a beertastic pumpkin dinner!


The month of pumpkin has been so much fun to host throughout October! My love for pumpkin is severe, but it is well deserved. Pumpkin adds flavor, nutrients and should be used as often as possible, in my opinion! 

My last recipe for the month of October  (I am in no way saying this is my last pumpkin recipe for Fall) is Pumpkin Ale Chicken Chili. It is spicy and earthy, and the perfect addition to a cold Fall night! I know I am bias, but this dinner was pretty darn good. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for my beer bread recipe!


Pumpkin Ale Chicken Chili 

Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts cut up into bite size pieces (or hamburger meat)
2 T of coconut oil  
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of chili powder (or ¼ teaspoon, if you want spicy)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup pumpkin ale (I used Shipyard Pumpkin Ale)
1 15 oz can of pure pumpkin puree
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained 
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained
½ cup chicken broth 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, and spices into a crockpot. 

In a medium saucepan, melt the coconut oil and brown and cook the chicken. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of pumpkin ale, let simmer for 5 minutes. Dump into the slow cooker. 


In the same saucepan, cook the chopped vegetables (onion, carrots, and bell pepper). Once they are cooked through, add in the chopped garlic, cook until you smell the fragrance. Deglaze pan with remaining beer, let simmer for 5 minutes. Dump into slow cooker.


Mix everything in the crockpot and let cook on low for 2 hours. 

Served warm, topped with cheese and add pepper and salt to taste!

Enjoy!  


I served this chili with Beer Bread, as I am sure you have noticed in the pictures! I had made some in the past, but had neglected to sift the flour. Let me tell you, IT MATTERS! This bread is moist and SO easy to make. I used the same beer as the chili, Shipyard Pumpkin Ale, and thought it turned out perfectly. It was not pumpkiny, at all.


Beer Bread

Ingredients:
3 cups of whole wheat flour, sifted (trust me, do this step!)
½ cup of sugar
3 t baking powder (do not use if using self rising flour)  
1 t salt (do not use if using self rising flour)  
1 12 oz bottle of beer (I used Shipyard Pumpkin Ale)
½ cup melted butter
¼ t of cinnamon 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°

Grease a bread pan, I use coconut oil, making sure to completely cover. 

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, mix well. Pour into well greased pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon. 

Cook for 45 min, and let sit for 15 min, before removing from pan.

Enjoy!



Happy cooking,







The Golden Bow Shop

Growing up I was somewhat of a tomboy, sure I had my pink stage and my shiny red shoes that my mom used as leverage on more than one occasion, but for the most part I enjoyed comfort over frills and bows. Fast forward quite a few years later to us welcoming Cecilia and discovering that it really is fun to dress miniature females, bows and all. The endless rows of girl clothes can overwhelming compared to the tiny boy's section next-door, not to mention the plethora of accessories that are offered for the girls, but so far she is rather loving her new closet.



Living in Okinawa, you would be surprised at how many places do not ship to our post office. Even though it is on base and the cost of shipping is the same as stateside, just add on that pesky customs form of course. So when I found The Golden Bow Shop and realized she was local, I could not have been more excited. Hannah makes the cutest bows and her prices are so affordable. Shipping costs can really determine whether or not I shop local, so I was thrilled to find out that Hannah offers no tracking option that is under $1.00 or an option to add a tracking number for just a small bit more. So affordable! She can always take custom orders, too. I have already sent in my request for a special homecoming we have soon, can't wait to show you all! 

Cecilia does OK leaving bows on her head, but I am also super concerned with her being comfortable. Insert the nylon headband bow. These stretch so nicely and seem to be much more comfortable on Ceci's head. I also have gotten a lot of people saying they love the look because of how skinny the nylon actually is. Is your little girl ready to start wearing pigtails? Have no fear, she offers pigtail bows too in the same patterns. 

Hannah just released her Fall collection and to celebrate we are doing a giveaway (giveaway is now closed)! Head over to my Instagram to enter for your chance to win your very own set of bows for your little! Follow the instructions on the pictures and make sure to follow Hannah at The Golden Bow Shop over on Facebook to get all the latest news about shop specials and new releases.



On a side note this is not a blog where the babe is somehow perfectly posed and calm for pictures. How do they do it? Seriously, Cecilia is on the move 24/7 these days.


 

While I may need some time to warm up to the bell bottoms and the bows the size of Texas, I am having fun being a little girly and dressing Cecilia in all of her cute new bows. Bring on the bows, frills, and occasionally white tee, because honestly babes look so cute in those simple shirts! 


