Monday, August 29, 2011

Mile High Momday: Colorado Comfort Casserole

For this week's Mile High Momday, I'm going to share one of our family's favorite recipes.  It was given to me by my mother in law and has become a regular in the dinner rotation.  My husband and I are both originally from Ohio and were raised with good ol' midwestern cooking, so casseroles get two overly polite thumbs up from us.

When I was first given the recipe, it was called "lattice top chicken bake", however, mine never looked lattice-y at all.  Instead it was rather mountain-y looking, so I changed the name.  I've also changed a few parts of the recipe, to suit our tastes.  

Another reason that the recipe is a favorite, is that it's super easy to make and my three year old can help make it with minimal damage.  (We still have to eat this dinner after all)  He loves helping do just about anything and cooking is no exception.  It also helps him take ownership of his food, making him (who is a SUPER finicky eater) more excited about eating and dinner time in general.

Colorado Comfort Casserole

1 can cream of chicken soup
2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 Cup milk
1 large can friend friend onion rings
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 Cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 Cup biscuit mix
1 pound frozen broccoli, carrots and cauliflower, thawed
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 Cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
dash of garlic powder

1) Combine soup, 3/4 C milk, seasoned salt, chicken, vegetables, 1 C cheese, 1/2 can of onion rings, salt and pepper
2) Spread in a greased 9 X 13 pan.
3) Bake uncovered at 425 for 10 minutes
4) Mix biscuit mix, eggs, 1/4 C milk, 1/4 Cup cheese, and dash of garlic powder to form a soft dough
5) Spoon the dough over the chicken mixture.
6) Bake, covered for about 20 minutes, then uncover and bake another 5-10 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown and the casserole is bubbling
7) Top the crust with the remaining cheese and onion rings
8) Bake another 3-5 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and the onion rings are slightly brown.  

A few personal notes about this recipe.  
* For the cooked chicken, what we usually do is get a rotisserie chicken and cut up that meat, so I don't have to pre-cook the chicken myself.  I also have gotten cans of chicken before and it still turns out good. 
* I've been known to be rather liberal with the cheese in this dish.  Feel free to add more or less, depending on your taste.

* I've also been known to double the biscuit topping, which is what I did in the pictures below.  (Can you ever really have too many biscuits?)

Shopping trip to pick up the ingredients

Cutting the chicken

Greasing the pan!

Cream of chicken soup
Adding the milk

As an added bonus, a friend of mine posted this recipe for iced coffee.  It's perfection.  Give it a try!
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

And the winner is......


I used the website and typed in everyone's name (9 from the blog and two from facebook) and theirs popped up first.  Congrats guys!  Email me your mailing info at and I'll get it out to you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To: Tie A Wrap Baby Carrier

When I posted the blog about how to DIY your own baby wrap carrier, I had a few people ask me how I tied the wrap, so here is a step by step tutorial.  (And don't forget, you can win this wrap by commenting on my DIY baby wrap carrier post by Friday, August 26, 2011) 

The basic idea goes something like this:  Cross the back, cross the front, wrap around then tie.  

1)  Find the middle of the wrap and gather the fabric around your waist.

2)  Wrap the fabric around to your back.

3)  Take the fabric at your left hip and put it over your right shoulder.

4)  Take the fabric at your right hip and put it over your left shoulder, to form an X on your back.

5)  You'll now have the fabric over both shoulders, hanging down your front.  Take both sides of the fabric and slide it under the fabric around your waist.  

6)  Now cross the fabric, so you have an X on your front also.

7)  Take the ends of the fabric around your back.  You can tie it here, behind your back, or if you have enough fabric, you can:

8)  Continue wrapping around to the front and tie it in the front.  

You are all finished wrapping and tying.  Now you do a little prep to get the baby ready to go in. 
1)  Make a little pocket out of the side of the X in the front that is closest to your body.

2)  Then make a pocket on the outside part of the X.

Now how to put your baby in:

1)  Hold the baby on the shoulder opposite of the inside side of the X on your chest.  My inside part was on the right, so I'm holding Gavin on my left shoulder.  

