Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breast

Yum! This is my favorite dish to make when we have people over. It's easy to make ahead of time, economical, and tastes incredible. Plus, if it's nice out, you can stick your husband with the food on the grill and enjoy your company! (But I would never do that!- cough)

Anyway...for this you will need:

  • Chicken Breast (I usually wait until the frozen bags are BOGO and stock up)

  • A tub of Philly Onion and Chive cream cheese spread. (If you're cheap, you can buy the blocks and mash in your own onions and chives...but I had a coupon and they were on sale.)

  • One pound of bacon

  • Tin foil

If you're using frozen bags of chicken breast, you'll need to plan ahead. These need to thaw for a day or two.

I usually start by laying out "stations." It's easier and faster to do if everything is readily accessible. In addition, you're not continuously washing your hands between handling chicken and the tin foil box, etc. You'll need about 6-7 12" sheets of tin foil (look in your bag to see how many chicken breasts you have).

I apologize for the weird lighting in my kitchen.
The mid afternoon sun is really weird over here.

Use a shallow baking sheet, put 2 chicken breasts in a plastic bag, hammer flat.

I use kitchen sheers to cut off excess fat on the meat. Ugh, I hate chicken fat. Then, I put approx. 1 1/2- 2 TBSP of cream cheese on the chicken and spread it out a bit.

Roll up the chicken and wrap two pieces of bacon around it. Then, wrap in tin foil. (I wrap them Subway style- starting in a corner first and folding in the two outside corners to make a nice tight seal.

If you're freezing them, put all your chicken "balls" in a ziploc bag and freeze.

Cooking: If fresh- 350 for 40 min. If frozen - 350 for 1 hour.

Cost per serving: $1.84

Low Fat: You can go low fat by using turkey bacon and reduced fat cream cheese and add your own chives and onion to it.

Gluten Free: Use nitrate free gluten free bacon, natural cream cheese and mix in your own chives and onion. (Cost per serving: $2.65)

This is also a great and easy dinner to bring to people if they've just had a baby, moving, etc. I usually wrap up some baked potatoes in foil and show up with X amount of tin foil balls (1 for every person in their family). The baked potatoes need to cook at 350 for an hour too, so its a good match.

Aside: probably not a good idea to bring to someone who has just had bypass. ;)


Monday, September 28, 2009

Not Me! Monday

I took a small hiatus from Not Me! Monday, but since a few of my friends have commented on the lack of Not Me! Monday, I'll be happy to oblige. So, without further adieu:

I did not skip out on our family walk all week to gain a few moments of silence in the house. I am not ornery about my lack of "quiet time" now that Adam is in school, and Colin needs constant attention. I am not acutely aware that the only time I have to clean, cook and work are during Colin's nap times. I do not get super disappointed when Colin only sleeps for 45 minutes. I always put my need for exercise and quality family time over my own need for sanity. I would never skip out for peace and quiet.

I did not squeal with glee when I saw a shirt in the store that reminded me of my favorite baby outfit of Colin's. I did not finagle room in the budget to purchase said shirt- just for that reason. I would never do this! I do not dwell in the past, and only look forward to the future. I certainly do not put stock in material possessions to help me relive the time when my little one was a precious baby. Nope, not me! The following pictures do not exist next to each other:

I was not totally surprised by a third sneeze in the middle of the night. While normally a 2-sneezer, I did not (no, really, I didn't) realize a third was coming...and fail to cover my mouth. This was not the night Dave was sleeping on his back and without covers. He did not get a little sprinkle-o-Sandy in the middle of the night. He was not half awake in the first place, and proceed to thank me for being so generous with my germs. I have never felt so sexy. Dave does not now have a cold that he certainly does not blame me for.
My youngest is not totally obsessed with those single serving water bottle flavors. He does not hoard them when the pantry is unlocked. This morning, I did not realize that he had them, and is now able to open them. Molly did not have iced tea with lemon water for the last few hours before I realized this. I am always on alert to things that could potentially hurt my dog- especially with a toddler in the house. I would never neglect something as important as her water dish, something essential to my canines well-being. On the other hand, I am totally not laughing at having a caffeinated dog. She is so not totally crazy right now.
Ok, that's all I've got for this week. Although I do have more, I'm choosing to stop here due to 1) work, 2) the toddler running rampant in the house and 3) to save your retinas. (aren't I nice?!?!). If you'd like to read more Not Me! Mondays, go to this blog and see what everyone else has not been doing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Love Shack Update

One of the first questions that many (many, many) people ask Dave and I is,

"How's the house coming along?"

