When Living Simply Is Complicated

[ insert giant sigh here ]

Oh, friends.

I’ve shared a few times my love for sleep. How when I was younger, my family was afraid to rouse me from slumber, because it was like waking a bear from hibernation. Someone might die.

Then I had babies and didn’t sleep all that great for a while, but this past summer, Little Man finally started sleeping through the night! So my life was almost perfect again.

Until the wee hours of Monday morning.

A visitor decided to call on his friend around 2:30 in the morning. This visitor was carrying on lengthy conversations, and from all I could hear, it sounded like he was conversing with himself.

In the entrance of our apartment building.

If you’re wondering how I would even know someone was talking to themselves in the entrance of our building at 2:30 in the morning, I’ll let you in on a little secret: our bedroom wall is adjacent to the entrance. Because, #apartmentlife.

This visitor was out there for a long time, dropping many an f-bomb, and Mama Val was growing more and more irate. I pounded on the wall. No change. Brent went out to advise him to quiet down. It helped only barely.

The situation (allegedly) was he was supposed to be getting into someone’s apartment on 3rd floor, but the intercom was dialing straight to the person’s voicemail. Mr. Visitor was then leaving lengthy, profanity-laced threats on the voicemail message through the intercom.

Because that’s how you talk to your “Buddy” as he kept referring to him.

Folks.

If you’re trying to get into someone else’s home at 3 in the morning, and the intercom isn’t allowing their phone to ring to let you in, leave.

For nearly 90 minutes this guy left message after message on his “buddy”‘s voicemail. Let me just say, if that’s how he talks to his friends, I don’t want to know how he talks to people he doesn’t like. We called the cops; we have no idea if they ever arrived. The issue appeared to have resolved itself before any enforcement came. I was kind of looking forward to hearing a handcuffing scuffle, but no such luck.

I was preparing to go out and confront Mr. Buddy myself, but Hubs wouldn’t allow it. In my sleep-deprived state, it was most likely in the best interest of the safety of the visiting stranger.

After the great visitor debacle of 2017, I was wide awake, and so was hubs. Our day started before 3:00 a.m.

God forgive me, please, for what I’m about to say: I hate this apartment.

Our desire is, and has been, to live a simpler life. Get a home away from city limits, get our chickens and a rooster, grow our own food in the biggest garden we could manage, put my aprons to work while I can all the foods in between baking loaves of bread… The simpler life.

But it’s complicated.

It’s complicated because until we find the place that suits our needs and our budget, we’re stuck here. Stuck hearing everyone’s footsteps, conversations, f-bombs, no matter the time of day or night.

Stuck where our kids can’t just run outside and hop on their bikes, because people drive through the parking lot like it’s a Daytona track.

Stuck where I can only see to the east, and only the sliver of sky above the garage rooftops.

Stuck in a herd of people who forget they’re living with an entire herd of other people.

I adopted the #littleapartmentontheprairie tag last year in an effort to embrace our situation and make the best of it. Now… I’m so over it.

I don’t know what’s next for us. I don’t know if we’re staying local or uprooting and replanting hundreds of miles away. I’d love for there to be mountains in my near future.

All we want is the simple life.

But it’s complicated.

Yes, I’m complaining. Yes, I’m discontent. Tagging on to a conversation we had with friends this past weekend – discontent does not mean ungrateful! I’m thankful we have this place, and it has filled our needs from the time we moved in. We’re warm, we’re more organized than we were (as far as stuff and possessions go, because we’ve downsized so much), we’re on the first floor so at least the kids can run inside and not drive anyone beneath us crazy – – – we’re very grateful!

I’m not content to stay here, though. I don’t believe we were intended to rent forever, let alone in an apartment building. I don’t believe this is where God intends us to stay long-term. I believe my discontent is healthy, and motivating us to take those steps in faith to get out of here and move to where God DOES intend for us.

I only wish I knew right where that was, and it could have happened four days ago.

Deep breath. I have the aftermath of making fresh applesauce to clean up from, so I’d best get to it. I’m praying for the complicated to become clear, and for the simple to be achieved. May the #littleapartmentontheprairie tag rest in peace in our very near future.

How A Chicken Keeps You Sane

chicken

Many moons ago, someone submitted a survey suggesting I post recipes. Whoever you are, if you still read my blog today, this post is for you.

Really, it’s for anyone tired of cooking the same thing repeatedly, running out of creative ideas, and who doesn’t want to spend an entire Saturday bagging things up to put in the freezer so you can forget to thaw them in time to put them in a crock pot one day.

