Saturday, December 12, 2015

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner(s)!

Did you know that you can buy an entire chicken at the grocery story for less than $6? Well, you can. And if you are willing to put up with a little home butchering, it can make enough food to last you almost a week. I bought a chicken last weekend for our Sunday meal, and used the last of it just yesterday. This is a huge help when you are trying to mitigate the expensive cost of meat in your grocery budget.

First, it needs a little work. I roasted the chicken for our weekend dinner, and I always butterfly it because it cooks faster that way. I'm not going to sugarcoat it--butterflying a chicken is kind of gross. Really gross, actually. But if you can overcome your squeamishness, it cooks great. There are a lot of great tutorials for doing this on YouTube, but here is how I did it. 
Step 1: Remove the giblets (the heart, neck, and gizzard). This is disgusting because you must reach into a dead animal and pull out its organs. But once they are out, you can throw them away, or use them to make giblet gravy! 

Here are the removed giblets. I know, yuck.

Step 2: Locate the tail and lift it up. Then, with kitchen scissors (or a knife, but seriously, scissors make it so much easier), cut down the length of the bird in a V shape, on either side of the spine. It will be a little hard, and will sound very crunchy. Brace yourself for that.

Step 3: Channel your favorite Game of Thrones character, and use your hands to rip the spine from the body. 

This is what it looks like when the spine has been removed. 

Step 4: Turn the chicken over so the spine hole is facing down. Again, channel a barbarian and use your hands to press downward, cracking the rest of the bones and flattening the chicken. Congratulations! The chicken is now butterflied.

Now you want to get the chicken ready to cook. So throw away all the gross stuff, put the chicken in a roasting pan, and then mix up some herb butter. I have used a mix of salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and herbs de Provence. 

When the butter is mixed, pat it all over the top of the chicken.

And put some under the skin also. Keeps it nice and moist! 

This is my chicken with butter smeared all over it. It will melt and coat everything and make the skin delicious as it roasts.

Then add some veggies. I added carrots, shallots, and a few heads of garlic. Yum! 

Roast the chicken at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. If you have it, use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a leg to make sure it's done. Or be like me and just cut into it with a knife to check the color. 

Serve it up with some mashed potatoes, and make sure you drizzle some chicken sauce from the bottom of the pan all over the top of everything! You have now completed Dinner #1! 

So the next night, we still had plenty of chicken leftover, so we decided to make chicken pot pie! I used Pioneer Woman's recipe, because let's be honest, the woman knows what she's doing. But here's the step by step: 

First cook some celery, onion, and carrot in a large pan. 

Add in the chicken! 

Add in chicken broth! 

Add in heavy cream! (I think PW calls for 1/2 & 1/2, but I'm more hardcore than that.)

Put a pie crust in a deep pie pan, and add the warm filing. (I used frozen Pillsbury crust and it worked just fine!) 

Add another pie crust to the top of the pie! Brush the whole top with egg wash to make sure it gets nice and golden brown! 

Again, bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes and this is how it comes out! 

Eat it all up! This was delicious, and the pie actually lasted us for two days! Dinner #2 (and #3) down! 

So by this point I didn't have a ton of chicken left, but it was still too much to justify throwing anything away. So for lunch one day I decided to make chicken salad. Yum! 

Start with what's left of the chicken, and shred it up real good! 

I added chopped pecans, green grapes, mayo w/ olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Just throw it all in the bowl. If you want to use walnuts, use walnuts. If you like purple grapes, use purple grapes. You can also use greek yogurt instead of mayo. 

Mix it all together with a fork! Definitely use a fork. It works better. 

Pile that chicken salad high on some whole wheat bread! No garnishes necessary (although, if you like fancy sandwiches you could always add lettuce). It's delicious! Also, I had enough chicken salad for two sandwiches so, BAM! Lunch two days in a row! 

And that is how I basically fed my family for a whole week using only one chicken. A chicken that cost me $5.25 at the grocery store. Was the initial butchering pretty gross? Yeah. But in the end it was totally worth it. Give it a try! 

How else do you like to use chicken? I like to also make Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Enchiladas, and Fried Chicken Tacos. You could use a home-roasted chicken for any of that stuff. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's World Teacher's Day!

It's World Teacher Day! A very important day. Education is something that I feel very passionately about, and while I try not to get too political on my blog, I do feel strongly that America does a disservice to its children by not providing them with quality education, and depriving teachers of resources and wages that they need to do their jobs.

