Italian Chicken, bread dip, hand pies, mmm.



So last night was clearly a sappy holiday, so i felt like trying to be a #goodwife and attempting to cook a meal for my dear husband. I also knew i was alone in the house for 2 hours, so i could photograph every step of the way.

I am 100% not a cook. I need step-by-step-by-step instructions. Your “Dash of Basil” does me no good. I need precise measurements. I like baking for that reason. So here we go: This is the part where I teach you how to cook Italian Chicken with bread sauce and hand pies.

First, thaw chicken. We used about 1 pound of meat and probably could have used half of it and had plenty. Prince Charming left this out for me in the morning so I could come home and be ready to go.


Italian Seasoning consists of:

Parsley- 3 tablespoons
Basil- 3 tablespoons
Garlic powder- 1 tsp
Rosemary-1 tsp
Onion Powder- 1 tsp
Oregano- 2.5 tsp
Thyme-1 tsp
Red pepper- .5 tsp
Black pepper- .25tsp

Or if you did like me and sifted through the entire cabinet only to find there is no thyme or rosemary, you can use pre-made italian seasoning, which i also didn’t know we had.img_0100 img_0102

For best results, lay chicken flat on surface and cover evenly with italian seasoning, salt & pepper, and garlic powder. Flip over and do the same to the other side. For even better results, do this in a bowl with the other items you will be eating, so they all get the same, even flavor.


This is where I went wrong.
Learning Point #1. Do not put veggies in at the same time as the raw meat. Raw meat will take much longer to cook than veggies, but hyperactive brain does not compute that.
I sprinkled some onion & garlic powder on the asparagus we ate, after cutting off the woody side.. which is the stalk side, so I learned. You can take about 3 inches off. I picked up each piece and just bent it til it snapped- it naturally breaks where it needs to usually. img_0107img_0109img_0110img_0112img_0111

A regular cooking time for this would be 4 hours on low in your crockpot, but we didn’t have all night- so I cranked it up to high and cooked it for about 2.5 hours. Only after realizing that it was on warm for 45 minutes, i think it would naturally only take 2 hours on high to cook properly.

Hand pies:

Cheat. Use the pre-made, store-bought pie crusts. It’s so simple. I bought them on my lunch for $2.99 and let them sit in my car to thaw out until I got home. It’s okay if they don’t fall out of the pan perfectly, you’re going to use a rolling pin on them to flatten them anyway 🙂

Don’t forget to preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

img_0114img_0113 img_0118img_0117img_0116

because it was Valentines Day, of course my hand pies were heart shaped. I used a heart cookie cutter that was about 3.5 inches wide. My two pie crusts made 4 hand pies and 4 leftover crust pieces that i brought to my coworker who loves pie crust, but not pie. I hate it all, so this works for me.img_0119

Just like cookies, rip the excess crust away from the cutter and roll back into a ball, then re-roll it and flatten to use again.img_0115

You’re supposed to use JAM for this but we only had jelly. i dont see the difference and PC didn’t mind. Take 1 generous scoop of jelly and put in the center of your heart. spread evenly, but dont get toooo close to the edge or you’ll have a sloppy jelly mess. But i guess that isn’t really a bad thing.


The fun part: take a second heart and place on top of the jelly covered heart. line them up and press to seal it shut around edges with fingers. (I usually skipped that step). Then grab a fork and add some detail to the edge. This really seals the jelly into place and also adds a fun and cute detail to the edges that makes it look like you spent a LOT of time on…… when really it takes about 1 minute per heart (if that).img_0121img_0123img_0125img_0126img_0127img_0128

To make your hand pies golden brown, do this simple trick.

Use 1 egg Learning point 2: 2 eggs is too many for this small amount of pies, even if they’re the tiny farm eggs. just. use. one.

Use 1 egg and add a tiny bit of water to it. Whisk until it is an even yellow and even consistency. Take this egg mix and cover your pies with it. I used a wadded up paper towel, you can use your hands, you can use a brush, whatever you need- just be sure to cover the entire surface so it is evenly brown.img_0129img_0131

The final touch: Icing.

