Thursday, September 25, 2014

Veggie White Chili with Poblanos

I love fall. It's no secret in my family that October and November are my two favorite months. I love the crisp, cool air. I love running in that cool air early in the morning. The leaves, especially sugar maple leaves! I love fall clothes so, so much. Boots. Sweaters. Why does it seem like fall doesn't last as long as it used to?

Something else I love about fall is making soup. Sunday afternoons are my time to prep soups, stews and chilis that can simmer for hours and make excellent leftovers and freeze well. We are pescetarian (we don't eat meat but we do occasionally eat fish) and I rarely use my crock pot because I just haven't found a lot of slow cooker recipes that are vegetarian. I stumbled upon this recipe recently that is veggie and I had to try it.

This Veggie White Chili with Poblanos may sound spicy, but it's really not unless you leave the seeds on the peppers. To cut down on prep time, I stock up on frozen bags of mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion mix) and Cajun mirepoix (green pepper, celery and onion mix).  

I was a little nervous about roasting the poblano peppers, but it turned out to be really simple. Here goes:

Veggie White Chili with Poblanos
Adapted from Potluck at Oh My Veggies
  • 2 medium poblano peppers
  • 1 frozen bag of Cajun mirepoix
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (I used regular paprika)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed under cold water and drained
  • Garnishes: Cholula hot sauce, sour cream, mexican cheese

Photo courtesy of Potluck at Oh My Veggies
  1. First, roast your poblanos. Turn the oven on to the high broil setting and move the rack to about one-third of the way from the top of the oven. Wash and dry whole peppers and place on a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven and broil until all sides are blackened. I suggest not walking away! All ovens are different but this may only take a few minutes.
  2. Remove peppers from the oven and carefully tent the foil over them to trap the heat and make the peppers sweat, which makes the skin peel easily.
  3. While the poblanos are cooling, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat and add the frozen Cajun mirepoix veggies. Cook for a few minutes until the veggies are warm throughout and softened.
  4. Add the garlic, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, cloves, and salt. Cook, stirring, for one minute.
  5. Add a cup or so of broth and stir to make sure all the bits of flavor are scraped up into the broth. Carefully pour into the slow cooker along with the remaining vegetable broth, cannellini beans and quinoa.
  6. Carefully peel the skin off of the poblanos and remove the stem. Remove the seeds for a milder chili; keep them for a hotter chili. Finely dice and add to the Crock Pot. Stir gently to mix all of the ingredients together.
  7. Cook on high for 3 - 4 hours until the quinoa is tender and the chili is relatively thick. Taste and add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Scoop into bowls and garnish with additional toppings if desired.
I never know what to expect with the number of servings. We are all hearty eaters and something that is supposed to feed 6-8 often doesn't in my house! This chili went a long way so I would say it yielded at least 6-8 servings and thanks to all the quinoa and beans, it's very filling. 

Do you have soup, stew or chili recipes to share? Anything that could be converted to veggie? I need some inspiration!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Waiting is the Hardest Part

It has been a long while since I've posted an update about our house project.  Without going into too much detail, I'll just say it has gone over budget, long past the scheduled completion date, and we are way over it and ready to put the stress behind us and, finally, move into our home. No large project is without stress, but we have learned a lot through this process and I think have some valuable takeaways we'll apply to any future projects.  We have renovated two houses previously, but this is by far the most extensive project we've had.  

We are within weeks of moving in, and I'm working on putting together some before and after photos of the house.  I'll share just a few photos here for now, all taken about two weeks ago.  Since these were taken, cabinets have been installed, tile work has been completed and painting is underway. More pics to come soon.

Exterior of Addition - the brick on the original house was impossible to match, so we elected to install durable hardy board siding painted to match rather than using a different type of brick.

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom
Bonus Room

Bonus Room

Looking into dining/sitting area from bonus room.  The new back entry way/mud room is to the left and the new powder room is to the right.

Looking out into the living room and the front window from the dining room


Dining Room and Sitting Area / Fireplace.  The doorway to the right leads to the original bedrooms and bathrooms.

Living Room and Cabinets (lots of cabinets)

Computer closet

Hallway to new laundry room and master suite
Master Bathtub

Master Shower

Master toilet closet

No more acoustic ceilings.  All original rooms in the house had acoustic ceilings and we had to apply 1/4" sheet rock over them because they had been applied with a glue that proved impossible to sand down to remove.
Front door - surprise purchase Jason made. A solid walnut door with pretty side light panels.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Stitch Fix

I posted some photos of my first Stitch Fix box of goodies on Instagram and Facebook last month and it's time again for a new box to arrive!  I just got my shipping confirmation this morning, along with a referral credit.  Every time someone signs up with my referral code, I get a credit, which helps me sustain my healthy appetite for new clothes.  This is a shirt from last month's fix:

If you haven't signed up for a Stitch Fix yet, please think about trying it! The deal is, it's a $20 stylist fee for each Fix, but if you keep even one item in the Fix, you're credited back the $20.  If you keep all five items, you get the $20 credited back plus 25% off the entire order.  There's no shipping for receiving or returning items and you can leave as much or as little feedback about what you liked or didn't like as you want.  Also, you can receive fixes as often or seldom as you like. 