2)  Slide the baby down your chest and into the pocket nearest to your body, with his feet and legs in the fetal position.  Slide the fabric over his legs, bottom and body.  (This part of the fabric is located at #1 on diagram above)

3)  Take the other pocket and wrap it around the baby's feet, bottom and body.  (#2 on diagram above)

4)  Now take the edge of the fabric around your waist and pull it up and over the baby.  (#3 on diagram above)

5)  Then I take his head and snuggle it on my chest and wrap the fabric around his head to hold it in place.  

I hope this tutorial helps.  I think the best way to really learn how to do it is to just try it yourself.  There are also many videos out there demonstrating how to do this, and many different holds as well.  

Happy baby wearing!
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Mile High Momday: DIY Baby Wrap Carrier

When I had Jackson, I had a baby sling that I put him in all the time.  About a year later, it was recalled.  It didn't really matter too much to me, because he had outgrown it already, but then when I got pregnant with Gavin, I started doing research on something to replace the sling.  Everything I read was saying that the wrap style baby carriers were the way to go.  I had seen these before, but to be honest, they looked WAY too complicated for my busy life.  Sure, they were great once you took 15 minutes to tie it around yourself and put the baby in, but I just don't have that kind of time or patience.  I was talking to a neighbor of mine about these wraps and she said she had one that I could borrow.  So I did.  And it sat in the nursery for the first two weeks.  Then one day I got the motivation to try it out, and Googled how to wrap it around me.  It took me a couple minutes the first time, but once I got Gavin settled in, he loved it.
 He fell right into a swaddled baby sleep and that's how he stayed until I took him out.  
And it was so much more comfortable on me than most other carriers.  It's super lightweight and not bulky, so you can still go about your business.  And after I figured out how to wrap it, it only takes me a minute to wrap it around me and put Gavin in it. The other thing I loved about using a wrap is that I felt that Gavin was so much more secure than any other carriers I have.  I have both the Ergo (with the infant insert) and the Bjorn, and while they are both good for older babies, I always feel like I need to support his head with my hand when I moved around.  When you wrap the baby, their head is firmly on your chest and not going anywhere. Being truly hands free is a necessity for me right now because of Jackson.  So I fell in love with this wrap, the only problem is that I was just borrowing it from a neighbor and needed to give it back.  Similar wraps can run you upwards of $70 (or more), and that's just not a possibility right now.  Enter DIY.  For about $16 a wrap, I made my own, and you can too.  No, seriously.  You don't even have to know how to sew!  Here's how:
This is what the original borrowed one from the neighbor looked like, all laid out.
1)  Go to your local fabric store and get 6 yards (5 if you have a smaller frame) of a knit or rayon blend stretchy fabric.  Like t-shirt material.  The key with this is to get something that rolls on the ends and doesn't fray.  You'll want something with a little give in it.  A jersey knit is best.  The fabric I got was a little more expensive at almost $13 a yard, but I never shop at Joann's without a 50% off coupon, so that brought it down to $6.50 a yard.  That's still really expensive fabric, but I was being really picky and wanted something super soft and lightweight, since it's still in the 90's here.  You could get it for as low as $2.50 a yard, (with a coupon) if you really wanted to.  This fabric will be enough for you to make 2 wraps.  (Sorry, you can't get 3 yards and only make one wrap, you'll see why later....)

2)  Now that you have your fabric, find a place with lots of floor space and lay out the fabric.  Fold it in half long wise and in half long wise again, so that the fabric is shorter, but it's still the same original width of the fabric.  

3)  Now you cut it in half, width wise, so you have 2 pieces of fabric that are 6 yards long and about 25-30 inches wide (depending on how wide the fabric you bought was).  You don't have to sew a hem in it or anything, because the fabric doesn't fray!
4)  You're done!  Take one of those puppies and wrap your baby around you and go about your business.  

Now, for those of you that want extra credit, here are a couple more steps that I took, to give it a more finished look.  

