I Am Baker

eight-layer dip

I am posting this in the wrong season.  I mean, technically speaking.  Does delicious eight-layer dip ever go out of season?  In this day and age we can get everything we need at the grocery store all year round it seems.  Even organic options!

Eight-Layer Dip

I just happen to have a little party coming up and this sounded like the perfect appetizer, even if it is closer to winter than summer.  This particular recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman’s A Year of Holiday’s cookbook, which is one of my favorites.

Eight-Layer Dip!

She adds roasted corn to her recipe which is genius.  I LOVE roasted corn and the idea of it added to 7-layer dip makes me  happy.  And bloated because I end up eating 57 million salty tortilla chips when this dip is around.

eight-layer dip

Ingredients

  • 6 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 limes
  • pinch salt
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and diced
  • One 16-ounce can refried beans
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup Cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, finely grated
  • 1 cup black olives
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups roasted corn kernels

Instructions

  1. Add first four ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the juice of 1 lime and pinch of salt.
  2. Stir to combine, set aside. (you have now made pico de gallo)
  3. Add avocado's to a separate bowl and mix in half of the pico de gallo. (this is chunky guacamole)
  4. Spread refried beans on to serving platter in a flat smooth layer.
  5. Add dollops of sour cream on top and carefully spread in an even layer over the refried beans.
  6. Add the chunky guacamole in dollops and then spread in an even layer.
  7. Add the olives and the grated cheese.
  8. Add roasted corn to pico de gallo and combine.
  9. Put pico de gallo on top of cheese layer. Squeeze remaining lime. (Use a much or as little as you would like. If you want to use less, feel free to set extra lime to the side and offer to guests to use at their discretion.)
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Recipe just barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

Eight-Layer Dip!

I am still debating on wether or not to serve these on a platter or in individual cups.  I like the idea of the cups, but people still need a plate for the chips right?  So I am not sure the extra efforts is worth it in the end.  If you have experience with this method I would love some insight!

Eight-Layer Dip!

Oh my word do I love this stuff.  I could eat it every single day of my life.  The only difference is that I omit the beans and make a layer of taco seasoned ground beef.  Which I can’t believe I just shared with you because people usually react in horror when I tell them I don’t like refried beans.

Here I go sharing an un-seasonal recipe AND confessing I am practically un-American with my dislike of refried beans. Don’t be made at me ok?  Just make this awesome dip and lets be friends again.

I Am Baker

the better homes and gardens experience (giveaway)

I am thankful to BHG for allowing me this opportunity and helping to sponsor this blog!
Sometimes an opportunity comes along that is simply too amazing to pass up.  I had to move mountains to attend the 1st annual (I gave it that ‘annual’ label, but with the overwhelming success of the first event I can’t think of a single reason why it wouldn’t be happen every year!) Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Cookies Experience.

When you have five kids, a hard working hubby, and very limited family able to come and stay with said five kids, making time to attend lavish functions like this are just not part of my reality.

But it was Better Homes and Gardens.  I mean, da.

bhgparty

The experience started off on Friday evening.  Myself, a few other bloggers and just about 100 BHG fans were treated to an evening of decadent cocktails, perfectly paired appetizers, finger foods as well as adorable desserts.

The whole event was a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!  The mingling was the stuff you read in the society section.  First I met an executive from the New York offices then a mother and daughter from LA who were fabulous then the Editor in Chief of Better Homes and Gardens, Gayle Butler.

I walked up to her and three other editors at the magazine and nervously said,

“Hi Nancy!  It’s so nice to meet you!”

Then glanced down and realized I had just called Gayle Butler the wrong name.  And I threw up in my mouth a little.  And almost pretended to have a heart attack just because that seemed like it would be less awkward.

But Gayle, perfectly living up to the charming and graceful reputation she has earned, didn’t bat and eye and we had a lovely chat.  She was kind.  She was interested.  She was interesting!

My right eye still twitches uncontrollably when I think about it.

