Tuesday, October 1, 2013

That's What You Call Vintage

We finally took Livi's photos in Ben's family's Christening gown.  Olivia wasn't christened, but we thought it would be fun to have some pictures in the heirloom gown, which is over 100 years old!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Olivia Kellenbenz

Ben really hates this outfit.  He says it looks like a costume.  While I might tend to agree, I think it is precious on Olivia and I wanted to have some poor-quality over-edited amateur pictures before she grows out of it.  Seventeen of the best months of our lives are all wrapped up in this little German-girl dress.

And one for the #highlightreal

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Salad

I am a major blue cheese lover.  Put blue cheese in dog treats and I'd eat em'.  Enter, Buffalo Chicken Salad.  

I'm sure this has been done a million times before, but this is just my thrown-together version.  It is so fast and easy, there is virtually zero prep, and can be adapted to any spice/heat preference.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Disclaimer: We are MAJOR whimps when it comes to heat in our food.  This is a very very mild version, obviously just add more hot sauce to your liking.

- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 3-4 Tbsp Franks Hot Sauce
- One small red onion, chopped
- One pepper (any variety) chopped
- One pound chicken breast, chopped
- Loads of blue cheese
- Tortillas (if desired)
- Salad Greens
- Desired Dressing

1.  In a skillet, melt 2 tbsp of butter, and add desired amount of hot sauce.
2.  Saute garlic, onions, and peppers until soft, about five minutes.
3. Add chicken, cook thoroughly.  Allow to cool before placing on salad greens.
4.  Load up with blue cheese and enjoy!

*I coated my tortillas with oil before baking them.  It gave them a nice crunch.
*I made a quick homemade vinaigrette of vinegar, hot sauce, and olive oil.  It was pretty tasty!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Livi Lately

For all of you Aunties and Great Aunties who keep asking for an update :)

The bedtime trifecta: Blankee, binkie, Minnie. 
Very proud for putting on her bib all by herself! 
Many days she will spend almost 30 minutes "reading" to herself.
She loves playing up in her room!
In our tiny house it adds some variety :)

Waiting for Micah!
What was actually happing during Micah's photoshoot...

We are heading up to Maryland this week for my cousin Jennifer's wedding!  Ben will be holding down the fort while we're gone.  All four of the cousins on my (Kellenbenz) side of the family will be together for the first time, bringing lots of noise joy to their Great-Grandfather Bowen :)

Have a great week!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Trader Joe's Hack: Risotto-Style Barley & Chicken

Trader Joe's is a big deal for our family.  If we shopped at Whole Foods we would be splitting a can of pea soup between the three of us for a week, so we make TJ's work for our needs.  I try to pick up a few new things every time we are in there, mostly because their store policy allows a customer to return something if you don't like it (without a receipt--since everything is a store brand!).

No brainer for me.

Almost every time I go in there I have a cardboard sleeve of something we didn't care for, a carton of frozen produce that went bad too quickly, or a bag of chips with a few handfuls missing.  They credit your grocery bill for the products you returned.  Every penny counts!  And every time I do it, I think of my dad who, as a child, was forced by my Grandfather to return a half-eaten frozen pizza to Safeway.  I come by it honest.

I will not be returning the empty bag of "10 Minute Barley".

It has been lurking in my pantry for awhile now, and since I've got so much time on my hands these days, meal planning is now becoming one of my favorite activities of my new career.  I happened to notice the recipe on the side of the package, and after reading about the Risotto in Bread & Wine, I was anxious to give this a try.  I made several modifications, the most drastic being the 3/4 cup of half and half I dumped in at the end.  I couldn't help myself.  I had to do something to counteract the health benefits of the barley.

This was a real winner.  Ben gave it the "this would be good for supper club" approval rating.  I would suggest, as always, reading through the recipe several times before beginning.

Risotto-Style Barley & Chicken
Adapted from Trader Joe's 10 Minute Barley 

- 1 Quart Chicken Broth
- 4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Cup Diced Onion
- 1 Clove Garlic
- 1 Package of TJ's 10 Minute Barley
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- 3/4 Cup Half and Half, Whole Milk, or Heavy Cream
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 4 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
- 1/4 Cup Grated Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
- Diced Chicken Breast, or your choice of protein

1.  Bring broth to a gentle simmer.
2.  In a separate skillet, heat oil and add onions and garlic.  Sauté until translucent, about five minutes.
3.  Stir in the barley and coat with oil.  Toast barley until color begins to appear, about five minutes.
4.  Begin to add stock to the barley 1/4 cup at a time, allowing each cup to fully absorb into the barley, around two minutes at medium heat.  Stir, stir, stir.  Continue adding stock until the barley is softly al-dente, about 20-25 minutes.  
5.  Add in the half and half before the barley is fully saturated.  Continue stirring.
6.  Once mostly absorbed, add the butter and cheeses.  Mix until melted and incorporate.
7.  Add the protein.  Garnish with additional cheese or fresh parsley.

