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Friday, November 10, 2017

In the Kitchen - Pumpkin Chili

It's finally fall in Southern California and one of the first recipes I make every time the weather cools down is this pumpkin chili adapted from a Trader Joe's recipe linked below.  We change up the ingredients to what we consider to be the healthier versions (grass fed beef and coconut sugar are the main two, but also making sure to buy organic veggies is important to us), and the result is always a creamy delicious fall meal.

We top this with some locally produced Greek Yogurt and a handful of fresh cilantro.  

Guys... seriously... try this one!  
Its delicious and warming and so. frickin. easy.

Ingredients

3 lbs. grass fed ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 can organic pumpkin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 jar chipotle salsa
1 container tomato & roasted red pepper soup (4 cups)
2 cans pinto beans, drained
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon cumin

Directions

In a large skillet, sauté onions and bell peppers in olive oil until onions are translucent and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. 

Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. 

Add in ground beef and continue sautéing until turkey is browned. 

Drain excess oil, then transfer mixture to a large (4 quart or more) sauce pan. 

Stir in tomatoes, pumpkin, beans, corn and spices. 

Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. 

Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


As usual, I failed at taking a picture, but that is all about to change!  I am hoping you will see a much more professional side to this blog very soon including a new header image and theme.  

When it pop's up will you let me know your thoughts?!  

Ok, happy weekend peeps!  


Original Recipe Found Here

Thursday, October 26, 2017

In the Garden - My Life as a Beginner Gardener


As I launch this new platform (Mrs. Roger's Neighborhood!) I want to give you insight into lots of different areas of my life, one of which would be our garden and all that it is.

I think the best way to learn to garden is to learn all you can through experts (books, videos, articles, etc...) then execute.  I had heard through many sources how important it is to trim off dead branches/leaves from plants in order to promote new growth, but I never actually did this.  I figured that the dead stuff would fall off on its own.  My husband had been doing his own research and found that in order to condition our soil in the backyard we needed ground cover, ideally mulch, for water retention and to bring nutrients back to the soil.  He covered our backyard (in a rather comical fashion) with mulch and we began to see it start to break down pretty quickly.  Our yard was so dry previously, but we also know the mulch takes time to condition the soil.  Patience is a virtue we are learning.

Recently, I noticed our tomato plants were not producing and that there was a ton of dead material on the plants.  I went through and removed as much as possible.  I pulled off dead leaves and trimmed off branches with no flowers or fruit on them.  Then Bill and I went out of town, and had a few people come over and water the garden.  Two weeks later, upon my return, imagine my surprise that it actually worked!  We had so much new growth in all kinds of different directions.  The combination of mulch to retain the water and trimming produced something magical.  It looks like we will get a second tomato harvest this year.  I wish I had pictures of before and after because it is pretty wild.  The above tomato is the biggest one we got all year and it hung alone on a plant that looked completely dead.  We will celebrate that tomatoes harvest and enjoy every last bit of it.

I could not help but in my mind draw the parallel to our lives.  We must trim away what is not serving us and leaching our energy and time in order to invest as best we can and provide the best fruit.  Sometimes the process is painful and long and requires multiple seasons of pruning, sometimes one quick snip can make all the difference.  I feel like this season of my life has required some pruning.  I've had to cut away a lot of what is not helping me to become who I want to be and what is taking my focus away from what really matters.  This process, for myself, has been long, but the reward is no longer struggling with anxiety and not over scheduling myself.  I am able to find rest and peace.  I am able to be more present and open with those around me and I have developed trust with the people in my circle.

And to think, all this came from some tomato plants.

Nature can teach us such incredible lessons if we just take the time to listen.





Monday, October 23, 2017

Other Neighborhoods - A B&B Night Together as a Family of 3

In between our time in New Jersey and Baltimore; Bill, Reagan and I took a night as a family of three and stayed at a B&B near Lancaster, PA.  Our time there was so sweet.  We bottlefed baby cows, checked out the massive milking operation, went through the chicken coop, got a tour from one of the dozens of kittens, greeted the goats and miniature horse and snuggled in our king sized bed and watched our favorite farming you tube show.