After a very short presentation from all the editors, we mingled some more and headed back to the hotel.  The next day was starting early, and for a very good reason.  It was jam packed full of events and sessions!

This is what Saturday looked like:

7:30 am Holiday Pancake Breakfast 
8:30 am How to Throw the Perfect Open House 
10:00 am Hands-on Test Kitchen Sessions 
11:00 am Never-Fail Holiday Menu with Scott Peacock (includes lunch) 
1:30 pm Magically Delicious Desserts with Gesine Bullock-Prado
3:00 pm Hands-on Test Kitchen Sessions 

4:00 pm Holiday Slow Cookers Reimagined 
5:30 to 7 pm Holiday Happy Hour 
7:30 pm Tastes of the Season Dinner* 

Now, if you are like me you are thinking… that is A LOT going on in one day!

But I have to tell you, it was perfectly done.  The sessions were entertaining and delightful.  The staff at Better Homes and Gardens has a killer sense of humor… we were laughing most of the day!  Quirky and spunky and just plain delightful.  Such a great bunch!  And we were fed fantastic food all. day. long.

Sidenote:  They all have amazing fashion sense too.  No matter the theme, be it dressy or casual, everyone looked adorable and refined and stunning.

bhgparty4

One of my favorite parts was when Jan Miller (the magazine’s Executive Food Editor) was up on stage.  Her personality is hilarious and contagious.  I could have watched her and her cohorts all day!

Nancy Hopkins (deputy Food Editor) was also a surprise to me.  Here are these brilliant, accomplished, well traveled and well-connected insightful women, and they were friendly.  Funny.  Personable.  After the weekend, I felt like I could call her my girlfriend!

They put all my preconceived notions about high-powered executive women to shame!

jenniferdarling

And then Jennifer Darling handed me a Crock Pop.  In true BHG style, it was the grandest of presentations and they came out saying, “YOU GET A CROCK POT AND YOU GET A CROCK POT AND YOU GET A CROCK POT!”  I died.  It was genius and such a treat!

It was an absolute honor to hear Scott Peacock talk about all things egg.  (and other fascinating information of course!) He is one of the most charming and witty people I have ever had the privilege of meeting.  When he gave his presentation I was on the edge of my seat.  I didn’t want it to end!  Thankfully he made an appearance at lunch (which was also his menu, distinctive and enjoyable!) and answered question after question and posed with adoring fan after adoring fan.  #itwasme #fangirl

Since I love desserts it was interesting to learn from the brilliant Gesine Bullock-Prado.  Her knowledge in all things pastry and sweet confections is second to none.  And honestly, she is just darn funny!

bhgparties

My face is all red and puffy because I couldn’t stop drinking wine. It was worth it. 

In the evening, we were treated to a four-course meal with wine pairings.  The food was exquisite.  Heavenly.  The company even better.

The editors and staff at Better Homes and Gardens did it right.  Every detail was perfectly executed and every provision thought out ahead of time.  We, as the attendees, were treated like royalty.  Like our opinions mattered and were appreciated.

bhg

Jocelyn of Grandbaby Cakes, Allie from Baking a Moment, Alice from Hip Foodie Mom and

Julianne from Beyond Frosting

While touring the facility we got to see the cover of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  Today I am not only am I sharing a recipe with you, but I am GIVING AWAY one copy!!

But first, the recipe.

Fettucini Alfredo Pasta

I had a hard time narrowing down what I was going to make, so I didn’t.  I made five recipes the first week I was home after the event!  But this one was so beautiful I had to share.

fettuccine alfredo

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Grated or finely shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook fettuccine according to package directions.
  2. In a large saucepan melt butter then add cream, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and boil gently for 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
  6. Drain pasta.
  7. Add pasta to hot sauce.
  8. Toss to combine.
  9. Transfer to warm serving dish. Serve immediately. If desired, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese, Makes 4 servings.
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Recipe shared from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book with permission.

