Friday Faves: March 13

1. Personalized Photo Map I found on Pinterest. I’ve been wanting to get a map and put push pins on the states we’ve visited together, but this is way better and more creative!
2. This green tea with lemon, ginseng and honey has been getting me through this cold-ridden week.
3.  SUNSHINE!!!! And open apartment and car windows!!!
4. This elegant necklace. I love that coral color.
5. Shopping List app – since we recently got smartphones (more on this later), I decided to go paperless with the grocery shopping list. It’s worked pretty well so far!

Happy Friday and have an incredible sunshiny weekend!

Tissues. Lots of Tissues.

Is it too late in the week to write about our past weekend? Oh well, here goes anyway. I spent a lot of bonding time with a box of tissues. From Friday till…well, we are still bonding, even if it’s not as much. After experiencing some pretty intense jaw pain throughout Thursday evening and after a restless and pain interrupted sleep that night, Loren took me to the doctor Friday morning and we were told that I was having TMJ issues/a bacterial virus and that the jaw pain would go away in 3-5 days (it has since then subsided). The cold I was developing would also just naturally run its course as colds tend to do.
I’m so thankful for Loren taking me to the dr, picking up meds, tissues and smoothies and everything else he did.  Love that guy!
Some highlights of the weekend:

A good friend of ours came to town and stayed with us Friday night and it was so much fun catching up with him. Come back soon, Crawford!

SUNSHINE!!! Sunday it was finally sunny and a little warmer. Starting to feel like spring!
Have you stayed healthy this winter? What are some of your tricks to not getting sick?

Crisp Living: Slow Cooker Roasted Chicken

We love chicken around here. There’s so much you can do with it! Normally, I buy one whole 5-6 lb. chicken at Aldi for us to eat throughout the week. And here is how I prepare my whole chicken in the crock pot:
Slow Cooker Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:
1 5-6 lb. whole chicken
3 tsp steak seasoning
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder

1. Place 4 small aluminum foil balls in the bottom of the crockpot. This makes the chicken easier to remove later.

2. Remove any insides and rinse well with cold water. Carefully place inside the crockpot and season inside and out.
3. Cook chicken on high for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.
4.  Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for about 20 minutes before carving/deboning.
Once the chicken has cooled off, I tear off the thighs before deboning the rest. That way, I can serve one meal of chicken thighs and shred the rest for soup, pasta & rice dishes, chicken quesadillas,  etc.
Last time I roasted a whole chicken, I kept the bones and decided to try my hand at chicken stock. It turned out pretty well! Another way to save money by not having to buy chicken broth!

Chicken Stock:

Ingredients:
chicken bones
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalk celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups water

1.  Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on low for 24 hours.

2. Let cool, then strain through a sieve into a large pot and discard the solids.

3. Distribute the liquid between 3 2-quarts jars and either refrigerate (2-3 days) or freeze.

And that’s it! What is something you make in your slow cooker to save money?

March Recipes

February went down pretty well in the try-a-new-recipe department. I successfully  made everything on my list except the strawberry cake. Maybe I will make it through all of these this month, though.
(click on the picture for the full & original recipe)
Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Cilantro-Lime Sauce
These look so good and fresh and ready for spring. And I am ready for spring!

Chili and Cornbread Skillet
While I am ready for spring, we are still in the middle of winter here. So a warm cozy recipe it is!

Crispy Smashed Potatoes
I love potatoes and am always looking for more creative ways to prepare them.

Raspberry Oatmeal Cookies
We like to eat oatmeal for breakfast, and this might be a nice alternative.

What are some recipes you want to try this month?

More Snow. And Waffles.

I haven’t been very active on here this past week. Which you may have noticed, but most likely not. I blame this absence on the snow that I am seemingly buried under, even if the last snow storm didn’t come till Saturday night. And I’m not really buried under it. Anyway, Thursday night after work I headed over to my sister’s house for a few hours. Sister and nephew time was exactly what I needed! Such a rejuvenating time. Sisters are the best and I wish we could all live very close together.
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Can’t get enough nephew snuggles. 🙂
Friday night, we had a little date night and finally saw the next Hunger Games movie. I’ve been waiting for forever for it to come to our cheap theater.

Saturday, I spent some major bonding time with my kitchen. I’ve made a lot of banana bread since the age of 12 (somehow this became my specialty around then), but this weekend I discovered the most incredible recipe. Moist, not too banany flavored, just sweet enough…do yourself a favor and check out the recipe here. Then go make some. And never look further for a banana bread recipe. I actually made banana muffins this time, as they are easier to pack for breakfast/lunches.

Sunday morning we woke up to our already white world covered in several inches of new snow, with giant flakes still steadily falling. Church was canceled, so we spent some extra time under the warm covers before we got up and listened to a sermon from our church that we missed a couple of weeks ago. And of course we had waffles for breakfast. 🙂
Eventually some time in the afternoon, we ventured outside to give our white world a closer look. Oh, and to drop off the rent check. We’re big adventurers over here, let me tell you!
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Dutifully depositing that rent.
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Loren was disappointed he couldn’t go for a swim.
For lunch, and for the first time ever, I made tomato soup. I’m not a huge fan of tomato soup, but this was pretty good and Loren liked it, so that’s all that matters. 🙂

What did you so this weekend? Did you get snow? And who’s ready for spring?