We were the only guests that night and didn't see anyone until we woke up in the morning for breakfast.  We got to enjoy the flurry of excitement that a working dairy farm holds.  Family and staff ate and lingered over coffee.  Cheesy potatoes, peach cobbler, fruit, bread, hot cocoa, super soft scrambled eggs, and so much laughter were being passed around.  People came and went discussing the plan for the day.  Rain softly fell outside.  Reagan happily took it all in.  The food pictured doesn't look like much, but everything was absolutely delicious (I just did a poor job taking pictures!).  

We loved every minute of our time there and the road trip that we got to take in between.  We felt refreshed when we arrived in Baltimore and more excited about our future life living on a farm (if we get our wish).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Other Neighborhoods - Our First Family Vacation


Before maternity leave wrapped up and I headed back to work, Bill and I went on our first family vacation.  We flew into Newark, New Jersey and headed to the Jersey shore where Bill's Aunt and Uncle have an incredible home in Ocean Grove.  I cannot believe this was my first visit to this wonderful little beach town.  A perfect mixture of bohemian and Victorian with a huge flea market to boot!  We spent a few days relaxing and then headed to their home inland soaking up the culture and hitting our favorite little cider stand right down the corner from their home.


After our time with Bill's side of the family we took a drive down to Baltimore for my Uncle Rob's wedding and to introduce Reagan to many more family members who had not yet met her.  The blissful reunion and introductions will be something I will not soon forget.  She met aunts and uncles and cousins, my best friend and her great grandmother.  We went to our favorite ice cream place, got time with precious friends and family, ate wonderful food together, had our first family dance (and Bill and Reagan's first father daughter dance), worked on a challenging puzzle and laughed so much.  It is hard to sum up our East Coast trips in words, but they are special and treasured and full of extraordinary moments.  

Every time we leave Baltimore we leave a piece of our hearts there, and this time was no different.  Our new niece was born just a few weeks after we left, and I cannot wait to get back so I can meet her and kiss her precious cheeks (I will introduce her on here sometime very soon).  Hoping to make that happen in February!  In the meantime, Facetime keeps us in touch with all these wonderful people and we are grateful for a world where distance is able to be crossed for special moments such as these.  



Monday, October 9, 2017

Special Newborn Moments Captured

When Bill and I found out we were having a baby back in September 2016, we opted to not find out the gender, and that ended up being a blissful surprise on the day of!  Our sweet baby daughter was born June 26, 2017 @ 5:02am weighing 7 pounds 7 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long.  To be honest, labor and delivery was the most wild experience of my life.  I did not know what my body was capable of until that day.  I still cannot believe this tiny person grew inside of me and then was pushed out of me... yes, a little graphic, but seriously the most incredible thing I have been a part of.   The process is long, but the reward is the sweetest.

These pictures are my favorite from her first few weeks of life.  What an incredible honor to be able to be at home with her while she discovered the world and learned about life and what it holds.














To my sweet daughter:

Reagan Marie Rogers, you have changed my world forever.  What can I say to encompass my feelings?  I love you to my deepest depths and as soon as you appeared I could no longer imagine life without you.  You are everything to me and I find so much joy in just watching you breathe.  Thank you for making me a momma.  I am forever grateful and will always remember these days together so fondly.


Friday, October 6, 2017

A Penny for Your Thoughts: On Wrapping Up Maternity Leave

I have been on maternity leave for 3 months now, and these have been some of the greatest months of my life.  I truly and without a doubt cannot imagine my life without this little person and that honestly blows my mind.  I love her with every fiber of my being and wish I could just sit and stare at her every day of my life.  I will do a little back tracking and tell you more about life thus far, share lots of pictures and tell my birth story when time permits.  

When I think about the emotional, physical and mental journey the last few months have been, I am overwhelmed.  I am completely changed and feel like it's impossible to really explain becoming a parent.  It's incredible and wonderful and exhausting and exhilarating.  I just feel so fortunate (because blessed somehow is played out in today's culture) to get to call this sweet person my daughter.  I want for nothing and constantly remind myself that this is my life and I really am living it.  I spend so much time just staring at her sweet face.  Sigh, what a blissful 3 months it has been.

As my maternity leave comes to a close, I have some thoughts I wanted to share (and I thought I would use pictures of Reagan to show them), but please bear with me, because this post just kept getting longer and longer as my thoughts poured out - apparently I have a lot to say on the subject!
  