Fettucini Alfredo Pasta

This beautiful recipe was so easy and so delicious, next time I may need to double it just to keep my family happy!

And now, for that giveaway!

Simply tell me, “What is your favorite thing about Better Homes and Gardens?”  Click on the box right below this to get entered.  (please be patient, it may take a moment to load)

OFFICIAL RULES HERE

This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and Canada.

Check out my friend Jocelyn’s perspective of the BHG event as well!

I Am Baker

how to organize baby clothes

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know that I am making some changes.  I am looking to improve the quality of life, to find and live joy, to make my home and my heart a place that people feel welcome.

The steps are small, some might even say baby.  So I found this post to be appropriate as my first in how to be better organized.  Also, I am NOT naturally an organized person, so I needed the smallest steps possible to make the task do-able.

Baby clothes (or kids clothes in general) I can handle. So here is the low-down.  When I open my kids drawers I want to see this:

How to Organize Kids Clothes

That is Olivia’s onesies.  I have folded them and placed them in the drawer so that the folded seam is facing down and the fabric that is facing up clearly identifies what the onesie is.

When you stack clothes on top of each other in the traditional way, you can only see what is on top of the pile.  This will simply not due!  When you have a baby or small child, changing their clothes can be a many-times-throughout-the-day kinda of thing.  Knowing what you are grabbing with one fast glance is essential.

For Olivia’s drawer specifically I have shirts on the left, short sleeved onesies in the center, then long sleeved onesies on the right.  Sometimes I organize by color, most of the time not.  Truth is they are used so quickly there is not much point in taking the time to organize by color.  But!  I do like to keep the white onesies together as they can be used alone or under other outfits.

How to Organize Kids Clothes

I will show you how I fold a long sleeve onesies but you can fold it in any way you are comfortable with, you just need to place it in the drawer in a way that shows the color/pattern.

Disclaimer: When I am folding I do it completely in the air and use my body to help with sleeves and such.  Just lay the onesie on your chest then fold the sleeves over, fold the bottom up and tuck in the drawer.  Maybe 10 seconds from beginning to end.

Step 1: Lay onesie flat on ground with the back of the garment facing up.

Step 2: Fold in the right edge about 1/2 inch, then fold the sleeve down over.

Step 3: Repeat with left side.

Step 4: Fold the bottom up then fold completely in half.

You should now have the perfectly folded onesie!  Make a stack of them then tuck it into the drawer.

How to Organize Kids Clothes

I do the exact same process for pants and sweaters.

For matching outfits I will try to keep the shirt and pants together in the drawer.  I find that separating the shirts from the pants (for babies specifically) is quite a bit of added work when I am trying to get an outfit together.  Especially if baby is laying on the changing table at the time!

How to Organize Kids Clothes

It’s all about efficiency!

The drawer right under the changing pad is wipes and creams, then socks, then bathing suits and diaper covers.

All of the remaining clothes fill in the rest of the drawers.

I have used this method since my first baby and it really works!

However, one thing I have learned over the years is that laundry is a really personal subject. People do things a certain way and tend to stick to those methods. (myself included) This just happens to be what works the best for me!

In case you may be wondering, I got this dresser at Goodwill for $5 and my husband spray painted it pink.

I Am Baker

frosting

When your sweet bright eyed 5 year old girl

wakes up early,

looks up at you innocently,

Morning Frost

and asks,

“Mommy?”

Morning Frost

“Is it frosting outside?”

And all you can think is,

Morning Frost

I need to head to CVS.

They have a great coupon on sugar right now.

I Am Baker

pumpkin french toast

In all the times I have made this fabulous version of french toast, I have never once made it for breakfast.  My kids adore it (and all the pumpkin treats that fall brings) but they always seem to request it for dinner.

Which is fine with me!

Pumpkin French Toast

My husband’s brother shared some freshly made maple syrup and that is what we used on the french toast.  If you can ever splurge and use real maple syrup (no high fructose corn syrup allowed) I recommend it.

