Thursday, April 17, 2014

Roasted Chicken in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Oh Pioneer Woman, thou art a dictionary of recipes!

Whenever I feel that I need some inspiration or guidelines on a recipe I want to try out for the first time I almost always land on a Pioneer Woman recipe first. Why? Because she rocks!

A few weeks ago I was at the grocery store and the meat department lady walked up to me and was like "hey - just throwing it out there - we have a TON of fryer chickens that I need to unload ASAP. They were $0.92/lb yesterday and today they are down to $0.78! You should pick one up." Well, I had actually only cooked a whole chicken ONCE before and it was a horribly failed beer can chicken attempt. I was a little skeptical, but she gave me her rundown of how she prepares her chickens and I was inspired. And who can beat the price of a home cooked dinner for literally just a couple bucks?! So I picked up a few extra veggies and came home to research how in the heck was I going to cook this thing with the ingredients that I have on hand. And I knew I wanted to cook this chicken in my cast iron dutch oven. So off to google-land I went, and landed upon this recipe that I took some hints from.

So here's what I did.

You will need:
1 white / sweet onion
1 apple
4 carrots
4 medium brown potatoes
1 chicken
2-3 T of Penzey's Italian Seasoning
1 T of Penzey's Rosemary
Kosher Salt
Olive Oil
1/2 stick of butter

You will do:
1. Wash your chicken, remove the organs and then thoroughly dry it off, inside and out. I typically boil the organs in water and then feed it to the dog. Everyone will get a little bit of this chicken today.
2. Chop 1/4 of the onion into large pieces, peel the apple and do the same. Stuff it all inside the chicken.
3. Combine 2-3 T of italian seasoning, 1 T of rosemary, about 1 T of kosher salt and about 3 T of olive oil. Rub it all over the outside of the chicken. Lay her on a pan in the fridge until you are ready to cook her. And keep an eye on that dog.
4. Peel and chop your carrots and potatoes, coarsely chop the onion and toss in a bowl with additional olive oil and salt. Set those aside as well.
5. Place your cast iron dutch oven inside your oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees (with the cast iron inside). Heat the cast iron for about 20 minutes before you are ready to cook. You never want to cook food in a cold cast iron dish. Bring out the chicken and veggies during this time to allow them to get brought up to temperature a little bit (my husband would freak out about the temperature danger zone but I personally am more ok with it as long as you are going to cook it ASAP).
6. When you're ready to go, place the chicken in the cast iron (breast side up) and surround her with the
veggies. Scatter bits of butter on top of the whole mix, cover, bake and leave it alone for about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove the lid for the last 10-15 minutes to help develop that crispy skin that we all secretly love.
7. Once fully cooked, remove from the oven and allow it to rest for about 10-15 minutes before cutting into it. I removed the dutch oven lid but draped a cotton (not microfiber or synthetic) dish towel over the top.
8. Serve with some warm sourdough bread. YUM.

Some additional thoughts...
SAVE THEM BONES, veggie scraps from preparation and any junk from the chicken that you wouldn't eat. Why? Bone broth in a crock pot, baby.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boba 4G carrier with a newborn

Oh, it's been a month of craziness up in this house for sure.. Miss Penny turning 2 and seriously blossoming into this adventerous, talkative, sassy girl, and then there's the new addition - little Ruby!

Having 2 kids within 2 years means that a lot of our methods have stayed the same (such as bed sharing, cloth diapering, daily routines) but quite a few things have changed. Namely our babywearing techniques.

Babywearing was sort of a novel idea to me when Penny was a newborn - I was perfectly happy to sit and snuggle all day. It wasn't until she was 4 months old and summer hit when we pulled out our soft carrier (the Ergo) and took her along on hikes and other outdoor excursions.

This time around - babywearing is a necessity. Can I say it again? Babywearing is a necessity with 2 under 2. 

I have been experimenting with different methods depending on what our activity is, but my favorite carrier for our daily family walks or when I'm getting work done around the house is the Boba 4G carrier. I struggled with our Ergo for the newborn stage (and the newborn insert was just plain silly and useless) so I was very interested to see how the Boba held up.