Yes, that seems to be the question of the century.
I realized that I am now very sick of this question.
And I've realized why.
Most people (you know, other than those that are debt free and purchasing things as they have cash and building in their "freetime" kind of most people) build a house in a matter of months.
Then they move in, live in a sea of boxes for a few weeks, and its done.
We're going on 4 1/2 years.
Yes, yes...I have rationalized it all in my head. We're debt free. We own this house. We have no mortgage. No payment! Yes, I love that fact about Dave and I. I really do realize that I am fortunate this way. But, on the other hand, this constant state of transition has really worn on me. I'm not a patient person by nature...(really, I'm not) so I think God is really trying to teach me a lesson in all this. So, I pray that he will hurry up and teach me so we can get it over with. Which is a laughable prayer- (Please hurry up and teach me about patience!).
So, now that I'm done with my pity party for one, let me strap on my smiley face and show you some updates on the Love Shack...shall we?
We're onto trim. Funny story (real quick), the delivery guy came with a truck, I wrote out a huge check for trim. (yes, huge- but then again, huge may be relative to you guys...but anything over $1500 is huge to me- heck, anything over $300 is huge to me- who am I kidding! But, I digress...)
The delivery driver backs his truck down to the garage- an amazing feat, by the way, but almost hits the garage...within an inch. So, my brain wanders "what if" and how would I tell Dave that some random truck driver banged into the garage...oye. But he didn't.
So, I run inside to tend to the boys and make sure Molly doesn't get out to jump all over him. Then he leaves. I'm excited to see what he left for us. I go outside, see the pile. The first thing out of my mouth is,
"THAT'S IT!?!?!?!"
Holy cow, trim is expensive!!!
So, the picture below is our pile o'trim. Looking at it now, it's absolutely beautiful wood. I know nothing about trim, so I totally let Dave pick out the design, wood species and grade of the trim.

And here's a little sneak peak of what Dave is doing with it.
The man never ceases to amaze me. He really is a talented carpenter.

I'll show you more when there's more to show. Right now, Dave is so busy with his work (praise God!) that he has no free time for anything. And if he takes time off to work on it, there's no money to save up for the next step (and, you know, basic living expenses). So, while our true goal was to be in the addition by Christmas, it's realistically looking like Easter next year.
Yes, yes...I know, more of that patience thing. :)
Thanks, guys for following our journey!
(and for your encouragement!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eight Years

Eight years ago....

...the engagement pictures had been taken and submitted to local newspapers

Eight years ago...

...I spent the morning with my ladies at the salon

...I slipped into the white dress that was perfect for me groom got dressed in a tux and watched a football game on tv

Eight years ago...

...we had 5 minutes of alone time before pictures started

(the most memorable 5 minutes ever)

...we smiled alot

Eight years ago...

...we did a lot of kissing for the camera

Eight years ago...

...we had the most adorable ringbearer and flower girl

...I told my father, "Thank you for everything and I love you."

Eight years ago...

...I walked up a long aisle to my groom surrounded by 12 awesome people

Eight years ago...

...we took a trolley ride to the beach and boardwalk for some fun pictures

Eight years ago...

...we had an awesome reception

...we were surrounded by 400 of our closest friends and family

...we danced

...and laughed

Eight years ago...

...I didn't have a clue at how much work a marriage is
...I didn't know I could love someone so much and want to strangle them at the same time
...I thought life would be easy and fairytale-esk
...I didn't know the working definition of the word "respect"
...I didn't know I could be more proud of him than I was at that moment

...I didn't know I could actually love him more than the moment I married him

Eight years ago...
...I knew I was marrying the man that God had made for me
...I knew I was the woman made for my husband
...I knew that regardless of what was in our future, God would bless us

...and He has.

Happy Anniversary, my love.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dear Minerva,

Do you remember this lady?

That's right. June Cleaver.

The epitome of the 50's housewife. She had it all. Wonderful, gainfully employed, husband. Great, albeit mischievous, boys who were always super eager to learn a valuable life's lesson. On top of it all, she maintained a flawless appearance and never got flour on her apron.

I almost hate to love her, and I'd love to hate her...but I can't.

Did you know that June Cleaver had a housekeeper?


Yes, the epitome of 50's housewife had a housekeeper.

(First of all, anyone remember what Ward did for a living?
I don't...but I'd like to think about a career change! Just kidding...(kind of))

Story time:

When Dave and I were first married...and adjusting to

perception vs. reality

we both used to say,

"He's no Brad Pit, and she's no June Clever"

Meaning, I crave romance (not that I put Brad Pitt in the same category as romance...actually, I really don't find him that attractive...but I digress..)

And, my husband craves a neat orderly house with dinner on the table-

emphasis on neat and orderly.