Here's my referral link: 

Last month, I only kept one item of the five in the package, but I was tempted to keep three of the five.  I can't wait to see what's in this month's fix!

Time is Flying

I had every intention of writing two- and three-month posts for Hawkes, but that hasn't happened!  He was three months old this week and I have yet to slap that three month sticker on his chest and take a photo, but it will happen!  He is such a big guy now and really strong.  

Yep, I could look at this face all day! His eyes are not as blue now - they are a blueish/greenish/brownish hazel.

I love this face - it's his skeptical face.  He's starting to really enjoy his play mat, but he's apparently suspicious of some of the dangling toys.

My favorite face - the gummy smile! Hawkes is such a happy, smiling little guy. It makes the tired days a lot more fun after some sleepless nights.
Likes:  Sophie, jumping/putting weight on his legs, putting his entire hand in his mouth, drooling, Sophie, blowing bubbles, Sophie, foot rubs, On Top of Spaghetti, Sophie, Twinkle Twinkle, Sophie, being naked or having his diaper changed, Sophie, baths, and pretty much anything Sophie does (except maybe when she grabs and squeezes his head or pinches him - gah!)

Dislikes: Sleeping all night long.  Ha!  We were so spoiled by Sophie, who was sleeping 10 hour stretches at 9 weeks old.  Not so much with Hawkes, but I know we'll get there.  We had a crazy week last week as Houdini found ways to escape from virtually every supposedly inescapable swaddle contraption.  At this point I'm double swaddling him for naps in a Woombie underneath a velcro Summer Infant Swaddle (both of his are for "big baby"!) and at night with his arms swaddled in an Aden + Anais swaddle with a velcro Summer Infant Swaddle on top.  Crazy! While he likes to escape, he hates being unswaddled.  Go figure!

Last month, I spent the day with a wonderful young woman who helped me get Hawkes into a better routine during the day, including crib napping, and it was the best thing we could have done.  We struggled a lot last month with bottles.  We've been trying pumped bottles with him since he was about three weeks old, but he's never really taken to them and lately flat out refused them.  Knowing that I was returning to work soon and he was refusing them made me a little crazy.  We tried different techniques and bottles and finally found one, the Comotomo, that he's taking pretty well.  Fingers crossed!  

Sometimes it feels like the entire last month of maternity leave is spent preparing myself and my baby to have the leave end. I just want the transition to be as good as possible for both of us.  Just a little more than two weeks now!  He's in good hands at the same school Sophie has been in since she was an infant and even in the same room she was with awesome and loving teachers.  That makes it much easier!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Fun Stuff

If you've seen me in the last month, you've heard me say the house is behind schedule.  Shocking!  It will be amazing when it's finished, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated and over it.  With that said, it's getting closer to being done and we're making some fun choices now with regard to the counter tops, tile, fixtures, etc.  We looked at a lot of options for our kitchen and bathroom - granite, quartz, marble.  We finally settled on Fantasy Brown quartzite for the kitchen and we're still trying to decide what to use in the master bath, but we've narrowed it down to a couple of quartz and marble selections.  The kitchen needs 94 square feet of counters, but the bathroom is only about 14 square feet.  We searched and searched and finally found a couple of fabricators that offer quartz and marble remnants and marble by the foot instead of by the slab, so that opened up our options a little more.  

Here's the Fantasy Brown quartzite:

We're doing a simple glass subway tile backsplash in a light gray, laid horizontally and a herringbone accent piece with the same tile over the cooktop.

In the master bath, we've selected the tile:
The stria 12x24 tile will be laid staggered on the floor, tub deck and vertically in the shower.  The hexagonal tile will be used as a tub backsplash, on the shower floor and in the recessed shampoo/soap cubbies in the shower.  We'll use a glass tile in that shade of blue shown in the subway tile - but the glass tiles we're using are 1x6 and we'll lay 6" of that tile about halfway up the shower to break up the larger tile and add some color and interest.  We want to keep the counters simple because there is a lot going on in the tile but we don't want to be to monochromatic.  I think we found something we like today, but we need to see it again to make sure. 

