Change

So, yeah. Change.

Here we are. Most of you know that we are undergoing some major life changes in our little family. Here’s the deal.

After years of the Knight telling me that ‘there is life outside the DC area’ and that ‘the rest of the country doesn’t plan their trips to Trader Joe’s around rush hour,’ I relented.

I grew up in the NY suburbs (Long Island). I have pretty much lived there and here (Northern VA). I don’t really know any different. Honestly, I love it here. We have a great life, wonderful friends, a comfortable home, and good jobs.

However, what is missing is balance. Frankly, I can never get enough time with Max, or Oli for that matter. I am proud of being a working mom. But for the past 2.5 years I have longed for something different.

We had talked about moving to Charleston for several years. We went down a couple of times and we like it but we weren’t wowed enough to make the move.

Along came Greenville. Oli is from what they call Upstate South Carolina. He grew up about 45 minutes to an hour from Greenville. His brother and sister-in-law live there. Coincidentally, back in 1999, I had a work assignment that took me to Greenville for an extended period of time. It was fine, but nothing to write home about.

So each time we visited Oli’s brother we would stick around the house. This past September we stayed longer and explored the area. The area has completely changed. There has been an amazing amount of development thanks to several large corporations moving to the city – BMW, Michelin, etc. Clemson has a satellite campus there. George Hincapie even moved there and opened a training center. 
So our tour went well, dtarting with the amazing four-story Children’s Museum. We were sold. Oli was shocked when I told him I could see us living there. The downtown area is amazing. For my DC friends, imagine a cross between Old Town and Bethesda, and throw in a river with water falls and beautiful parks and trails. The downtown has a wonderful mix of restaurants, shops, artist studios and green space. There are theaters, museums and a very nice library. There is even a minor league baseball park.

greenville map

Greenville is located in the northwest part of SC. They area is called the “upstate.” It is near the mountains.


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A view of the downtown from Falls Park. The pedestrian suspension bridge is even more striking in person.


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The heart of downtown

 

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Greenville skyline

Then I started researching home prices. Helllo!?! We can buy a house within walking distance of downtown for what you would buy a one-bedroom condo for here.

 

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Main Street (I don’t know how they got a picture with no cars or people)

 

It took us a while to get to the point of admitting that it was what we wanted to do. It was an extremely difficult decision for many reasons. However, knowing that we could have a fresh start and get out of the DC rat race was just too tempting to resist.

We are optimistic that once we get settled we will wonder why we waited so long. Greenville is a great little city with so much to offer. Our house is still on the market but we decided it is time to leave my job and start enjoying life. I’ve been very surprised by the mixed emotions I have been feeling this week. As much as I didn’t totally love my job, there are parts that I really like. My coworkers are all fantastic and I am really going to miss them. I did well in my 11+ years as a government lawyer but it is time to try something new.

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Liberty Bridge at night

What will that be? I don’t know exactly. And I kind of like that. I can do anything. The idea is to buy a house that we can afford without either of us working (we will live on the Knight’s retirement income). We are hoping to find a nice little home within walking distance of the thriving downtown area. Walkability is our priority, so we will have to resist looking at the houses that are farther out. As you might expect, you can get a lot more for your money when you go just a few miles away from downtown. We will see what we find.
Oli will continue his consulting gigs and when I am ready I will find something new to do. I am only half joking when I sai I want a job at Trader Joe’s. I think that would be great fun. More realistically, I am hoping to pursue my passions for running and healthy eating by helping others get fit and healthy. I recently became a certified running coach and I am going to explore some formal nutrition education to get some certifications in that arena.

On the way in to work I saw a powerball advertisement on the sign of the bus. I realized that every time I fantastize about winning (which isn’t going to happen since I never play) the first thing I think of is quitting my job. Well, here we are. I’m not going to lie. It feels really good to be released from the constant pressure of this job.

There are a million other things to say, but those are the basics. We are super happy to be able to do this.

Crock Pot Meal Plan Review: Honey Sesame Chicken

This recipe wasn’t the huge hit I was expecting, but still a good addition to the repertoire. I think it needs some kick. I will try adding more red pepper flakes or some sriracha next time. I’m giving it a solid four stars. This is very kid friendly and versatile.

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HONEY SESAME CHICKEN

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup honey
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Directions:

Toss meat, flour, salt & pepper into bag & toss together.  Add remaining ingredients & seal up bag. Once cooked garnish with scallions and serve over brown rice or quinoa.

