Midwest Cowboy Caviar

So I’ve been determined to add some new recipes into our meal rotations lately.  One of the things I’ve seen a few times in the blogsphere is a Meatless Monday trend. We almost always have recipes that include a meat of some kind, so I liked this idea as a way to force me to try some new recipes. A friend recently posted a picture of her lunch with something that looked like the Texas Cavier I’ve had at parties, and I started craving a hearty salsa-type dip.  I looked around for a bit at some recipes, but wasn’t sure I’d find the black-eyed peas they all called for. I always have pinto and black beans in the pantry, though, so I settled on this recipe.

Midwest Cowboy Cavier with avocado and chips


In total transparency, Jeremy actually made this for dinner while Lo and I were at swim lessons.  We left out the chilis and corn (oops, forgot to buy some) and added a bunch of extra garlic.  The results were good, but too sweet for our tastes (probably because we didn’t have the extra peppers to balance it out.)  A few more additions and revisions, and my leftovers today were absolutely delicious.  Below is my best guess at the final recipe (and how we’ll likely make it next time.)  Note- this makes a ton of food.  I bet it was closet to 10 cups of dip.  Halving the recipe is probably a good idea unless you’re making it for a party!



2 cans (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained

2 cans (15 oz) pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2 bell peppers (any color), chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped

1 bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1/4 C olive oil

2-3 TBL minced garlic

1/3 C lime juice

1 TBL garlic salt

1 tsp ground black pepper



1. Mix together beans, peppers, onion, tomatoes, cilantro and minced garlic.

2. In separate small bowl, mix together EVOO, lime juice, garlic salt, and pepper.  Pour over bean mix and stir well, evenly coating everything.

3. Can be eaten immediately, but tastes better if it sits for a few hours (or overnight) to blend flavors.  Serve with avocado and/or tortilla chips.


Lo’s Quiet Book

I’ve recently become obsessed with wanting to make Lo a quiet book.  It started when a friend showed me the one that her mom made for her son (who is the same age as Lorelei.)  Flipping through the photos of the pages brought back all these memories of playing with one myself. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Quiet Books are fabric activity books, usually make out of felt; they have different pages that help children learn a different skill. The one page that seems to remind everyone of the books is the shoe tying page, like this:

I love the idea of giving Lo something that she can grow into; I’m planning to make the most basic pages first- both for my skill level and for her ease of use and then adding more challenging pages as I make them.  I originally considered buying one (there are a bunch of options on Etsy but they’re way too expensive), because I know they can be a lot of work, and I’m a bit of a perfectionist with this crafting thing.  But ultimately I decided that it would be a fun challenge for me, and a way to learn all sorts of new sewing skills.  I also really like the idea of giving her something homemade, even if it doesn’t end up perfect.  So I scoured blogs and websites and etsy for ideas.  I pinned a whole bunch of ideas, and eventually settled on the following list.  The pages are listed in the order I plan to make them.  I’ll make sure to update as pages are completed; I’m hoping to have most, if not all, done by Lo’s birthday in August.

Stop Light (velcro on each color)

Marble Maze (sewn in design)

Name Page (snaps on each letter)

Gumball Machine (buttons on each one; color matching)

Dog & Collar (practice buckles; different textures on dog)

Mr. Potato Head (felt face pieces/clothes with a zipper suitcase)

Sock Matching (magnets; pattern matching)

Tennis Shoe (lace tying)

Cupcakes in a Tin (counting practice)

Mailbox & Letters (family members- faces and names?)

Garden (veggies in dirt pockets.)

Do you remember having a quiet book as a kid? What were your favorite pages?

Meal Plan- 2.9.14

Maybe if I start posting our weekly meal plans, I’ll hold myself more accountable to them?  Either way, it’s nice to have them all in one spot so I can look back on what we’ve eaten recently.

So here you go.


Apple-cheddar quinoa muffins w/ tomato soup


Hamburgers with mixed veggies and sweet potatoes


Chickpea-cucumber salad (J’s request)


Chicken rigate (with bell peppers and GF penne)


Crock Pot baked potato soup w/ bacon


leftovers or take-out

We’ve got a few vegetarian dishes in there this week. I tried to alternate them at least, but we’ll see how it goes!


Goals for this year.  I don’t like the word “resolution” because it just has all sorts of expectations and connotations (like, doomed to fail.)  So a few goals I have for this upcoming year.

