Monday, August 21, 2017

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Hope everyone had a great weekend! I made this casserole last week for dinner, and it was a hit. Casseroles get a bad rap, but I unashamedly love them...they're easy to put together; they freeze well; and they're great to take to a neighbor or friend.
 
I especially loved the addition of water chestnuts and almonds in this one. Added some crunch, which I liked. I used a Rotisserie chicken to make things a little easier. Hope you enjoy!
 
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Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
{Southern Living magazine}
 
1 (2.25 oz.) package sliced almonds
2 (6.2 oz.) boxes fast-cooking long-grain and wild rice mix
1/4 cup butter
4 celery ribs, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
5 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of mushroom soup
2 (8 oz.) cans chopped water chestnuts
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups (16 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups soft, fresh breadcrumbs
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan 4 to 6 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
 
Prepare rice mixes according to package directions.
 
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add celery and onions. Sauté 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken, next 6 ingredients, rice, and 3 cups cheese. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch baking dish or 2 (11- x 7-inch) baking dishes. Top with breadcrumbs.
 
Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese, and top with toasted almonds. Bake 5 minutes.
 
Enjoy!
 


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Life Lately + Rainbow Cake

We've been busy over here, as I'm sure all have. School has started back, along with the shuttling back and forth, the homework, and the schedules. I miss summer, but this is a good season too.
 
Here's a little bit of what we've been up to lately.
 
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Last year I baked Lily a rainbow cake on the night before school. I planned for it to be something we'd do annually, so I made one again this year. It's turned into a fun tradition, and the cake is so tasty! I'll share the recipe below...but first, some pictures!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rainbow Cake
{Betty Crocker}
 
Cake
2 boxes Betty Crocker SuperMoist vanilla cake mix
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable oil
6 eggs
2 packages (2.7 oz. each) Betty Crocker classic gel food colors
 
Buttercream Frosting
1 cup shortening
1 cup butter, softened
1 bag (2 lb.) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 to 4 Tablespoons milk
 
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 3 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.
 
In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, and eggs with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among 6 small bowls, about 1 1/3 cups each.
 
Using food coloring, tint batter in each bowl: blue, red, green, yellow, orange, and purple.
 
Refrigerate 3 colors of batter until ready to bake. Pour remaining 3 colors of batter into cake pans.
 
Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center and begins to pull away from side of pan. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans to cooling racks; cool completely.
 
Wash cake pans. Bake and cool remaining 3 cake layers as directed.
 
In large bowl, beat shortening and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until light yellow. On low speed, gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla. Add milk, 1 Tablespoon at a time, beating until frosting is smooth. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
 
Trim rounded tops off cakes to level, if needed. On serving plate, place first layer of cake. Spread with frosting to within 1/4 inch of edge. Repeat with other cake layers. Spread light coat of frosting on top and side of cake to seal in crumbs, then frost with remaining frosting.
 
**I added rainbow sprinkles because, duh.**
 
As you can see, making the cake is time-consuming, but it's really, really easy. And it tastes so good and is unique and beautiful. I promise it's worth it!
 
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Lily started school on August 9. First grade already? How is this possible? She was so happy with the teachers she got this year and was especially stoked to find out that one of her best friends from last year is in her class.
 
 
 
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Friday, I took Hadley to her school to meet her teachers for the year. She goes to preschool 5 days a week from 9-12...being my social butterfly, she loves school and seeing her friends! She's in the Black Dog class this year (each class is assigned an animal), and she, like Lily, was excited to find out that one of her best friends from last year is in her class again.
 
Friday didn't end as well as it started, unfortunately! I was getting the girls ready for bed, and Hadley ran back to the bathroom to brush her teeth. She tripped over her feet and landed face-first into our glass coffee table. Cue my broken heart. I knew the second I scooped her up that she'd need stitches. There was blood everywhere, but thankfully I was able to hold pressure and got it to stop pretty quickly. Also, thankfully, Rob walked in the door from work a few minutes later, and he helped me load us all up for a trip to the emergency room.
 
 
 
When it was time for stitches, my heart broke even more, if that were possible. The nurses and doctor had to wrap Hadley up like a burrito to help her stay still. And two nurses had to hold her down during the procedure. Talk about agony. I knew it was necessary (or else she'd get jabbed), but it's a hard thing to witness. As soon as the doctor was finished I grabbed her up and just held her. We were able to go home shortly after, and she crashed...but only after we promised her a trip to Toys R Us the next day to pick out a treat!
 
 
We also took this sweet girl to Chick-fil-A. She loves waffles fries like they're going out of style.
 
 
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Had's been such a trooper through the entire ordeal. She hasn't had a lot of pain but has had some discomfort...school started for her on Monday, and she wanted to go, "bobo" and all. Below is her back-to-school picture. Classic Hadley! :)
 
 
I did manage to find my dinosaur-loving little one a dinosaur dress and necklace for her first day of school!
 