I also use a 12 grain bread in this recipe.  The main reason being that it is what we prefer to keep in the house.  But I also like how well it stands up to the pumpkin seasoning and that the small grains add some texture to the egg soaked bread.

Pumpkin French Toast

pumpkin french toast

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 eggs
  • 16-20 pieces bread

Instructions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, pumpkin and pie spice until smooth.
  2. Dip each side of the bread and cook on a hot, greased griddle or skillet. I have mine set to 300 degrees F.
  3. Flip the bread over after approximately 2 minutes.
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Adapted from 5 Dollar Dinners.

Pumpkin French Toast

If you prefer you can use all whole milk or even skim milk.  After we started drinking raw milk a few years ago, I feel like I am drinking water when I drink skim.  That is totally a matter of preference and you are welcome to make an adjustment that fits your likes.

We are a “one loaf” family, meaning that we can can easily polish off an entire loaf in one meal.  This recipe is designed to accommodate that!  If you need to halve the recipe it can be done with success.

I Am Baker

5 important lessons learned from kids soccer


As our summer of jam packed of kids’ activities and outside fun winds down, I realized that my sweet little girl has taught me a few valuable life lessons. Audrey Soccer 2014 1. ACT LIKE YOUR TEAM IS THE BEST.  Rock on with your bad self in your generic team t-shirt!  My little Audrey was nothing short of elated when she was chosen for the pink team.  To her, it was as if she had been chosen for the Olympic team.  She loves and supports her pink team and in convinced they are the best soccer team ever assembled. (Keep in mind that at her level they don’t even keep score and that when a goal is scored, it is often a team scoring on itself. #truestory) Audrey, soccer 2014 2. HAVING FUN IS KEY.  Even when just performing drills.  Audrey’s favorite part about soccer practice is standing in line waiting for her turn.  This is where her social butterfly skills shine, as she smiles and charms and engages everyone around her. Is it almost as if soccer is just catalyst to toddler happy hour.  And uh, actually playing soccer is fun too.  I heard. Audrey, soccer 2014 3. HYDRATION IS ESSENTIAL.  (and not just the obligatory glass of wine after having survived youth soccer practice, although that too is often essential.)  Audrey loves everything about Capri Sun and I love that their 100% Juice products don’t have artificial flavors and preservatives.  She loves that she gets to stab a straw into a bright shiny object filled with delicious liquid (a glorious rite of passage that never gets old, for kids and adults alike!) and I love that it helps her get her body what it needs to perform during social hour soccer games. soccer 4. PLAYING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAT WINNING.  Just being a part of a team is a big part of Audrey’s growth into a mature and well-rounded adult.  She learns valuable lessons about listening, supporting, and encouraging others. She also learns that talking about Rarity’s flowing pony mane in the middle of the game is not necessarily the best time.  And that headbands are totally in fashion right now.  And that boys are icky. Life lessons here folks.  Life lessons. Audrey, soccer 2014 5. WHATS GOOD FOR KIDS IS GOOD FOR MOMS.  Getting outside and being active?  Good for kids and moms.  Learning how to be a part of a team?  Good for kids and moms.  Being refreshed with a delicious drink that has 25% less sugar?  Great for kids, great for moms. Although I love watching Audrey play soccer, I am actually torn between three different activities on game night, as I have three kids out playing!  I purchase the iconic Capri Sun box (now made in paperboard instead of cardboard) and pop them in the freezer the morning of game day, then throw it in the car as we head off to the fields.  By the time practice and games are over (or at least well underway), the Capri Sun is still cold and perfectly refreshing! Capri Sun Roarin’ Waters is an official sponsor of Major League Soccer and is offering some great ways for kids to participate!
For the second year, Capri Sun is giving kids the ultimate sip of liquid swagger by inviting kids to take on Pro Athletes and win! This year, Capri Sun leveraged the excitement of their MLS sponsorship by gathering together a team of soccer Pros. These guys are some of the best in the league. BUT, when it comes to playing kids in the way kids play… these Pros don’t stand a chance.

