Tuesday, April 29, 2014

living for THIS moment: what are you reading?

2014-01-30 16.22.21
You can read my January book report here.

Yes, this post is supposed to be a vlog. No, it's not.

It's been one of those weeks (and it's only Tuesday!). I got home Sunday afternoon from a wonderful weekend trip to San Diego for my birthday. Of course, I was more exhausted when I got home than I was when I left. Isn't that just how it is as moms?! I came home to a sick 3 year old and so yesterday was full of tending to him, laying with him, praying over him and still feeling exhausted. Also, because I'm a procrastinator I had planned to film my vlog yesterday and obviously that didn't happen!

So I'm here with just a regular 'ole blog post, which is totally okay!! You are more than welcome to link up with a blog post rather than a vlog!

With all that said, on to the prompt.

What are you reading? 
Currently I am reading 2 books: Grow Your Handmade Business by Kari Chapin and Montessori Today by Paula Polk Lillard. 

As I said in a previous post, I try to read between 1 and 3 books a month. Preferably more than 1, but sometimes life happens. I'm hoping to have both finished by the end of this week so I can move on to some new books for May. 

A little about the books? I read Craft Inc. earlier this year and I really enjoyed it. It was extremely helpful in regards to all the bookkeeping and accounting aspects of running your own business. Grow Your Handmade Business, so far, has been really encouraging as far as planning, dreaming, goal setting and all that fun stuff that has to do with business. I'm only half way through so I suppose we will get to all the boring paperwork type stuff. But either way, I'm really enjoying it and maybe, eventually I'll actually launch my business!

Montessori Today is really good. But it's like reading a textbook so I definitely have to be in the mood when I sit down to read it. I'm taking a ton of notes and I sort of wish it wasn't a library book so I could highlight all over it. I think I'll go ahead and buy my own copy at some point. It's definitely giving me a better idea of the theory behind the Montessori method, which is what we loosely base Isaac's pre-school lessons on.

Do you buy books or get them from library?

Both! Until recently I only bought books and very seldom checked out books from the library. But, since the boys are older now and we spend a lot of time at the library, I'm always putting books on hold to pick up when we go. That means I usually have a giant pile of library books to read at any given time. It's really nice that I can renew then 4 or 5 times! I also love buying books at the thrift store because 1. it's cheeeeeeap and 2. I never know what I'm going to find so it's fun to just search and see what's there.

Are you a real book fan or do you prefer an e-reader? Why?

Both. But I lean more toward real books. I'm a note taker and highlighter. I've said before that I read mostly non-fiction and so when I read, it's to glean information that I can use to better myself as a Christian, a mother, a wife, a homemaker, etc. or just for general knowledge and sometimes blog research. For those reasons, I prefer a real book in my hands that I can write all over and quickly flip through for reference.

But, I do buy plenty of books on Kindle. Generally I won't purchase a Kindle book unless it's seriously cheap, on sale or free. And I enjoy the convenience of being able to pull it up on my phone if I don't have a book with me and I have time to kill. 

Now it's your turn! We invite you to join us on this journey as we talk about what we're reading. Make a short video (vlog), under 5 minutes, or write a blog post. Then come back next week and link up with both blogs! (Linking on one blog will link to both). The link-up will be open for 2 weeks.

Be sure to grab the button to add to your sidebar and/or post!

Living For This Moment Linkup

Thursday, April 24, 2014

a letter to my husband on our anniversary

April 24 2004
[photo on right, courtesy of Chelsea Robbins Photography]

dear Ben,

10 years ago today we said "I do." Ten. How is that even possible? Seriously though, I'm only turning 23 tomorrow right? ;)

Gosh, when I think back to who you were 10 years ago, to who I was 10 years ago, to who we were 10 years ago, I don't recognize those people. Those kids. Those blissfully ignorant, stupidly in love kids that we were. I mean, seriously? They let people that young get married?

There's no doubt about it, we knew what we wanted. We knew we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. We knew what the marriage covenant meant and we knew then, as we still know now, that it's worth honoring. And we were definitely ready.

But still, we were pretty young, dumb and in love.