Next time, I am going to add chopped red pepper at the beginning with the onions.  This was hearty enough to be a full meal.  Olivia couldn't get enough!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Highlight Reel

I once heard Steven Furtick say, "Stop comparing your life to everyone else's highlight reel."

He of course, was referring to the slippery slope of today's social media platforms.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogs, etc. are all a part of our lives these days, no matter how routinely you check your notifications or scroll through the buzz.  This comparison thing can quickly turn into jealousy, dishonesty, gossiping, and a whole host of other ugly outcomes.  My observation is that women are especially vulnerable to this behavior, purely judging by how many times my husband has told me to chill out when browsing Instagram.

This "being all up in everybody's grill" is a relatively new phenomenon, I guess specific to our generation.  We are the first ones to know in real-time what everybody else made for dinner (guilty), what our kid is doing every five seconds (especially guilty), where we've gone on our "run" (yep), or what we look like in front of a Target dressing room mirror (not guilty, thankfully).

The most bizarre thing of all is that all of this occurs without much of a relational investment.  I may have not seen you since middle school, but if I bumped into you in real-life I would know everything that's happened to you in minute detail.  Do I pretend to not know that your dog just died?  Creepy.  Maybe it is my personality, but I am genuinely interested in what people are doing.  It's almost like a reality show, starring the people you've known throughout your life, minus (hopefully) much of the fake drama.  Or so we think.

The worst part of all, is that what you see isn't always what you get.  It is scary how much perception can be skewed, even of ourselves.  This came to my attention a few weeks ago, when after a friend's birthday party (Duck Dynasty themed), my friend texted me a picture that she had taken of Ben, Olivia, and I.

I actually wanted to fall out when I saw it.

There's at least a twenty-pound difference.  I look like a complete bozo.  That shirt does not fit the way I thought it did, (when my husband assured me it looked good at the thrift store).  I have bad posture.  And let's not even discuss the head piece.

Go ahead and scroll back up to Exhibit A, also known as the picture I posted on Instagram.  Major difference, huh?


1.  People (obviously including myself) don't post ugly or unflattering photos of themselves.  They (we) just don't.  Which translates to this: nobody is as perfect as they seem on Facebook.

2.  Let's forge real relationships again.  This internet thing is great for connecting, encouraging, and a whole host of other wonderful things, but there is absolutely no substitute for actual 3-D friends living in community together.

3.  This one probably only applies to me.  Stop assuming things and relax.  No, really.  Comparison isn't helpful.  To anyone.  At all.  Especially when you're comparing true (what you see in the mirror) to false (what is intentionally or unintentionally portrayed on social media).

4.  Let's all start posting ugly pictures of ourselves so we're pleasantly surprised in real life.  A Highlight  REAL of sorts...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Blackberry Pie Soup & Things

How about this for a kitchen nightmare?  I followed a recipe that I picked up at the blackberry patch, and it was such a complete disaster, that I created a new thing.  And yes, Blackberry Pie Soup is a thing.

It is a thing you eat over ice cream.  It is a thing you can eat hot or cold.  Beware: It is a thing that is too sickingly sweet to eat by itself, like normal soup.  It is also a thing that would liven up any pound cake or shortbread.  It is a thing.

It is a thing it is a thing.

It is a thing that is so scientifically impossible to re-create, that I am writing it down and seeing if any others are brave enough to tell me what happens.

Blackberry Pie Soup
Adapted from Maple Ridge Farm Recipe for Fresh Blackberry Pie

6 cups fresh blackberries
2 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
dash of salt
2 T butter
1/2 c water
Recipe for one Pie Crust
Recipe for crumb topping (1/2 c each of butter, sugar, flour, blended together with pastry blender)

Prepare pie crust in deep dish pie plate.  Pre-bake crust for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Prepare crumb topping.  Set aside.

