Friday, February 27, 2015

Chicken Chili Recipe

It is no surprise that we eat a lot of chili in the winter.  For one, it is extremely economical.  Typically I make a vegan chili with only beans and vegetables, and my family loves it!  There is nothing easier than grabbing a jar of crushed tomatoes that I canned in the summer and putting it with some dry beans and seasonings.  


I wanted to make something a little different this past weekend though, since we had chicken to use.  So I came up with chicken chili instead.

Chicken Chili - makes a lot!

1/2 lb black turtle beans
1/2 lb pinto beans
1.5-2 lbs chicken breast
1/2 bag frozen peppers and onions
1/2 bag frozen corn
1 quart crushed tomatoes
1 pint salsa (I use hot - but use whatever you like!)
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Soak beans overnight or use the quick soak method - boil beans for 2 minutes and then cover and let sit for an hour.  

Put beans in bottom of crock pot.  Put half the salt, half the chili powder, half the garlic powder over the beans.  

Put the chicken breast on top of the beans, add the rest of the salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and red pepper flakes.  

Add frozen vegetables on top.  

Then pour crushed tomatoes and salsa over the top of the vegetables.  

Put on low for 8 hours.  Give it a stir half-way through if you can and shred the chicken with a fork.

My kids loved this.  Actually Emma asked for it several times.  We had plenty for several days, and re-purposed it as burritos towards the end of it.  This also freezes really well, so you could put some in the freezer if you don't like leftovers as much as we do!

Do you have a go-to chili recipe?  What are some of your favorite meals in the middle of winter?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

31 Bags in 31 Days

Self-reflection has been the name of the game since the beginning of the year.  All of the books I have been reading seem to be reinforcing ideas that I have had in the past, the biggest of which is that we have too much stuff.

After I read some of the statistics in Interrupted I realized that I have way more than I truly need.  My family has so much, and has been blessed in so many ways!  As we go through the normal day to day it can be easy to grumble and gripe about different situations in our lives, or not having x to help with y.  But, when you get down to it, we really have more than most people, and need to be thankful for it.

I don’t want you to think I am an ungrateful person, but when put in the context of what others do not have, it seems incredibly selfish to have as much as we do.  To help you with my line of thinking here are a couple of interesting facts from Interrupted, p25.

If you make thirty-five thousand dollars annually, you are in the top 4%.
If you make fifty thousand dollars annually, you are in the top 1%.
Half the world lives on less than two dollars and fifty cents a day.


These facts are sobering to me.  How can I ever feel need when I do not know real need? 

All of this led me back to my house, and the painful fact that I cannot seem to get a handle on the stuff we have.  We have so much stuff.  It seems like I am constantly de-cluttering and re-organizing stuff.  It is a full time job!  No wonder I don’t have enough time for other things, I am constantly moving stuff around!

I decided that I wanted to try and make better use of the space we have in our home, make better use of the time that I am given every day.  I don’t want to be a manager of stuff.

Since March is around the corner, and with March comes spring (hopefully!), I decided that I wanted to have a big old de-cluttering of stuff party!  What better way to welcome spring than with a clean house and less stuff to manage?

Please join me for 31 Bags in 31 Days.

The plan is for me to get rid of one bag of stuff each day.  Now, it doesn’t all have to be trash, in fact I hope that it isn’t!  I want to donate a lot of the stuff we have, but I realize a good portion may, in fact, be junk that needs to be thrown out or recycled.

One bag of stuff a day certainly sounds like a lot, but I am sure that when I start going through my clothes or books I will easily be able to find enough stuff.  Now, I am planning on using trash bags, but you could use the plastic grocery bags you get when getting food each week. 

This will all coincide with a huge spring cleaning of my house.  This winter has been long…OK it is still going strong here in Maine.  I need to freshen up everything and try to make sense of all the books that I have been reading.

Remember, my word of the year is intentional so I am trying to be intentional about the things that take up space in my life.  Are they really needed?  Is it helping me in some way?  Is it something that I think is incredibly beautiful, and therefore brings joy to my life?  Or is it something that just sits taking up space, or a toy that my kids do not play with, or a book that I never plan to read? 