First, a story. Once upon a time, I tried to embrace our situation and make the most out of it. As much as I detest living in an apartment, I made a decision to make the best life possible here, now. That’s how the whole “Little Apartment On The Prairie” came about. Playing what you’re dealt and doing it without being a sourpuss is how Ma Ingalls spanked me into a big ol’ reality check.

Little Apartment on the Prairie isn’t just a cutsie hashtag phrase. It’s a reminder we still very much walk in the Lord’s blessing, He’s gotten us through a lot worse, and He has a plan for much better.

Now… what does that have to do with cooking? One thing I grow tired of is having to think of, prepare, then cook dinner every day. I love cooking, and I’m quite good at it (save for the time we invited friends over and I ruined it and had to go buy pizza…), but I don’t live to cook. Recently, I’ve been traveling, trying to get various family members over their illness bugs, and I’m flat out tired.

Previously, this would warrant a trip through the drive through, or to the frozen food section of the grocery store for a quick fix. That only makes us sicker and heavier, though, so I’ve stopped doing that. What I do instead is put my big girl panties on and cook.

It’s not as much of a headache as it was, though. I’ve learned some tricks and I’m going to share one with you today.

We all know how amazing the crock pot is. If I had room to store several, I would own several. Crock pots are so versatile and can be used in cooking, canning, reheating, making cider… I could easily have an entire crock pot kitchen. Not to mention they don’t put off near as much heat as an oven, and in the summer time, that does wonders for keeping your home’s interior cool. Don’t think you have to use a crock pot only for a roast or for something you’ve spent a whole day chopping and putting into a freezer bag.

Just this morning, I put a whole chicken in the crock pot. I cut up an onion, minced some garlic, seasoned the chicken with our favorite dry rub, put the lid on, and we’ll have dinner ready in a few hours.

But wait – there’s more!

I have four mouths to feed. Two of them don’t eat much at all, no matter how we plead with them. One whole chicken will feed us at least three times. But who wants to eat the same old chicken three nights in a row? No one. I can’t stand eating the same thing over and over. And I don’t have to.

Today, I roasted a whole chicken. We’ll most likely eat the legs and thighs for dinner tonight. Whatever we do, we’ll have plenty of chicken left over. I’ll be able to divide the leftovers in half and make two more meals.

Tomorrow, we’ll have chicken pot pie. The next night, we’ll have white chicken chili. We’ll have chicken three nights in a row, but different meals so we don’t get bored, and one $6 chicken just fed my family three times. (Don’t like those meals? Chicken and rice, chicken salad, chicken and pasta, bbq sandwiches… the possibilities are endless.)

But wait – THERE’S MORE!

The bones and carcass that will remain after I’ve stripped the chicken meat won’t go to waste. I’ll throw those into my stock pot and make my own broth.

One chicken. Three healthy, wholesome, home-cooked meals. Plenty of broth. $5.94.

You’re welcome.


Crock Pot Chicken:

  • 1 Whole Chicken, rinsed (and not frozen)
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Onion, coarsely sliced
  • Dry rub seasoning

Cut the onion garlic and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Carefully cover outside of chicken with dry rub. You may coat the inside as well, if you’re crazy about the flavor of your dry rub. Place on top of the onions and garlic. You don’t need to add additional liquid – the chicken will provide plenty. Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours (the longer and slower it cooks, the better the flavor and tenderness of the meat. You can cook it on high for 4 hours, but it probably won’t be the best chicken you’ve ever had.).

Chicken Pot Pie:

  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large chicken breast (or equivalent amount of meat), shredded or chopped to bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 – 2 c. chicken broth
  • pie crust(s)
  • ** you may include whatever veggies are your favorites. Potatoes, corn, peas, green beans, etc. all go well. Make it to suit your taste – you’re the one who’s going to be eating it! I’ve even used okra in a pot pie before!

I find it best to have the bottom pie shell already baked before filling the pie.

Sauté the celery, carrot, and onion in some butter (I use at least 1 Tbsp. of butter, you can use more or less) until tender. Add some of the chicken broth (enough to adequately cover) and simmer until broth has cooked down and veggies are nice and tender. Add chicken to pan, and whatever additional veggies you want to add to your pie. Add the rest of the chicken broth (and possibly some cream of tartar or cornmeal, if you want a slightly thicker gravy-sauce consistency) and simmer until heated through. Add your seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, etc.) to taste. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly (and allow the sauce to thicken). Pour into the baked pie crust, cover with second pie crust dough (or with mashed potatoes if you’re looking for more of a shepherd’s pie) and bake until top is browned (usually 10 – 15 minutes at 375* does the trick).