This is so simple guys. Use about 3 tablespoons of milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar (depending on how much icing you like). Stir them together. They start to thicken and form an easy icing. It tastes SO GOOD. I had to try it, but can’t have any milk-based items, so i only got a little bit.img_0132img_0133img_0134img_0135img_0136img_0137

Pop these bad boys into the oven for 20-30 minutes and voila.



I attempted to make a bread oil, but we aren’t sure about it yet.
Take about 6 tablespoons of minced garlic
1 cup of extra virgin oil
3 tablespoons of basil
2-3 tablespoons of oregano
Parmesan cheese to top it.
Stir- yummy bread oil at your fingertips


Add some candy hearts as a pretty centerpiece. Complete with your husband’s favorite chocolate. img_0139img_0140

Decorate with the giant bouquet of flowers he got you.img_0141img_0142



(PC was home, I had to sneak final pics with my phone so he didnt think I was weird)


and, ok y’all. these are original images and i had a lot of fun taking them. you can use them, but please just give credit where it is due. these are images of my real life home and my real life messy kitchen and the flowers are the ones my husband chose just for me. these things mean something to me, so just take a second and don’t just steal my things 😀

New Years Check-In


We are one whole month into 2017, Happy February, y’all!


I thought that today would be as good a day as any to check in and check up on our “New Years Goals” we might have set a month ago. Some people have already chucked them out the window, some people are still going strong. I see you on my Instagram feed with your daily check-ins, I see you. As a hope for accountability, and since you are the only people who know my New Years’ goals, I’m going to check in each month and see how things have progressed! So here goes!

The StepMomma’s 2017 Goals:

  1. Decluttering
  2. Fixing up House A
  3. Fixing up House B
  4. Making healthier food and life choices
  5. Saving more moolah
  6. Paying off all debt (excluding student loans, mortgages)
  7. Weekly Bible Studies with the kiddos
  8. Reading my entire bible all the way through
  9. Hosting a Bible study in our home
  10. Becoming a DBA and LLC for my personal business
  11. More family time
  12. Learning to cook one decent meal for the family
  13. Only wearing jeans one day/week…
  14. Read more.

1. We have begun the “Decluttering” process. The kids are even in on it. They realized how much more space they will have in their room if they get rid of the things they don’t use, the clothes that don’t fit, things they don’t want. I try to encourage them that it will save them toys and clothes, because otherwise I will step foot into their room with a trash bag and they may need to pray to God for mercy on their toys. Motivation.
We’ve made at least 2 full trunk-loads of donations to The Salvation Army or to my sister, who loves my hand-me-up clothes. We have boxed more books, packaged up more items and finally stored away every piece of Christmas decor that we have. There is progress here.

4. This is always a struggle when your family is on a different schedule or mind set. I am actively trying to change our white breads to wheat or whole grain. To eat less processed food, to be more intentional about vegetables with every meal. Drinking more water. I drink at least 2 bottles of water at work every day (48 oz) and aim for 3.. but it gets tough, you pee a lot when you drink a lot. Luckily my desk is 5 feet from the Ladies room. Slow but steady.

5. We just emptied our savings and bought a new car, so this goal is more prevalent than ever. Our car has seen better days and it’s 100% necessary that we got a new one. The beauty here is that we had enough money to purchase one with our own cold, hard cash and didn’t take a loan for a pretty decent car. Now, we are actively trying to replenish the funds and begin saving more for our future home.

10. I have my DBA! It wasn’t as scary as I thought it’d be.

12. I’m trying. Monday night I made spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread and garlic green beans for Prince Charming and I. Spaghetti is something that I have been able to cook for years, but this week it was especially good. I think it’s because we used wheat noodles. PC doesn’t like “wheat substitutes” but he said he really couldn’t taste the difference this week. I’ll just take it as a win, either way.

13. Jeans one day/week? I think I’ve worn jeans one time this YEAR. I love lula forever.

14. Just finished Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love and am currently working on a book review for Jennie S. Allen’s Restless. Have a stack of books to get through, just don’t know where to start!

How are YOU doing with your goals?

