetable oil spray and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve.

These can also be made 24 hours in advance. Pipe, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate up to 24 hours and bake as directed.

For the freezer:
Once piped onto baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap (loosely) and freeze for 2 hours or until solid. Transfer to your method of storage. When ready to bake place them onto a baking sheet, spray with vegetable spray and bake according to instructions. They can go straight from freezer to oven and need no extra time.

-I didn't have a big enough star tip so I put my potatoes in a gallon size ziploc bag and snipped off a corner. I then piped it on just like that and while it wasn't as pretty, it worked just the same.
-When piping, start from the outside and slowly work your way to the middle, overlapping a little each time around to create the mound and point in the middle. They make look terrible the first few times but you'll get the hang of it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What I've Been Hearing/Reading/Seeing

We are a family of readers. You could call Daniel and I life-long learners. And we hope to pass that love of learning to our girls.

We are constantly reading or learning something new. For example, I've taken on gardening the past couple of years. I have much to learn and am constantly reading up on what I can do better to improve our crop. Right after we got married (almost 5 years ago) Daniel took up painting and he's been quite successful at it. I love to make thank you cards and I want to learn how to sew. Not only do we have all these fun hobbies, but you're most likely to always see us with a book in our hands or a Kindle.

The past 10 days or so I've been reading A Thomas Jefferson Education by Olive DeMille. DeMille writes about the importance of leaders in today's society and reading classics with good morals and finding a mentor to help lead you are two keys to becoming a great leader. If you're interested in homeschooling or improving your child's public or private education, this book is a great start.

The girls love to read Dr. Seuss books, well they love me to read them to them. We also love Eric Carle books. The girls got a little Christmas money so I ordered a few extra books to add to our collection.

As you can see, we love reading. We don't watch television while the girls are up during the day so books fill up our days.

What are you reading right now? I'm always looking for suggestions.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Menu Plan Monday-January 14

January 14-20

Monday- 30 minute rolls, honey butter, bacon and fruit

Tuesday- crispy southwest chicken wraps and salad

Wednesday- bbq chicken breasts (with my homemade bbq sauce), duchess potatoes (from my Cook's Country cookbook) and vegetables

Thursday- "the ham" (yes, we call it that), brown rice and vegetables

Friday- buckwheat pancakes, bacon and fruit (the pancakes are a mix Daniel's grandfather gave us for Christmas. He swears they're the best, we'll give it a try)

Saturday- Callie's soft chicken taco's (I made a bunch a couple months ago, so these are from the freezer)

Sunday- leftovers

As always, we'll be following this breakfast schedule and this lunch schedule. I've been following these breakfast and lunch menu's for a couple months now and I'm still happy with it. It's made life so much easier for us when it comes to meal time. I feel like we have plenty of variety and we can easily adjust if we have leftovers, which we typically do. It's all about simplifying where I can.

Also, if you're new to this menu planning thing, check out my tips for meal planning.

We may be having a couple from church over this weekend so I will end up moving some things around. I'm thinking I'll make Wednesday's meal for when they come over (either Friday or Saturday) and move that meal to Wednesday. It's all about being flexible when it comes to menu planning!

Do you have any tips or tricks for when you menu plan?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday's Walk- Daniel & Nyla

I'm linking of over on Our Goodwin Journey for Wednesday's Walk. I'm so glad she's had these writing prompts this week, it's helped me put on my thinking cap about different topics to write on. I've had a tough time coming up with things to write about lately. Ever since I wrote for 31 days back in October I've been at a loss on what to write. I feel like I have something to say, most days that is. Other days I wonder if it's worth keeping this blog up and going. But alas, here I am writing.

Daniel and Nyla reading books

Back in the Fall of 2011 Daniel wrote this blog post and I feel like this picture goes with it. It's one of my favorite pictures of them. Nyla looks so much like a baby here and she was; she was about 14 months old, now she's 2.5 years old. Where has the time gone?

When I think about Nyla at this age I think about how quiet she was. She didn't talk a whole lot, she played independently most of the time and you had to work to get a smile out of her. What's funny now is she talks ALL the time, she's still VERY independent and a smile still doesn't come easily from her.

I love that she's a chatterbox, though I have so many people ask if she talks at all. She talks to us and not to many others. She's so smart and knows a lot of words. We have full-blown conversations and it blows my mind that we carry on conversation. I love it.

Her independence drives me bonkers some days. She wants to do everything herself but still can't do much, like most 2 year olds. She can get dressed from the waist down all my herself but still needs help with her shirt. She helps unload the dishwasher, take out the trash and sweep. She's not the best at cleaning up her toys but who is? I've pared down a lot of toys so there's less to clean up, that has helped. But all-in-all she's such a good helper to us. She does most of what we ask.

Her smiles. Oh, when you get them, they're pure reward! I'm fascinated with what makes her smile and laugh. She gets tickled about the funniest things and we just laugh and laugh about nothing. Having her has made me slow down, relax and have a little more fun. I've never considered myself a super-serious person but her and Naomi have made life more fun and exciting.

Each day is an adventure. Each day is different yet the same.

I'm glad for the memories with my husband and each of our girls. I love my life and am thankful for the many blessings that we have.

This post is linked up to Our Goodwin Journey for Wednesday's Walk. Hop on over and see her writing prompts!

Monday, January 7, 2013

What I've Been Hearing/Reading/Seeing

I'm a reader, an observer and an introspective person.

I want to be better about writing down what happens in our lives. It may not appeal to everyone, we're all on different walks of life, but I want to remember what happens. Life with our little family is flying by and I want to remember.