Honolulu Marathon Training Month 1 Recap


Hello! Oh, how I have missed you all! Thank you so much for those of you who are still pinning, clicking and commenting on my older blog posts. It means the world to me that you are all hanging around during this whole "hiatus" season. Since moving to Okinawa and welcoming our second child, I have been trying to decide where to take the blog and what sort of content I want to bring to all of you. I have some exciting things in the works and hope to be up and running in the next month or two, with lots of  new posts. Until then be on the look out for a few giveaways and special posts here and there. Also make sure to catch me on Military Moms Blog and over on OkinawaHai!

Being pregnant and recovering from Cecilia's birth really drove home how much I love running. I was not able to run throughout my pregnancy, but I did keep up with physical activity and other workouts. The entire time I really, like really, missed running. Right after having Cecilia the Okinawa Marathon took place and the start line was literally right out our front door. We took the kids out and cheered on all of the runners and the entire time I was sitting there, wanting to join in. I missed the feeling of training for a race, I missed the butterflies that happen while in the start line and I really missed the satisfaction I got when I completed a run. That day, I registered for the Honolulu Marathon.

Now, let me back up here. I have only ever done one half marathon and it was a trail half. An extremely hard trail half, you can fund my race recap here, and after that I took a much needed break from running races. Then I got pregnant. So, it had been well over a year since I was doing serious mileage or training for any sort of race. But, the thought of completing a marathon within a year of having Cecilia was something that I knew I wanted to do and something I knew would be difficult, but so rewarding. Now you may be thinking why Honolulu? Well, there is no time limit to the Honolulu Marathon which makes it a popular race for first time marathoners. Most races here on the island and mainland Japan are timed and strictly timed at that. Also, Honolulu is relatively easy for us to get to from the island since there are constantly flights to and from. Ryan and I discussed this runcation and knowing that he would be ready for dose of America we decided to make it a family vacation. Knowing my Uncle loves running and was actually the one who helped fuel my love for running, I invited him. He responded by saying he would think about it. A few weeks later, he was officially in. I can not not tell you how excited I am to be doing a race with him.

The dreaded Trail Half Marathon that was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done.

Me, next to my Uncle (and our team) after completing my second Dances with Dirt. 

So, I set off on finding the right training plan. With Ryan being gone for the first half of my training, I knew I wanted to give myself some extra weeks and was leaning towards a 26 week plan. I was starting with very little mileage, so I needed a lot of time to build up. The best laid plans always go awry, am I right? I started the 26 week plan while back in Ohio visiting family, and a week in my kids and I got seriously sick. Like, sick for over two weeks, sick. There was not much running happening during that time unfortunately. So, I moved on to a 22 week plan. So far, so good. I did take a week off due to us flying back to Okinawa. I knew with the flying and adjusting to the time difference my long run would be nearly impossible to complete that week.

So, here we are, one month into my training plan and things are going well. Let me start by saying the weather right now is less than ideal when it comes to running. We wake up to hot and humid and we go to bed to hot humid. There is not much relief. I try to get out early for my stroller runs and the stroller has not one but TWO fans for Cecilia. When Lucas bikes with us, we stop for water breaks a lot and usually have more than one rest stops in the shade. I have been utilizing a babysitter for my long runs. These typically start around 9AM due to Cecilia's schedule. She is still exclusively nursing and not wanting to take a bottle or a sippy cup, so even though she can go a few hours in between nursing sessions, I try to work with her nap schedule as much possible. Starting a 8 mile run at 9AM when the temperature is already near 90 degrees is hard, but I am making it work. Lots of fluids and just taking it easy is my game plan. I have also decided to utilize the run/walk method for this marathon. More on that in a later blog post, but basically I wanted to give the method a try and thought my first marathon was a good starting point.

Training for a marathon with a jogging stroller and sometimes a 4 year old on a bike is hard. Don't get me wrong, there are days where there is bribery in the form of an ice cream cone to get the run in, but we are doing it. Not only am I checking these runs off the bucket list, but I am being active with my kids and that is so important. Sure, sometimes I shave off a mile or two if I feel it is too hot, but I am feeling stronger and more solid with each long run. I wanted to breakdown my miles so you can see how I am running them.