·         The Kids vs Pros MLS Soccer Showdown Instant Win Game will send 4 kids, their friends, and families to sunny Orlando, FL, to take on MLS Pros in a live event. At the event, kids will truly stand out by competing in soccer-themed contests where being kid-sized gives them an amusing advantage over the Pros. Plus, there are 1,000s of instant win soccer prizes for daily chances to win.

o   Website URL: http://www.caprisun.com/kidsvspros 

o   Look for specially marked boxes of Capri Sun at your local grocery store.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  MANY WILL ENTER, ONLY FOUR WILL WIN A GRAND PRIZE. 

Open to residents of the 50 United States and D.C., 6-17 years of age. Game starts 7/28/14 and ends 11/30/14.

I Am Baker

first came the chicken, then the cake

There has been quite a bit of drama around our sweet chickens, but none like this.

Today I found our very first egg!  After many long months of caring for and nurturing our chickens, we finally have a real honest-to-goodness egg.

Farm Fresh Egg

To be honest, I had forgotten all about this part.

The chickens have found their way into our hearts and lives and seem more like pets.  We have a small coop, but they spend  a majority of their day roaming the property, eating the crawling and flying bugs alike, and making quite the mess in the garden.  Literally eating and pecking at every single tomato on our 42 tomato plants.  Guess no canned tomatoes for us this year!

Note to self: Next year a fence around the garden is a must.

Note to self: Chickens who feast in the garden and free range are happy fat chickens.

What to do? What to do.

Fancy Rooster Feathers

Well hello Mr. Fancy Pants Rooster.  (He likes to wonder up and down the stairs of our deck.  I chuckle every single time I see him going down those stairs.  Don’t know why it’s so funny to me!)

Rooster is not giving us eggs, as roosters tend not to do, but he does wake us up with his morning cock-a-doodle-do.  And afternon cock-a-doodle-do.  And evening cock-a-doodle-do.  He sure likes of sound of his own doodle.

And he does get pretty aggressive with the guineas as well as other chickens, which I dislike immensely.  Apparently the whole “pecking order” thing is very much alive and well and I am too much of a city girl to appreciate it just yet.

Rooster

But never with us.  He is a gentle friend with the kids, letting them play with his tail feathers and eagerly running to them when they change out the food and water.

He is a classic Rooster, as they say.  But one of kind with us.

Our First Egg

As for this glorious thing, I have big plans.

I just need a few more eggs and I will be making this:

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix!

From scratch Yellow Cake!  Can’t wait to see the beautiful color of my cake after using organic fresh-from-the “farm” eggs!

I Am Baker

in which i am complaining (and need you)

So.  Turns out having kids in school is just as hard as homeschooling.

kids-1

I have three kids in school right now, a 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and 1st grader.  Tonight, like many nights, they each had homework.  By the time I was able to work with each child individually, 2 1/2 hours had passed.  (The kids are at an age that they need a parent or adult to do the work with them as most of it is reading together and checking work and memorization.)

As a result of that, dinner was late on the table.  The kids were late to bath, and then late to bed.  Baby was grumpy and in need of her own bedtime ritual, which was also sorely behind schedule.

And then, as if writing and reciting Bible verses and spelling words and reading about Ruff the dog wasn’t enough, now it is time to read with little Eddie before bed.

I am tuckered out.

Basically, my kids enjoy school (a lot) and don’t mind homework.  (I am absolutely fine with the amount of homework each child is given, and in no way find it excessive.  I would actually like to be able to devote more time to each child one-on-one, but cannot conceive of a way to do that.)  It’s me.  It’s all me.  I don’t know if I can handle that much homework at night and be expected to still do everything else the family needs!

