Crock Pot Chicken Masala

Back in 2007 I spent a month in India for a “HIV/AIDS and public health challenges” volunteer experience. It was absolutely amazing. We were completely immersed in the culture, which scared the crap out of me at first. I flew alone – for the first time alone and the first time ever on a plane for more than 3 hours. It was a 26 hour non-stop flight. I arrived at the Delhi airport, surrounded by a language I had never heard before (Hindi). My ride was no where to be found and I had no idea how to figure out how to contact him/her. Thankfully a half hour later I found them. And they didn’t speak English. They were employees of the NGO that my non-profit was affiliated with. They weren’t dressed very nice, but were nice to me. I couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical about the situation. Before we left the airport I tried to call my parents and J to let them know I arrived safely. My phone disconnected me 3 times and they were, of course, worried something happened to me. Thankfully it stayed connected long enough to hear I was OK and that they should call J to tell him I was safe. I then went with the two Indian men I had just met to an old van. Yes, one of those creepy vans without side windows. They loaded my luggage up for me and I sat alone in the backseat without a seat belt (because they don’t use those in India). I was honestly so scared that I might not make it through the night, but I knew I had to trust that everything would be fine. The ride was an experience I will never forget. It was my first glimpse into the chaos of Delhi driving. When we were at stop lights, children and women begged at our car (just like you may have seen on Slumdog Millionaire). I had never seen anything like this. We finally drove down a dark ally, my heart racing, and arrived at my hostel. The hostel keeper didn’t speak English, of course, and my two other travel partners hadn’t arrived yet, of course. The women at the hostel were very nice and helped me get settled into the room we (the 3 girls) would share. I was so scared and had no idea what was going to happen next. After I fell asleep there was a loud pounding at the door – it was my travel partners (but my mind went to the worst possible scenario, of course).


After that moment the trip improved greatly. One of the girls spoke Hindi, which made all the difference. Our experience was amazing. We were immersed into India. Working and living in conditions similar to those of the lower-middle class of India (which would be poor in the US). We worked with homeless children, men dying of HIV/AIDS who were disowned from their families, young boys who were already addicted to drugs, amputees who lost limbs from drug use, women who had been abused, and so many more amazing people. This was an experience I will never forget. I went from being scared to death of a country to not wanting to leave. I still hope to go back someday and experience India all over again.

loving her new glasses

A woman in Old Delhi who just was fitted for these new glasses

teaching English in the village

Teaching English in a Village

india-child in slums

A young boy in the slums of old Delhi

nutrition classes for eye healt

Nutrition classes in the slums of Old Delhi for eye health


During our time there we ate a lot of traditional Indian food. We usually ate whatever was prepared for the people we were serving, so there was tons of dal with rice and nann. We often ate with our hands. The food was absolutely delicious. I ate the best mango I have ever had in my life  – so ripe I could peel it with my hands. I fell in love with paneer and kheer (and probably put on a few pound because of it). Occasionally we’d venture out and eat at a local restaurant, which was always amazing. I only made the mistake of getting something too spicy once the entire month, was a pretty good success. 

thewhole group

Since being home, I have tried to make Indian dishes occasionally. The cumin, chai, cinnamon, and masala spices bring back memories instantly. A friend of mine made us Chicken Tikka Masala when I stayed with her in Madison a few months ago. It was so easy and SO delicious. I made this for J a few weeks ago and he loved it too. I served it with the very Indian side dish of green beans, haha, but it needed a vegetable! If I were doing it again I would add raisins to give it a touch of sweetness.

chicken masala

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
(unfortunately I don’t know the source of this recipe)


  • 1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 24-oz chicken breast or thighs (1.5 pounds)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or plain non-fat yogurt if you want a non-fat option)


  1. In a 4 or 6qt slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste, and masala. Place the chicken on top, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours).
  2. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber and cilantro with lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Prepare the rice before serving.
  4. Just before serving, stir the cream into the masala. Serve over rice with cucumber relish.

Tangled Twigs and Twine


In the midst of the craziness called life, I have taken up a new hobby. I should probably be studying to figure out how to save people’s lives, but instead, I am crafting. I guess even doctors need to take breaks once and a while.


For Christmas I made wire wrapped necklaces for a number of my friends any family. I was surprised how impressed they were with my “skills” and was told by a few I should consider selling them. I had a free weekend, brainstormed my plan, and decided to give it a try. And with that, Tangled Twigs and Twine was born.


The necklaces are all handmade by me – not someone I pay or someone overseas.

They are bird nests of beads wrapped in wire.

chain (2)

They come with 3 different size beads, with the final product measuring just under 1″ to about 1 1/4.”

They are sold with or without an 18″ 1mm chain.


