Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mid Winter's Hikes

We've had one of those weeks that has been fairly non-productive. Monday morning, Eli woke up with a fever, which had him out of school on Monday and Tuesday. Lex was home sick on Tuesday as well. Jeremy is recovering from a sprained back, and I have been working insane hours trying to keep up with things in the office. Thursday, we were all home because of an ice storm, but alas, did nothing productive, and instead opted to all stay in our pajamas and stay on the couch all day. We needed that. And then the weekend hit, and I looked around at all the housework that went undone over the week. It's a vicious cycle. But here I sit, another day of icy rain outside, meaning we'll be staying in once again, all the house work finally caught up, and I am finally able to get back to this blog to tell you about our hiking adventures last weekend. 

Last weekend gave us a short reprieve from winter weather. Following the polar vortex, but before the ice storm, we were given 2 days of 50+ degree weather. I would have loved to have packed up and gone far away for a good 5 mile hike, but since Jeremy was out of commission with his sprained back,  I decided to go it alone with the boys so we could take advantage of the weather. On Saturday, Eli and I did our favorite trail close to home, and on Sunday I took both boys to a trail by the river so we could watch the huge chunks of ice float by. 

Hiking is typically a family activity for us. It's one of the things we just like doing altogether. But when he's not able to come, I love spending this time with just the boys. 


As soon as we got on the trail, Eli asked if he could be in charge of pictures. He asked what he should take a picture of, and I told him to just find something he thought was pretty and take a picture of that.


So he took some pictures of the snow.


Ta da! It's art to Eli. 


This was Saturday of last weekend, and there were still patches of snow throughout the woods. I was surprised to even see this much, because it had pretty much all melted in town.


The other thing we had to deal with was trails covered in ice. Or a combination of mud and ice. Whatever it was, it was messy and made this hike somewhat difficult. We had to walk off the trail for a large portion of this hike. 


But we love the landscape on this trail, so it was totally worth it when the trail opened up into this meadow.



We found some ice to to play on.


And some animal tracks.


And a mile through mud, snow, and ice turned out to be just about enough for us, so we trekked back up the hill before we even reached the creek. We'll save the creek for a spring hike, I guess.



On Sunday, we went out for hike #2 of the weekend before the Superbowl Festivities began. This time Lex joined Eli and me, and we went to the river. Since it was the second day of 50 degree weather, we saw almost no snow left on the ground - just chunks of ice floating down the river. 

This is a popular spot, so there were lots of people around this point of the river.  Once we got on the trail though, we saw noone. Apparently, we are the only ones crazy enough to go traipsing through the mud for a winter hike. 

See the Capitol building off in the distance? It's covered in scaffolding and tarps because of repairs and renovations. 


Checking out the river.




 And the perfect climbing log. Note the mud covered jacket and rain boots. This was a fun day to be outside.


Two bumps on a log.


 The first part of this trail is where all the people are. It takes you past a couple of campsites (of course no one is there this time of year), and then into the woods, where it's a little more secluded.


The boys were fascinated by the ice. There were some patches that were perfectly round, and the boys kept speculating as to what could cause that.


Notice there is not a bit of snow.


At the very end of this trail, it turns and runs past a tributary. It's really cool to see the actual spot where this small creek pours into the river. On a nicer day, we would have been down on the sandy beach throwing rocks into the water, but on this day I was worried that if we climbed down the muddy embankment, we wouldn't be able to get back up. Either that, or we would all be covered head to toe in mud.


So we stayed on the trail and threw some rocks from there.


In this spot, the trail is flanked by two trees and the boys pretended we were going through a portal to another realm. Thank you Minecraft for keeping our hikes interesting.


Into the other realm. It does look pretty cool over here.




My little tree children.



This trail goes into the woods and then just kind of stops. So back through the portal we went.


Playing along the way.





And stopping once more to throw sticks in the river.


Two short hikes, but it was a great outdoorsy weekend!


Happy Hiking! 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Chicken Pot Pie

You know the feeling of being trapped inside for days, and then weeks, and then months, and then years.  No, no just kidding. Not years. It just feels like years. Winter feels like years. At least those winters where you can't go outside, which this winter has certainly been. Feet of snow, followed by the polar vortex, followed by warm weather, leading to mud inches deep. Yuck.

But we braved it this past weekend. We braved the mud and the muck and the patchy snow and the remnants of ice, to get outdoors. It was 60 degrees outside and we just went. It was Imbolc afterall, the celebration of the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox, and I wanted to be outside to celebrate this seasonal transition. I'll post pictures of our two mini-hikes later this week. Other than the mud, it was absolutely the most perfect way to spend the weekend.


Of course after a good winter hike, you want a good hearty winter meal. Although it was 60 at the highest point of the day, there was still snow, ice, a little breeze, and well, comfort food still sounded amazing after being out and about. I had found this recipe for chicken pot pie, and oh my goodness, it did not disappoint one bit. Every once in a while, I find a recipe so good that I save it to my menu for my imaginary future bed and breakfast. This recipe went right on that list. The guests at my imaginary B&B will love it.

