Monday, September 28, 2020

Crack Chicken Chili (Recipe)

Now through the end of October, Tuesday and Thursday evenings are the busiest for us.  With schedules what they are on those days (volleyball followed by jiu-jitsu) I try to put dinner in the crockpot in the morning, and then I can forget about it until time to eat.  Fall lends itself easily to soups and stews, and I'll share a few of those tried and true recipes later.  Today though, I'm sharing a new recipe that we had this past week, and it was a huge hit.

I'm not good at taking photos of food, and honestly this isn't the prettiest meal, but it's VERY tasty.

Crack Chicken Chili

4 boneless chicken breasts
2 14-oz cans black beans (drained and rinsed well)
2 14-oz cans whole kernel corn (undrained)
2 10-oz cans  Rotel tomatoes
2 packages dry ranch dressing mix (or more depending on taste)
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 8oz blocks cream cheese
1 cup water

Place uncooked chicken breast in crockpot then add all the other ingredients.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Removed chicken breast and shred; return to crockpot and stir well.   

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and/or tortilla chips.

Variations and helpful tips:  You can use precooked/left over chicken or even canned chicken (well drained).   If the chili is a bit thinner than you'd like, stir in instant potato flakes a bit at a time to thicken.   You can easily cut this recipe in half for a smaller family, or double it for a larger family (and a bigger crockpot).


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Friday, September 25, 2020

Weekly Wrap Up - Welcome Fall

Here in Virginia, we typically have blazing hot weather in September, fractionally cooler weather in mid to late October followed by full on winter in November.   The weather, like everything else, just had to be different in 2020.  It's been relatively mild from Labor Day on, but this past weekend through this week we've dropped into the 30's at night, with frost, and sometimes only the 50's during the day.  I LOVE IT!  We're actually getting a fall this year!

I've not turned the heat on yet, so it's usually around 65-67 degrees in the house when we get up.  By mid-morning it warms up, but until then we're all slumping around in hoodies and heavy socks.  All the more reason to drink hot tea and coffee during those early hours, right?  

I did a bit of fall decorating over the weekend. I found a really cute (albeit it busy) fall tablecloth that adds a bit of whimsy.  I've placed a few pumpkin arrangements here and there, slapped some fall colored leaves here and there and put out my scarecrow and flags. I need to pick up some real pumpkins. I don't do a lot of fall decorating (mostly because I'm a tightwad)...but I do like having some of the colors and shapes sprinkled throughout the house.  Here are a few photos.

Monday, Olivia got to sleep in for the first time in what seems like forever. I didn't expect to see her before noon, but she was actually up before 10am.  Lindsey was up at her typical 7:15-7:30am and hitting the books over her cup of coffee. I spent the day deep cleaning the house and working on laundry.  Olivia did some deep cleaning and purging in her room as well.  Lindsey had a babysitting gig from 12 - 4pm.  The evening was low key (yippee).

Tuesday morning Olivia and I went to the chiropractor.  Her back and hip are doing much better, and this visit was more of a maintenance appointment.  We came home and she helped me to plant a bunch of creeping phlox around the hedges at the front of the house.   Lindsey's trying to adjust to having Olivia roaming through the house while she's working on academics.  It's a mix between distraction and annoyance that her sister is finished with school. Everyone, including me, nestled down with a book to read for the afternoon.  

Wednesday morning Olivia and I went on a little road trip (she's practicing her driving).  Her t-shirt memory quilt/graduation gift was finally done, so we went to pick it up.  It was a beautiful crisp fall day, perfect for a road trip. On a side note, I wish the majority of people could remember what it's like to learn to drive and not be so rude and reckless.   Anyway, the quilt turned out great!!  It's much larger than we'd expected (which I love).  It features summer camps, vacation Bible school, sports teams, ballet performances and other things that represent Olivia's childhood.  She loves it!

Thursday, Lindsey finally redeemed herself on her history test.  Now that she's moving out of the ancient world and into names she can pronounce, she's doing better.  Her other subjects are going really well...she just is not a history fan.  She's added a weekly babysitting gig on Thursday's so she was gone a couple hours late morning/mid-afternoon.   Olivia was able to pick up an extra day at the horse farm.  She's been working on job applications, catching up on a lot of reading, and starting to learn German.  The evening was the standard volleyball and jiu-jitsu.

Friday morning was gray, rainy and drab.  Olivia worked a lot on her German lessons.  She seems to be enjoying the class and is doing well with it so far.  The good news is that one of her youth leaders speaks fluent German, and our next door neighbor does as well, so she'll get to practice with conversations as she moves along.  Lindsey's work load for the day is pretty light since she had a few quizzes, she should be done before noon.

Looking ahead, I'll have another book review coming in a few weeks.  I've been trying some new recipes, so I'll be posting about those in coming weeks as well.

Have a great weekend!