White Chicken Chili:

This recipe might drive you crazy if you’re a person who needs exact directions. This is really all about how you like to eat your food. I am NOT a spice person (in fact, I have severe reactions to spicy food, so I am the queen of mild flavor), therefore I won’t put chilies in my chili. Counterintuitive, I know… Season this to your liking, and feel free to experiment. You can even add non-white beans to white chili. SAY WHAT?! You heard it here first, folks. Make a meal you’ll eat with what you’ve got. Keep It Simple, Silly.

  • Whatever’s left of your chicken! – best if shredded
  • White beans (Navy, Great Northern, heck, throw some chickpeas in there!)
  • Seasonings & Spices (typically salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaves, chili peppers)
  • You’ve still got 1/4 of an onion to use – throw it in here, too!

Get your crock pot ready again, because you can get this ready in the morning and then forget about it until dinner time! It absolutely works on the stovetop as well, however, and you can bring everything to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer for a good 25 minutes or so.

Throw the beans and chicken in the pot. If your beans don’t have a lot of moisture, you’re going to want to add enough water to barely cover, and check on this throughout the day. If you prefer a soupy chili, add more water. If you prefer a thicker chili, only add liquid as needed. If you add bay leaves, make sure to remove them before serving.

You can cook this on low all day in the crockpot, or follow the cooking instructions listed above for the stovetop.

Little Apartment On The Prairie On Video!

#littleapartmentontheprairie

I’ve started a new thing. Well, new to me, and about 10+ years strong for every other internet guru out there.

I’ve got episodes of our life on YouTube! I thought The Little Apartment On The Prairie would be better suited brought to life by actual glimpses into our day-to-day.

So far, they’re not that interesting. But Little Man is adorable, so there’s that.

Soon, I hope to be bringing you more valuable content with what I do, why we’re in a little apartment on the prairie, what our dreams are, and how we’re going to make them happen – yadda yadda yadda.

For now, catch up! I’ve got four episodes posted, and I’ll be better about posting them here to the website, too.

I can CAN!

I can CAN!

I developed a new super power.

It’s called “canning”.

I sliced my thumb open with the corner of a peach pit, I burned my hand with the steam from the water bath canner, and I got so excited, I kept having to go back and re-do things because I would inadvertently skip a step. I also took a #crockpotselfie.

crockpotselfie

But then, somehow, I sealed 12 half-pints of fruit butter. When I heard the ping!-pop! of the lids, I felt like I could do anything.

I made the kids breakfast at 7:30 yesterday morning and I was in the kitchen until 5:00 last night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and the ever-loving fruit butter had me on my feet the entire day.

Was I tired when it was all said and done? Absolutely. But it was the kind of tired you feel when you’ve accomplished something of incredible significance. I was excited, I was empowered, and I was encouraged.

I’ve wanted to try canning for years. I kept browsing Amazon for canning equipment, but never pushed the “add to cart” button. Canning scared me. Giving people botulism isn’t what I wanted to be remembered for. I put the idea of canning on the shelf.

Until now.

Now, I’ve replaced the idea of canning with the products of it. Fruit butter. Beans. Peaches. I’ve got a list made up of what I’ll be getting from Farmer’s Market this weekend. I need to make salsa. Sauce. Jellies. Jams. I NEED TO CAN ALL THE FOODS.

A few days ago, our entire apartment smelled like a detox kitchen, because I was dehydrating kale. I made kale chips, people. And they’re tasty. They don’t hold dip, but they taste great.

I’m pretty much a food-preservation expert over here.

(Not even close, but I am learning so much and enjoying every single step of the process!)

So much of my life, I’ve told myself I can’t do various things. Things I really wanted to do, I talked myself out of doing. Things I wanted to try, I let the fear of failure keep me from even attempting.

I’ve missed out on so much because of daggum fear! Fear of canning food! Ma Ingalls slapped a freaking bear, and I’m himming and hawing over putting food in a jar.

SLAPPED. A. BEAR.

Now that I have canned – and succeeded – I regret not doing it sooner. I can make our own food for pennies on the dollar, it tastes great, I control what’s in it, and it looks so pretty in the glass jars! Even in making kale chips – I bought a giant bag of kale from Costco, and I still have only used just under half of it. (so. much. kale.) If I were to buy a bag of pre-made kale chips from the store, I’d be paying over $4 for a small snack bag. WHAT!

But look at me go!

It may not seem like a big deal to others. People have been canning and dehydrating for decades, after all. What’s all the excitement about pantry food?

I don’t know. I don’t have an eloquent answer for you. All I can tell you is I feel superhuman, and knowing I’m putting healthy, homemade food on the shelf for my family has filled me up. It’s fun and productive.

I think I’ll go knit myself a hero cape…

Patrick & Annette
Our dear friends, P & A, walking away with a prized product of Val’s Little Apartment On The Prairie canning success!