Total August Miles - 58.14
Stroller Miles - 32.45
Bike and Stroller Miles - 14.6






Isn't that amazing? Lucas rode almost 15 miles this month. I let him know this impressive stat and he laughed and said, "Well, ya we love running and riding my bike!" I hope to update you all through this journey, including recapping TWO half marathons I doing, one of which will be my first local race.  Okinawa is an amazing place to run. There are always so many people out and about, and the views are absolutely breathtaking.




Need some motivation to run while you are parenting solo? Need some motivation to train for your next race? Let me know! I love chatting strategies with people. 

No Service, No Problem!



WiFi and 4G service is spotty at best when you live in a building made predominately from concrete. It can be quite frustrating when I am in bed trying to download my next RomCom or when we send Luke to his room for some alone time with the iPad (no judgement, our apartment is tiny ya'll). But you know what? I'm happy I don't get service in my daughters new nursery. 

This is my last baby I will nurse through the night. The last time little cries will wake me up, needing me. The last time that I will be the sole provider of what my baby needs to survive. Someday within the next year will be the last time that she nurses and the last time that I will ever nurse a sweet baby.

I want to relish these moments with her. I want look in her little eyes and get her to smile that nursing smile that we all know and love. I want to have both hands available to be able to hold those tiny fingers while she is slipping away to dreamland. 

So often throughout the day I am rushing to get nursing sessions over. We are rushing to get one last session in before picking Luke up from school. I am rushing her, so I can get the next load in the dryer or start dinner for the family. I'm hastily nursing her in the dressing room so I can finish the shopping that has to be done. The time we spend in the nursery is our time and it's one of the few times we don't have too much going on outside that door. 

Since everyone we know is awake while we sleep (thanks, time zones) it would be so easy for me to get lost in social media every night. Instead, I am spending these precious hours soaking up all the smiles, all the cuddles and all the hand holding I can before it's over. My 4 year old needs me less and less these days. One day Ceci will need me less and less too, and that's ok!  But, for now you can find me in the pink nursery loving life without service. 









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Winter Book Review

I had so many books on my, "I will be nursing 24/7, so let's read a bunch" list. Isn't it funny how much less reading happens with your second child compared to your first? One can only multi task so much. So, I am doing a Winter Book Review this time around and includes a little bit of everything.
 Time period reads, beach reads for these dreary pre-spring days and even a YA thrown in there. Let me know what you are reading these days and if you have read any of these books, let me know what you thought.


books to read

Along the Infinite Sea - Beatriz Williams

This book is a must read. It was beautifully written and will grab you from the first page. Any book that is set from the 1900-1940's is going to be a favorite of mine, but this book really captures that time frame and the feelings and emotions around the lead up of World War II. Williams writes two storylines that run together brilliantly. It is multiple love stories, tied up in one and you will love every moment of chase. Please, please, please go and rent or buy this book. I have since found out that this part of a series, The Schuyler Sisters series. All of them are the about women who lived during the early 1900's mixed with a mid century storyline involving sisters. 

This is Where it Ends - Marieke Nijkamp

This was a YA novel and it definitely reads as a YA novel. It follows a day where a school shooting occurs and the lives of a few different students who are living through it. It was hard for me to finish this one, but I am happy I did. I did not feel like it was strongly written, and I thought it was missing something. That being said, I would recommend it to someone who likes emotional YA novels and is OK with lots of character development.

Here's to Us - Elin Hildebrand

I have read a lot of Hildebrand's books in the past year, and while they are all based in the same area of the USA, they are all so different. This book follows the lives of an extended and diverse family, including the deceased three wives! It is funny, heartbreaking and truly makes you think about the situation and what you would do if you were in the same position. Like any good Hildebrand novel, there is some sweetness and some character development, but it is a nice story that has a predictable but good ending.

Between Shades of Grey - Ruta Sepetys

By far, my favorite book I have read this year. It is beautifully written and the content is about events that most people do not even realize happened. The character development is spot on, strong but it does not take away from the content. The book is about Lithuanians that are forced to Siberian labor camps during WWII by the Soviets. It is a side of the war that not too many are familiar with, and while the story is horribly sad and hard to imagine, it is an important piece of history. The author paints a picture of how awful these camps were, but also shows the side of human emotion. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

Salt to the Sea - Ruta Sepetys

This was the first Sepetys book I read, and no joke I think I finished in under 24 hours. I LOVE the WWII era and I especially love when it shows the human side of all the horrible events that occurred. It is based on the largest wartime tragedy in history, no not the Titanic, but the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Never heard of it? Yup, me neither. This book follows the stories of four teenagers who are refugees in 1945, vying for a spot on the ship that will hopefully take them to safety. You will cry, you will laugh and be prepared to be amazed how the amount of history you do not know. Once again, this is a must read. 