New Years Progress


I’m not one for setting new years resolutions. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever committed to one for more than an entire week. If I’m going to change habits or do something new, I don’t need or want a new year to be the reason- I want it to be a real, prayed over, well-needed reason. My Prince Charming is the same way, except he conveniently is trying to eat better this week… I see you New Years Resolution, I see you hiding over there. I’m not downing anyone who sets these- I applaud you, really. I just don’t function that way. I don’t like to be told what to do and don’t really like to follow orders of any sort. I like doing things my way and on my own dime.

So instead of a New Years Resolution Post, I thought I would share some goals the Charming family might have for 2017 and beyond and may share if we have made any dents in them yet. So here you go!

The StepMomma’s 2017 Goals:

  1. Decluttering
  2. Fixing up House A
  3. Fixing up House B
  4. Making healthier food and life choices
  5. Saving more moolah
  6. Paying off all debt (excluding student loans, mortgages)
  7. Weekly Bible Studies with the kiddos
  8. Reading my entire bible all the way through
  9. Hosting a Bible study in our home
  10. Becoming a DBA and LLC for my personal business
  11. More family time
  12. Learning to cook one decent meal for the family
  13. Only wearing jeans one day/week…
  14. Read more.

Some of these are totally realistic. Totally attainable. Like for Goal 1, this weekend, Prince Charming went to a local store and raided their cardboard stash from behind the building and brought home probably 40 boxes- we filled every. single. one. We sorted through our office and got rid of all but enough to fill our hallway shelves. We boxed up all of our DVD’s except the family ones. We boxed up my cameras that are on display. We pitched not one but TWO old, rickety book shelves (and have one more to go!). We have a donation bag FULL of books, movies, clothes, etc. JUST FROM THIS WEEKEND. We rocked it. Hard. We formed an assembly line with the kids to get everything into storage- as we are trying to tidy, we are preparing to sell our house and decluttering is one of those things that New Home Buyers really appreciate. Lets just hope they don’t peek in the attic.

Doing weekly bible studies with the kiddos will be a challenge. 12 is uninterested and unconcerned with our faith and wants nothing to do with it. It’s a good thing he’s not the head of the household. Becoming a DBA is challenging just trying to follow the paperwork- I have it all in my purse right now, but I have to learn the language and really understand what they are asking me. I’m so excited for this to happen!

Number 13 is my favorite. If you’ve followed me, you know that I’m a leggings connoisseur and am slightly, mildly, wildly obsessed. I sort of -jokingly- said “I’m not wearing jeans in 2017” and I think I honestly could go 3 weeks without having to wear anything but leggings. But I wore them yesterday to prove to my boss that I still have real clothes, so 1 day/week isn’t bad 🙂 I also really want to read more. it’s been a goal of mine to read more once I graduated college and had more freedom in the books I read. I’ve been out of school since August and I’ve read 4 books and am now on my 5th- it feels so good.

I’m curious to learn if you and your family set goals together? Or if you do your own? Do you set goals at all? I love talking about upcoming plans and people bettering themselves. Leave your plans below!

The Christmas Update


Many of us celebrated Christmas this past weekend, and if we didn’t, we at least knew that the holiday happened. It’s one of my favorite holidays- everyone is always in a great mood, the kids are always so incredibly excited, we get to see our whole family and I get some quality time with my Prince Charming.

I love the feel of church on Sunday, even if I so desperately want to sleep in. The joy in the church body, even if it’s only 12 people. I love the excitement from the pastor and his urgency to share the message with us. I love the Christmas clothes and how dressy each family shows (while hubby and I show up in Jeans and a t-shirt…). I just love it. There is no better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than in His church. I hope you were able to experience His love in a new way this Christmas season.

On Friday, my work had their Christmas party- complete with a catered meal, a slideshow of completed 2016 projects, and a new-website viewing (tooting my horn here- I’m the work photographer, website builder, and I personally designed the gifts that were handed out). The owner gave us each gifts and shared his appreciation for the dedication each person has committed over the past year. It was really nice.

I helped to clean up the party and then I snuck out an hour or so early, in preparation for the chaos that would probably be prevalent at my house. Prince Charming took the day off to bake and clean, but I didn’t fully trust him to handle it all. I came home and the floors were sparkling, there were 6 bags of trash taken out, the chairs were all tucked in and the tree was glistening. It was beautiful. The kids helped out a lot.