1. I'm Tired.  

This is a different type of exhaustion.  I have been tired before from staying up all night and working double shifts, but what I didn't consider is that my body is producing the food to feed my baby.  This is an exhaustion from the deepest parts of me, and our little Reagan sleeps through the night!  I can't imagine if she didn't!  I always felt like people were exaggerating or being dramatic about new parenting exhaustion, but I can now attest that being a mom is absolutely exhausting and I get it.  Isn't it funny how you always think it will be different for you?

Is this tiredness worth it?  
100% yes.  
That little person just holds your heart.  
It's really so surreal.


2. There is NOTHING Better Than Newborn Snuggles

Y'all...  How did I not know?!  
This must be a drug.  
I feel insane about wanting to snuggle this baby.  
I had no idea how incredible baby snuggles were because I have always been too afraid to hold other people's newborn babies.  But there is a special magic in a tiny person holding so tightly to you.  I mean, honestly, what an incredible honor to get this little person's trust and to assist them in finding rest.  There is just nothing like it.



3. Family is EVERYTHING

This one has taken be by surprise.  I hoped and prayed I would love our little one as much as I do, but I had no idea how much my family would love her.  It has been so incredible for me to have every member of my family reach out excitedly to hold her and realize how much she will be loved throughout her life by the people surrounding her and already is... it brings me to tears to think about.

Our West Coast family brought us meals and gifts and spent time in our home letting us nap and shower when Reagan first arrived.  They always told us we were doing a great job and really encouraged us to keep resting and pushing through the hard moments.  I always felt like we were doing so well and was so encouraged by visits.   I underestimated how much I needed that support.

My mom came to visit for a few weeks after Reagan was born and she cleaned and cooked and took care of me both emotionally and practically, and it just meant the world to me to have her in my home caring for me in that way.

Bill and I got to take Reagan on a vacation to the East Coast where the majority of my family is and she got to meet so many friends and family.  I was amazed how many people encouraged us and told us how sweet she is.  Sharing her with those people in those places was so special.  Introducing her to my brothers and sister in laws and niece and nephew was amazing.  She got to meet her great grandma Wecker as well, which was a moment I cherished.  Every single minute spent with them was special to me and I am so glad we took the trip before my maternity leave ended and while she is so little.



4. I'm Confused on the Baby Haterade

I guess I should have seen this one coming.  Just like before I got married people were referencing "the ball and chain" and saying I will never feel freedom again, so many people said I will never sleep again and how exhausting babies are.  So much negativity really got me thinking maybe I needed to be more worried than I was.  However, I fought the tendency towards anxiety and chose peace.  Well I am here to announce that marriage is wonderful and having a baby in our home has also been an incredible experience.  

When something is hard, people always focus on the tough parts.  If someone were to ask me about becoming a parent, I wouldn't even bring up the long nights and crazy crying fits - I would talk about the first time Reagan made real eye contact with me.  I would talk about how when she gains weight it feels like a personal victory because my body is producing the food that sustains her.  I would talk about how incredible it is to see her smile at me and how wonderful it is to watch her sleep peacefully.  I would tell anyone that becoming a parent has changed my life for the best and that what I have learned has helped me understand the Lord better and myself better.  It has given me new purpose and brought me great joy.



More on momma life coming soon... I will definitely be sharing my favorite parenting and pregnancy books thus far, although I haven't used most of what I learned yet :)  You guys... I also have SO many pictures.  Brace yo selves.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Nursery Inspiration and Thoughts From an Almost Parent

As most of you know, Bill and I are expecting a little one at the end of this month, and I wanted to share how our gender neutral nursery turned out, since we don’t find out the gender until the big day!

I read a lot about making the space inspiring for you, since the baby has not developed their own likes and dislikes up front.  Make it somewhere you can stare at the walls and dream for them.  Make it a place you are excited about spending time in and, most importantly, get a very comfortable chair.  We made sure to do all of these things, and the space turned into something we both love.  I go in their daily dreaming about how it will begin to shape our little one into an animal, book and travel lover.  I can’t wait to meet them and see them begin to dream big dreams of seeing the world.