So, imagine m mouth agape when we were watching "Leave it to Beaver" one day, and Ward was surprised to see Minerva there that day. At which point, June sweetly said, "Well, I was having a hard time keeping up with the boys, so I told her to come three days a week instead of two."

Ward replied, "Oh, ok."

Nice, huh?!?!?

I was speechless. Dave was snickering- knowing I'd have a little fun with it all - since I was no June Cleaver...or Minerva.

Which brings me to the point I'm making with this post.

I really do not like housework. Really, I don't.

So, sometimes when I'm in the middle of housework- or just thinking doing it- I sometimes pretend to write a letter to Minerva explaining what needs to get done, how things could b done better (you know, like I'm not doing them...)etc.

Since I was folding about 3 weeks worth of laundry today, I thought I'd write a letter like this to her today.

Dear Minerva,

This morning I had only one pair of underwear in my drawer. While this usually isn't a problem, it was pair of maternity underwear that didn't make it into the box when it was packed. This gave me the option to wear it- or go without- a decision I will not disclose to you, but the question itself was unsatisfactory. In addition, Adam was left with few choices for school attire. He ended up wearing a red polo with dress pants- normally not too bad, but really did look like a Target associate.

While we're on the subject of dire laundry straits, I had the choice of drying myself off with either a washcloth or a hand towel after the shower this morning. I really do prefer using a bath towel. I am hopeful that I will have one to use tomorrow morning.

It is my understanding that you are washing clothes regularly, but not folding them and putting them away right away. What are you doing with them?'re putting them in a pile on the basement floor?!?! You know, I'm not too jazzed about that either. That floor isn't the cleanest in the first place. Also, sitting in a crumpled pile for two weeks isn't the most ideal way to keep our cotton tshirts wrinkle free. If you could fold them when they come out of the dryer, that would be preferred. That way we can also avoid scenes like this:

While I do understand that folding that much laundry does tend to make anyone's back hurt, and it is much easier to fold, sort and pile on the kitchen table, we do use that table to eat as a family. We were able to overlook this during lunch time when Colin and I could just have a picnic outside. However, family dinner time needs to be together and not in front of the television. Mr. Hop and I would appreciate it if you could start and finish this chore in one foul swoop.

Many thanks,

Mr. and Mrs. Hop

P.S. Mr. Hop only has one non-wrinkled shirt for church on Sunday. Could you please do some ironing on your next visit? Thanks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Old friend, new friend

Isn't it awesome when God reconnects you with an old friend?

Isn't it awesome when God connects you with a new friend?

Isn't is even MORE awesome when they're married to each other?!?!?

Since D. stopped working (for someone else) full time, he's sort of missed his fellow designers. Imagine my surprise when I ran into one of them at ICR (a place where we take our kiddos to taste test baby food and get paid for it). D. was jazzed when I told him that I saw his friend.

Then, K. and I got together on facebook, we put the plans in action to get our families together. First, they hosted us in July. We had a wonderful night, and I was so humbled by their hospitality when they made every effort to support my gluten-free diet. (Thanks, S, for wearing a path in the Costco aisles!) The boys loved seeing their daughter, A.- who has the most beautiful head of red hair. And I just loved being able to get to know K. (I'm so glad he brought her a carmel apple!)

Then, we had so much fun with them that we reciprocated at the Love Shack. While A. wasn't able to join us due to illness, fun was still had by all. It was nice to talk to them after the boys went to bed. I told K. that I would post the chicken dish that I made on the blog. (Which will be the next post- stay tuned!)

And despite the rain outside, we still had fun roasting marshmallows!

Thank goodness for gas ranges.

Thank goodness for good friends, both new and old.

By the way: #60. Have a friend or family member over for dinner. Done.

Note: "the list" the reason we invited them over- but crossing off a line item certainly is a bonus!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Homemade granola bars (and variations)

Many of you know that Adam is a VERY picky eater. And I think that's putting it mildly. So, when I had to start packing his lunch for all day kindergarten, I knew I needed a little proactive help in order to make sure he was not only eating what I packed, but also getting some nutrition at the same time.

This recipe is from a friend of mine. It's really easy to make, and easily adaptable for special diets! (In our house, we have g-free, and I am trying to do low sugar for Adam.) I'll write about the basic recipe, and add the variations/subsitiutions in parenthesis. I hope you like it as much as Adam does!!!

Basic Recipe:

4 1/2 cups oats (for g-free, make sure they're uncontaminated!)

1 cup all-purpose flour (for g-free, I used white rice flour 3/4 cup instead)

1/2 cup ground flax seed meal (not the seeds, use the meal! You don't digest seeds unless they're ground)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla extract (for g-free make sure its ALL natural!)