We worked our way into the evening and the grandparents came over, all four kids and a couple girlfriends and boyfriends were there. We had 10 people in our house built for 3: we were crowded but we were full of laughs and lots of love. Sometimes our events can be hectic- the younger kids don’t see the older kids too often and they get overly excited to spend time with their big brother & sister. Sometimes 20 is too cool to hang out with us, so we are discouraged. Sometimes 17 is too clingy with her boyfriend and we want to kick him to the curb. Grandma & Grandpa can’t handle the kiddos running around combined with screaming and crying (who can?). But we all did fine. We all had so much fun. The boys didn’t want to leave when their mom wanted them to come home. They wanted to stay and play. My heart was full. I knew it was because of the fun games and the new bedroom comforters they received, but I didn’t care- we were more fun than mom’s house could ever be.

The rest of the weekend consisted of shuffling the boys around. They had 3 Christmas parties on Saturday and we had to pry them away from their cousins from out of state. As quickly as my heart was filled, it was just as easily deflated. They cried. They were mad that they had to come to my family’s party. They had to leave their cousins (even though they had 5 more visits SCHEDULED with them and we only see my family together 3 times in a year.) They were mad. Prince Charming had to make a point to thank them for coming with us even if they didn’t want to and I had to silently wipe away the tears that were forming while we headed to my brother’s. It’s hard. It hurts.

The day to day life is difficult because our emotions are pulled so far one way and then shoved so far in the other direction. It is a constant roller coaster, and let me tell you- I am terrified of heights. It reminds me of this one time when I was a kid and my sister & I were at Cedar Point. We were on the Junior Gemini, a kid’s ride. But again, terrified of heights. I cried, I held the bar in front of me with dear life. I screamed. The attendant comes over the PA system “Who wants to ride again?!” and I scream “NOT MEEEEEE! LET ME OUT!” and my sister covered my mouth and forced me to go again.

but sometimes that’s how it feels. I don’t want to go again. I can’t handle the ups and downs. I can’t do it anymore.

This weekend was no different- it just had heightened emotions, since it’s Christmas.

Sunday & Monday, my husband and I played the lazy card. hard. We woke up late and since it was Christmas day, there was no Sunday School or Coffee shops or children’s church to tend to. We just got to show up like normal church folk at 11am. It was so nice. And then we visited my in-laws (which consisted of cooking a frozen pizza and watching whatever movie was on tv.. and napping with 6 day old puppies.) and then we came home to watch hours more of movies. And we did the same thing on Monday. We woke up late and snuggled for a while and in the first 10 minutes we were out of our room, Seinfeld was on and we were laughing in our PJ’s with hot coffee and cold Coca-Cola (I’ll never be a coffee drinker). It was the best day. It was the best weekend. I’m so so grateful for these few days off.


and even better- We have next Monday off, too! 😀

and PS, Christmas Wish list  worked! I received a package of new LuLaRoe from a party I hosted with my favorite consultant, and I had 5 new pieces to get excited for. I also ordered some leggings from Poshmark that showed up this weekend (my unicorn!) and was overjoyed to receive them before Christmas! anyway, real gifts: My sister gave me a pair of leggings and an Irma top- which I’m obsessed with. My husband got me a “camera lover” Classic T and a new polka dot Irma. Check Lula off of my list


I also got the exact light set I shared with you guys PLUS some shipping envelopes- my hubby is all about me fulfilling my photography business dreams and it’s so encouraging when he helps to support my company.

He picked out his own Amber earrings for me (but they look oddly like the ones in the photo..) and I LOVE them. They match the necklace he brought me home from Poland a few years ago, when we had just started dating. It’s perfect.

I finally got “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and I’m so excited to dig in… once I finish the other 4 books I have to read first!

and I got a billion other things that I was blown away by. A new feather pillow for my broken neck, a new thermos and soft blanket from 20, desk accessories from 8 and 12, The Magnolia Story  and probably too many other things. This weekend was so so fun! They super spoiled me.