From the first time that I put Ruby into our Boba (around 2 weeks old) I felt like it was a great fit. She was about 9lbs and 21 inches and fit into the carrier well. I didn't feel like she was too small and would flop around like Penny did in our other soft carrier. Her little bottom slid perfectly onto the integrated infant insert.

Another favorite feature of the Boba 4g carrier is just how adjustable it is. It has 5 ways to adjust the fit to you - across the hips, across the chest, adjusting the height of the chest strap, and 2 shoulder adjustments. The extra shoulder adjustment is a big seller for me because my husband has a really wide chest so he's able to bring the fit closer to him.

Our carrier is made from their optional organic cotton. It is free of chemicals or dyes. The fabric is must softer and more pliable than our other carrier, which is perfect for against especially a newborn's skin.

This carrier is rated from 7 - 45 lbs. There's a lot of carriers out there who claim that, but I feel like the Boba 4g can honestly meet that claim. As I mentioned before, Ruby was probably between 8 1/2 - 9 lbs when I first started wearing her in it and it was a comfortable fit from the get-go. In comparison it wasn't until Penny was closer to 11-12 lbs (even with the infant insert) that I was able to somewhat comfortably carry her around and not feel like she was sloshing around in the other carrier. I've also worn Penny, now 25 months old and 23 lbs (Yep, she's a petite lady), in the Boba 4g carrier and absolutely love her in it as well because the panel rises up several inches higher and I can tell that she is much more comfortable in it because she's not craning to get out or look around. My favorite part about the back carry for this carrier is that the chest strap can be slid up and down (in addition to being tightened or loosened).

The Boba 4G is definitely a new favorite around these parts and I can whole heatedly recommend it to anyone!

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Penny's 2nd Birthday & Meet Baby Ruby Party!

What phrase did I hear come out of my daughter's mouth the most often during the months of March and April?

"Happy Birthday, Penny!!"

Penny's 2nd birthday was on March 3rd. But her almost 2 month long birthday celebration started the weekend before. We were preparing for the birth of Ruby (as I was positive that I'd give birth at 39 weeks, that didn't happen!) and my parents were visiting. We decided to celebrate Penny's birthday so that Adam and I would get to celebrate her special day without the possible craziness of a newborn. That came and went and the day of her birthday, Adam's parents came down for dinner and cake. Fast forward to a week later and Ruby was born! That started off a train of visitors who came to help during my tricky post partum recovery for the next month. Every few days a new family member would come to visit so we'd have another opportunity of a quick celebration of Penny's birthday and Ruby's birth.

Needless to say, my silly bubbly two year old quickly made the association that when we have visitors there will most likely be presents to open!

This Sunday we rounded out this 5 week adventure of learning how to be a family of 4 with a combination of birthday / meet the baby party with our friends and family. We were so blessed with amazing (I daresay a hint of a wonderful summer?) weather of about 70 degrees, cloudless skies and a gentle breeze. The party was at our block park, which has a decent play structure, and it was the perfect setting for letting kids run around and have fun while adults mingled.

One of Penny's favorite daily chores has been collecting the eggs from our 5 chickens that we got two months ago, so in honor of that (and the proximity of Easter) we held an egg hunt as well. It was so cute seeing the dozen toddlers / older kids run around and hastily snatch up the obvious eggs. As the party went on, sometimes a missed egg was unearthed and the victor pranced around with their egg. It was so cute.

Is this not the most previous fairy you've ever seen??

It will probably be very convenient to celebrate both of the girls' birthdays at the same time for most years, but I know that eventually they will ask for their own special days as well. Or maybe they will love sharing, who knows?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Under Construction: new garage doors and yard work

Don't want to miss out on any of our renovation shenanagins? 
Click here for a full list of my posts on it!

Well, the renovation was on a partial hold for the last couple months for the end of my pregnancy and the birth of Ruby, but the last 2 weeks have brought us absolutely gorgeous weather and my energy has returned so we've been getting quite a few projects done around the house.