Truthfully, the transition to the kids being in school has been harder than I imagined.  But not in the normal way, in a weird i-am-mommy-but-not-homeschooler-anymore-but-work-fulltime-but-stay-at-home-mom kind of way.

I just sort of assumed that I would be the mom who was helping out in class and ever present in the kids’ learning and social development.  It was a given that I would know who they are hanging with and who is influencing them and that they would be the brightest most well behaved kids in the class and that Audrey would have perfectly perfect styled hair every single day.

Audrey

That I would have had the kids’ teachers over for dinner, or at the very least, met with them so that I know more about them.

The truth is, I have not helped out in class.  Not one time.  Granted, I have been at home with a 3 year old and 1 year old, but you’d think I would find a way to be there for all my kids.  I am just now, very slowly, starting to figure out who the people are who have such a huge influence in my kids life.

I am lucky if Audrey’s hair gets combed in the morning.

Audrey riding bike

Lets just call this look… “messy pony”.  We dominate the messy pony. (I also just discovered that one of my children has been wearing dirty underwear to school because I mentioned that it is ok to wear pants more than once between washings. They just assumed that also applied to underwear. AND socks. I am mortified. And laughing because I often laugh at inappropriate times.)

I have not talked one-on-one with either of my kids’ teachers (Parker and Audrey have the same teacher as 1st and 2nd grades are combined) nor figured out a date when they can come to dinner. It’s already looking like mid-November.

None of this is going as planned and I didn’t even know I had a plan. So I sit here exhausted and a bit defeated and a lot hopeful that someone can shed some light.

Tell me please, if you would be willing… how do you do it? How do you manage school work with the kids and still manage the home? (As well as the needs of the children not in school?) What kind of relationships do you have with teachers and what should I be doing differently? What does your after-school schedule look like?

And thank you in advance for any insight you can give this weary mom. :)

I Am Baker

coupons my way

Brought to you by myself and CVS.com.

Have you heard of Extreme Couponing?  It is basically when people are so organized and meticulous about their grocery store experience that they are able to utilize all the resources available to get the best possible deal on groceries.

extreme-couponing

image from TLC Extreme Couponing

I watch the shows occasionally, and am consistently blown away.  I see the stockpiles, the rooms and garages and homes full to the brim with endless supplies and treats.  I see the money saved simply by getting that Sunday paper and clip clip clipping a few of those precious coupons.

But it is not that simple.  Believe me, I tried.  I tried to get the binder going and cut coupons and price match and I kid you not, I ended up in tears, frustrated, defeated and embarrassed in the checkout line at Walmart. (This actually happened more than once and is a story for another day.)

extreme-couponing-tlc-counterfeit-coupons-300x172

image from TLC

Extreme couponing is hard. Like, really really hard. And is not for the faint of heart. And is not for Type non-A personalities. (See, if I was a Type-A personality I would take the time to figure out what all the other personality types are.  But alas, I am as far from type-a as you can get and am fully satisfied with the assumption I am simply not type-a.)

Here is my dilemma. I want all the benefits of the ultimate couponing experience, but I do not want to invest 40 hours a week into it. I don’t even want to invest one hour into it. I mean, cakes simply do not make themselves!

I think I may have found a solution to my problem.

CVS-extracare

It is the ExtraCare card from CVS.  I told you that I was partnering with them to share some great products, and for this I am grateful.  Honestly, I thought our partnership would end there; I try products (and subsequently love them) and then tell you about what is and is not  working for my family.  But then I heard about this ExtraCare program, and every single fiber in my type-non-a personality was screaming to share it.

It is perfect for me.  Perfect for you.  Perfect for everyone.

Just perfect.

Here is the nitty gritty:

You can earn rewards even if items are not on sale:

Whether an item is on sale or not, using your ExtraCare card every time you shop is an easy way to rack up rewards. Members  automatically get 2% back on nearly every dollar spent at CVS/pharmacy. Then, at the end of each quarter, you will receive these earnings back in the form of ExtraBucks®Rewards – or “free CVS money” you can spend on almost anything in the store!