How did your family celebrate? Do you do the legal thing (moms get kids on even years, dads get kids on odd..etc)? Do you have your own agreement?

Making the Switch


There are times, like now, where the anxiety is high and the tensions are high- mainly because we are stressed about the upcoming holidays (okay, mainly it’s me that is stressed, but Prince Charming has to deal with it so..), and I cannot handle the general public. And it seeps into my daily life.


Yesterday, I had one of those miserable Christmas-shopping experiences. I waited in line for 12 minutes before it was my turn to pay for my $1.98 purchase (2 birthday cards, I couldn’t NOT get them or I’d have to go wait in line somewhere else). The cashier was very friendly, but that was the problem. She talked and talked and talked and I wanted to gouge her eyes out for not being more productive in her cashiering. (I’ve was a cashier for about 10 years, I can critique her skills.) She took so long, I was late coming back from my lunch. It irritated me- I am not a late person. My work was slow yesterday, so all I could do was stew about it and let my anxiety continue to brew.

By the time I have gathered the kiddos from their grandparents house and brought them home, I’ve been driving too long and my head hurts, it’s time for stepmomma to take a nap but we all know that can’t really happen. 8 and 12 are pure chaos. It’s the first day of Winter Break, after all. They fight and scream and 8 cries at least two times. Prince Charming isn’t home when he says he’ll be, there’s too many dishes and too much laundry and two very stinky dogs. Too much for a Wednesday. 8 gets sent to bed, 12 goes berzerk because this means that’ he’s locked out of his room! I still can’t take it and Prince Charming is still not home.

What do I do?!

It’s so hard for me to transition. To have weekends on with the kids and weekends off from them. My mind can’t handle it. Plus the holiday craziness e v e r y w h e r e  we go. My mind goes at a billion miles an hour. I can’t come home and unwind, like a normal person. I clean, I wash the dogs, I do laundry, pick up the garbage all of the littles leave behind, and then I finally sit down to finish a photo session I’ve been working on all month- it is unending.

Two hours later, 8 wakes up and comes to sit next to me on the couch. I know it’s because my blanket is the softest one in the house, but I pretend its because he wants to be by me. He actually scoots closer. He’s almost sitting on my lap. But I’m editing, so I can’t handle distractions and I look at him and say You’re too close. I can’t do this right now. and he moves. and I forget that that moment is what I have been striving for for TWO years. and I push him away over someone’s wedding photos (that will be finished 3 weeks ahead of schedule). Is it worth it? Is it worth making my business name a bigger name than my stepmomma name? Is it worth ignoring the chance to snuggle my boy because I am full of irritation and ready to snap?



But I don’t know how to switch from “Daily Life” to “Home Life” and I don’t know how to switch from “Newlywed couple” to “Parents.”

Christmas Wish List!


Just for fun, I thought I’d compile a small list of things that have caught my eye and could make their way into my closet with no sense of push back. 🙂
I love to shop, I go in spurts and right now I’m forcing myself to hide my debit card from myself and suggest items to my husband instead. You know. If I know what I want and send him links to it, maybe he’ll get me perfect Christmas gifts? (He’s actually really geat at gift-giving. He’s a big romancer.)
So anyway. Here it is:



I didn’t think to mark these items by letter or number, so just bare with me.

LulaRoe Carly Dress First, I love flowers. Love ’em. I love bright colors, except I’m typically a dark-color-wearing gal. But I love this dress. But lets be honest, if you’re buying me a Carly, I don’t really even care what it looks like. They fit so well, they’re extremely comfortable, super soft. I’ve never loved a dress more than the Carly I just got two weeks ago, so clearly I need it in every print available. Size Large please.

Fish eye lens As a wedding photographer, lenses will always be on my list. Fish eye is the next one I want to play with and this one is a cheap way for me to learn how to use it. Fit it to my Canon Rebels, please 🙂

Swing I really want this because it matches a hammock my dad gave me years ago. And it’d be great to sit on the porch and swing life away (Cue Rise Against song here)

Memory Cards Again, photographer. Always and forever will I need spares.