*Blog more.  Looking back on 2013, I’m sad I don’t have more documented about Lo’s first year with us.  Thankfully, I still have a ridiculous number of photographic memories (including on Instagram) but there were so many fun stories I should’ve written down.  This is a balance for me, though, because I don’t want to be that mom that says “wait! I need to record this!” instead of just living in the moment.  I don’t want this blog to be a chore. But I do want to jot down the awesome/hilarious/weird stuff my kid does.  I’m going to try and embrace the short posts too.

*Be more financially comfortable.  So, we’ve got a few things going on right now. We moved, currently renting a duplex (thankfully, rent is very affordable in Central WI), both Jeremy and I started new jobs, Lo’s at my mom’s daycare for now, commuting 75 miles roundtrip every day, and oh. still own a house in MN. (yeah. about that. the last sale fell through. new offers on the table, but there’s still drama. more on that later.)  So. I want to use this sort of restart to really lock down on our spending and saving.  For a few weeks, we were going on one income, which forced us to be very careful with money.  Now that Jeremy has a fulltime job here, too, we’ve been more lax.  But looking back on how not uncomfortable it was to restrict the budget, I think we can really do that now.  I’d love to have all our debts paid off within a few years, including student loans.  It’s a hefty goal, but one I think we can manage.

*Sell house. Buy new one.  This will probably be the hardest to accomplish, since it’s kind of out of our control.  We have had quite a bit of interest, and we have a few offers on the table as of today.  The one we originally pursued is now in limbo because the buyer’s wife is in the hospital.  We’ll see what happens in a day, otherwise move onto the next one.  Once the house closes, we’ll look at buying a new one here where we work. It’ll be fantastic to cut out the 45 minute commute each way and we’ve found some houses here that are really nice, with good yards and room to grow.

*Stay Healthy: we’ve started to really keep to the gluten-free diet, and have been buying lots of fresh, whole foods. We’ve mostly stuck to a meal plan for the last few weeks, and I think we all feel so much better for it.  I started looking for a new CSA today, too, and I’m quite excited to have local fresh produce again.  We also recently joined the YMCA in hopes of starting swim lessons for the kid, and I plan on checking out some group classes they have too.

*Explore more:  now that we no longer live in the Twin Cities, I think we missed out on some of the awesome stuff they had to offer.  I want to make sure we find all the awesome little stuff in Wisconsin.  I’d love to plan short day trips once it’s nice out again. It’s a little hard to get away in the summer, thanks to my job schedule, but I’m already starting a list of the stuff I want to do around the area.  Bonus points for free activities 🙂 Thankfully there are lots of county parks and outdoorsy places here.

Updates. and lots of them.

Oh, look at that. I’ve been completely absent again… for awhile it was because there was nothing new or exciting going on, then because work was insanity.  And the last month or so? Because life has been absolute craziness.  I realized last night, while lying in bed desperately trying to sleep, that I miss writing.  I think I like the little break of zoning out and doing a little reflecting.  So I’m going to try and keep up with this a little more as our life takes on a new chapter.

What chapter is that? We’re moving!  Jeremy and I have been talking about wanting to get out of the city and back to WI for awhile.  Mostly in the “what if” stage, but kind of keeping an eye open for jobs there. We went back to WI to visit my family and stopped in a nearby town to watch my brother play baseball.  I made an off-hand comment that I’d love to work there someday.  When we got back to my mom’s house, she noticed they were hiring a conference coordinator.  Even though I’m not one to really believe in fate and all that, it was kind of hard to ignore that sign.  I applied, interviewed, and eventually accepted a job offer!  We put our house on the market, thinking it would take a few weeks/months to sell…. we had an accepted offer in 48 hours, with a 30 day closing.  another sign that we couldn’t really ignore.

So that’s where we’re at today.  My last day at Minnesota was a few days ago, and I start at the new school on Monday.  We’re not sure where we’ll be living come December 13th, but I’m really hoping something pulls through for a rental.  Lorelei and I will be moving this weekend and staying with my mom until we close on the house here.  Then, hopefully Jeremy has a job and we have a house lined up in the next 3 weeks 😉  I’m a planner to the extreme, so this whole ‘it will work out’ mentality is really a stretch for me. But, somehow, I know it will.

Lo’s Birth Story: Part 3

if you want to get caught up, check out part 1 and part 2

Spoiler alert: this one has a happy ending. 🙂

Lorelei, less than an hour old

Lorelei, less than a day old

As I mentioned in the last part, I left the hospital and went home for the weekend.  Words can’t describe the defeat I felt; but I also realized that I had time to finish everything around the house.  Although my midwives were adamant that I ‘take it easy’ over the weekend, I couldn’t sit still.  I reorganized the nursery, I unpacked and repacked the hospital bags, picked out a new outfit for coming home, gave the dogs extra cuddles. Truth be told, there was also quite a bit of pity partying happening that weekend too, but I’m pretty sure it was justified.