1)  Take one of your wraps and fold it width wise.  

2)  Cut a triangle off the open side at the end, like this:
So it tapers at the ends, like this:

3)  Do that to both sides.

This step makes it a little less bulky at the ends, where you tie it and it hangs down.  

If you really want to go above and beyond, you can hem the edges. 

I'm a pinner and found that pinning and ironing this material really does help to keep it in place. I also fold it over twice, so you don't see the raw edge.

Ta Da!

I realized after making this and looking at the pictures that I look an awful lot like the Statue of Liberty.

Here's the best part, this DIY project makes two wraps!  That means that I have an extra one that I'll be GIVING AWAY!  All you have to do is leave a comment (any comment) and I'll randomly pick someone to give it to on Friday.  I'll even ship it to you for free! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The one where I talk about my body....

It's been nearly three weeks since giving birth, and I'm starting to feel much better.  I have more energy (even though I'm not getting much sleep) and I'm not as sore.  It's so nice to be on this side of pregnancy.  I love being able to bend over, lift things and be on my feet for more than a few minutes before having to sit down.  I've been really eager to start working out again.  When I took Gavin in for his two week checkup, I asked our doctor (we all go to the same doctor) if I was allowed to start working out.  She said no.  She said I could stretch and walk, but that I can't do any real working out until after 6 weeks.  That's disappointing.  I'm almost never motivated to work out, so I'd like to capitalize on this new found desire.  

I think the reason behind my motivation is that I know I can get my body back.  When I had Jackson I was told time and time again by other moms that I'll never really have my pre-baby body back.  That having a baby changes your shape forever.  Then I had Jackson.  And at first I wasn't motivated at all to get my pre-pregnancy body back.  I thought maybe that spare tire would just come off.  It didn't. Not a single inch. So I finally got motivated to try to take it off.  And guess what?  It worked.  It took almost 18 months, but I finally got down to my pre-Jackson size.  I was actually smaller than I was when I got pregnant.  So now, knowing that it's totally possible to get back to the way I was makes me really motivated and eager to get it started.  

Okay, here is the part where I justify myself.  I know I shouldn't have to defend my desire to get back my pre-baby body, but I also feel like if I don't justify myself, I'll get a lot of "you are so small, you don't need to lose weight" comments.  So, listen.  I'm aware that I have skinny arms and legs.  And I also know that the number on the scale is completely normal and healthy for my frame.  My goal isn't to lose weight, although that will probably happen when I lose the fat in my stomach.  My goal is to feel comfortable wearing shirts that hug my stomach.  And when I have babies, all the weight goes to my mid section.  And it stays there.  And people think I'm pregnant.  Because when you have really thin arms and legs, people assume that you should be thin everywhere.  And when you aren't, they assume you're pregnant.  And this isn't some sort of weird body image issue I've conjured up in my brain.  I've had people ask me when I'm due.  Lots of people.  Up until Jackson was 18 months old, people regularly asked me if I was pregnant.  Which never feels good.  

So, until my doctor clears me for that bootcamp that I bought on Groupon, I'll walk with the boys, and say no to ice cream.  Maybe.


Eh, probably not...

Monday, August 15, 2011

A love letter, part two

Dear Sweet Baby Gavin,
I love you so much. You are so sweet and laid back and easy. But oh my God you are such a NOISY sleeper! So tonight, I'm kicking you out of our bedroom. I'll miss having you right beside me in your bassinet, but Mommy is SO tired and desperate for a decent nights sleep. I've set up a great crib for you in your nursery. If you need me, cry nice and loud and I'll come to you.


Mile High Momday: DIY Laundry Detergent

I'm starting up a new weekly feature called Mile High Momday.  Every Monday I'll post about a DIY project, a money saving tip, recipes, crafts, activities for kids or really anything I'm loving at the moment that I think you might love too. 