My most favorite part of all is the packaging. The paper mache box is hand stamped with the cutest birds on a twig. The box is filled with “nest” material for the necklace to rest on. I hope you love them as much as I do. Please head over to my shop and take a look!

First Trimester Has Come and Gone

Last Thursday I wrapped up my first trimester and entered week 14 of pregnancy. Despite the less than pleasant effects of pregnancy, time has been flying by. Thankfully the last two days I’ve been feeling much better, with only an hour of nausea here and there. I think things are starting to look up 🙂 Here are some pictures of my progress:

(I decided I don’t need my belly floating around the internet, so I removed my “starting point” picture. Maybe I’ll have a before and after comparison next fall/winter)

week 8 (3)

Week 8

week 8 (1)

Week 8

week 10 (4)

Week 10

week 10 (5)

Week 10

week 12 (1)

Week 12

week 13 (4)

Week 13

week 14 (1)

Week 14

week 14 (5)

Week 14

Out with the Old, In with the New [Year]

I know, I know…..I’ve been a horrible blogger the last few months. Things have been so busy and blogging has been the last thing on my mind. I am living back home now (yeah!!) and spend my free time crafting and hanging out with J. The holidays added to the craziness, but now it’s a new year and it’s time to start fresh. No promises on how frequently I’ll post, but I do promise I’ll give it a valiant effort.

So what have I been up to? Here are just a few things:

I didn’t mention much about my first few rotations, so I’ll add a little about them here. First, I did a research elective in quality improvement and obesity research at the local Family Medicine residency clinic. It was a lot of fun and we made some great progress. We were awarded a grant to expand the project throughout this year, which was very exciting! My 2nd rotation took me to Milwaukee to practice psychiatry. It was a pretty fun rotation and I enjoyed the content, but it isn’t the specialty for me. My 3rd rotation brought my back to Madison where I did neurology. I loved neurology, especially the 2 weeks of inpatient stroke service I did. Neurologists always ask, “where is the lesion?” I love puzzles, which is what that felt like. Not, what caused this or what is the diagnosis, but where is the lesion – find that you then you can figure out the rest. Despite my interest, my exam was far from stellar (thank goodness for clinical grades). It is still on my possible specialty lists, but just not #1 now.

From the end of Sept through the rest of 3rd year, my rotations are a 40 min drive or less from our home (pending snow….). This has been such a blessing! My first rotation back home was OB/GYN. Going into the rotation I didn’t think it would be for me, but after a few weeks it really started to feel like a good fit. I loved the variety – surgical cases at 7 or 7:30 am, patients from 9/10 – 5, deliveries throughout the day, and a few 24-hour call shifts a month. I loved that the patients were a nice mix of young and healthy women for primary care, mothers-to-be, and older women with GYN concerns. OB/GYN seems like the perfect mix of primary care, specialty care, and procedures (in office, surgical, and deliveries). It would be a perfect fit for my nutrition background and would still allow me to practice preventive medicine. Newer studies are showing that the prime time to make a difference in childhood obesity prevention is with mothers looking to lose baby weight right after birth. They are the most motivated and they make the majority of food decisions in the household. If you can help them lose weight healthfully, they are more likely to continue those habits with their family into the future. They surgeries are great because they have a focused area of anatomy and rarely last more then 90 minutes. Many are minimally invasive and your patients go home the same day. Generally, women are very grateful for what you do as an OB/GYN – you bring their beautiful new baby into the world, catch and stop their cervical dysplasia before it becomes cancer, help them when things go south “down there” after 3 deliveries, and so much more. It seems like it would be a very rewarding field. So what’s the catch, right? The hours. My rotation site had amazing hours – four 10 hour days a week and only three 24-hour call shifts a month. I don’t think this is common in most practices. When I read about the specialty, most OB residents are described as crabby and miserable because of the hours. I am going to need to think long and hard about my ability to wake up at any hour to deliver a baby, or about my ability to stay awake for a 36+ hours straight on call nights.

After OB/GYN I had pediatrics. Not my cup of tea. I loved the kids, but the work itself just wasn’t for me. I won’t bore you with the details, but this has put a kink in my plans. I originally thought I’d be a family practice doctor. Well they see a lot of kids and if I don’t like peds, it probably isn’t going to work out well. Another downfall is that FM doesn’t do OB/GYN anymore. In theory and training they can, but in reality they don’t (at least not in WI). That being said,  my next rotation (which starts next Monday) is in Family Medicine and I am going to approach it with an open mind. After FM I have internal medicine and Surgery. And then 3rd year is done! It is crazy how fast the time is flying by. I need to pick my specialty in the next few months, so there will be more to come 🙂

House Projects
Finally, the house projects have settled. Last year we remodeled the entire kitchen (pictures here) and I had a number of building and decorating projects. We also had new flooring installed. At this point, all that is left is to sand and paint one last pocket door that has been out of sight and out of mind. We would like to remodel the basement to add to the resale value, but are torn about whether it is worth the cost. It is up in the air for now.