And that's something that I love most about our marriage. We've practically grown up together. We've learned all the hard lessons together. We've figured out life (well at least parts of it) together. We've trusted God in the big stuff and the little stuff together. We've lost and we've gained together. We've grown together. 

And as I sit here, 28 years into my life, I can honestly say that I would not be who I am without having spent the past 10 years by your side.

It is an absolute joy to be your wife, to submit to your leadership and guidance daily, to run your home, to carry, give birth to, nurture and to raise your children, to cook your meals, to pray for you, to encourage you, to laugh with you, to love you, to honor you.

You should also know how much I appreciate and what an honor it is to know that you trust me with your home and with your children. My hope is that I can continue to do you good all the days of my life. I am blessed to be your helper. Thank you for trusting me and loving me and serving me and leading me and for sacrificing for me.

Because I know you do.

So before this gets too sappy, because let's be honest, we know that the hole in your chest where there should be a heart can't handle too much mush, I just want to say I love you. I hope that my life reflects that. I pray that the rest of my life that I will continue to show you, every single day, just how much I love you.

I thank God daily for the blessing He gave me 10 years ago, when you placed a ring on my finger and took me as your wife. You are my joy and it is an honor to be by your side.


ps- I may or may have not teared up while writing this. Stupid pregnancy hormones!!

pps- for anyone other than my husband reading this (um, hello? have you ever heard of privacy? ;) you can read our 9 year marriage timeline here. It's a doozy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

dear mother-in-waiting

mother in waiting

Dear mother-in-waiting,

I refer to you as a mother-in-waiting rather than a mom-to-be or expectant mother because the truth is, you are already a momma. You've been a mother since the day that your tiny little babe was conceived and the Lord began knitting he or she together in your very womb. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14. 

I'm writing to you today because I am currently in your ranks, at your side, pregnant with a child of my own. Pregnancy is an interesting and beautiful time, isn't it? We have months and months to think about what our baby will be like, how we are going to be as a mother, what needs to be done in expectation of this babe's arrival, what color the nursery will be, how many onsies to add to our registry, and yet how much time do we spend preparing physically, spiritually and mentally for the labor that will bring this baby into the world?

I want to encourage you. As you prepare for this new baby, I want to encourage you to also prepare for the actual arrival of of your babe: intentionally prepare for your labor. This is not something to take lightly. It's not something that is just going to happen. Granted, it will happen. But will it happen on purpose? Will you be intentional about your labor?

You see, as a mother-in-waiting, you have been called to a purpose. You have been called to motherhood. And your labor is something that you have been called to do as a part of that calling. Momma, don't you want to do it well? Don't you want to glorify the Lord who has called you to it? Because, He has called you to your labor.

We read birth stories all the time. They usually consist of the actual events that happen over the course of 12 or so hours of labor and end with the birth. And for some, birth stories can be encouraging (for others not so much). But I fear that the message too many of these stories conveys is just that labor is hard. Labor is painful. Labor is unknown. Labor is too hard. Labor is too painful. Labor is too unknown.

Momma, especially first-time momma, please know that the pain you will experience, and the work you will do in labor is not without a purpose. Is labor hard? Yes, that's why it's called labor. Is it painful? Most of the time, yes. But is it more than you can handle? Absolutely not. The Lord designed and created your body to carry your child and to give birth to your child. You absolutely can handle what He has called you to.

la·bor: expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory

I have this feeling that most of us view labor as a part of our pregnancy that we just have to go through. It's just part of being pregnant and having a baby. But momma, hear me, it's so much more than that! It's not just part of being pregnant, it's part of your calling to be a mother. It's part of the sacrifice you are called to make for your child. You have been called by God to labor for your child, for His purpose, for His glory.

Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. 1 Corinthians 7:17

Pregnancy is the season you are in. It's the place in life where you have been assigned. At the point in which your labor begins, your labor has been assigned to you. You can't run from it, you can hide from it, and the most obedient thing you can do in it, is embrace it. He has purposed it for you. He has called you to it. And if all of that is true, if God has called you to your labor, don't you want to do it in complete and total obedience to Him? Don't you want it to glorify God?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17 (emphasis mine)

What it's all going to come down to, in that moment, when your labor begins, when your baby begins to make his or her way into the world, is whether or not you accept your call and embrace the work set before you. I can tell you from personal experience that yes, labor is painful. But the best way to approach the pain is to accept it as pain with a purpose. Because you know what? You won't be doing it alone. Oh no, He doesn't call us to something and then leave our side. He will be with you at every step, at every point. 

He [the Lord] will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. Isaiah 40:28-31

I also want to encourage you, that if you'll let it, your labor can be a means by which the Lord disciplines you. And I don't mean discipline in the sense that you've done something wrong and need correction, but more in the sense that it is a way for the Lord to purify you, leading to your perfecting holiness, ridding you of the things that stand between you and perfect peace with God. Things like fear, discouragement and doubt- things that we allow to contaminate our body and spirit, our mind and heart. 

What an incredible opportunity we have as women, as mothers, to experience something so raw and so real, that if we would just rely completely on the Lord to strengthen us and encourage us, He will use it to make us more like His Son. Consider yourself blessed that such an opportunity is on the horizon for you! 

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

I want to leave you with a few encouraging statements from a recent sermon at our church. They aren't specific to labor, but they are true and I think that they apply to labor so well:

You will get discouraged. Do not accept defeat. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You will be afraid. Do not lose courage. Joshua 1:6,7,9
You will stumble. Do not stop. Hebrews 12:1-13
You will feel overwhelmed. Do not miss the whisper [from God]. 1 Kings 19:11,12

So if I could give you just one piece of advice as you head into this part of your pregnancy, this part of your calling as a mother, it would be to embrace it. Take it head on. All of it. Every single part of it. The pain, the work, the weakness, the fear, the hardship, the overwhelmingness. And then set it at the feet of Jesus, in obedience. He will turn all of that into purpose, endurance, strength, hope, intimacy, courage, power and love. If you allow Him, He will use your labor to make you more like Himself.

Soli Deo Gloria, 

ps- if you are looking for prayers and scripture to prepare for labor, this post is full of them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

living for THIS moment April prompt: what are you reading?

I'll be completely honest, I haven't always been a reader. In fact, it wasn't until just a few years ago that I even had any interest in picking up a book, let alone reading it all the way through. In high school I was a major fan of cliff notes and was so cheap that I refused to buy them. Instead I used pinkmonkey.com (back when it was all free). My grades in English totally reflected this. But I was just not interested in reading fiction.

I'm still not interested in reading fiction.

But for some reason I came to think that because I wasn't interested in the books we were required to read in school, there were no books that I was interested in reading. I refused to even look and see what was out there. One day, I can't pin-point when, and I don't remember which book I read first, I discovered that there really were a whole bunch of books that interested me. (All of which are non-fiction.)

I've come to a place now where I consider myself a life-long intentional learner. We're all learning things everyday. But I have made it my goal, my purpose to read as much as I can about as much as I can so that I can learn as much as I can. I want to be an intentional and valuable Christian, wife, mother, friend, blogger, creative, and the list goes on and on. And I've found that the best way to achieve that is to never stop learning and to never stop reading.

This year I've been reading anywhere from 1-3 books a month. We won't talk about last year because it was just bad all around. But this year, I have a running list of books and I'm determined to read as many of them as possible by the time I turn the calender from December 31, 2014 to January 1, 2015.

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So, what about you? This month we want to talk about reading. As wives, mothers, homemakers, as Christian women, reading is an invaluable tool. Are you a reader? Have you set goals this year about what to read or how many books to read?

Next Tuesday, April 29, meet Becky at For This Season and I back here for our monthly vlog linkup. We invite you to join us on this journey as we talk about what we're reading. Make a short video, under 5 minutes, or write a blog post. Then come back next week and link up with both blogs! (Linking on one blog will link to both). 

Here is the prompt:

What are you reading? 

Do you buy books or get them from library? 

Are you a real book fan or do you prefer an e-reader? Why?

Be sure to grab the button to add to your sidebar and/or post!