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

I found this book off a pin that listed suspenseful books that you will want to read in one sitting. While, this book is definitely suspenseful and has all the workings of a huge twist, I was able to predict the twist roughly halfway through. There were times that I continued reading, simply to prove that I guessed correctly. It was an interesting book, and if you like suspense I would absolutely recommend it. It fits somewhere in between YA and Young Adult, since the main characters are rather young.



Happy reading,

6 Simple Steps to Getting Back into the Kitchen After Baby


Cooking is so important to me. Not only do I like to feed my family meals that I have prepared, but I also truly enjoy following a good recipe or creating my own one of a kind dish. Getting back in the kitchen was important to me after we welcomed our second baby, Cecilia. Not only because I love cooking but I am also living in a new country, filled with endless new ideas to add to my recipe book. If I'm being honest, it took me about a month until I really had the energy to spend grocery shopping and cooking a solid meal,  but once I got back into the swing of things it felt so good to be chopping and cooking again. Here are some of my foolproof hacks to make getting back into the kitchen an easy transition.


1. Don't set your expectations too high.
I aim for three good home cooked meals each week. The days where Ryan has to work 12 hour shifts, or we have two doctor appointments during the day, I go ahead and dip into my freezer stash. The last thing I want is to be stressed out and in a horrible mood when I sit down to eat the dinner that I planned, prepped and cooked. 

2. Set yourself up for success.
In the old days when there was just one kid involved, I was really good at getting everything prepped right after I went to the grocery store. But, now that I have a little one that nurses, she always wants to eat as soon as we get home from the store. So I have had to kind of change my routine of prepping. I try to prep all of my vegetables and ingredients before I actually get in the kitchen to cook dinner. If I have a down moment during the day while my oldest is at preschool, I go ahead and cut the vegetables. If the baby is napping and I have already had my power nap, I prep. One of those days where the baby takes a 4 hour nap? Prep all of your meals for the week, trust me you will thank yourself later. It is so much simpler to cook if you have everything prepped and ready. 


3. Distract, distract, distract! 
Luckily, our island in the kitchen is big enough for Luke to sit and color or paint while I cook. He is really good at doing an activity if I sit with him for a few minutes and walk him through what to do and then get dinner ready. Aren't bouncers a gift from God? As long as CC is fed, changed and happy, she will sit in that for a few minutes while I get everything ready. I occasionally wear her, but I am still learning to love that process! 



4. Use a grocery delivery service. 
For those of you that are in the states, the curbside grocery is really taking off. Take advantage of it! I hate grocery shopping, but love cooking. I would rather use my energy to cook in the kitchen than to push a stroller around and try to keep a baby happy while we are shopping. I love the service, The Set Table, they are available out here in Okinawa as well as Leavenworth Kansas, so check them out if you are local. They give you everything pre-measured, all you have to do is read the recipe and prepare the vegetables. It has saved me SO much time you would not believe it. I try to order one or two meals from them a week, which is one or two meals less that I have to worry about. Not in those two areas? Try another meal delivery service.


5. Keep your recipe expectations low! 
As much as I love cooking Rachael Ray dishes, those are just not doable at this point in our routine. Maybe in a few years I'll have the time and the patience to go to three different stores finding all of the ingredients, but for now I love the 3 to 5 ingredient recipes. I also stick to the dinners that I am very familiar with. You know the ones that your husband got sick of a few weeks into your marriage? Those are perfect for right now! 

6. As always, double up those recipes. 
You all know by now that I love having a freezer stash! If I am able to cook one night then why not go ahead and double that recipe so I can freeze the dinner and use it at a later date? It just makes so much sense and has made my life so much easier! I made my Lasagna recipe a few weeks ago (which yields FOUR lasagnas), so yesterday when I was sick all day, I threw in the extra one that I had frozen and dinner was done.  Most recipes can either be cooked and frozen or prepped and frozen.

Happy Cooking,

Our Favorite Personalized Big Brother Book

Welcoming Cecilia into the family has gone exceptionally well. Cue the eye rolls, now. But, seriously it has been a joy with very little growing pains. Sure, she is a bit fussier than Lucas was at her age and yes, as always, nursing took a few weeks to get the hang of. But, Lucas has been a champ through the process and he is such a good big brother. I think some of the reason that it is going well, is because he was so prepared for this huge event. 