Teachers are valuable for more than simply providing kids with information. Often, teachers in low-income communities are the only stable adult that children come in contact with. They are role models and encouragers and sounding boards and confidants. I personally can remember several teachers that had a huge impact on my life and taught me things that I really do use to this day. Without them, I can truly say I would not be who I am. 

So let's take this moment to celebrate the educators around the world and thank them for everything they do! Grammarly has provided this great infographic detailing some fun facts about teachers and education: 

World Teacher Day

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Fungus Among Us

Aren't they pretty? 
I love mushrooms. I think they are cute, and pretty, and fascinating. Before all this rain, I even bought a couple ceramic mushrooms to put in the flower bed because they make me think of the forest floor in a fairytale. Now that we’ve gotten so much moisture, though, we have tons of living mushrooms all over the garden!

The main garden. Carrots in front.

Speaking of the garden itself, it is nice and green, but having a little trouble actually growing because all the weather has kept temperatures cooler than they normally are this time of year. We haven’t gotten nearly as many spring blooms as we normally do, and all the tropical plants, like our passion flower vine and hibiscus and bird of paradise are enjoying the rain but not the cooler temps.

Yellow squash! 
Nevertheless, here is what is happening in the garden this year so far: carrots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, purple bell peppers, sweet jalapenos, zuchinni, land yellow squash. In the herb garden, we have sweet basil (ravaged by grasshoppers—we will have to replace some plants), cinnamon basil, peppermint, lavender, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and goji berries. I also have a blackberry bush and a strawberry bush. Oh, and we have pumpkins growing behind the back fence. Yay for homemade jack-o-lanterns!

Anyway, here is a roundup of the various fungi that are inhabiting our yard right now, and some more of our ever-present amphibious wildlife!

 These ones got a little beat up by the rain, but I like their funky shape. Oh, and for the record, I have no idea what any of these are actually called. I just think they're cute.

 More of the same. I love that one standalone on the right! Such a shiny cap!

 These weird mushrooms are called Bird's Nest. Because of the little eggs, see? These are literally everywhere in our yard right now. You can't walk without stepping on them. Crazy!

 Now this is a true fairytale mushroom. Look at that bright red cap! This probably means it is highly poisonous, but I just think it is beautiful, like a hookah-smoking caterpillar must secretly live there.

 These I love because they reminded me of those mushrooms from Fantasia that dance to the Nutcracker. Beautiful brown color and they all grow in these cute little clusters. I love them.

Bonus toad! He's so cute and fat because there are a ton of bugs in the garden because of all the rain. He and all his friends can stay as long as they want! Evie loves this toad. She says hi to him every time we are in the garden, and when we go back inside she yells, "Byyyye Toad! Love YOU!" She's a nature girl.
Snails. Not as welcome an addition, but snails and slugs come along with heavy rainfall, and I think they are just so pretty to look at. Look at that gorgeous shell! This guy was really happy to sit still and let me take pictures. Or maybe he was trying to run for his life—who knows? Snails are slow.

So that's what's happening in my yard right now. What do you love about nature? How is your garden growing this year? 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Am Afraid of Snakes

I am giving you some valuable information here. Snakes are my biggest fear. My second biggest fear is that upon discovering my biggest fear, people will pounce on it and send me snakes in the mail, or put them in my bed, or my car, or throw them in my face like David Bowie did to Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth.

So, the other day, when Norris was getting ready to go on a short trip, we were talking about all the critters in our yard. Normally I like all these critters. We have a bunch of toads (like, seriously, we have like 20 toads in our back yard—and that’s just the ones we can find. Toads freaking love us.) and a couple tree frogs, and some praying mantises, and snails, and a family of birds (dusky flycatchers—the babies all just flew away and I was very sad) that nested in our patio light fixture, and for a few days we had a raccoon living in one of our trees. We also have a couple of hawks (I mean two hawks that are in a committed relationship. We know they care about each other because they sit on the power line all day, debating whether they can actually carry off our giant cat, Tybalt, if they work together) and a family of cardinals, and a family of robins. We had a skink for a couple of years, but he was murdered in a duel with Tybalt and deposited in our bedroom as tribute. We promptly informed Tybalt that duels are not acceptable behavior in this household, so he killed a bluejay and left the feathers in strategic places to teach us a lesson—we never did find the body. Which just goes to show that cats really are the dominant species in this world.