Is this extreme?  Kind of.  But, I have to think about how much space this stuff actually takes up in my life, and how it isn’t needed.  I don’t want it here, and I feel sick thinking about the stuff that we spend our money on when someone else is unable to have clean drinking water. 

I am not saying that we all need to go into voluntary poverty, but will getting rid of broken toys or clothes that no longer fit, or even things we don’t use often but store just the same, really cause us to go into voluntary poverty?  Nope, but it will be a good lesson in realizing how much we have, and how much we don’t need crowding our lives.


Have you thought about how much you have lately?  Is it wearing on you trying to keep it organized and clean?  Have you thought about releasing some of that stuff to free up space in your mind and understand the blessings that you have?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

knitting and reading

After taking last week off to rest (and read) some more, I am back for this week's yarn along, and with something new on the needles!


I ended up casting on a little shrug in some purple cotton yarn that I have had forever.  It is knit in a rectangle and then the arms are sewn together by piecing the ends together.  It seems like a very easy knit, and something that Emma will love.  She is all about the knit by mama items lately, unfortunately most of those items take weeks and weeks to finish.  I'm hoping that this one will be quick!  We shall see!  I do need to put it on some circular needles though, because my needles are not long enough for the amount of stitches.


As far as reading goes, I recently finished The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst - amazing book!  I absolutely loved it!  I am having a good month as far as reading goes, all of the books have been amazing, and that is saying something.  Typically I will read one good book and then a couple of just OK books, but I have been happy with all of my selections recently.  In case you haven't been reading here recently, the other books I am talking about are:

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Make it Happen by Lara Casey
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson

Now I am starting 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  I bought this for kindle when it first came out, but I don't think I ever read it - not sure why!  But, I am reading it now, and it is quite good.  I just finished the chapter on food, and I'm not sure I could only eat 7 foods for one month...I mean of course I could do it, but it would be difficult.  After reading Interrupted I have been thinking a lot about how much I have and how little others have.

What are you working on this week?  Reading anything new?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Staying Healthy in Winter

It is still the winter here - and looks to be for about the next six months with the rate of snow and cold we have been getting lately!  For the past several weeks we have been passing around something in the family.  It is amazing once you have kids how long it takes for everyone to be healthy again!

I am happy to report that only one of us had the flu, how we managed that, I am not quite sure.  And the fact that it was my husband and not one of the littles, well that makes me happy!

The kids had fevers and a cough, and I had a cough, and little Lucy just ended up with a stuffy nose (the powers of breastfeeding!).

I do have some tips for staying as healthy as possible in the winter - because we all know that getting colds are inevitable, we want to make them as short in duration and as mild as we can.


The above four items are a central part of my health plan for the winter.  Whenever I feel a cold or chest cold coming on, I immediately start taking the raw apple cider vinegar.  My husband likes to mix his in water, I do not want to drink an entire glass of water with vinegar in it - so I always take two teaspoons full and then rinse my mouth thoroughly with water.

When I already have a cold I immediately start drinking Throat Coat tea - I love this stuff.  It soothes and makes me feel better all around.

The honey is perfect for the kids when they have a sore throat or are coughing a lot.  And the honey is also good in the spring when allergies start up.  Local, raw honey is the best because it contains to pollen that is common to your area and will help fend off those allergies.

The fifth ingredient, that is not pictured, is rest.  Rest is integral to being healthy again.  I know that it is hard to rest in this day and age, but it is so important!  If you don't rest, you will be unable to fight off any sickness, whether it is a cold or if it develops into something more serious like the flu.


Are you staying healthy this very long winter?  Do you have some tips to stay healthy?

*I am not a Dr. and this is not meant to replace a Dr.'s care.  These are the things that my family uses to help heal our bodies during illness.  Please consult your Dr. before making any changes to your health routine!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Quotes


Family is not an important thing.  It is everything!
~Michael J. Fox

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Using Technology to Stay Healthy

Did you know that February is American Heart Month?  It seems like a good time – right when people are most likely falling off their healthy kick from the New Year. 