I'm starting off my very first Momday with a recipe for making your own laundry detergent.  I'm in no way a laundry snob.  I'm not picky at all about my detergent.  As long as it gets the clothes clean and they smell good (or at least don't smell bad) I'm game.  What I am a snob about is paying an arm and a leg for detergent each month.  The average cost per load for name brand laundry detergent is about 20 cents (and higher).  With this recipe, the average cost per load is about 1 cent.  ONE PENNY!  Yes, please!  The other great thing about this recipe is how fast and easy it is.  You only need three ingredients, a couple household items and about five minutes.

What you'll need:
*1 bar laundry soap like Fels Naptha, Zote or Ivory (I've read that you can use a variety of soaps not listed above as well)
*1 Cup Borax - found in the laundry aisle
*1 Cup Washing Soda  (Note:  This is washing soda, NOT baking soda.  I found it in the laundry aisle at my grocery store)

First you grate or shave the bar of soap.  My food processor has this neat grater built right in, so that made it even easier.  You can just use a hand grater too.   
Put the grated soap in a food processor along with the Borax and Washing Soda and blend until it's a powdery detergent.  
That's it!  You only need to use 1 Tablespoon for average loads, but you can use 2 if your laundry is especially soiled.  I doubled the recipe and it fit perfectly into this glass container.  
Okay, I know what you are thinking.  That's great Michele, but does it work?  Well, I just made this for the first time last night, and have only done one load of laundry, but from what I've seen (and read on numerous other websites) yes.  It totally works.  I did a big load of whites last night and it got our clothes just as clean as the name brand detergent I have been using.  Although the Zote soap has a kind of lemony smell to it, I didn't think the clothes had any smell at all when I took them out of the dryer.  (And as I mentioned in my Steam and Sweep post, no smell = truly clean) I even gave underwear, socks and shirt armpits a sniff and didn't smell anything.  I also used my name brand fabric softener in the washer still, so I don't know how that effected it.  But I promise you, if I end up not liking this home made detergent after using it for a while, or think it doesn't clean as well as it should, I'll tell you.

What about a High Efficiency washer?  We do have an HE front loader and were told we HAD to use special HE detergent in it.  From what I understand, the reason behind it is suds.  HE washers can't have detergents that suds up a lot, which makes this home made detergent even better.  It is low suds.  For those of you with regular washing machines, don't be fooled by the fact that this detergent doesn't suds up.  It can still clean your clothes without the suds. 

Let me know if you decide to try this at home and what you think of the results!

Monday, August 8, 2011

And then there were four.....

We've been home from the hospital for ten days now and are definitely in the swing of things.  Gavin is such a laid back baby.  He rarely cries, and mostly sleeps all day and night.  I know that most newborns sleep most of the time, but I'm still feeling really lucky to have such an easy baby.  The nights are the hardest part, for sure, but even at that, he is sleeping for 2-3 hours at a time.  I get up and feed him, and he usually goes right back to sleep.  Sometimes he'll fuss for a while, or want to eat even more.  Those nights are harder, but we are making it work.  It's been business as usual during the day.  Running errands, going to birthday parties, and playing with friends.  I try to keep Gavin either on my body (wearing him in a carrier) or all covered up in his car seat/stroller combo.  They are so easy and portable at this age.  It's great!  I'm still pretty sore, and being on my feet for a long time hurts, so we tend to not be gone all day anyway.  Plus, having a three year old makes it more difficult to run around all day.  
Jackson is doing what I would expect.  He loves his baby brother and likes to help out with him.  He'll get concerned when he cries.  But he is definitely acting more whiny and wanting my attention more.  I've been trying to give him some one on one time, completely away from Gavin, here and there.  And my mom is here with us, so that really helps.  I'm sure that when my mom and mother-in-law leave, there will be quite an adjustment for him.
I'm doing well.  Sleep deprived for sure, but I don't care.  I absolutely LOVE this stage of having a baby!  Having a newborn in the house makes me want to have ten more babies.  He is so sweet and cuddly and sleepy and soft and I am so in love. 

P.S.  These are the pictures that were taken at the hospital when Gavin was 1 day old.
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