Our baby birds! 
Anyway, as I was saying, we are very grateful for the rich ecosystem that is our backyard. It is a delightful way to get our daughter engaged with nature, and she loves it all. But with all the rain we have been getting, and with the knowledge that with rising water comes displaced snakes. This makes me apprehensive. So I said to Norris, “What if there’s a snake attack while you’re gone?” and he laughed at me. He said, “What, do you think they are all just outside the fence, waiting for you to be left alone so they can ambush the house?” And I replied, with as much dignity as anyone with a completely irrational phobia can muster, “Yes, actually, that is exactly what I think is going on. Usually you are my snake buffer. Remember that one time that big black snake got into the garage and you came and warned me not to go out there until you had relocated his lifeless form after heroically killing him to protect your family?”

(I need to interrupt myself here to mention that my husband and I are not really advocates of killing snakes. Especially Norris. We normally believe in relocation because snakes aren’t evil killing machines, they’re just super creepy and gross. But Norris thought this particular snake looked like it might be venomous, and in a fit of paternal rage, killed the snake before getting a good look at its eyes—the window to a snake’s venomous status. He was very sorry about it after the fact.)

After this point, Norris abruptly stopped discussing snakes with me and told me to just not go outside while he was gone.

Snake Watch continues. Please don’t send me snakes in the mail.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Truth About Miscarriage*

***This contains mildly graphic (but mostly just frank) descriptions of miscarriage. You have been warned. ***

I am going to say something that might make a lot of you uncomfortable. I recently miscarried. My second miscarriage in the last year. And I am talking about it because it seems like people generally feel very uncomfortable discussing this topic, and women often feel kind of ashamed to mention it, probably because it so obviously makes people uncomfortable. But I am going to repeat what the doctors told me: there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. It has nothing to do with anything you did or didn’t do. These things just happen—it’s part of the biological process. You wouldn’t want to keep an unviable fetus in your belly anyway.

The point being, miscarriage is something that is natural. It happens when for whatever reason, the cells that make up the beginning of what could be a baby are genetically imperfect, or mismatched, deformed, whatever. And it just doesn’t work out. So your body pulls the plug and starts over from scratch. Which, really, is pretty considerate of your body. The problem is that it hurts like hell—both physically and emotionally.

I think that people often don’t know how to respond when miscarriage gets mentioned, because it is just one of those tragic things that really has no correct response. I mean, what do you say? But also, I think people who haven’t had a miscarriage just kind of don’t understand exactly what it means (which is not their fault, and other than what I talk about here, I hope they remain ignorant of this forever—although I will probably resent them a little for having it so easy. But then I’ll feel guilty for that, because honestly, who wishes a miscarriage on someone? So I’ll smother the resentment and move on.).

SO. What I want to do is kind of open a dialogue about miscarriage. Because it happens, like, alot. And yet every woman I know who has had one thought she was the only one. Ladies, WE ARE NOT ALONE!

So here’s the deal:

Miscarriage hurts. A lot. And you know it’s coming. You start to see little bits of blood on your panties, and it’s worrying, but you think, well, implantation bleeding is a thing or  sometimes women spot their whole pregnancy and are fine or well, I just ran/had sex/did heavy lifting—sometimes that can cause minor bleeding. But as the flow gets heavier you just know something isn’t right.

And then one day you leave work a little early because you are cramping and nauseated, and you go home, and you lie on the couch, writhing in pain but afraid to take any medication in case there’s still a chance you could have a baby, and eventually you throw up so much and so hard that it just forces everything out of you. This will be humiliating and painful. Imagine, if you will, someone wearing a pair of spiked gloves grabbing your uterus and wringing it out like a sponge. (If you are male, you might imagine someone doing this to a comparably sensitive part of your body.) That is what miscarriage feels like. And because you are lying on the couch writhing in pain and dry heaving because there’s nothing left to throw up, blood will get everywhere. It will explode out of your body like a campy 80s slasher movie, messing up the couch, ruining your pajama pants, and sending you into hysterics that your husband does not know what to do about. And then, with a little help, you will be sitting on the toilet, still in pain, still crying, shaking with the exhaustion of the just-threw-up-so-hard-I-literally-hemorrhaged and staring down at a giant blood clot that would have eventually become a baby.

And then you know it’s over. And you enter into the worst part about miscarriage (because the first part wasn’t bad enough). The insult added to your injury.

You will go to the ER. They will give you fluids and draw your blood and do an ultrasound of your now empty uterus. They will confer, and then a doctor will come into the room and will tell you what you already know. And even he will have that look on his face that says, “I just don’t know how to approach this without being awkward.” And they will prescribe you medicine and tell you not to put anything in your vagina for a while and to avoid strenuous activity. And you will go to Walgreens with a hospital bracelet on your arm and wait for an hour to get these prescriptions filled, while still bleeding copiously onto a maxi pad. And it will hurt.