While searching for big brother gifts, I came across the personalized books made by MarbleSpark. Lucas is currently learning how to write his name and he is obsessed with finding "L" all over and loves when he sees his name on paperwork and letters. So, naturally,  I had a feeling that he would love reading a book starring himself. MarbleSpark had just launched a Superhero book, Every Superhero Needs a Sidekick, and I knew it was PERFECT for Lucas. 


Personalization is super simple and quick, just a few minutes really. And the best part? You can customize the character to look like your little one. After you personalize, you can see how the book will look through  preview feature. When it arrived at the post office, Lucas could not have been more excited to open his package. He couldn't believe it actually said his name. And, yes, he did notice that the Lucas in the book looked eerily similar to himself. Since he has received it we have read it no less than 100 times and every time he has a HUGE smile on his face.


MarbleSpark is currently running a giveaway to celebrate the launch of Every Superhero Needs a Sidekick, so make sure to enter for your chance to win here (giveaway has ended).. While you are there make sure to visit their blog to read about the inspiration for this wonderful book. 
I am also super excited to offer my readers 15% of ALL books on MarbleSpark. Personalize your very own book and use code Q5SUK2DP at checkout (offer good until 2/10/2017). They even have a cute Christmas book that you can personalize. We are currently waiting on Cecilia's book to arrive, God Whispered Your Name. 



MarbleSpark is a wonderful little company that not only makes great books, but also has superb customer service. This book will be with us for years to come and it will always help us to remember this special time. Thank you, MarbleSpark! 

Happy Reading, 





This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are completely my own. 

LPN is 4!

Hi friends!! There is a very good reason that I cracked open my computer, opened up Blogger.com and got to typing. Today we are celebrating Luke turning 4! It is hard to believe that a short 4 years ago this little guy turned me into a mommy. He is the reason I am a stay at home mom and he is the reason that our hearts doubled in size back in 2013. 

Luke has totally taken to being a big brother. It has helped immensely that my husband is still on paternity leave, but honestly, we could not be more proud of him for bearing the weight of welcoming a little sister. Not only has he adapted to becoming a big brother, but he is also loving Japan. We love watching him make new friends, both ones that he speaks the same language as and ones that he doesn't. We can't wait to travel with him more so that we can see him explore and learn through different cultures. 

 I love making a big deal out of birthdays and just because we are deliriously tired due to our new addition, it is not excuse to skip out the big day (or week)! Yesterday we took construction cupcakes to his school, they love celebrating birthdays here in Japan! 



I had my first MOPS meeting this morning so Ryan took Luke golfing this morning. Tonight we went to a Teppanyaki restaurant on base, Jack's Place, and Luke loved it! It is relatively small and intimate so when the staff brought out his cake and dimmed the lights, everyone sang Happy Birthday to him. He loved it and felt so special. We came home to the most delicious cake, you can find the recipe here. Kudos to Sally's Baking Addiction for the perfect vanilla cake recipe



We joked this year that Luke has more friends here than he did during his 3 years in AZ, so we really wanted to something little to celebrate that. Luke requested a small bowling alley party, complete with a firetruck cake. So, we will be doing one last celebration this weekend. All in all, I think it will be a great birthday week! 

Last year I shared a few random facts about LPN, so this year I wanted to ask him a few questions and let him share with you a bit about who he is. We love hearing his little stories and ideas, so we thought this was perfect. 

Favorite thing to do at school?
Play and Sing 

What's your favorite thing to do with Daddy?
Build Legos

What's your favorite thing to do with Mommy?
Go to School 

Favorite Color -
Red

Favorite Song -
Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Favorite Fruit -
Orange 

Favorite Lunch -
Lunchables

Favorite Animal - 
Tiger

Favorite Book - 
"Goodnight, Firetruck!"

Favorite TV Show -
Stinky and Dirty 

Favorite Toy - 
My Legos

Favorite Food -
Black Olives

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
Policeman 

What is your favorite thing to take to bed with you?
My Ty! 



Happy 4th Birthday Lucas Patrick! Never lose your love for the world and the people in it. Alway see the good in the people you surround yourself with. Know that things may not always go your way, but rest well knowing that you gave it your all and you will make the best of it. Practice, practice, and practice some more doing whatever it is you decide to do. And trust us, we know you will accomplish great things. We will move again, you will miss your friends and you may even miss this little apartment we call him now. But, know that as long as we are together, we will be home. And most importantly, our sweet boy, never stop saying "I love you"! 
We love you, Lucas!