Things I’ve Learned Being a Grad School Student’s Wife

I have now been the wife of a grad school student for 6.5 months. The first few weeks were a breeze. Loren came home at a decent hour (often before I did) and he didn’t have an overwhelming amount of work to complete in the evenings. We would spend a good amount of time over dinner just talking and goofing off. Then the end of the first semester rudely interrupted and homework became more involved and time-consuming. And it’s only gotten busier.
So now Friday nights and Saturday mornings are my favorite because that’s when I get him all to myself. Over these past few months, I’ve caught on to some key principles that make life a little more pleasant:

Be Understanding: It’s not all about me. When Loren comes home from school, we spend some quality time together over dinner, but shortly after, he hits the books (or rather the computer and iPad) pretty much until we go to bed. But he’s not ignoring me. He just has deadlines to meet. As much as I want him to focus all his attention on me all evening after a long day at work, I even more want him to make good grades and get the education we are paying for. Someday he won’t be this busy, right?
If there is something I think is really important for Loren to do (like take out the trash), I have to remember that this priority (to me) is probably not at the top of his list at the moment. I try to ask him about little tasks like this before he settles in with his homework.

Be Encouraging: Not being in school myself, I forget how easy it is to get overwhelmed by all that school entails. But positive encouragement is powerful and can make tough days a little better. I love leaving notes in Loren’s lunch bag. When he gets home, I often ask him to tell me about one new thing he learned that day (life or school). When he practices a speech or shows me a project or paper, I try to focus all my attention on him and give positive feedback. Coffee and little treats don’t hurt, either. I want him to know that I’m his biggest fan!

Be Organized: I like to keep our apartment organized and clutter free. Mostly for my own slightly OCD sanity’s sake, but also to create a stress-free study environment. Lunch prep also falls under this category. It took me a while to catch on, but I finally realized that if I get our lunches prepared the night before, all I have to do in the morning is throw it all in the lunch bags! No more madly rushing around the kitchen way too early in the morning. Now I just calmly rush around.

Keeping the end goal—Loren earning his grad degree—in mind makes everything worth it. I wouldn’t trade this chapter of life for anything!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings. Some of you have asked what I do in the evenings while he does homework. I just sit next to him and gaze at him hoping he will forget he’s in grad school. Just kidding. Or am I? More on that another day!

Waffles and Snowflakes

Saturday morning we woke up to an even more snow-covered landscape with snow still falling steadily. Loren, who enjoyed making pancakes so much last weekend, decided to try his hand at waffles for our snow day breakfast. They were top notch! I vote him as the permanent Saturday breakfast chef. 😉
We moved the couch around so we could look out the balcony doors at the snow while eating our waffles and sipping hot chocolate. It was quite cozy!
Saturday night I babysat and got quite the fancy manicure from the four-year-old girl. She wanted us to match. 🙂
Sunday after church, we ran some errands and when we got home, I brushed off the snow on Loren’s car because he insisted it was my wifely duty. Just kidding. I love brushing the snow off cars! As long as I can reach across the windshield. There’s just something satisfactory about cleaning off a snowy car. SNOWY cars. Ice frosted windshields are a different story. I’m weird, I know.
And, surprise, surprise, this is what the rest of the day looked like:
I hope you had a great weekend!

Friday Faves: Feb 20

1. This nephew of mine has a little crush on me and it’s the CUTEST thing.
2. Ever heard of hoopla? It’s basically an amazing online library (linked to your local library) with lots of books, movies and music to borrow. All you need to sign up is your library card!
3. Soups. All. Freezing. Winter. Long.
4. I’ve had my eye on this Fossil bag for a while. Maybe someday I will have a grown-up purse that’s not just black.
5. Fuzzy socks have been some of my best friends this week in the sub zero and single digit weather.

Happy Friday and Happy Weekending! Stay warm wherever you are!

DIY: Canvas Project

A while back, I saw a canvas DIY project that looked easy enough for me to attempt. After talking about different canvas projects we both wanted to do, Loren and I finally made our way to Hobby Lobby to collect some canvases (on major sale!!), paint and paint brushes.
Here is what my project turned into:
1. Print off and cut out your choice of stencil. I found a free version of this font and quote (can’t find it now) and just printed it on regular copy paper.
2. Lay out the stencils as you want them to appear on the canvas.
3. Paint one coat of paint over the whole canvas, including the stencil. Wait for the first coat to dry, then paint on a second coat.
4. Carefully peel off the stencil. I had to use an X-Acto knife.
5. Wipe off any excess paint from the words with a cotton swab. Since my stencil printout wasn’t very sturdy to begin with and some of the paint seeped through, Loren took the X-Acto knife and scraped the letters to define the words a bit more.

6. Hang up the masterpiece.  Here it is hanging in our kitchen adding a bit of happiness. 🙂

I hope to keep adding to wall art all around the apartment. Check back soon for more projects!

Hearts, Heels and Bowling

I know I already talked about Valentine’s Day on Friday, but that was before we celebrated. This year was the best yet! Just a simple dress up romantic dinner date with lots of candles at home. I’m not a huge fan of hearts and pink and all that, but right before  we ate, I decided to cut out some hearts just for this occasion. They were the perfect touch. We ended up watching a movie after dinner, and true to character, I promptly fell asleep 5 minutes into it and didn’t wake up until it was over.
Saturday morning Loren made me a special breakfast in bed. Some of the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten!
After a long wait for an oil change, we headed to Cincy to see family for the weekend. The weather was so weird and windy! Sometimes snowy, sometimes sunny, yet still a beautiful drive on the country roads.
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Loren was sad he couldn’t drive because GRAD SCHOOL.
Once we got the in-laws, we had a delicious dinner and played with the nieces and nephew before they went home.

Sunday afternoon after church, we went bowling. It had been forever since any of us had played.

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I kinda like him a lot. 🙂
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Coming up with the perfect game names is harder than it looks.
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Comparing scores.
Our scores weren’t the greatest. Well, mine wasn’t the greatest. Everyone else did just fine. But we had a blast and hope to play together again  sometime soon!

I hope you had a wonderful weekend!