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Friday, September 18, 2020

Weekly Wrap Up - A Change of Plans

Last Friday night we went to see Christian singer, Jason Gray,in concert.  The event was held outdoors, and the weather was cool and crisp.  We actually wore hoodies, but masks were optional!  It was one of the best Christian concerts we've ever been to.  There was no band, no light show, no bells and whistles...just the singer and his guitar.

Saturday and Sunday were cool and very fall like.  I know it won't last, but I'm enjoying the cooler days.  Olivia was happy to be back with the horses after her week at her new temporary job.  She's finding that working hard where you're happy is far different than working hard where you're not happy.  We've had some good discussions around this topic, and I'll be doing a separate blog post at some point about it.  Sunday evening, Lindsey started back to work babysitting for a local church for their Sunday night service. 

Monday, I dropped Olivia off at work and came home and went back to bed for a bit. It was a rainy, gray morning and I just felt like I needed a bit more sleep, so I went with it.  Lindsey slept in a bit, which is unusual for her, but we were both up and productive before 9am.  Lindsey didn't get her school work done until much later in the afternoon, but that's ok (although she wasn't thrilled).   I cleaned house and did laundry.   Olivia and Tom got home from work at about the same time.  He went to the gym and then came home to mow the lawn.  Dinner was a bit later, than usual, but sometimes that's just how things play out.

Tuesday morning Olivia woke up with an upset stomach.  I honestly think it's a combination of fatigue and too many over the counter pain meds the last week or so.   I'm not a huge fan of calling out sick, but I also realize she's only 17, so instead of telling her to push through, she called in sick and went back to bed.  She slept most of the day.   I got the crockpot out and mixed up a big pot of vegetable beef soup to simmer all day.  Lindsey was up by 7:15am as per her usual routine.  Her school day went pretty quick, and she got a 100 on her geometry test!  The evening consisted of volleyball and jiu-jitsu.

Wednesday Olivia was feeling better and went back to work.  She messaged me mid-day to say they were changing everyone's work hours.  When she was hired, she was told she'd be working 7-3:30pm, M-F and that because of her age, they weren't able to work her more than 40 hours a week.  The new schedule starts next week and they are going to 6 - 10 hour days, and moving to 12's closer to the holidays...including Olivia.   While I'm all for a strong work ethic, and have put in crazy long hours in my life time, I'm not allowing my 17 year old to be worked into the ground.  She will be resigning and we'll continue to look for something else for her.

Thursday after the work drop off run, I went to the grocery store and ran a few errands.  Remnants of hurricane Sally moved through, bringing more rain to our already soggy area.  Lindsey worked on school work while I did more laundry (Monday/Thursday are laundry days).  The evening was more volleyball and jiu-jitsu.

Friday morning, Olivia turned in her resignation letter.  She was a bit nervous about doing so, but it went ok and today ended up being her last day.  Lindsey had several quizzes.   It's funny how differently the girls are wired.  Olivia struggled with higher math, while Lindsey is carrying a straight A average in geometry.  Lindsey is not doing particularly well with world history, but Olivia carried a straight A average when she did the same curriculum.   I do think the world history grade will improve drastically after she gets past ancient Egypt and all those names she can't pronounce/remember.  I think we'll have game night this evening just to give everyone a break from screen time.

Have a great weekend!

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Friday, September 11, 2020

Weekly Wrap Up - New Opportunities

Lindsey's 15th birthday party was this past Saturday.  We do pretty low key parties, just the grandparents and aunts/uncles.  With Olivia's work schedule, we had to push the party later in the afternoon, so I just decided to fix dinner and feed everyone too.  We had crack chicken sandwiches, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, chips/dip, watermelon and of course cake and ice cream.   Here are a few photos of my girl.

Sunday consisted of working at the farm and church and rest.  We didn't do anything remotely interesting, and I'm fine with that.  Olivia's back is slowly getting back to normal, but it's still tight.

Monday was Memorial Day and we were all home, and all had great hopes of sleeping in for a change.  I was up first, awakening before 7am, and Olivia was the last to arise at 8:30am.  Our options for activities are slim these days.  We did find a mini-golf place that was open, so we went there.  Afterwards we picked up some fast food and went to the park and had a picnic.  The later afternoon/evening was spent watching all three Star Trek movies.

Tuesday morning Olivia started her new job at the hydroponics growers.  She was nervous about going into a manufacturing facility, but was excited about working full time.  I was happy to get a text from her during one of her breaks that said "Going pretty good."   Her hands and back were hurting by the end of the day, but she seemed to have enjoyed what she was doing.  Lindsey had a pretty good day academically.  She was finished around noon.   The evening consisted of volleyball and jiu-jitsu.