Here are a couple more pictures of the house from this past weekend.  This is just the kitchen - I'll share more from the other rooms and addition soon!

My new kitchen!  It's a horseshoe shape and will have a 5-foot square island in the center.

The view from the kitchen sink.  Not bad!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bathtub Find!

Jason and I are seriously frugal and we have learned a lot over the years about how to save money on renovation projects without sacrificing quality.  Since we purchased our first home in 2005, we've completely remodeled two homes and now this major renovation and addition makes our third.  We have three rental properties and one empty lot and when we did the previous remodels, we did so keeping in mind that tenants would ultimately live in the space and knowing that it would need to be versatile to a variety of tastes and easy to maintain.  This time, it's a little different because everything is being selected just for us.  We have a little more room to be creative and build and finish the home to our own tastes. 

One item that became important to me was finding a tub that would be big enough for either of us to enjoy using without feeling like a sardine stuffed in a can.  We're not little!  It became clear pretty quick that a five-foot tub wouldn't work, nor would a 36" wide tub.  We ended up modifying our master bath floor plan slightly - changing the pocket door to the toilet closet to a swinging door - to make room for a 42 x 72" whirlpool tub.  Tubs aren't cheap!  We searched high and low online, in big box stores and at one particular liquidation store that I refer to as "the place where dreams go to die."  

A friend recommended a plumbing supply company in Nashville, and we checked it out even though we were skeptical about getting a good value.  We were surprised to find out that a builder/contractor had ordered four very nice whirlpool tubs for a project and never picked them up, so we saved more than 66% on the tub we purchased.  This Jason tub (Jason is "son of Jacuzzi" - a brand started by a former Jacuzzi employee) is the one we selected.  

We keep learning new things throughout the process and this was one of my favorite bargains.  Now I know it doesn't hurt to ask about items on hand like this that can be purchased for a steal. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

House Update

We've hit a point with the house where we're frustrated and ready to see things move along quicker, easier, and with fewer change orders! Overall, it's still an awesome process, but it is not without challenges.  We knew renovating and adding on to an older home would bring a fair number of unforeseen situations, but the number of them has been a little overwhelming at times. 

First, we had the fireplace, the floor joists, the sub flooring and the popcorn ceilings.  We removed the fireplace, replaced the sub flooring, added joists and we will be sheet rocking the ceilings in the existing house to cover the popcorn ceiling because it could not be removed by sanding.  

While the pipes were winterized, we ran into some serious leak issues when the temperatures thawed.  Twenty-two leaks to be exact.  We decided to replace all of the plumbing rather than repair the existing plumbing so going forward, we should be in good shape.

The latest challenge is too technical to get into too much detail here, but it involves the pitch of the roof.  We hired an architect to draw up the plans for our addition and renovation for many reasons; one of the foremost reasons was the importance to us of not having a roof line that jutted above the existing structure that would be visible from the street.  We had a near-miss with the construction of the roof over the last week but were able to work it out so that the pitch is as it should be.

Here are some of the latest pictures:
Part of the roof pitch problem-solving - we had to decide between 45" or 24" overhangs.  The 45" would have required additional support, so we're going with 24".
View of the kitchen from the living room.

Pantry - located within the kitchen on the end of the right side of the horseshoe layout

Hallway from the existing house to the master suite and laundry room - to the right of the new kitchen

Laundry Room

Linen closet in the new hallway to the master/laundry
Closet in the master bedroom

New master bath and toilet closet. It will have a separate whirpool tub, shower and water closet.
Master bedroom. The hardest to capture because I had limited camera sight lines.

More to come soon!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hawkes' First Month

Wow, it has been six weeks already since Hawkes joined our family! None of us has ever been so tired or happy to have this little guy with us.  I forgot how exhausting it is to have a newborn and also how sweet.

Likes: being held, being rocked, baths, riding in the car, stroller rides (after a rocky start, he likes them now), his bouncy seat, SOPHIE, the Ergo carrier, the ABC song sung by Sophie, pretty much anything Sophie does!  The love is mutual - watch this.

Dislikes: the witching hours of about 6pm to 8pm, crib naps (see above - likes behind held!), waiting more than 0.3 seconds to eat when he's hungry, the swing

Personality: loves to gaze at the ones he loves.  Gets excited hearing Sophie's voice and gave her his first real smile.  Loves snuggling.  Makes a true bird call noise just before sneezing.  I have tried for a month to capture this hilarious and endearing bird call on camera and finally got a second of it here. Now that we're on week 6, he's really developing a personality - making funny faces, discovering body parts (hands, feet, tongue, blowing bubbles) and reacting to our funny faces. 