1/2 cup butter (do not use margarine- ever)

2/3 lite corn syrup

1/3 cup packed brown sugar (for low sugar, I used blue agave nectar- just under 1/4 cup instead)

2 TBSP locally grown honey (optional, but I found it to be necessary)

2 cups add-ins

adorable helpers :)

This recipe is EXTREMELY kid friendly to make since you don't need to heat anything on the stove top. It's easiest to pull out all the ingredients right away and start dumping.

*Tip: Since I have two kids, I brought out a 1 cup and 1/2 cup measurement. This way they each got 3 turns with the oats.

Mix everything (except add-ins) together in a bowl until thouroughly mixed. Try not to get any on the dog.
(dog being optional)

I allowed Adam to pick his add-ins. I gave him a choice of peanuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and coconut. I automatically took 1/2 cup peanuts, crushed them up and put them in- leaving 1 1/2 cups for his choices. He chose coconut and chocolate chips. I wasn't sure he would be jazzed seeing the coconut in the bars, so I only put 1/4 cup in- leaving the other 1 1/4 cup for chocolate chips. AFTER everything was said and done, he wanted the peanut butter chips in there too, so we put them on top while it was cooking and allowed them to melt into "frosting."

The blue agave nectar that I used really helped this get moist. The first time I made this, I did half sugar and half nectar. The second, I completely replaced the sugar. It actually turned out better without the sugar!

Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan.

Press mixture into pan.

* Tip: The harder you press it in, the less crumbly it will be in the lunch boxes.

Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes.

If you have a last minute add-in to use, you can put chips on top of the bars while they're cooling. After they were soft, we took a spoon and smeared them around. Adam loved doing this!

Let cool for 10 minutes, then cut into bars.



By the way- #53- Allow Adam to help me cook/bake something in the kitchen.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Five Question Friday

Ok, there's this blog I read, and every Friday she does Five Question Friday. While I try to keep my blog carnivals down to a minimum (I'm not carny...I've got all my teeth), I actually helped her choose some questions for this week. And they're fun questions too! So, this week, I'll give it a try. So, here goes!

If you want to participate, copy and paste the questions to your blog and answer them. To see my friend's blog to started it all, click here.

September 4th Questions:
1. The clothing outfit you remember from childhood and why?
2. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
3. What is your must have for Fall?
4. If money were no object, how many kiddos would you really have?
5. The best part of your birthing story (other than the beautiful child at the end).

Ok, my answers:
1. The clothing outfit you remember from childhood and why? When I was little, my mom used to sew a LOT of dresses for me. In kindergarten, I had a Strawberry Shortcake birthday. Loved it. Loved. it. My present from my mom and dad was a Strawberry Shortcake dress. It was my favorite of all time! I even had my school picture taken in it. If I had access to a scanner, I'd sooo scan the pic. I look totally cute. :)

2. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a teacher. Not sure if it was because my mom was a teacher or if I just liked being around other kids. But, then I went into college and realized I'm good with one or two kids, but not really a bunch of other people's kids for over 2-3 hours a day. So, there went that. Marketing was more my venue. While I do still feel urges to get into a classroom, I'll satisfy those by volunteering in my son's classroom once in a while.

3. What is your must have for Fall? Um, a jacket. I've been putting off purchasing a fall/spring jacket for some time now because there were other priorities in the budget. What have I been wearing? A hoodie. Yep...I'm sooo fashion forward, I know. Why now when I've been getting by? Well, somehow the hoodie now has bleach spots on longer acceptable for me to be out and about in it. Oh, wait...was this question supposed to be about fashion must haves? Well, practicality will have to do. I'm not really a fashion-must-have kind of girl.

4. If money were no object, how many kiddos would you really have?
Four. But money is an object. A big object. Two will do, and I'm so thankful for them.

5. The best part of your birthing story (other than the beautiful child at the end).
The part in the parenthesis, of course...but Colin's birth was significantly better than Adam's. Shorter, epidural worked, much smaller head, 2 pushes (as opposed to 2 hours). The funniest part (and grossest) of the story is when I was at a 10- ready to push. The nurse-in-training was checking me, and the trainer nurse followed up to make sure she was correct. She said, "Yea, she's at 10, +1 station, 100% effaced, bulging bag." Then she looks at me and says, "And you're about to have a contraction." Well, I already knew that...but she kept her hand in there checking me while the contraction came on- and my bag of water EXPLODED all over her. All.over.her. She said, "Oh sh**" Dave said (while snickering), "Dude...that was gross." I just laughed out loud...I was embarrassed, but there was nothing I could do- so I just laughed. and laughed. She left and had to change everything down to her shoes- and wash her chin and neck. She made it back into the room to see Colin born (only 5 minutes after the explosion!). The rest of my hospital stay, I was known to the nurses as "the one that got Stephanie."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sometimes my husband thinks he's Kevin Bacon...