 
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I'll take Hadley to get her stitches out on Friday, and we hope to have a slow, injury-free weekend. Hope everyone has a happy day!
 


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Back-to-School Essentials

It's back-to-school time! Lily had her first day yesterday, and Hadley starts Monday. With that said, I wanted to share some of the things we can't live without during the school year.
 
And add your picks in the comment section! We're always looking for things to make the year run more smoothly.
 
*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you, readers and friends, for supporting my blog!*
 
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The best backpack for little ones, hands-down. Comes in a variety of colors and prints and is especially cute personalized. It's durable and big enough for all the many things they'll bring home each day.
 
 
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I just ordered this devotional for the girls and me, and my goal is to read a devotion with them each morning while they're eating breakfast. The mornings are hectic, but I imagine this will take 5 minutes or less. And I KNOW it will be a good way to start our day.
 
 
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Cute water bottles with rave reviews, and they're easy for kids to operate.
 
 
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I was gifted these vitamins recently, and the girls have really enjoyed them. I've seen them in so many stores, so they'd be an easy option to add to breakfast time.
 
 
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These are the vitamins my girls take, and I've ordered them from a friend for a few years now. Unlike the Olly brand, you have to buy these from a distributor. When Lily started taking them, I noticed a huge decrease in the number of times she was sick during the school year. I'm a big believer that they boost the immune system. And they're another great option if your kiddo doesn't like fruits or veggies.
 
 
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These labels are perfect for reusable water bottles, sippy cups, or baby bottles. They stretch over the cup, and you don't have to remove them for the dishwasher.
 
 
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Lily picked out these kicks for back-to-school. She learned to tie her shoelaces in kindergarten, so she's drawn to laces now. Love the silver, and the back of the shoe has a pop of purple!
 
 
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As a nurse, I can handle most anything gross, medically-speaking. But I am terrified of lice. I've heard it's almost inevitable in school-age children, but I'm doing anything I can to prevent it. This spray (also comes in shampoo form) works as a preventative. And I LOVE that it's natural.
 
 
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Lily keeps one of these clipped to her backpack, and I have them stashed everywhere. Back to school means back to germs...this is a quick way to clean your hands!
 
 
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Lily is keychain-obsessed. Her backpack is loaded down with various ones she's picked up over time. She got to pick a new one for the school year, and this was her choice. What a cute furry creature, and it also serves as a coin purse.
 
 
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Lily's classroom gets really cold, so I like to send her with a jacket each day to keep warm. How cute is this one? Perfect weight for this time of year.
 
 
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I'm sure it's the same everywhere, but we have to label EVERYTHING! I adore these (I mean, how cute?!?!) because they're dishwasher and washing machine safe! I also think they'd be cute as a gift tag of sorts on presents.
 
 
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My girls like to wear dresses, and these shorts are great for underneath. They come in white, black, and grey and are just $5.
 
 
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Hadley's school strongly encourages close-toed shoes. We love Keds, and this pair is just right for play, and they hold up really well. Plus they look just as cute with dresses as they do with shorts or leggings!
 
 
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Love the sizes of these blocks for the lunchbox. The smaller ones hold a sweet treat nicely.
 
 
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Storing pencils in here makes homework a little easier and a little more fun. We keep stickers in the smaller pouch and have a homework chart. I like that these pouches keep Lily's school supplies for home organized and in one place.
 
 
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Like the backpack, this lunchbox is hard to beat. I've seen so many soft ones out there, and I like that this one is soft but has shape. A zippered area on the inside fits an ice pack perfectly, keeping lunch cold.
 
 
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I want to hear some of the back-to-school items you can't live without!
 
I hope all our little ones (and big ones) have a wonderful school year. And thank you TEACHERS! You're the real MVP! ;)
 
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Thursday, August 3, 2017

When Breast Isn't Best

I originally shared this post in the fall of 2015. It's World Breastfeeding Week, so I thought I'd re-share my experience. I hope it might help some other new moms who are struggling.


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I read an article recently on Scary Mommy that really resonated with me. It was titled "Increasing Evidence Proves Breast Isn't Always Best." Pretty bold title, huh? I was definitely intrigued.

The gist of the article is this: from the onset of pregnancy, women are inundated with information on why they should choose to breastfeed. The facts are laid out in front of us...breastfed babies are healthier and smarter; they have fewer ear infections; they have fewer cavities; they're less likely to have learning disabilities...and the list goes on. And on. And on...so basically if you can't breastfeed or choose not to, you have been led to believe that you just haven't done well enough. You're not woman enough. You're not mother enough. And I'm here to tell you that there's nothing further from the truth. I had to learn it the hard way.