This month has been full of challenges, not just the kind that come with having a new little guy and making lots of adjustments.  Many of you know Jason had back surgery just 9 days ago after suffering tremendous pain from a disc herniation.  We may share more about that another time. What this means for him is that he hasn't gotten to pick up, rock, play with Hawkes like he wants to.  He hasn't gotten to share those middle of the night moments with him that you would think a guy wouldn't miss, but I know he does miss them. We're confident that in a few short weeks, Jason will be able to do all of those things and make up for lost time. He is the best dad and my best friend, and we all look forward to seeing him back in business!  Sophie and Hawkes and some precious moments as a family, despite the challenges, have made this the best month we can remember.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

We Get by with a Little Help from Our Friends

It seems like a good time to ask for prayers if you pray or vibes and positive thoughts if that's more your thing. Jason is having back surgery on Tuesday and we are hopeful that it will bring relief in every way for him and our family. Without going into too much detail, he has a disc herniation and some accompanying issues that he's tried to tackle in every other way, but now that those other avenues have been exhausted, it's time for surgery. We're confident in the abilities of the surgeon, Dr. Richard Lebow, and look forward to seeing good results.  This hormonal and tired new mom looks forward to finally seeing him be able to rock our baby and move without pain. 
We appreciate every single thought and prayer and will post an update after the surgery!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hospital Bag Checklist

Having a second baby gave me a slight advantage when I packed a bag for the hospital because I knew what I wished I had the first time around and kind of remembered what I was glad I had.  Here's what we brought, and it seems like a lot but it all fit in one small weekender bag:

For me:
Glamourmom nursing tanks
Gilligan & O'Malley Nursing Sleep bras - Target 
Bravado Silk Seamless Nursing Bra

2 button-down nightshirts
2 pair leggings, 2 cardigans
Comfortable flats
Phone/iPad and charger
Glasses and enough contacts for a few days
Toiletries, including Cetaphil face wipes and heavy-duty lotion (your skin will be DRY from the hospital air and especially if you are breastfeeding)
Toilet paper!!  You do not want the hospital-grade TP.
Forgot to bring a bath towel!  Also might want to pack a blanket for the new dad. Our hospital had plenty of blankets but you never know!

For Hawkes:
2 newborn sleepers
2 three-month sleepers (we weren't sure how big he'd be and low and behold, he was born almost too big for NB clothing!)
Miracle blanket for swaddling (we've moved to Halo Swaddle Sleepsacks and SwaddleMe swaddles now that we're home)
A couple of receiving blankets

To pack all these things in my weekender, I used a couple of sets of these eBags packing cubes.  I can't say enough good things about the packing cubes - they're great for keeping things organized and separating my clothes from Hawkes', toiletries from clothing, etc. 

Vanderbilt has a variety of room service food options and snacks available at no cost (outside of the $$$$ we spend to be there!) so I didn't pack any food, but otherwise might have packed granola bars, nuts, etc to have on hand because having a baby for me is like running a race - I am starving and parched for days after!  I also didn't pack diapers and wipes because I knew those would be available. 
That's it! Hope this helps someone out there! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Blocks are in!

This may not seem cheer-worthy, but it is!  After weeks of weather-related delays (too wet to dig the footers, too cold to pour the concrete, etc) all the stars finally aligned long enough to get those footers dug and concrete poured so that the blocks could go in and the framing of the addition can start soon!  As you can see, this photo was taken from the comfort of my car because it was raining like crazy today.  The space closest to the car is the kitchen, with the laundry room in between that and the master suite and hallway on the farthest side. 

We've also selected cabinets for the kitchen so I'll have some photos of the sample gallery to share soon and some details about the type of wood, the company, and some of the features we're including.  For now, though, I'm feeling ecstatic about the progress!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Is it Just Me Or...

Is the doorbell that much louder when you have a sleeping baby in the house? I swear, every delivery (accompanied by ridiculous dog-barking) arrives just when Hawkes settles in for that last late afternoon nap. 

I'm trying to get my act together to write a real post, but wanted to share some photos of the first two days Hawkes was here with us at Vanderbilt until then. 

Our first family photo, minus Sophie. Someone asked if I was wearing makeup and the answer is I might have had a little residual makeup from the previous day at work - I was in labor from about noon on 1/13 until I delivered at 5:24am on 1/14.  Washing my face wasn't exactly a priority!
Kids, in case you don't know the conversion, 4.080 kg is NINE POUNDS!
Proud dad

Keeping it real. She was excited about Hawkes, but she's still three!
Who knew we'd have a great hospital room view? And gorgeous flowers from some thoughtful well-wishers.
Love this pic of the proud big sister
And another...
Headed home!   

Just for fun, here's us going home with newborn Sophie!