Instead of slaving over newspapers and websites to locate coupons that might not even match what you need to buy, you can simply hop onto CVS.com and get exactly what you need.

Before you start shopping, visit the ExtraCare Coupon Center to collect coupons you can use during that visit, personalized just for you. Often the coupons will be good for new items like Gold Emblem Abound™ products – especially if you purchase them and find that you like them, and buy them more than once.  The best part? This can happen just minutes before you need to head out to the store!  Which, as I mentioned, is quite literally the perfect scenario for me.

What does it boil down to?  When utilizing the ExtraCare program, CVS does all the hard work for me.  They get to slave over the Sunday papers for the exact coupons I need. They get to keep track of items I buy on a regular basis and help me save money on them.

And I get to buy the things I want to buy at a discounted price.  And it’s free to use!

Happy sigh.

I Am Baker

my husband went away and I have never been happier

If you know me at all, that title probably doesn’t make much sense does it?

Let me explain.

I married an outdoorsy guy. Chad likes to hunt most things and fish for everything, any time of year that it’s legal. He is just one of those guys that gets his soul refreshed among God’s nature and beauty. Sitting in a deer stand in silence and completely still at the break of dawn, that’s something he enjoys.  Me?  Not so much.

I knew this when I met him. I knew this when I married him. I have learned the lesson over and over again with each pregnancy, each new baby, each rambunctious toddler that I was inevitably left alone with just when it was most inconvenient.

Chad Bow Hunting

Chad (on the left) with his brother, Ryan

While I accept his passions and love to reap the benefits of it (having a buffalo fill your freezer for 2 years is a wondrous thing) I can’t say I like it. Dread it more like. Hunting season and fishing season always seem to come too quickly and I find myself getting more bitter every year. It just doesn’t seem fair anymore! Here I am at home with five kids, sacrificing my job and my time to meet the needs of my family, alone. He is out doing exactly what he loves, with not a care in the world.

Yes, I signed up for a husband who puts time and great energy into his passions. No, I didn’t sign up for parenting alone for weeks at a time.

I joke with friends and family and give him a hard time. I start giving him dirty looks when he talks about mandatory trips to Cabella’s and Gander Mountain. I tune out when he talks about the details of his excursions.

I fully realize how I sound like a really terrible wife right now. Here is my poor husband, doing what he always does, and I am giving him heck for it.

But we are not the same young independent couple as when we first married. We have much bigger responsibilities now. In addition to the kids there is a home, a property, chickens and guineas’, a dog,  my career. Everything suffers when he goes away, sometimes life is lost.  And frankly, I just don’t handle it well.

I was recently reunited with a blast from the past. It was a lazy Saturday as I welcomed an old high school friend and her daughter into our home with open arms.  I had not seen her in about 20 years, but it was like not even a day had passed.  My heart was truly delighted seeing her beautiful smile again.

After a few hours of us talking and catching up, we had really gotten to a comfortable place and I found myself completely opening up. Telling her things I saved for the closest of friends. I told her about my husband’s trip and that it is HARD when he leaves. Everything about it is just hard.

We were all standing there, in our kitchen and she said, “You know, maybe it would be easier when he went away if he didn’t do so much for you.”

We laughed. She went on her way. But that comment… it stuck around.  Lingered in my brain and started to eat away me.

For days, I was questioning everything. What did she mean? That I am lazy? That I depend on him too much? Was she right? Was it only hard because I was too dependent on his help? Did she look at me and judge me for being overweight and assume I sat around all day eating the cakes and cookies I blog about? Why did she think that I was not pulling my share of the weight around here? Did she have ANY idea what I had been through?

The more time passed the more angry I got. Really, really angry. How dare she? She didn’t know me, know my husband, know our relationship. How dare she assume that my husband carried the weight of our relationship. I decided to email her, or to confront her, or maybe even to gently persuade her that what she perceived our situation to be was actually far from the truth.