This is adapted from the original, because I was out of a couple of things, and also decided to double it. The way I made it makes 2 pies

Ingredients to get ready:
For the filling:
1 stick of butter, softened + 2 tablespoons for sauteing veggies
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup milk
1 onion, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken broth
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large baked chicken breasts, diced
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
thyme and parsley to taste (about 2 tsp. each)


For the crust:
So the original recipe had what I'm sure is a great made-from-scratch pie crust recipe. But I didn't do that. I actually found a Pillsbury pie crust in the refrigerator section by the refrigerated biscuits and croissants, etc. I didn't take a picture of ours, but found it here, so you know what you're looking for if you decide to go this route. You'll need 2 boxes for 2 pies. This crust was soooooo good!

Got everything you need?

Okay, here we go.

Step 1: Combine the stick of butter and flour in a small bowl. You'll need this later.


Step 2: Stir milk and cornstarch until dissolved together. Put this aside too.


Step 3: In a large saucepan, saute the onion and carrots in the remaining butter over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the herbs too.


Step 4: Add the broth and potatoes, then bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.



Step 5: Add the butter and flour mixture, and whisk together.
I was a little hesitant when I first saw this step in the recipe. This is not how I typically thicken soups. But trust me, it works perfectly to achieve that creamy pot pie filling. 





Step 6: Stir in the milk. This will creamy it up a little bit. Bring this to a boil.

Step 7: Stir in peas and chicken, then remove from heat.



Step 8:
Now for the crust. If you're making your own, do it now. If you're using store bought, even better. Place the bottom crust in 2 pie pans and then split the veggie mixture between the two crusts.



Step 9: Put the top crust on, cut off the excess dough, crimp the edges, then tuck it in to the pie pan.

Like so. I also brushed an egg/milk wash over the top to give it a glossy finish, and then cut some slits in the top so steam could escape.


Step 10: Last but not least, bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, F. It's best if you let it rest before serving.

Look how delicious this looks! And I promise, it tastes so, so yummy.




Bon Appetit! Here's to spring coming right around the corner! 



Thursday, January 31, 2019

January Round Up

And just like that, Chapter one of twelve for this year is complete. Goodbye January, hello February. 

We have had an incredible month, full of wintry fun, outdoor adventures, indoor hibernation, and loads of family time. Here are the highlights...

Hiking
Winter hikes are so good for the soul. When it's cold and everyone is sick of being indoors, but then the weather warms up for just a minute, long enough to rush to the woods, it just feels so good to breathe in fresh air. 

Our hike this month was to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. I wrote about it here. It was an hour drive for a rigorous 2.3 miles, but we spent lots of time exploring, and some time flying the boys' drones in an open field. It was a great first hike of the year, and we can't wait to log some more miles! 


Winter Weather! 

It happened! 18 inches (give or take) of beautiful, wet, big flake, perfect packing snow. It was amazing. In Missouri, when we do get snow, it's often with frigid temperatures, meaning dry snow that's not good for anything. But this snow was perfect. The temperatures stayed in the 30's so it was perfect for playing outside. The boys built a fort, an igloo, and a snowman. There was also plenty of snowball throwing, and a trip to the park for sledding! I hope this is a snowfall they will never forget.

New Recipes
I tried several new recipes this month. Here are a few that I wrote about on the blog.
Peppermint Popcorn
Spinach Pear Salad
Easy Ranch Pretzels
Yogi Tea

And the links to some other recipes I tried, but didn't post.

Greek Layer Dip (perfect for watching playoff games!)
Broccoli Cheese Soup
Healthy Crockpot Potato Soup

Books/Movies

I finished a novel during the month of January. Shocking, I know. Shocking because I typically only read non-fiction. But I'm really trying to like fiction, and so I decided to start checking out novels from the library until I found one that stuck. And this one stuck! It only took me three books before I found one I could get through. I say all that to say that if you're also not a fan of fiction, then maybe you would also like this book. The main character has great inner dialogue, and the book is set in Maine, which is interesting. Also, her family is quite dysfunctional, which always makes for an interesting read. Check it out from the library, or buy it here. 


I took the boys to see The Boy Who Would be King. The boys gave it 2 thumbs up. I thought it was clever, and loved Merlin's character, but it is not a movie I'm dying to see again. The best part was being with these two.


Kylo
Oh my goodness. This dog has us wrapped around his paws in every way. He is so incredibly spoiled by every one of us. We are so lucky to have this fur baby as part of our family. He turned 2 this month on January 3rd, but he still seems like a giant puppy.


Family Selfies
I'm trying to take a family selfie every Sunday this year. Here's how we did for this month.


Thanks for reading! We are looking forward to the next month of adventures!