Living For This Moment Linkup

Monday, April 21, 2014

using the whole chicken // part 3 (chicken stock)

use the whole chicken

Part 1 // roasted chicken and Part 2 // Chicken Noodle Soup

I know, this is totally the post you've all been waiting for in this series. This is my favorite part of using the whole chicken.

We make a lot of soups and other recipes that call for chicken broth in our house. We use a lot of chicken broth and stock. And even in making my own, I still have to buy some at the store in order to have enough (which I hate doing, but it's just the way things are). But, when I can, I absolutely prefer to use stock that I've made. And that's for 2 reasons. 1. The flavor is unmatched. Seriously, once you make your own stock you won't want to use store-bought and 2. I know exactly what is in my stock.

For those two reasons, I want to share my method for making chicken stock. It's simple, quick and it makes your house smell amazing.

You'll need:

Chicken carcass/bones from a roasted or rotisserie chicken
Olive oil
2-3 good sized carrots (we buy the jumbo bag of organic carrots at Sam's club and it lasts us close to a month)
1 onion
4 stalks of celery
4-5 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
10-12 cups cold water

Cut up all of your vegetables into big giant chunks. This should take 2 seconds. Don't peel your carrots. Don't throw away the ends of the carrots or the onion. The only thing I do suggest is to peel the paper-y layer off the onion and toss. Other than that, everything goes in.

Heat a big pot. Add a few Tbsp of olive oil. Toss in the veggies and stir. In the mean time, smash your garlic and peel of the paper. No need to cut them or mince them. Toss them in the pot whole. Let all the veggies cook for just a few minutes until there is a tasty aroma. I'm talking 3 minutes tops.

Throw in your chicken carcass, all bones, skin, whatever is left of it. Make sure it can touch the bottom of the pot for a minutes or 2. And be sure there's enough oil so it doesn't burn.

Add salt and pepper. Again, no measurements for you here. Just what you feel is good. If I were to guess a good amount I'd say 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoons of pepper.

Pour in water until the chicken is almost completely covered. Basically the entire pot should be filled. Bring to a boil.

Turn down to a simmer, like about the lowest your stove will go. Put the lid on and let it simmer (I like to be sure there are small bubbles coming up the whole time, but just barely) all day, about 5-6 hours.

Then be sure to write me an email to say thank you for making your house smell so incredible ;)

When it's done, the whole chicken will have fallen completely apart. The broth will be dark and golden.

Turn your burner off and let the pot cool. At this point you have 2 choices. You can strain your stock now and put it in the refrigerator. Or you can go the lazy route, like I normally do and put the pot in the refrigerator and strain the next day, when you have more energy. It's easier to skim your fat if you strain first, but it's all up to you!

When the stock has cooled completely, the fat will have risen to the top and made a thin layer. Skim this layer off using a slotted spoon. Keep your fat in an air tight container (and check back for part 4 to see what to do with it). If you've already strained your broth, it will store in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for a good long while. Be sure it's in an air tight container. If you haven't yet strained your stock, do it now and then put in containers for storage in the fridge or freezer.

Toss what's left in the pot and you're done!

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A note about leaving the lid on or off during cooking: generally when making stock you leave the lid off. I don't. Mostly because when the lid is off, a lot of the water evaporates. While this does make for a more concentrated flavor and thicker stock, I prefer not to lose all that liquid and I'm willing to compromise. If that's what you're looking for, then leave the lid off during the simmering process.

You'll probably also notice (if you're familiar with other stock recipes) that I don't skim the fat off of the stock during the cooking process. Nope, just don't have the time or patience. I'm chasing 2 small children around all day. I like to keep things simple.

As with before, leave me any questions or comments below. Like I've said a couple different times, I don't follow the book on this recipe. Mostly for simplicity reasons. If I didn't have kids and I had more time, I might do things differently. But I assure you, following this method will yield you a very delicious stock.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

using the whole chicken // part 2 (chicken noodle soup)

use the whole chicken

 If you missed part 1 where I share my roasted chicken recipe, you can check it out here.