But I didn’t. I said nothing to her. After a long mental battle, I realized something that I can honestly say I have never realized before.

There was no point in my fighting this battle.

Her opinion, while totally valid and one she was free to have and keep, should have no bearing on the reality of my life.

If she was wrong, she would see it in my actions, not in my words.

My husband packed up and left, and I cried. I texted him that I missed him, that I needed him, and he was my partner. While that may seem like normal conversation between husband and wife, it is not for me. I rarely, if ever, tell people I need them. (not to say I don’t actually need people, just that I am too stubborn or embarrassed or feel too guilty to impose my needs on people, much less tell them. I can honestly say that nothing feels worse to me than feeling indebted to others. It’s a level of discomfort I have a hard time explaining.) He texted back that I would be fine, that he loved me and that I was stronger than I thought.

He was right.

A mighty work took place in me while he was gone. Something clicked somewhere and every single day started with Intention. I decided that even if my circumstances were hard, that was no excuse for me not living life to the fullest and giving my family my best. Every single day, every single moment, I was all-in. I gave my all at home with the kids, giving them my full attention and respect. I didn’t yell (much) and I tried to be as calm as possible when faced with disagreements. I did the chores around the house with a happy heart, feeling grateful that I was able to get them done and feel so accomplished afterwards. I made lists and stuck to them, and at the same time decreased my self-imposed work load in favor or putting out better quality work. I set goals, made plans, and finally figured out just what I want to do with my life and career. And while some of that I will keep private (as part of me is just a natural big dreamer who loves the dream itself and finds joy in thinking about it, not necessarily seeing it come to fruition) one part I can reveal.

I want my blog to be a true representation of my home and life. I love iambaker. I love baking and decorating and creating new things, so that will not change. But I also love our home, our property, our chickens and garden.  I want to share with you that fact that my family and I drink raw milk and that we make homemade ketchup and syrup and jelly and can tomatoes and pickle peppers and that I brush my teeth with baking soda and don’t ever use bubble bath because I try to not put any chemicals on or in my kids and that most things I buy are organic.  And still I love Oreo’s and box cake mix.

Bethel Sunrise

That I take thousands of pictures of the sunrise and chickens and birds. I don’t understand fashion and am totally comfortable buying clothes at Target. I don’t like to travel and have no desire to leave my family nor vacation without them. That I am simple.

Most of all I love Jesus.  And I love that He gave me this perfect-for-me husband who I never knew was so perfect for me.  (He has been a gardening and natural living guy all along, while I came along kicking and screaming.) I love that while my husband was away chasing an elusive Elk and walking the scenic and breathtaking mountains of Idaho, I was coming into my own as a wife, mother , homemaker and child of God.

My Kids and Cousin Inga

The kids with cousin Inga

I got just as much, if not more, from completing the kids’ laundry in an organized fashion as I did from finding out my book was a best seller. I found out that when all is right with me, in my head and heart, then I can happily and successfully run this home.  Not in spite of my husband, but for him.

When my husband did come home, he came home to a house cleaner than it had been in ages.  To happy children who had a happy and relaxed and attentive mom.  To a better listener.  To a schedule and a routine that made our home a place we all wanted to be.  To a wife that didn’t resent him being gone, but that loved him for who he is.

I can honestly tell you, I have never felt more domesticated in my life.  And I am loving it.  The idea of getting a cow and living off of the grid is really, really appealing to me.  Now remember, I am a big dreamer.  In those dreams, I forget how much I love watching Cedar Cove and playing Spider Solitaire and blogging and baking crazy desserts with snickers stuffed into every crevice.

Snickers Special K Frosting

I love my home and children and nature loving husband. I love spending time with them. I love my life and am so thankful and blessed to be living it. And since I didn’t know how long this feeling would last (although I can’t help but hope for forever) I just wanted to write it down so that I could look back and know that somewhere along the way I knew.

I knew that I am exactly where I was meant to be.