The gallery wall was inspired by many adventures Bill and I have been on together – Thailand, Hawaii, Italy, Seattle and New England all have pieces represented.  In addition, I snuck in some produce inspiration on that bulletin board because we both are passionate about produce and farm fresh health (One day we dream of living on a farm).  There are also a few images of places we haven’t adventured to, and I imagine our little family wandering the streets of in the future.   The giraffes and elephants are from my life shaping trip to Africa in college and the zebra and lion we stumbled upon in Target and thought they were the perfect whimsical addition to tie it all together.  Lastly, my wonderful sister in law gifted me the wood plank for the wall and I think it encapsulates such a resounding message… even though Bill and I have seen so much of the world together, this baby will no doubt, be our greatest adventure.  That little reminder will stick with me as I dream for our family and for them as an individual.  



I have been struck lately with the vast responsibility parenting is going to be, but also the amazing opportunity to care for another person and learn another facet of who the Lord is.  So often he is referenced as our father in the Bible, and without being a parent, can we really comprehend that love?  Maybe partially, but I always think first hand is best.  I believe phases of our lives are designed to bring us closer to Him and learn about sides of His being that we can have a taste of here on earth, and this just feels like such a wonderful opportunity to really grasp another part of God and another reality to lean into Him for.

All of the furniture in this room was gifted to us, which is such a blessing and something I am humbled by.  We also have a cradle that will go in our bedroom that we are borrowing.  And you guys, that brown dresser that looks like it is at least 30 years old is… it was Bill’s in his nursery… How AMAZING is that?!  Every single piece in this room brings my heart so much joy.  All those tiny books purchased by family and friends, the side table a dear friend gave us, the travel related posters, the framed picture with the excited grandparents and of course the ultra sound pictures.  I just can’t wait to begin this new chapter and bond with this sweet little love.  It’s gonna be wild and exhausting, but oh so worth it.


If I don’t pop on here for awhile (again) don’t be surprised.  Send up a prayer and send some wine my way… I am sure future me will appreciate that.  I am openly committing to limiting social media and thus the need/pull to compare my mothering to others.  I will reach out to friends and family rather than random internet strangers.  I will take my time and enjoy the moments, because I know they go by quickly.  And every time I am up in the middle of the night, and yes I mean every time, I will think of how deep the Lord’s love is for us. 

I’ll make sure to introduce our little one on here eventually!  
Love to each reader out there :)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Words of Affirmation and Parties in the Sunshine


Showers are such a special celebration.  All anticipation and excitement.  Lots of advice and gifts.  I really soaked up our baby showers that happened a few months ago and tried to remember these are the moments you hold dear.  When all your people rally around you in support and encouragement.  When you know life is about to change in ways you cannot even fathom.

We held a large shower at our home on a Saturday in April.  Tons of family and friends came through our house and enjoyed tacos and margaritas and brought so many gifts for baby my eyes welled up with tears multiple times.  Everywhere I turned people were laughing and chatting.  Neighbors mixed with family.  Friends from different circles collided.  It was so amazing to see so much bonding taking place in our home.  People offered to host the shower, but I selfishly wanted the memory where we live, because now when I look into our backyard, I think of our baby shower, and my 30th birthday party, Faith and Joshes 25th birthdays, Friendsgiving, Chase’s 30th Birthday, Mikaela’s bridal shower and all the times we have had people there.  Our home is special and as often as possible, I love to be the person who is hosting. 

When I woke up the next morning and everyone was gone and the cups and plates and balloons remained, I could not help but feel so happy.  So happy that so many people could feel hugged by our home.  So happy that I was able to enjoy time with so many wonderful friends.  SO happy to have sat on a blanket with women from different circles of my life and laugh together.  So happy my sweet dog was running around greeting everyone who came in the door.  So happy my husband loved showing people our home and the nursery (pictures of that will be posted on Thursday).  What an honor to host people and make them feel welcome, because in our home, they always are.








My sister’s and dear friend Mikaela threw me a small shower on a Friday night in Mikaela’s beautiful home.  They had a huge spread of delicious food and the small group of women spent time going around affirming things they saw in me that will make me a good mom.  Emotional? Yeah, you could say that.  It was humbling.  My sister’s bought me this beautiful flower crown with cream colored ribbons that fell down the back, and I just felt really beautiful.  Not in a conventional way, but in a soul touching way.  These women said the most amazing things to me, things that I could only hope people see in me.  I am so thrilled to have people such as them in my life.  People who get me and love me and know me and are encouraged as much by me as I am by them.  They gave me a beautiful journal with words from people who could not be there - my mom and best friends from home.  It is such a special keepsake and will continue to be where I write all about the beginnings of motherhood.