Wednesday Olivia was up and ready for work early.  We mapped out a new route to her job and it took some time off our commute, so we'll actually be sleeping later and leaving later from here on out.  Lindsey had her first ASL test online and did really well. She's loving this new program and is really picking it up quickly.  I worked in the flower gardens, dividing bulbs and perennials.   When I picked Olivia up from work her back was really bothering her.  Standing for 8 hours on concrete is really aggravating her sprain/strain from the incident at the horse farm.

Thursday morning  Olivia was pretty stiff from the previous day's work.  I loaded her up with a supply of ibuprofen to take to work.  We also put a pain patch on her lower back to see if that helped any.  After I dropped her off I picked up groceries and then came home to work on laundry.  I called our chiropractor and made an appointment for Olivia right after work.  Come to find out, her right hip was jammed which was causing all the lower back muscles to be out of sorts.   He fixed her hip, and adjusted her spine.  She had immediate relief from the stabbing pain, now we just have to wait for the deep tissue strain and accompanying stiffness and soreness to pass.  

Lindsey plowed through her schoolwork and was done by around lunch time.  Her evening consisted of coaching volleyball and jiu-jitsu.

Friday morning, the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  I dropped Olivia off at work, then came home to my morning coffee and thoughts of that day 19 years ago.  Lindsey worked on school work and later she and I will spend time watching footage of the events of that day.   

Tonight, we're supposed to go to a live concert with Christian music artist, Jason Gray!  An actual event ya'll, with people!!  It's supposed to be held outside, and we bring our own chairs, and have to social distance.  But still, it's an actual event!!

Have a good weekend, and NEVER FORGET.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

Weekly Wrap Up - Lindsey Turns 15

The weekend was a little rough on Olivia.  On Saturday, the big draft horse at the farm had a major melt down.  While not the tallest horse there, he is by far the heaviest, close to 2,000 pounds.  There was no rhyme or reason for his freaking out. They were just walking to the barn like any other day when he suddenly began to spin in circles, buck and kick, with 150 pounds of  teenage girl holding the lead rope.  I've never seen fear in her face like I did during those crazy few minutes that felt like a life time.  She did an amazing job of holding on, keeping her footing, staying out from under his huge feet and keeping her head about her until she finally got him calmed and under control.   Her shoulders and upper back were very stiff and sore as the evening went on.

Sunday afternoon one of the thoroughbreds spooked as they started out of the gate towards the barn.  Between the angle that the horse lunged and the incline they were on at the gate, Olivia hyper-extended her right elbow and landed hard on her right hip as she spun around.  She ended up with a couple of gashes on her leg from the gravel, and strained some muscles in her back.  By the end of the evening on Sunday she was walking like a cowboy from an old west movie.  On a positive note, she learned to drive the big tractor.

Monday morning I dropped Olivia off at the farm at 5:30am.  It was already pouring rain again when I dropped her off, which continued throughout the day with more localized flooding. She did her normal work and then helped with riding until the farrier arrived around 9:30am.  She spent the rest of the day holding the horses for the farrier and picking his brain about things they were doing.   I picked her up around 3pm.    Lindsey slept until almost 8am, which is really late for her.  She worked on all of her school work and was done shortly after lunch time.  I dropped her off at 3:15 for a babysitting job.

Tuesday we were back at the farm at 5:30am.   At 9am, I picked Olivia up and took her to farm #2 to do the morning feeding for those folks while they traveled out of town for doctor appointments.  We made a loop back around to return her to the horse farm, and then it was home to work on house work and school work with Lindsey.  Lindsey's got a pretty good routine going with her school work, and it requires little on my part other than to discuss what she's doing and grade papers.  Olivia got off work sometime around 2ish.

For now, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Lindsey is going to be coaching a middle school recreation league volleyball team.  It's the same league she played in (and I coached) during her middle school volleyball career.   She'll be heading from volleyball straight to jiu-jitsu on those two nights.  Olivia is still doing jiu-jitsu as well.

Wednesday was a little more low key.  Olivia worked at the farm from 5:30-9:30am, then back from noon until 2pm.   Lindsey knocked out her school work while I washed curtains and windows, and hen we both worked on doing some deep cleaning.

Thursday was very hectic (for me).  Olivia had her 5:30-9:30am work and her 12-2pm shift.  In between dropping her off/picking her up, I picked up groceries and ran other errands.  Lindsey's day was pretty standard as far as academics.  This was her "Friday" for the week, so that was a plus. At 2:30 I met my gal-pal Yvette for quick frozen coffee and some chit chat.  The evening was a quick dinner followed by volleyball and jiu-jitsu.

Friday Lindsey turned 15!  Tom took a vacation day, Olivia still had to work, and Lindsey had a babysitting gig in the morning.  We celebrated with cupcakes in the morning, and will go out for Indian food for lunch after everyone returns from morning jobs, a little shopping in the afternoon followed by pizza for dinner, and that'll be a wrap.  The official birthday party will be tomorrow, so I'll share photos next week of that.

Have a great weekend!!

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