Then you will wake up the next morning and it will still hurt. And you will have to call your regular doctor and tell them, and schedule a follow-up appointment to make sure everything came out. And you will have to call and cancel your next ultrasound that was supposed to happen in just a few days. And everyone will sound very sympathetic and that will hurt too.

And then you will get bills. A ton of bills. Because of the expensive medication and all the doctor and ER visits, miscarriage is very pricey. I have spent about $2,000 in the last year to not have a baby. And every time a bill comes in the mail you will be reminded of what happened, and it will be like a little punch to the gut. But you will remind yourself that it will get better, and that you just have to take it day by day, and that it’s good it happened so early, because there are women who have to actually give birth to their dead babies, and that is SO MUCH WORSE than what you are going through. So you write the check on move on for the day.

You will be angry, and you will throw away the pajama pants you were wearing that night because they failed you, and are now unlucky. And you will eat a rare steak and clean the house vigorously and drink double espressos, because there’s no reason not to anymore. That will make you sad, but in a defiant way, and most of the time, that’s something you can live with. But your heart will break a little again when your husband watches you do these things and you know he doesn’t say anything because he knows exactly why you’re doing it and he feels your pain.

You start to think that you are getting along fine, that you have accepted that this has happened and that you need to move on with your life, and then two people on House Hunters will announce they are pregnant at the end of the show and suddenly you are sobbing into the glass of wine you are drinking because you can.  Because despite no longer being pregnant, you still have traces of pregnancy hormone in you, making you wildly emotional. It’s awesome.

And then, after it has taken 3-5 months for your menstrual cycle to get back on track, then you can start trying again. And hopefully, within a few months of trying, about half a year after the last miscarriage, when you have finally forgotten a little bit about what it was like, you will again pee on a stick and have it tell you that you are pregnant. And hopefully this time, you’ll stay that way.

So that’s probably why people don’t like to talk about it. But it’s there, it happens, and in my opinion, we have to deal with it, even though it’s sad. So here it is. Thanks for hanging in there.

*This was the truth for me, anyway. I know that my experience is my own. So please, if you feel comfortable, share your own thoughts and experience. This is a safe space.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Short and Sweet: @BeccaJCampbell Releases Constricted: A Flawed Series Short Story!

A Short Story Companion to the Flawed Series

Today is the release for Constricted, a brand new short story related to Becca J. Campbell’s Flawed series. This story coincides with the events in Empath (Flawed #1), and takes place in Logan's point of view. You'll need to read Empath first to thoroughly enjoy this story.

If you haven't already, download a free copy of Empath (links below). Read on to find out more about Constricted.

Constricted (A Flawed Short Story)

Constricted_CVR_SMLLogan’s secret has been exposed. When Jade—a beautiful student at the college where he teaches—discovered the truth, he spilled the whole repulsive story. Jade’s empathetic kindness flooded him with emotions he didn’t know he had and isn’t sure he wants to deal with.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to leave and let Jade be a whisper in his past. He can exit now and regain his anonymity, or he can risk everything to stay and face her again.

It’s not an easy choice, and when he’s about to decide, a woman from his past shows up, making his decision even more difficult.

What really happened when Logan disappeared during Empath? Find out in this short story companion piece to Flawed #1.

Get your copy now:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

iBooks | Kobo

Get Empath for Free

Empath eBook cover WEBSupernatural empathy isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. Anywhere she goes, Jade’s emotions are replaced by those of the people around her.

Jade grew up in a suburb of Colorado Springs, protected from other people by her parents. Now she faces college—and the world—with nothing to shield her from unwanted feelings.

When Cam, a classmate with a major crush on her, unintentionally hijacks her emotions, Jade struggles to keep from being carried away in feelings of attraction. When Ethan, a psychopath with a thirst for fear, fixates on her, the emotional impact could be lethal.

Caught in a deadly trap, Jade must untangle the emotions and find a way to use her empathic curse to overcome this killer or be overcome by him.

Empath is now FREE on most sales channels.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

More About Becca J. Campbell

IMG_9824 BW smallBecca J. Campbell writes New Adult (twenty-somethings) fiction that varies from Urban Fantasy to Thriller to Science Fiction. Her stories typically blend a taste of the fantastical with real-world settings and add a dash of romance for good measure.

She's always looking for a great speculative fiction read, and she holds a special place in her heart for any story that involves superpowers or time travel. Her passion is defying the limits of her own creativity.

Becca is also the co-creator of, where you can join a vibrant community and write a novel during June.

To join Becca’s writing journey and be notified when her next book is released, sign up for her author newsletter.

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