When we transitioned into prayer for me and baby and our little family my heart felt peace.  Peace that this baby was being born into such an incredible group that would love them no matter what.  Peace that the Lord already knows baby so deeply and they have not even emerged yet.  Peace that while I know this will be difficult and a transition, I will never be in it alone.  I left that night knowing my heart was understood and cared for, and who could ask for anything more?






Not sorry for the picture overload, because I could not limit these wonderful memories.  My lovely sister Faith took most of them, and these images alone are such a gift.  They are memories I will carry with me as our baby grows up and we learn more and more about what being a parent really is.  I can’t wait to tell you more about this lovely adventure ahead of me.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

And I Think to Myself, What a Wonderful World


Bill and I wanted to snag a little time away before I got too big to really enjoy it, so a couple months ago (when I was around 6 months pregnant), we headed about an hour away to downtown Redlands and then into the mountains for some fresh air and quiet time together.  This day was blissful.  We had no agenda and took it as it came.  We checked out Downtown Redlands for some breakfast and discovered a small farmers market and a great little downtown area with an outdoor book sale and Norm made a new labradoodle friend named Ziggy.  We found a crepe place and a quaint little ally set up with tables and beautiful murals to sit and enjoy our breakfast to-go.  We both agreed it was a great stop on our way to or from the local mountains.

Upon the recommendation of a local, we went to a smaller lake than we had originally planned.  This was one that we could walk all the way around, and when we got out of the car I felt some tension fall off my shoulders immediately.  Isn’t is crazy how sometimes all we need is a change of pace?  To breathe some fresh air and get away from the congestion and the day to day for a bit.  We soaked up every moment up there, and Norm was a very popular dog.  Everyone stopped us to say hello to him, and of course he loved all the attention.  Spending time in nature is something I am increasingly realizing is very important.  It is a spiritual connection as much as it is physical.  It reminds us how small we are and how great the landscape of the world is.  


 I wasn’t quite ready to leave in the afternoon, so we stopped at a coffee shop/outdoor patio spot (the identity of the place was a little lost – there was a tiki bar with taps that didn’t work but locals would just help themselves to a beer/wine fridge on the patio AND a coffee shop run by a mother/daughter combo) and listened to a local group of guys play some throwback rock n’ roll from their era.  It was like we stumbled into an episode of a small town sitcom.  Everyone knew each other and Bill and I thought it was hilarious and wonderful and the perfect way to end our day. 

When we headed home that evening I was at peace.  It reminded me to get out in nature more and take in different settings more often.  I can’t wait to go back to this little town again.  While my pictures of the day are limited, my memories are vivid.  I slept blissfully that night and look forward to many more days like it.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Rogers Family Garden Update: Summer Produce


I am not the best at taking lots of garden pictures as a progression (especially with Bill and I in them), but I generally catch a picture of the produce when it is on our counter drying from being washed off and harvested.  Over the last few months we have had tons of stuff come out of our garden and have been using it as creatively and frequently as possible.  Beets, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, Swiss chard, zucchini, cucumbers, berries, sage, dill and recently a jalapeno and a couple of tomatoes (we are about to have a surplus of tomatoes and peppers on our hands).

Over Memorial Day weekend we re-planted a good amount of our garden and as the weather warms up our garden seems to be signaling that is thrilled with the changes we have made.  Originally we had liners in the bottom of the beds, but what we realized is they were preventing the plants from growing deep roots and fruit and after ripping them out we have found much better results.  

Being nine months pregnant makes it difficult to help as much as I would like, but as I look forward to my fast approaching maternity leave I am reminded that I will be able to spend lots of time gardening with a sweet baby wrapped next to my chest.  Some of their first few months will be spent outdoors soaking in the smells of fresh produce and seeing firsthand what a backyard garden is all about, and that will be so glorious.

I love summer and all the fruits and veggies that come with it.  Looking forward to experimenting a little this year and coming up with some original recipes worth sharing on here.


Also, just FYI, if you want to follow the garden via Instagram it has it’s own account for reporting all our successes!  Follow: Growallthethings