I try to make healthy living a priority in my life, especially since I have children.  I want them to eat healthy and get regular exercise (this is called playing in my house), and obviously I want to encourage them by showing them that Mama is doing it too.


I was really excited when Apple came out with the new Health app for my iPhone.  It makes tracking my health goals so easy!  I’m apparently not the only one that enjoys using my phone for healthy living.  According to a recent US Cellular survey, 34% of smartphone users have used their phone to help lose weight or improve their health.  Of those, 66% have used an app to keep track of their exercise activities.

The one area of tracking my health with my iPhone that I am most excited about, however, is the fact that telemedicine is becoming more popular. 

For those who haven’t heard of telemedicine, it is essentially the ability to contact your Dr. at home or work and have a Dr.’s appointment through a video call. 

Telemedicine makes health care more efficient by enabling practitioners to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients remotely using technology made available through a reliable wireless network like US Cellular’s high speed 4G LTE network.

I really love this type of service.  It reminds me of how doctors used to make house calls.  It seems like a much better use of time as well.  I know that whenever I go to the Dr.’s I seem to wait and wait and wait for my appointment.  Also, if I am sick, or one of my children, the last thing I want to do is get up and ready to leave the house.  No, no, I do not like to do that, especially with sick children. 

Offering instant, real-time medical consultations is an amazing service!

Of course this service is meant to enhance, and not replace, in-person physician visits which are obviously still recommended for regular care.

It isn’t for emergency situations.

Telemedicine is used to treat minor ailments like cold symptoms, which account for nearly a quarter of all office visits. 

The fact that I can now use my iPhone to have a consultation with my Dr. is incredible to me.  Freeing up my time, saving money and getting an understanding if I really need to get into the office for an in person visit. 

If you don’t know if telemedicine is available in your area, call your Primary Care Physician and ask them!  Discuss your options.  Also check with your insurance provider and see what they cover and offer.  I know that my insurance provider offers some telemedicine coverage already, and I can definitely see it becoming more common in the future.

Most importantly DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Check a third party rating service like vitals.com or NCQA.org to provide you with research on the various telemedicine providers.  Bring that information to your Primary Care Physician and figure out what options might work well for you. 

Have you tried telemedicine before?  Is it something you would be interested in trying out?


*I am not a Doctor!  Discuss any changes in your health care routine with YOUR Doctor.  This is meant to spark a conversation, not be medical advice!

This is a sponsored post by US Cellular.  I am a member of the US Cellular Blogger Brigade and was compensated for this post.  The opinions, as always, are my own.

About U.S. Cellular
U.S. Cellular provides its customers with unmatched benefits and industry-leading innovations designed to elevate the customer experience. The Chicago-based carrier has a strong line-up of cutting-edge devices that are all backed by its high-speed network. Currently, more than 93 percent of customers have access to 4G LTE speeds. U.S. Cellular was named a J.D. Power and Associates Customer Champion in 2014 for the third time in four years. To learn more about U.S. Cellular, visit one of its retail stores or uscellular.com. To get the latest news, promos and videos, connect with U.S. Cellular on Facebook.com/uscellular, Twitter.com/uscellular and YouTube.com/uscellularcorp.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Handcrafts with Kids

I love handcrafts.  There is just something about making by hand that is incredibly fulfilling to me.  

When I was younger I learned how to knit, cross stitch, embroider and sew and I felt so accomplished! 

Unfortunately, sometime in high school I stopped doing all of those things.  After I became pregnant with my oldest, I decided I wanted to knit again, and that led to sewing and other handcrafts.


Now, my oldest is interested in learning all of these skills.  I have been putting her off for a while.  I have no idea how to teach a six year old how to do any of this stuff!  We started small a couple years ago with embroidery.  I gave her a purple plastic hoop, a needle, and some embroidery floss and let her do whatever she wanted.  She eventually got quite good at embroidering little pictures and her name on any fabric I would give her.  We moved onto finger knitting, which she loves as well.

A couple of weeks ago she decided that she wanted to make Sleeping Beauty dress for herself.  She has some amazing ideas and sketches to go with those ideas, but I am not quite ready to let her loose with my sewing machine!  Instead, I let her start much smaller, and with hand-sewing.