Freezer Meals Tip

In the process of doing some research for my next round of freezer meals I came across a great tip. If you put the freezer bag in the refrigerator the night before it will be much easier to put in the crock pot. Check out http://whoneedsacape.com for lots of ideas, recipes and meal plans.

Crock Pot Meal Plan Review: Santa Fe Chicken

Another hit! This one is pretty straight forward.

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken
  • 8 ounces frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • t teaspoon pepper
  • 3 scallions chopped

Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning. Serve over rice. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream if desired.

***

I’m giving it 4 stars. A good, solid recipe. Really good flavor and sufficiently different from the other chicken recipes. I served it with quinoa and roasted vegetables. It would do well in tortillas.

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I think I cooked this on low for 8 hours and it was fine. It didn’t make as much as the other recipes so we didn’t freeze any. I had actually planned to use the leftovers to make soup but after two dinners there weren’t any. This could easily be doubled.

Crock Pot Meal Plan Review: Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

One word: Great!

I could use a lot more words, but that one works.

Five stars!!!
 

 

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Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

  • 3-4 chicken breasts/thighs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 10 oz. frozen corn
  • 1 taco seasoning packet [or 2 heaping tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with chilies

A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. [The recipe didn’t specify, but I assume you are supposed to cook it a little while longer at this point.] Serve with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese and/or sour cream.

Honestly, I am a little surprised by how much I liked it given my confessed lack of love for chicken. This turned out so well. Tons of flavor, a nice balance of food groups. Everyone in the house loved it.

I diced the chicken instead of shredding it.

So, here is the one thing that needs improvement. This is by far the biggest freezer bag we made. It turned out to be difficult to get in the crock pot in the frozen state. The lid barely closed (after a while it did go down but I worried about the heat loss so I cooked it an extra hour on low). I’m not sure what the solution is. Maybe I should defrost the bag in the sink with cool water for a little while. I am open to suggestions.

As usual, this made a ton and gave us enough for a few meals in addition to a bunch of containers for the freezer. Yum!

Crock Pot Meal Plan Recipe Review: Beef Barbacoa

Good news, recipe fans. This one is a keeper!

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Crock Pot Barbacoa

For the freezer bag:

  • 1.5-2 lbs Beef Rump Roast
  • (I used a different cut of beef that I can’t recall)

  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2-4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle peppers)
  • 1 container of chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours [These times don’t sound right to me.] Shred the meat (discard the bay leaf).

Then add:

  • 1 16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 12-16 ounces can green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cook 30-60 minutes longer on high.

 

The verdict? 4 stars

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This was really good. The beef came out tender and flavorful. The spice was just right. It was great with brown rice, in a burrito, and just served with a little cheese and avocado.

Next time, though, I think I would do things a little differently. I don’t see why you have to wait to add the second group of ingredients. I am planning to add the tomato sauce, chiles and spices at the beginning next time (for that matter, I think you can probably just throw everything in the freezer bag).

Hooray for another successful meal. We had enough for a few meals plus a a big container in the freezer. We are well stocked these days and it feels good!

Weekends

Everybody loves weekends. Right? What’s not to love?

It starts Friday morning for me. The excitment. I find myself chatting to Max about how it is finally Friday. “What does that mean, Max? Well, it means that tonight when Mommy comes home, she gets to be with you all the time until Monday morning.”

Friday morning’s commute is always the easiest of the week. It sets a great tone for the day.

There’s a farmers market near my office on Friday afternoons. I try to head down early to get the best selection. When quitting time comes I want to dance out of the office.

Honestly, I live for the weekends. I am so lucky to have a job. A good job. It is hard, but I am grateful for it. (At least that is what I keep reminding myself.)

That’s not to say that weekends are always a blast and filled with fun, puppy dogs and rainbows. Being with an infant 24/7 is hard work and can be exhausting. Hats off to my stay-at-home mom friends. I sometimes find myself looking forward to bedtime so I can have a break. But then 30 minutes later part of me wishes Max would wake up because I miss him. (No, I don’t feel that way about middle of the night wakeups, however.) I just want more cuddles and giggles.

Sunday nights are tough. After the little guy goes to sleep I have to stop myself from thinking about the work week. Instead, I focus on the tasks that must be completed to get ready. Here we are on Monday and I am already focused on the upcoming weekend.

Here’s to counting down to the next one.

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