So, despite my grumblings about going to a wedding a few weeks ago, I did really have some fun at the ghetto-fabulous* wedding. I got to see people that I haven't seen in some time, and had a chance to catch up with old friends. And I had a laugh or other's expense. Or perhaps I was laughing with them- yeah, that's it - they were just laughing on the inside.

Anyway, the collage below shows some great pics of the day. Dave - in his gangsta tux. (The white boutinneer really highlights the white in the wing-tips, don'tyathinksotoo?) My in my cute sundress... with blaring farmer's tan, all the guys sardined in at the front of the church (there were 11), new friends, old friends, and a really beautiful bride.

(you can click on the collage for a larger view)

*Really, we use ghetto-fabulous as a term of endearment, not judgement. Dave likes to reference his childhood neighborhood as the 'hood, and his friends as ghetto-rats. FYI: these boys grew up on 43rd. St. (really, not the ghetto), and deemed themselves the Four-tre posse'. I'm married to "Paperboy D." Yep...even as a child, the boy was a worker.

There's a story behind the video below. When I was just pregnant with Adam (and no one else knew yet), Dave and I went to a wedding. He took full advantage of knowing he had a designated driver that night. Full advantage. Anyway, the song Footloose came on...Dave decided he was Kevin Bacon. He went out there, and danced over the entire floor.


Then, his dad joined in. Then, his brother joined in. Then the other brother. I was a sight to behold. Four Hop men flailing their arms and legs awesomely dancing all over the floor.

People stopped and stared.

They gathered around the floor.

Yep...that kind of sight.

Anyway, now its a tradition of sorts. After a few drinks, the song gets played, and I stand on the side and cheer my Mr. Bacon on. This wedding was no exception.

This time I brought my camera...with the video option. :)

So, when I noticed the deejay struggling to play songs that everyone would dance to, I went to request THE song. He asked me if I knew of people who would dance. I told him that I could guarantee at least one.

So, I stood back, secured my spot on the side of the dance floor and pulled out the camera.

While Dave did have to fly solo that night without his wingmen (dad and brothers), we'd like to think that he did them proud.


I think I'm in love.
Just fyi- I do have his permission to publish it! But I'm kind of afraid that once people start razzing him (or the crazy groomsman who's macking on a bridesmaid) about his dancing skillz, he may ask me to take it down. So, get your views on while you can!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Zoo

There's a lot of different memberships in this area. Children's Museum, a botanical garden, and the zoo. There's others too- neighborhood associations, country clubs, fitness centers....yeah, we don't go to those. But, we decided that we would spring for one of the former mentioned ones. We figured, in the long run they would save us tons of money and always give us an outlet to do things on idle days.

So, we chose the zoo. We also chose the +1 membership which allows our family and one adult (plus unlimited children) to accompany us. Our local zoo is free. There's a larger zoo within an hour that gives a discount. This also gets us into some zoos across the country. Some friends of ours went on a "zoocation" this year. We may have to follow suit next year- it was a great idea!

Anyway, we started the "zoo season" by heading to Potter Park Zoo in Lansing with some friends. It was a cute little zoo (complete with baby camel!). The lion and tiger cages were nice. The aquarium left a little to be desired. All in all, the kids (and the moms) had a great time.

By the way, The List: #xx . Visit a zoo we've never been to before.

Then, we decided to share the wealth by inviting some friends to play at our local zoo with us for free.

Dave's cousin Sarah and her daughter Chloe (her mom came with us too)

Of course, every time we go, I get a picture of the brothers on the wooden train. :)

Then, we had a cousin day for the boys. My two sisters-in-law with their kids and my mother-in-law all had a day with each other at the zoo. The cousins play together so well- I was totally excited to get a picture of all 5 Hop cousins this day!
Then, our last hoorah of summer- we went to the zoo while Adam was in school. Colin and I met some friends from my small group bible study there- and even met a new friend in the meantime! The boys were all really close in age- it was fun to see them interact. Here's the three of them looking at the llamas. Colin is in the middle.

By the way: # xx. Invite three friends to the zoo.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There's a joke in Michigan that says, "Michigan has two seasons- hunting and construction."


Now that I'm driving Adam to and from school, and having to take a detour since my regular route is being tied up by stimulous spending (aka construction), this picture holds a new funny ha ha (grumble grumble) for me.