I had an appt scheduled on Monday morning for follow up, and this time I knew I needed Jeremy at the appointment with me.  We headed over to the clinic and began the waiting game again. In an all too familiar routine, I was called back and sat down at the blood pressure machine.  Sure enough, it was high again; the nurse didn’t even have to tell me- she saw it in my eyes when I read the numbers on the screen. We went back to the exam room and I waited for the m/w to come tell me the news.  To my surprise, she didn’t want to jump the gun on the induction immediately.  She had me to another non-stress test after taking another urine sample.  Maybe 15-20 minutes later, she came back with good and bad news. Good: baby was still healthy! bad: they found elevated protein in my urine.  Time for induction round 2.  She did tell me to go home, get a good lunch, gather my thoughts, and head back to the hospital in a few hours. 

Jeremy and I left the clinic, walked to the parking ramp and got in the car.  The moment I sat down, I lost it again.  It’s not fair. I don’t want to go through this again. I think it was worse because I *knew* what I faced. more hours in that stupid hospital bed. more waiting. more drugs. more nurses. more midwives. more waiting. But I sucked it up and went home, arranged for my cousin to come hang out with the dogs, wrote up a note on their usual routine. (I remember being REALLY concerned about this.) We grabbed lunch and drove back to the hospital.  At least this time I knew where to go. Same nurse was working when I checked in. I just said “hey. I’m back. did you guys miss me??”  I also made them swear they wouldn’t reassign me to the same room.

I got settled into the new room, in an oddly familiar routine by this point.  It took awhile for them to find someone who could get my IV set up, because my veins were completely shot by then. The midwife came in to say hi and set a game plan.  She checked me first, and good news! I had actually made a little progress while hanging out at home. Baby girl had moved down a little, I was more dilated. She sounded pretty hopeful the induction would be much smoother this time.  She asked if I wanted my membranes stripped too ‘just to see what happens’.  That was… weird… feeling. But it did kick in some contractions, which was a good sign. She got me started on the pitocin again almost immediately, and I settled in attempting to rest a little.  It was about 4pm on the 27th for anyone keeping track.

mom and the machines

mom and the machines

By about 6pm, she came back and broke my water, joking that they couldn’t send me home again now. (It’s common to start a 24-hour timeclock from when your water breaks to needing baby out.) That was such a strange sensation; it was a lot like the ‘gush’ they portray in movies.  But the part that surprised me was that I still felt it over and over again with every contraction after that. Right around the time she broke my water, they also started the pitocin again. I was having pretty frequent contractions, but they weren’t very regular; the hope was that the pit would help even out the contractions and strengthen them a little to get the show going.

Around 8pm I opted for an epidural.  I originally wanted to avoid the epi as long as possible (if not altogether) but after 3 days of ‘labor’, I just wanted relief and a chance to rest.  Once the epi was in, I was actually able to doze off for a little bit off and on… until it wore off. Yup. I think it was around 2am that I realized I was feeling everything again. Every contraction- the pain and pressure. I begged the anesthesiologist for something else and she was able to give me a boost of the epi or something. I never got completely relief though. Around this time, they also turned off the pitocin completely when my body finally decided to cooperate. The contractions continued, getting more intense (I finally made Jeremy turn the monitor away so I would stop staring at the little number that measured my level of contraction) and more regular.  That whole saying that they feel like waves? So accurate. I told myself over and over again “this one will pass. It’s one step closer to being over” with every contraction.

By 4-5am, I was in serious discomfort.  The anesthesiologist said she only had one option left for drugs, so she encouraged me to hold off a little longer.  She was surprised that I was in so much pain, and to be honest- I think she doubted me… until she did the little poker test thing.  I wasn’t looking, but I could tell whenever she poked me, and I was only numb down to my belly button or so.  Not so helpful when all the pain is below that. I could move my toes/feet too at that point.  She left with a promise to come back and check on me soon.