Sometimes I just have to stand back and laugh at the way that we go about our renovation. Home improvement projects are very daunting to most people and may require weeks (months?) of preparation. Some researching on how to do it, sourcing the materials and him-hawing over options. Us? Nah. Adam woke up this past Saturday morning and said "today I'm going to put in our garage doors."

Ok, let me back up a few days.

The Suburban "Duraburb" project is done and Adam started parking it into the (in my opinion) very skinny garage. Our house was originally had a 2 car garage (2 single doors) but the previous owners converted one of the stalls into a room for their daycare. We value garage space over weird/extremely cold rooms so the plan has always been to convert it back into garage space in the next year or so. I've been driving the Duraburb around for a couple weeks and am pretty comfortable with driving it and parking it in easy spots but the garage was another story. One morning I was getting ready to go to my local MOPS group and all I had to do was pull the Duraburb out of the garage. It was a tight fit but simply driving it out of the garage shouldn't be a big deal, right? Even after loading up both of the girls (who were NOT happy) I felt that I had succeeded in my attempt and started pulling out of the garage. Well...*somehow* the garage door had slid down just a teeny tiny bit and it was enough to catch the back roof rack as I pulled out. Thankfully a neighbor was walking by and I had already slowed down to let him cross, so I was literally creeping along but it was enough to bend the roof rack a little bit. This was the fire under Adam's ass to fix our garage situation.

So this past Saturday morning he went to Lowe's just to check their prices on garage doors and found that coincidentally they are having a super-sale and picked up 2 garage doors for cheap! We tend to have a lot of luck with getting super good random deals at Lowe's. So he came home and literally started cutting a hole in the side of the house.

If you know me personally or have been following the blog for a while, you know that although Adam doesn't have any professional experience in house renovations / improvements he just has a knack for these things. His engineering background gives him the basis for a lot of the projects that he tackles and where ever there are hole in his knowledge he picks up pointers from the internet or friends/family who have already done it. In the 1 1/2 house renovations that we've done he's actually got a pretty good record of success. Sometimes it's a windy road with a few detours, but I have to say that I'm very proud of him for always completing a project.

Ok enough blubbering about my handy husband, back to filling you in on what we've done.

The way that we tend to start our projects is by the seat of our pants. We decide a few days before or the morning of (as was the case here) that we want to get something done and pretty much do it. Yes, we have a list of house projects that need to be done. Yes, they are organized by priority. But sometimes that list is set aside and we just do what we want to do that weekend.

Case in point: he cut a hole in the house and installed one garage door in a day.

Sunday morning he moved on to the garage stall that already had a garage door (the one I had pulled out of). The original width was 8 ft and both new doors are 9 ft. This is plenty of room for me to comfortably park the Duraburb in the garage. Whew! He managed to finish this project in time for Penny's 2nd birthday / meet the baby party that we had planned that afternoon too.

Over the last few weeks we've been working on the yard as well. The side yard leading from our driveway to the shop was in dire need of drainage so Adam and my step-dad worked for a couple weekends to lay down drainage pipes and dig trenches. Last week a couple of our neighbors literally volunteered to throw almost 10 tons of gravel over that driveway that Adam outlined while he was at work. We have been seriously blessed with great neighbors who have welcomed us to the neighborhood and are a constant support!

Meanwhile, my parents have been visiting almost every weekend and my step-dad is a machine when it comes to whipping a yard into shape. For both of our renovations that has been his area of expertise and the man is tireless. Normally I'm not much of a yard person but he inspired me a bit and I've been working on a couple small projects throughout the yard (as nap time allows).

My first project was to weed our raised bed. Penny and the chickens became my helpers (as helpful as a toddler and five chickens can be) by dumping the weeds into a bucket or eating bugs that I unearthed - respectively. I need to fill the garden with some topsoil and then Penny and I can plant our first veggies together! I'm thinking snow peas, radishes, cucumbers, sunflowers and setting aside some room for a couple pumpkins.

I started walking around the yard and found a few areas where there had been paving stones laid out but had been overgrown for several years.