She did a wonderful job sewing this cute little pillow.  I thought that it would be the perfect size for the little bed that goes with her doll house.  However, she thought that it was the perfect size for Jack's teddy, and gave him the pillow that she worked so hard to stitch together.  It melted my heart!

How do you teach your kids handcrafts?  How do you encourage their creativity?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Quotes


A lot of people like snow.  I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.
~Carl Reiner

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

knitting and reading

I am happy to report that the wristlets I was making for Emma are done, yay!  And she loves them, deeming them "fashion" and wants to wear them all the time.  That definitely makes the knitting so much more gratifying to me.  I'm sure there will come a day when handmade by mama is not the most exciting thing in the world.


My plan was to immediately cast on for a cowl for Jack, unfortunately the flu, or some sort of flu-like illness, has taken over my house.  Emma had it first, then Jack, and now Matt also has it.  So far Lucy and I have seemed to miss it, I'm not that optimistic that I will completely miss it though.  My pattern is to stay healthy while everyone else is sick, and then get sick once everyone is better...

But, with the flu comes lots of downtime for reading!  I finished reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to the kids last night.  I loved it, never reading it myself.  Now the kids are begging me to see the movie, so we may be doing that today!

I am almost finished with Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson.  Wow, what a great book!  I definitely recommend it.  I am not one to mark up books, I prefer to keep them looking like new as long as possible (probably why I have so many books from my childhood still!), but this book made me bring out my purple pen.  There are so many amazing truths in this book.  

My reading has definitely been slower this year, but I think it is because of all the non-fiction I am reading.  I haven't really lost myself in a novel yet, and I don't have any on the horizon that I feel like I *have* to read right now.  So non-fiction it is!

What are you working on this week?  Are you on track for your reading goals?

Monday, February 9, 2015

garden planning

In the midst of yet another snow storm in the North East, I decided it was time to start planning my summer garden.

There is something about planning for the summer in the dead of winter that makes me happy.  Thinking of the dirt between my hands and the wonderful plants that we have the opportunity to grow is like food for my soul, especially when it is freezing outside, and the ground is covered by over four feet of snow.


I think that everyone should grow something every year.  Even if it something as small as herbs on a windowsill, you can grow something!  For those who are new here, I live on ¼ of an acre in a small city, but we have quite a bit of space to grow our garden, and for that I am thankful.  However, when we first moved here, I started much smaller with only pots. 

I still use those pots every year, and often get better results – especially when using my earthboxes


Two years ago, my wonderful husband built me several 4x4 frames for my garden.  The reasoning was two-fold.  I thought it would be easier to organize my garden planning with the square foot method, and I thought that it would look nicer.  It definitely looks nicer, well, at least until the middle of August when it becomes a very large jungle.

Because I don’t have a huge amount of space, I continue to use the square foot model to grow food.  The method continues to build up the soil, and seemingly grows more food than the traditional row method, at least on the small scale that I am gardening.

If you have been reading for any length of time, you will know that I have had many issues with squash bugs and cucumber beetles for the past several years.  I am still able to grow some squash and cucumbers, but it is not nearly as much as I would like, and ends up being very labor intensive.  However, last year I read another blogger planted radishes all around her squash, and she didn’t have any of those darn stink bugs!  While I don’t eat a lot of radishes, I think I will be incorporating them into my diet this spring, and hopefully it will do the trick to get rid of those bugs.

How do you plan on what to plant?  Well, the way that I like to plan is to figure out what my family will eat. 

It doesn’t make sense to grow things that your family will not eat; it wastes precious growing space on food that will most likely be wasted.  I also like to skip growing those items that take up a lot of space, although I do try to grow pie pumpkins every year.

One of my goals each summer is to produce the majority of our vegetables.  We do a pretty good job of it and are able to eat from the garden every day.  I also hope to preserve as much as possible for the *very* long winter.  I did not do a lot of that last year because I was in my third trimester, and it was no longer important to me to eat from our garden when we have a perfectly good farmers’ market downtown!