As soon as I announced I was pregnant, I was flooded with advice...some of it I sought out; most of it was unsolicited. People love giving you advice on breastfeeding. I felt like everyone around me assumed I'd breastfeed. People never ask you what you're going to do. They forget you have a choice. They forget it's none of their business.

I'll be honest, breastfeeding was never something that I was drawn to like many of my friends have been. I figured I would try it, as I honestly felt like there was no other option. No one talked to me about bottle feeding; everyone talked to me about breastfeeding. No one told me to text or call or e-mail in the middle of the night with bottle feeding questions; I had many invitations to seek advice on breastfeeding...whenever, wherever, no questions asked.

We never imagined or planned that Lily would be delivered via C-section. But she was, and I was truly just happy to have my baby in my arms. The immediate skin-to-skin contact didn't happen as I thought it would, and I was in a lot of pain from surgery. Plus, the anesthesia made me sick, and no amount of medicine seemed to quell my nausea. I kind of felt like I was doomed from the start, but I know there are other women who have much more difficult experiences post-delivery.

The entire time I was in the hospital (3 days), I breastfed. I'll be honest, it never felt natural to me, and I was never comfortable. But I kept on keeping on. Like I said, I felt like there really was no other way. Or at least I felt like I would let everyone (mainly myself) down if I waved my white flag.

I remember having my postpartum nurse in the room with me, trying to help me with a feeding. I was looking for support, and an "out," I suppose when I said, "I may have to switch to bottle feeding." I was hoping she'd encourage me to do what felt right to me, but instead she said, "Oh you wouldn't want to do that, would you?" Ouch. Or in other words, "You wouldn't want to be that kind of mother, would you?"

Once we got home, I felt even more lost. If it didn't feel right to me in the hospital, within those safe walls, and with all the support and resources from staff, what did I really think would happen once we were home? I recently wrote about my struggle with anxiety and depression (you can read that here), and postpartum these struggles were only magnified. I felt paralyzed with all the changes (what new parent doesn't?), and the reality of being the sole provider (at least at first) of this tiny person's nourishment was overwhelming...and those feelings left me crippled, and I wasn't able to cope. Like I stated earlier, I know being a new parent is overwhelming to everyone. I know I wasn't alone in that feeling. But when you can't really function or enjoy this new creation and this most special time with him or her, that's just not the way it's supposed to be.

We were home two days when my Dad told me exactly what I needed to hear. I was talking on the phone to him and had a breakdown. Hello postpartum hormones! I told him I was having such a hard time feeding Lily. I didn't like it; I never felt like she was getting enough to eat; I couldn't figure out how to hold her and still be comfortable; I felt like I was only good for one thing and that was feeding my child; I felt like I didn't exist anymore. That was when my Dad, my dear Dad, said some of the kindest words I've ever heard. He said, "Lindsey, give that baby a bottle and call it a day." Truth. Sometimes you just need your Dad to talk some sense into you. So that's what I (along with the support from Rob) ultimately chose to do. And I felt like I could finally breathe again.

After a few days at home, getting used to the routine of a new baby and bottle feeding, it was time to return to the hospital for our sweet Lily to have a check-up. I passed one of my postpartum nurses in the hall, and she asked how breastfeeding was going. She didn't ask how Lily was doing or how I was doing. I made a joke that I wasn't cut out for breastfeeding (trying to lighten the awkwardness of it all), and she said, "Well at least she got the colostrum." Or, "At least you were good for something."

Guys, this is my experience with breastfeeding and mine only. Some of my very best friends and closest family members have breastfed and have loved almost every second of it. I think that is truly wonderful. I am in no way knocking breastfeeding, and I think if you want to breastfeed your child in public until he or she is 4-years-old, then you go girl. You do you. I'm also not saying that there aren't benefits to breastfeeding. Of course there are. But at the end of the day you have to weigh those pros and cons. At the end of the day you have to take care of yourself too.

I remember my OB-GYN telling me throughout my pregnancy, "Healthy moms make healthy babies." I, of course, agree with that, and I think we need to follow that advice after birth too, especially in those first few weeks that can be so tough. Healthy moms raise healthy babies. Our individual health is so important, as we are typically the primary ones taking care of these precious new lives. And if we're not OK, then they won't be OK. And that's the bottom line.

I think it'd be so wonderful if we could all support one another, no matter our choices. After all, I think most of us are doing the very best we can do, each given day. And this thing called motherhood is hard. We need to be on the same team, cheering each other along from the sidelines, waving our foam fingers and painting our faces in support of one other. No matter our choices, I think we're all pretty darn amazing.

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So, tell me about your feeding experiences as a new mom. Can you relate to my story? What are ways you think we can encourage one another in this motherhood journey? Thanks for reading, friends.