My yard projects are usually limited by which child I have with me at the time. If it's just Penny then I'm pretty free to do mostly whatever I want to do and she's become a good helper. If Penny is down for a nap but Ruby is awake then I wear her in our Boba and I'm limited to tasks that keep me standing (such as clipping branches or raking). It's not too often that I'll tackle yard work when I've got both of the kids - but we still go outside and play :)

This run of great weather has been a great motivator in getting the outside of our house looking more presentable and I've been enjoying taking the girls on walks during the day and when Adam gets home we typically take another walk after dinner. It's not too often that we get weather like this in Washington this early in the year so we take advantage of it while we can!

When Sister Meets Sibling (Guest post from That Mama Gretchen)

It's no secret around here how much I adore Gretchen from That Mama Gretchen. We've been friends for gosh, over 10 years, and our journeys in motherhood have brought us close together. Thank you, G, for such inspiring words and I can't wait for our littles to grow up together and become best buds!

There's another sweet pierogie in the Northwest and I couldn't be happier for Bianca and her brand new family of four ... WELCOME MISS RUBY! While The Pierogie Mama snuggles up her two little ones, I'm excited to pop over from my blog, That Mama Gretchen, and share about my own transition from one to two children.

Bianca and I have had stairs step pregnancies - my Jemma was born in 2010, Penny came in 2012, my Max arrived in 2012 and now Ruby in 2014. So, needless to say, much of our talk has been focused on motherhood. A far cry from our high school conversations! Yep, we've been friends for a long time! From birth stories to breastfeeding tips, we've talked about it all, but one thing we've only lightly touched on is the transition our eldest daughters make when becoming siblings for the first time.

With my second pregnancy I had a handful of worries, one of the biggest being how I would adapt to loving two children and how Jemma would welcome (or not welcome) a baby. She was only 22 months when her brother was born so although we talked and read about new babies often, she didn't seem to fully grasp that mama's growing bump would soon rock her world. Thankfully, she transitioned well.

To help us both, I made sure to give her one on one time each day, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. For those moments, she had my undivided attention. I encouraged her to be mama's helper and brother's protector and over the last 18 months, she has fully owned these roles. I let her be a baby too. When she starts to get that whiny tone (you know, that one) or is acting out of sorts I do my best to pull her tight and cradle her in my arms. I remind her that she is my sweet baby even though she is growing up. I tell her I am so proud of the choices she makes and the help she gives me. I asked for help from Daddy, grandparents and aunts, and yes, I know it's hard to ask for help, to help me balance caring for two children.

No doubt, going from one on one to being outnumbered is hard. I have shed tears, felt overwhelmed, used harsh words and collapsed at the end of the day with pure exhaustion. But over the last 18 months our daily trio has become the most wonderful thing. All the ups and downs, the "getting into a routine" and forging strong relationships have paid off. So much so that I find myself thinking, "What would it be like with three little ones ...". It's a fleeting thought for now, but life with two has become normal. Dare I say, occasionally easy. So of course I'd go hunting for the next challenge. The three of us have found a beautiful groove where our days are filled with lots of laughter and hugs. Ok, ok ... Max attempts to bite sometimes too, but we're working on that :) Best of all, by far my favorite thing is the relationship between my children. It's priceless. Seeing them together makes all the hard work of mothering two absolutely worth it.

So, my advice to Bianca and other mama's expecting their second - the early months are difficult, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Let yourself own survival mode. Feed your little ones, keep them safe and don't feel guilty when the toddler watches a few movies. It's just a season. Order take-out, don't stress about the cleanliness of your home, pause your Pinterest projects and just be with your kids as you all transition into a new life together. It takes time, but I've witnessed the bond that grows between siblings early on and there is nothing better. I can't wait for the years to come as Jemma and Max grow up together and I know a priceless bond will be solidified between Penny and Ruby too. Congratulations, my friend, you've given your children one of the greatest gifts they could ever receive - the love and partnership only a sibling can bring.

See more of my munchkins over on Instagram! That's where I capture the majority of their sweet and crazy moments :)



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