1.  Puree 2 c of the blackberries and set aside.
2.  Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Add water.  Stir in puree and lemon juice.  Add butter.
3.  Bring mixture to a summer and cook for one minute until thickened, stirring constantly.
4.  Place remaining berries in pie shell, and top with thickened mixture. 
5.  Top with crumb topping.
6.  Bake until the top is brown and crispy.

This will be a hot, soupy mess.  Be careful when you remove it from the oven!!  Let me know how this goes.  

I cannot wait ladle up this soup over homemade vanilla ice cream.  Happy Fourth everyone!  

The Blackberry Pie Soup monster.
The Blackberry Pie Soup pickers.
Olivia picked blues with her Grandparents!
Expect some delicious berry recipes (I hope) very soon!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Our Steady

I've always been somewhat of a constant wanderer.  On track but all the while thinking about what else I could be doing, zero-to-sixty for the next exciting thing.  Then comes along a man so driven by the calling in his heart, a longtime lover of same-ness.  

My Ben has always been the consistent, long distance dreamer.  He keeps my "un-realisticness" in check at all times, but with a gentle reminder, on occasion he will let my mind run wild again.

It turns out I'm not the only one who needs a steady.  It's amazing to see the way God created him--with the most perfect skill set for what he does.  His heart is based on rythym.  He leads by following, by setting the tone and keeping things in line...literally, marching to the beat of his own drum.  He is the road map.  They depend on him, but it is his job to make everyone else sound good and look better.  There is no room for flashiness, and he knows it.  He understands by now, that what brings home a paycheck and more gigs to boot is this humility, being the backer, being the steady.  And he's good at it.  He doesn't look for the glory, he just wants to deliver the best product, every single time.  To Ben, being on time is being late.  He is dependable, and prepared.  God wired him to be this way, and he excels consistently.  

(I'm sorry, but I'm really, really proud of him.)

Much greater than usefulness between the 2 and the 4, I know that his steadiness will benefit Olivia.  It already has.  This first year hasn't been easy.  She has been mega-blessed to have loads of time at home with her Daddy during the day, and she thrives on the boundaries he has placed on her life.  She doesn't even realize yet--but just like her mom, her steady is her greatest love.  Her steady, the one that tucks her in most nights, and makes certain to put her blankey just the way she needs it, the one that combs all the crusties out of her hair, the one that makes sure she's buckled in just right...her steady is right where she needs him.  

Happy Father's Day Benjamin--We love you way, way more than you'll ever know.

These were taken after the real photoshoot.
Dads are for cuddling cold babies.


I say all of this and more on Fathers Day, because God gave me a trait in a husband that I could never even dream of.  My dad has this in common with Ben, and it was something I couldn't conceptualize until later in life.  I couldn't think of any better gift to give Olivia than to grow up with a man whose life goal is to labor only to make others succeed.  Years later, I now realize my Dad was and is always focused on someone else.  Happy Father's Day to my own incredible Dad!  Maybe us brats could do something nice for you for once ;)

Another is a testament to what God says about fathers: Ben has learned his professionalism by osmosis through his dad, also a professional musician.  He is on the bench, most times before the sun rises, preparing for the weighty task of leading the church in worship.  He is an unbelievable music teacher, changing lives through quarter notes and piano labs.  It all makes sense as to why Ben loves to be in the background, that is what his Dad taught him to do; it is the only way to be.  Happy Fathers Day Richard!!  

Thursday, May 16, 2013

And Now Life Really Begins...

She finally had her first taste of anything sweet, besides fruit of course.  
She was cursed from birth since both of her parents are sweetaholics.  

Happy, Happy Birthday, Olivia Teagan!

April 20, 2013
Great Pop-Pop's House in Maryland
(Excuse the 14 minutes of stupid conversation,
if anyone actually watches the entire thing besides her Grandparents!)

I will also add that we didn't really think this through and gave it to her at nine o'clock at night.  She and Ella were LITERALLY bouncing off the walls, acting like they were on bath salts.  Olivia picked up a Little Tikes grocery cart on her own and was acting out like we have never seen before...I guess what they say about sugar is true!

Highlight at 6:23 when Rachel says she needs another piece and Mom says "no, no, she'll be hangin' off the rafters".

Blast(s) From the Past

I finally had the time to sit down and figure out how to post a video to blog-land. 
I can't believe she was ever this little!  

18 Weeks, Yobe, & Aunt SeeBee

19 Weeks in Walker