Once I've roasted a chicken and we've eaten dinner off of it once, I use the rest of the meat for another dinner. The goal is to use every piece of meat that you can. We'll usually also have a little bit to use in chicken quesadillas one day for lunch that week too.

The options for using roasted chicken for dinners is endless. Some of the many meals I use the meat for include enchiladas, kale and chicken soup, tostadas, chicken pho, taquitos, salads, chicken chili, jambalaya and chicken tortilla soup. But today I wanted to share a hearty classic and a favorite on our dinner table: chicken noodle soup.

What you'll need:

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery including the leaves (which are the most flavorful part!), diced
2 good sized carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic (or more!), minced
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
dried herb mix that you used on your roasted chicken
4 or more cups chicken broth or stock (homemade is preferred- I always keep some on hand in the freezer)
Chicken meat that you've shredded from your roasted chicken earlier in the week- the amount is up to your discretion
16 oz small shell pasta

You'll first want to bone your chicken. Make sure you get as much of the meat off as you possibly can. Remember, we're trying to let as little go to waste as possible! I find that it's easier to bone the chicken when it's warm or at least room temperature. Ideally, I would do it right after dinner on the first night, put the meat in a container and the remainder of the chicken in a ziplock bag to make stock later. But I never have that much motivation or energy. In general, I pull the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter while I prep this meal. Then while the soup is heating up, I bone it and throw the chicken straight in.

Cut up all of your veggies. Heat a big pot or dutch oven (side note: always use a dutch oven when making soups and chilis. They are the best kitchen item you can possibly invest in!) on medium-high heat. Once it's hot, add about 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Add your onion, celery and carrots. Stir and allow to cook until carrots begin to caramelize and onion is translucent. The goal is to get the veggies good and soft now so that you don't have crunchy celery in your soup (yuck!)

Add garlic and stir. Let cook for 30 seconds-1 minute. Don't let the garlic burn.

Add your salt and pepper to taste. Okay, I've said it before, I'm not a measurer, so I do apologize. But if you aren't confident in your ability to just wing it with seasoning, I'd say you're safe with 2 tsp salt and 1/2-1 tsp of pepper (my husband LOVES pepper in his chicken noodle soup so I use at least 1 tsp. It's all up to your taste!). Sprinkle in 2 tsp of your dried herb mix. Honestly, you could probably even do a whole Tbsp of it. Again, use your discretion.

Stir in seasonings and herbs. Add chicken stock. Start with 4 cups. If you feel like you want more soup, then by all means, add more! Just keep in mind that you'll want to have enough chicken to go with the amount of broth in your soup.

Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer at least 30 minutes. The longer the better. I recommend an hour. But 30 will do you just fine.

In the mean time, if you haven't already, bone the chicken and put the meat in a container to the side. Also, cook the shell pasta in a separate pot, following the directions on the package. You'll want your noodles to be al dente.

When you have about 5-10 minutes left on the soup, toss in the chicken and give it a stir. All you need to do here is heat the chicken through since it's already been cooked.

Once the soup and the noodles are done, you're ready to serve!

To serve: scoop a generous amount of noodles into a bowl. Then ladle the soup on top of it until your bowl is full. (side note: I never add my noodles directly into the soup pot, or else they get soggy. This goes especially if you plan to eat the soup for lunch the next day! Then they won't just be soggy, they'll fall apart. Unless you like them that way. Store them in separate containers in the fridge for leftovers.)

And that's it! Add salt and pepper if needed and serve with some warm bread, crunchy garlic toast or just plain 'ole tortilla chips.

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Another side note: When you've pulled all the meat off of your chicken, be sure to store it in an air tight container or plastic baggie in the fridge to make stock later in the week.

Be sure to check back for part 3, that will include my super, super simple (so simple that Martha Stewart probably wouldn't approve) chicken stock recipe! But I assure, you it's very flavorful and a zillion times better than anything you'll get out of a can or a carton. And, you know exactly what's in it!

And again, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. I'd love to answer them!