Each Monday I'm going to write about what I've been hearing, reading and seeing the past week. I probably won't write on each little area, just one and that'll be enough. I don't want you to have to read a novel each week. I may just put pictures up, sometimes pictures do more for me than words.

Here's our week in review:

First, we got new phones last week. I got my first smartphone and I'm loving it! I'm able to connect all my accounts, uploading pictures and blogging got a little easier and I feel more connected to my blogging friends.

Using Christmas money I bought a mountain of books. I have a Kindle and it's
piled in with the stack but I haven't gone all digital. Some books I want in my hands to take notes and to highlight.
In this stack are inspirational books, a few writing books, and a couple homeschool books.
Of this pile of books I'm reading Bird by Bird, written by Anne Lamott and A Thomas Jefferson Education
by Oliver DeMille. 

Nyla loves to craft. Here's the snowman she made for Daddy's office. He is now missing an eye
but he's still cute and she's proud of her cutting and gluing abilities. Man, she's getting big!

Sweet Naomi always falls asleep on the way home from church. I took this picture to capture her lips and lashes.
They are two of my favorite things and girl has some lashes on her.
She gets them from her Daddy. :)

That's our week in review, some of it anyways. We laid low most of the weekend. We're still recovering from the busy holidays and trying to get back in our routine. Nyla went off to school today, first time in 3 weeks. I'm guessing we'll be at the doctor later this week because she's caught some yucky germs from her classmates. I was really enjoying having both girls well. It's been nice not going to the doctor the past month. We'll be adjusting school after this semester is over. I really want her at home and I feel like I can do more for her than "school" does.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Opportunity



The opportunity to connect at our little church has been happening a lot the last few months.


That's one of the "buzz" words our church is sharing this year. We want to "connect, grow and live." For now I feel like I need to focus on connecting.

Connecting and opportunity go hand in hand. How many times a week do we have the opportunity to connect with those we see around us? Do we see the same mail carrier everyday but never say "hi" or "thank you?"

Every Sunday I have the opportunity to connect with new people, new faces. Unfortunately, I'm pretty terrible about going up to the visitors and telling them "hi."I want to get better at this. And the opportunity to do so is coming in a couple of days. :)

Our Sunday school class has a great opportunity to connect with our fellow classmates through fellowships, service and outreach projects and random get-together's with a few couples at a time. One of my spiritual gifts is hospitality and I plan on opening my home and being more hospitable this year. I have a great opportunity to do so.


This post is linked to Lisa-Jo's Five-Minute Friday. Come join the fun!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"No TV" update

About ten months ago I wrote a post on how I turned off the TV during the day. Since making that decision about a year ago we have continued to have the TV off in our home during the day. We do watch basketball and football games when they're on the weekends but that's usually the extent of our TV watching. We turn it on at night when the girls are in bed but sometimes even then it's not on for long. Turning the television off has truly been a blessing to us!

Because of that decision we have read dozens of books over and over again, we have put together countless puzzles, used imaginations, built tents and forts, played outside a lot more, had a healthier diet, talked more, sang and danced, cooked meals together and just had fun! My stress level is much lower and I'm able to get more done around our house. I feel more accomplished each day!

Nyla's language skills have exploded and continue to this day. We have full out conversations with one another and she knows a lot of words. At her 2-year well appointment she was about a year ahead in language skills and her knowledge of all her colors, shapes, etc. She knows what an octagon is and how many sides it has and that the stop sign is that shape! She is also very observant when we're in the car. She loves looking for Beetlebugs and cruisers (PT Cruisers), diggers, dump trucks, fire trucks, ambulances and so on. Yes, she may have learned those things if we kept the TV on all day but I'm very convinced that she wouldn't be where she is today if the TV stayed on.

Naomi was a newborn when I made the decision but I feel like she's ahead in language skills more than Nyla was at her age. She's babbling constantly and will "talk" to us all the time, something Nyla never did. I know they're different people and they'll develop differently but I feel it's because there's no television distracting her.

All-in-all we're glad to have made the decision to turn off the television. It's not for everyone and that's fine but it's definitely been a blessing in our lives. It also goes along with my goal of being intentional with my time. And that's a huge goal for me this year.

 Our girls are only this age for such a short period of time and if turning off the TV means more time to enjoy this age, then I will gladly do it. It's certainly not a sacrifice to me. It's a way of life!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Goal

Every year I have a nice long list of goals that I want to complete before the year is up. Just a few weeks ago I was looking over my 2012 goal list and while it wasn't as ridiculous as lists in the past, it still had too many items on it. The good news? I actually did complete some items on my list and am still following through on a few more. The bad news? There were still too many to count on one hand that didn't get done. A few years ago I would've beat myself up about it and made another list. Yes, really!

Over the past couple of years I've tried to not be as "listy." That's my word for being a big list maker. :) I've tried to pick six things each day and if two or three don't get done, so be it. They roll over to the next day. And if they don't get done that week? It doesn't matter! What matters is my man has a yummy dinner after work, the girls feel loved and were cared for all day and D and I spend some quality time together each night. As long as though three things are accomplished, I feel accomplished.

This year I have one goal. Be intentional. That word felt a little heavy when first thinking about it. To be intentional with my life will take some effort but effort I'm willing to put forth.

Being intentional is just paying attention and making an effort. I want to lose weight but without running and paying attention to my eating habits, losing weight will never happen. If I want to save money on groceries and have a nice dinner each night then I have to plan for it.

This year I want to pay attention and make an effort. I will go forth and be intentional!

What are you 2013 goals?