Ring Wrap My husband is so sweet and got me a brand new wedding ring on our wedding day and I love it. But it is just a solid ring and people think I’m 20 and engaged instead of 26 with a husband and a bunch of kids. I really want a wrap to complete it. This one is $600, they make them for $5 and I’d be happy with that. He doesn’t like this idea, but I’ll keep whining 🙂

Catan–  because CATAN!

Light Set – photographer problems here, guys.

Amber Earrings– Charming brought me back an amber necklace from Poland and I wear it every day, I just want some simple earrings to match it.

That’s it. Pretty much anyway. Really, we have everything we need. These are just huge wants. Things I could go without (except the Carly dress. I might actually die without it.)
I’m thinking about setting up a PO Box in case you guys want to pool your blogging dollars together to get your favorite step-mother a great gift this year!

Just kidding. Maybe.

What’s on your list? How does your family do gift-giving? Merry Christmas, y’all!


surviving the holidays with kids that aren’t mine.


It’s no secret that the holidays demand a lot of our time, even when we are singles without a spouse’s family to visit. The holidays have changed drastically for me in the last few years:

When we first started dating, the very first time we had spent any outside-of-church-time together was on Christmas Day. When I was single, I opened my home to anyone without a place to go. Or people who’s parties were over early. Or someone who wanted to help me be un-lonely. I didn’t cook (see Cranberry Relish in it’s Worst Form), I just offered board games and a friendly, well-heated space. Charming came. So did my gem of a friend and her husband (who have now become our closest friends, the parents to our God-daughter).

When Prince Charming and I were courting, the kids had already wiggled their way into my heart and I found myself wanting to spend the holidays with them. Knowing it wasn’t my place, knowing I had no leverage. But I desperately wanted to be around them. Lo-and-behold, Prince Charming to save the day with an invitation to the Charming Family Christmas! And I got to buy them things. I got to wrap their gifts and see their faces light up and have some excitement.

Our first Christmas as a married couple presented a lot of challenges: who’s traditions win? Who’s decorations go up? When do we even decorate? and the best one: WHO gets to put the topper on the tree?

This year, my challenge is: keeping my sanity while their mom tries to take Christmas eve from us. I put in my specially requested date MONTHS ago, and it was granted to us. Now, as life goes, the threat of having it taken away is real. She is on her high horse right now and is not backing down. It’s a struggle to have uncertainty in planning. It’s a struggle to think that my kids won’t be with me for our family party (not even on Christmas day). My heart hurts thinking about it.

You get it. You as a regular, biological parent understand the pain that comes with dropping off your kids to someone else each week, even if it’s their other biological parent. What you don’t get, that us steps do, is that we invest the exact same amount of effort. We exude the same amount of energy (if not more) into these kids. We pour out our entire beings into these kids, as if they were our own. And then we send them off and we’re discarded.


What you don’t get is spending hundreds of dollars on presents for your kids. Things that they have DREAMED over. Things that they will roll around on the floor in excitement for. Things that they actually want. What you don’t understand is how deeply the “thanks, DAD” hurts. (dad did not go shopping at 4am and wait outside in long lines for this special NERF gun. dad did not fight off other shoppers. dad did not wade through people in aisles, almost drowning, to pick out the right slippers for your kiddos.) What you don’t get is the crushing feeling of dropping them back off at their mom’s house, giant-long hugs and glowing faces for dad.. and barely a wave goodbye to thestepmomma.

I haven’t figured out how to survive the holidays yet. But I’m trying. We’re trying.

***disclaimer. no, hundreds of dollars won’t make the kids leap into my arms, i get that. i know material things are not the way to a kids heart. i know. but YOU know how much Christmas means and YOU know how much you hope that little gift will brighten your kids day, please don’t try to pin the materialistic label on me.***


So. I imagine that there are other steps like me who have these struggles. Who fear the holidays. Who are developing anxiety in places it never existed before and might, almost, potentially may be crippled by it before Christmas even appears. How do you do it? How do you make it? How do you wave goodbye and send them off and hope that they remember that your name was signed on the gift tag, too? Or that you were helpful in painting their bedroom that was just redone for them or that you painstakingly wrapped each present, with each kid in mind?

trees  drop off caution sign