For more dinner and recipe ideas, you can always check out my pinterest boards: yumm-o and 20 meals ideas

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

using the whole chicken // part 1 (roasting a whole chicken)

use the whole chicken

As part of meal planning, I always roast a whole chicken at least once during the 2 week period that I shop for. Sometimes I do it twice. I've also heard of people roasting two chickens at the same time and using them over the course of a week or so (Also, buy the double pack of chicken when you shop and then freeze one or both. It's cheaper!). I may start doing this as we head into the summer months and I begin to use my oven less and less. If only we had a chicken rotisserie I could just cook them on the grill! But alas, we don't and I do really enjoy the smell of our home on the nights when I roast a chicken.

My goal with this post is less about sharing my recipes (there are a million really good recipes out there for roasted chicken, chicken stock, chicken noodle soup, etc) and more about encouraging you to use every single little bit of a chicken. I hate waste because waste means money being tossed down the drain. If there is food or flavor to be used, I'm going to use it!

To use the whole chicken, in our home that means first roasting the chicken. My recipe is super simple and quick. I have two small children and not a lot of time or patience for fancy recipes. Here's what you'll need:

1 roasting chicken (about 4-5 lbs)
1 orange (or clementine or tangerine or whatever orange-y citrus you have laying around)
1 lemon
1 onion
3 cloves garlic (or more if you like garlic!)
2 Tbsp butter
Olive oil
Your choice of dried herbs: basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, sage etc.
Chicken stock/broth or water

Preheat oven to 425* F.

Before I even open the chicken package, I prep all of my ingredients. Once the chicken is open and on the board, I don't want to have to keep washing my hands a bunch of times. If everything is prepped, you won't have to.

Cut up oranges, lemons, onions into big chunks and put aside in a bowl. Smash garlic cloves, leave them whole and add them to the bowl.

For the herbs, I pre-make a mix that I'll use over and over again each time I roast a chicken and also when I make chicken noodle soup. It's equal parts whatever herbs I have on hand (see, this is simple and there are no rules!). If you prefer specific directions, I recommend parsley, basil, oregano, and thyme. Store in a zip lock baggy or small tupperware.

Clean out the chicken and rinse it until the water runs clear. Dry very, very well. You want the butter and oil to stick and it won't if the chicken is still wet! Put chicken on a cutting board breast-side down. Spread one Tbsp butter all over the skin of the bottom of the chicken. You can either use a butter knife or your fingers. Then drizzle olive oil all over the same side and rub in as well. Sprinkle salt and pepper (to your taste) all over, followed by the herb mixture (again, to your liking and taste).

Salt and pepper the cavity well.

Flip the chicken over and place in an oiled roasting pan (I just use an old cake pan. You don't need anything fancy!), breast-side up. The secret here is to rub butter in between the breast meat and the skin. If the skin isn't already detached from the breast, it will come up pretty easily. I'd say you should split about 1/2 Tbsp of butter between the 2. Make sure the butter covers the breast meat. Take the rest of your butter and spread it over the skin of the chicken (like you did on the other side) and drizzle with olive oil. Rub in. Salt and pepper, as you did before and then sprinkle herbs to taste.

Last, you're going to stuff the cavity of the chicken with your orange, lemon, onion and garlic. But first, use a few of your lemon and orange slices to squeeze juice all over the top of the chicken.

Finally, pour some chicken broth into the bottom of the pan, so that the chicken juices don't caramelize to the bottom of your pan. Also, if you plan to make a gravy once the chicken is done, this will make it super delicious and easy. If you don't have broth, you can do this with some water. You want about 1/2 inch of liquid.

Bake for 1.5 hours. You can check it about an hour in to make sure the top isn't burning. You definitely want a good crust, but you don't want it to burn. If you find that it is, take a good-sized piece of foil, fold in half so there's a crease and place it over the chicken as a tent for the remainder of the time. Depending on your oven, you may not need to leave the chicken in the entire 1.5 hours.

When the breasts register at 160* on a meat thermometer, it's done. Pull your chicken out and leave it to cool outside of the oven for at least 20 minutes. This allows all the juices (and flavor and moisture) to reincorporate before you cut into it.