Around 8am, she returned, to me- in tears.  She knew I was in serious pain at that point, and went to grab the last of the drug options (I really can’t remember what it was. But I think she gave me a shot of narcotics into the epi line?) It was enough relief to at least lie down for a few minutes.  The m/w came back and did a check, saying it would probably be soon! I was fully dilated and soft and all of that good stuff, but baby girl was still a little too high to actually try pushing.  She told me she wanted me to ‘labor down’ for a little while in hopes of an easier delivery.  For those that don’t know, ‘laboring down’ sucks.  Basically- you allow your body to continue contractions and the natural process that forces baby further down the birth canal… all while resisting the natural urge to push.  The idea is that you don’t waste energy pushing, and wait until baby is much closer before really working with the contractions.

So anyway. I did the whole “labor down” thing for about an hour. It was absolutely awful.  I felt like I was going against every natural instinct in my body (which I was), and it hurt. It wasn’t painful, per se, but so uncomfortable. The worst pressure I’ve ever felt. People joke that it feels like you need to take a huge monster crap, and I think it’s pretty accurate. Except 100x worse.  The nurse came in at one point to check on me (graciously, they had left me mostly alone all morning) and I BEGGED her to let me push because it hurt so bad.  She said she’d go grab the m/w, but asked if I wanted her to check me quick.  yes. PLEASE tell me there’s been progress and this has all been worth it. As soon as she started to check, she grinned and said “I can feel her head! You’ve made so much progress!” ohthankgod She paged the m/w right away and told her I was ready to push. (This was about 9:45am)

I don’t remember much about the first half hour or so of pushing. It was very repetitive, and involved a lot of awkward readjusting trying to get comfortable (ha) with it all.  The nurse I had was absolutely amazing and I owe a lot of it to her.  At one point during pushing, I remember looking at her going “I’m going to puke. Please tell me that’s a good sign!” (it is. it’s a common sign of ‘transition’). Although I was 100% convinced I didn’t want Jeremy to be anywhere down there during baby girl’s birth, when the time came, I did not care at all. about anything even remotely related to decency or humility.  So he watched, all of it.  And watching the expressions on his face was more motivation that I ever could’ve imagined.  The feeling of pride I could see and seeing his awe in what I was doing, what my body was going through, was better reassurance than anything else at that moment.

Quick pause. Because I just need to remind you all that this is a birth story, and I want all the dirty details recorded. So I’m going to get detailed. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about all that. So continue with that in mind 😉

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Lo’s birth story: part 2

“Not only did I fail at being pregnant, I failed I giving birth”

I left off with the pee in the fridge. That’s quite the way to start a blog post, eh?

So I hung out at home for a day, because really? Who wants to go to work and figure out how to discretely store their pee… in a bright orange container… in the communal fridge? yeah. *oh. at this point I should mention WHY they wanted me to do a urine collection in the first place.  Because of my headaches and high blood pressure, my midwives were concerned about the onset of pre-eclampsia.  The only definitive test for pre-e is a 24-hour urine collect to test for protein. My quick test in the clinic was negative, but they wanted to run the more accurate 24-hour test.

So I stayed home on a modified ‘bed rest’ until I dropped off the sample at the lab on Thursday (8/23 if you’re keeping track) before going to work for the morning. I had an early-afternoon appointment that had been scheduled for awhile anyway, so I headed over after lunch.  They took my blood pressure, which was a little elevated, but nothing severe.  My lab results weren’t back yet, so my midwife wanted me to go home and stay on bedrest through the weekend, and follow up the next Monday to see how I was feeling.  I called Jeremy, gave him the scoop, and went home.  Minutes after I walked in the door, my phone rang. It was the clinic, and my midwife sounded concerned. My heart sank, because I knew what she was going to tell me.

Sure enough, she wanted me to come back in for an induction immediately.  My lab results came back with a concerning level of protein in my 24-hour sample of urine. Combined with my high blood pressure readings (and headaches and blurry vision), I officially had pre-eclampsia.  I was late enough in pregnancy that it was going to be safer for Lo to be outside than inside.  I remember trying to stay calm and asking what time she wanted me to come in. “as soon as you safely can get here.” I hung up, called Jeremy and told him I was coming to pick him up from work.  Somewhere in all of this, I organized to have my sister come watch the dogs. Then I called my mom to tell her and I completely broke down. I can vividly picture myself standing in the kitchen between the wall and the counter, crying, begging the dogs to come over and give me a hug. Knowing it was the last time I’d see them before our whole house, our lives, changed. Somehow I gathered up my stuff and walked out the door.

Jeremy and I got to the clinic around 2pm, got checked in and tried to get settled.  It was a very mixed-emotions experience; excitement over meeting our daughter, and terror over having to go through the whole childbirth thing for real.

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