This year I hope to plant more food for preserving, I also want to work on companion planting as well as succession planting.  The last two are goals I have had for the past couple of years, but never end up working out. 


How do you plan for your spring/summer/fall garden?  Do you start in the winter, or wait until the seedlings are at your local greenhouse to make a decision?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Quotes


You've got to tell your money what to do or it will leave.
~Dave Ramsey

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

knitting and reading

The plan for this past weekend was to go to my lys so that I could get some new yarn.  Jack has been asking for a cowl, and how can I say no to that?  I think that having my babes ask me to make them anything warms my heart!


Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask) we were digging out under another foot of snow and preparing for another foot to come.  Over the past week we have gotten over four feet of snow - a little much even for me living in Maine!

In that time frame Emma also realized that her cousins were decorating t-shirts which has turned into Emma making some elaborate design in her mind to make a Sleeping Beauty dress.  That means the fabric store is also on the horizon for the coming days!  Sounds like a perfect weekend to me, actually, as long as we don't get anymore snow!

I am finishing up Emma's 2nd wristlet today, actually building time into my day for handcrafts with the kids.  They will be doing finger crochet, and I will be knitting.

My reading, well I am starting to pick up steam a bit.  I finished Mothering from Scratch, and you can find my review here.  

I also finished Interrupted last week, and goodness it was good.  I am still thinking about a lot that Jen Hatmaker said in that book, and plan to write a review for it here soon (hopefully!).  The kids and I just finished reading Red Sails to Capri, and they loved it.  They found a lot of humor in the book, as well as adventure.  I enjoyed it as well.

I am finishing up Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.  This is definitely an inflammatory book, but I think it is meant to be that way.  I think as someone who homeschools, I can nod my head at a lot that he talks about.  But, I can also see how it would be very upsetting to people to read.  Overall, it has been interesting to hear a teacher's perspective on the public school system in general.  Have any of you read this?

What are you knitting and reading this week?  Have you been slammed by as much snow as we have?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mothering from Scratch Review

It was interesting to see that this book seems to line up with the e-course I am taking right now – UpstreamAs soon as I read that the authors recommend taking the same personality tests that I was already in the middle of, I knew it was divine intervention that I should be reading this book right now.


Mothering from Scratch, by Melinda Means and Kathy Helgemo is a book about putting away all the preconceived notions of mothering that you have heard all your life, and finding the best parenting style for you.

When I first received this book, I thought that it would be more about “from scratch living,” but it is not. 

The authors take you on a journey through their many adventures as being mamas.  They break down the mistakes that they made, and the different ideas that they had going into motherhood that were not working for them.  Instead of feeling like failures, they vowed to change it.

Change.  What an interesting idea!  I think that often times we try to fit ourselves into a box of what we think is the “right” way to go about doing something, instead of realizing there are many “right” ways, but it depends on you as a person as to which one you should follow; Means and Helgemo go into great detail about this in the book. 

They take us on not only their journey, but ours as well.  Each chapter has little tidbits of information that you can change right now, and at the end of each chapter there are action steps and questions to really get you to understand what your mothering style should be. 

I really like that it is unapologetic in the fact that we are all different, and will approach motherhood differently.  What works for someone else may not work for me, and that is OK!  They talk a lot about how your personality type is going to influence what you do as a mama.  Some mamas love staying at home (that would be me!) while others need to constantly be on the go.  Does that mean that I am doing it wrong?  No, it means that I am doing what works best for me and my family.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and it seemed to come right at the perfect time, since I was already concentrating on my personality and getting to know “me” better.  I definitely recommend it, even if you are comfortable in your mothering style, it gives some wonderful tips on self-care and finding mentors.  It is all around wonderful book!


Do you try to fit yourself into a specific mothering type?  Are you worried you are getting it all wrong based on what you observe in others?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in order to facilitate this review.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Quotes


I find it almost comforting to count calories, because it makes me conscious of what I am eating.  But on Super Bowl Sunday, I thought "Surrender to it.  It's nacho time."  Then I ate nothing but Doritos all day.
~Kristen Bell

*I ran this same quote on Super Bowl Sunday last year, but man, it makes me laugh!