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*A note about trussing your chicken: Some people swear by it. I don't do it. I actually never have. One, because it's too much work. Two, because I've just never bought cooking twine. Three, because my chickens turn out really well without it. It's definitely a preference thing. But in my opinion, it's not a requirement.

Now, once the chicken is roasted, how do you eat it? What do you serve it with?
Here are some ideas. We use all of them:

-Shred chicken. Serve with hot tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, fresh guacamole, cheese, lettuce, etc. and let everyone make their own tacos or tostadas.

-Roast the chicken on a bed of root veggies (potatoes, carrots, parsnip, sweet potatoes, etc)- same exact recipe but just set the chicken on hefty slices of the vegetables in the roasting pan. Serve with veggies and a side of couscous or quinoa.

-Use the chicken drippings from the bottom of the pan to make a gravy. Serve sliced pieces of chicken over rice with gravy and a side salad.

We generally eat half of the chicken the night I roast it and then the rest of the meat I'll use the next night for another recipe.

Part 2 of this series will include recipes and ideas of how to use the rest of the chicken for other meals during the week.
Part 3 of this series will be how to make a quick, simple and super delicious chicken stock with what is left of your chicken after you've eaten all the meat.
Part 4 of this series will be how to use the chicken fat rendered from the chicken stock and your questions answered.

If you have any questions at all for me during this series, leave them in the comments or on my Instagram account: @jessibridges. I want to hear them all!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

house update: floors

When we bought this house, it had this orange-y laminate throughout. It was gross. It was horribly laid. It was ugly. It was not what we wanted. Before we even moved in, we tore it out of the 3 bedrooms and the living room and had carpet installed. I know a lot of people like wood throughout, but I can't handle it, especially in the desert. Dust city. All the time. It never looks clean. At least to me.

But for the entryway, kitchen and hallway, we knew we wanted to do either wood or laminate, possibly tile. Last week we finally decided to get serious and shop around. One night, we were looking at all the laminate (because let's be honest, we ain't never gonna afford hard wood), and I noticed some grey flooring they had. I had originally been thinking of something dark brown because we really like dark wood. But this caught my eye. I showed it to Ben, sort of jokingly, thinking it was a bit crazy that I was attracted to it. Later that night, once the kids were in bed, I decided to look at grey wood floors on Pinterest.

It took about 2 minutes before I was sold

Oh, and did I mention that the grey flooring we were looking at was on sale? A couple days later we checked a few other stores to see if they had anything similar for a better price. Nope. Nada. And by Saturday, Ben was back at the sore buying our new floors.

Last weekend he started the installation process. It took him an entire weekend to do just this much. He has never laid floors before so this is all brand new to him. But he is determined to 1. save the money and 2. learn anything and everything he can in the renovation process of this house. When the weekend was over, he joked that he would rather spend 18 more hours in the attic installing ceiling fans (which he taught himself to do weekend before last). And that once this floor is laid, he will never do it again. 

Last night he started laying planks in the kitchen. Maybe that room will be complete by the end of this weekend? And then on to the hallway, which should, hopefully, be a little bit easier.

But back to the floors. I absolutely love the color. I think it looks really great against our white walls. And another reason I chose this floor is because of how wide each panel is. It makes the space look wider and way classier. If there was any hesitation in me before, I am completely and absolutely sold on the grey now. These floors are dang beautiful. And Ben did an amazing job. 

2014-03-29 10.18.22 2014-03-29 10.18.44
2014-03-29 10.41.51
2014-03-29 16.53.51
2014-03-30 18.09.16 2014-03-30 19.06.41
Before and After:
And by finished, I don't mean entirely. We still need to reattach the baseboards and repaint them. But that's easy-peasy in comparison.

And while you're here, I thought I would go ahead and show the befores of the rest of the house so you're ready. Because, man, when these floors are done it's going to make a huge difference. I cannot wait!!

2014-03-29 10.37.562014-03-29 10.40.57 2014-03-29 10.18.06
I'm hoping to share the afters soon, so be sure to check back!

If you want to read more about the story of us buying this home you can do that here and here. And also see what this house looked like when we first bought it.