We recently took a trip to Washington DC, which was a ton of fun. We had never been there before, but were pleasantly surprised with how clean the city was and how easy it was to get around. We went right after Christmas and were a little worried about the weather but it turned out great. On our anniversary we had a balmy 55 degrees and sunny day. Two days later in WI the high was -2. Ick.

I have been spending way too much time on pinterest. Everyone got some type of crafted gift from me this year. There was jewelry, canned watermelon syrup, knit wool hats, sewn fabric flower barrettes, knit infinity scarves, decorated burlap wreaths, and a knit santa hat for Bailey. I posted a few pictures here if you’d like to take a look. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture of each item before I gifted it, so I will need to take some of them in their new homes and update later.

Bailey continues to age but is generally doing well. Her vision is quite bad and she gets confused sometimes (which usually results in hours of licking a pillow for no reason). She is still a happy dog and the vet said she sounds great, so she will have a number of good years left. Bandit is back to his mischievous self. He loved the Christmas tree (as always). I got one of his favorite toys out of storage and he has been going crazy with it. Here’s a video of him playing fetch (yes fetch, like a dog). If you like that, here’s a video from last year of him doing flips with his fish toy (similar to the toy he fetches) and here’s a video of him flipping onto my computer chair.

All in all, 2013 was a great year. We ate great, local food from our CSA and grass-fed cow. We finally figured out how to deal with the distance and then were able to live together again. We were productive (if you know me, that this is really probably what I wanted to put first b/c I’m kind of obsessed with productivity). I am looking forward to all of the good times to come in 2014 and hope my blogging itch continues so I can share them here as well.

New Flooring!

With going back to school the week after the floors were installed, I got a little behind on posting.  In a previous post I told you all about our floor dilemma. Once we found out we couldn’t get the wood floors we wanted, we picked out a new carpet in 30 minutes – probably the fastest decision ever made. We really like the new carpet. Seeing the wood in the entryway does make us wonder, “if only…” but overall we are happy with the results. We had the flooring installed by a Lowe’s contractor who did a great job and was extremely knowledgeable. I would definitely recommend him if you are in need for a flooring guy!

Listing PicturesBefore (listing picture —>)


Before (a year after we moved in shown below)




2013-08-10 17.07.10 2013-08-10 17.06.55 2013-08-10 17.06.27 2013-08-10 17.06.07

[Bailey in her usual spot, doing her usual activity. Oh the life of a 10 year old beagle…]

2013-08-10 17.06.41

Out with the Old [carpet]

carpet removal (5)Over the 4th of July weekend we decided to pull out the carpet and pad to prepare it for the need wood floors we purchased. We knew there was a weird ramp under the carpet because we discovered it once when we were walking in the living room. Since we discovered this “pre-demo” we thought there wouldn’t be any surprises with the carpet removal. Ha – if only…

carpet removal

After we removed the ramp we planned to remove the extra layer of subfloor in the hallway. We thought this would make the hallway and living room level. Logically, that would be the case, but as we know, the people who lived here before weren’t always logical.  We removed the subfloor in the living room to find out that the main subfloor in the hallway was still thicker than the subfloor in the living room. WTF?! Who puts two different layers of base subfloor in their house? To make things more interesting, the kitchen and bathroom still had an extra layer of subfloor on top.

carpet removal (3)carpet removal - 3 levels close-up






We were worried about this, so we had Tommy, our handy Lowe’s installer, stop by and let us know what he thought we should do. He confirmed that each of those pieces of subfloor were the main layers (i.e. it wasn’t that there was 2 pieces still in the hallwall). As we discussed the tri-level floor, he stopped mid-sentence and said he needed to get his level – he thought he felt a dip in the living room.

Fast-forward 15 minutes and we were no longer able to have wood floors (and the tri-level floor wasn’t the problem after all). Turns out the subfloor was warped badly and it would cost at least $1000 to bring it into tolerance in order for our engineered wood floors to be installed with a warranty. The wood we picked out was already a little too nice for the house, so we had to say goodbye to the wood floors and hello to carpet again.

We were pretty bummed because we had thought we’d be getting these nice new wood floors in 10 days. The upside to all of this is that we can still have wood in the entry way (a whole 24 sq ft…yeah) and the money we saved could pay for refinishing the bedroom floors to match the color we want for the house. In the end, this is all better [this is me trying to be optimistic].

Hardwood for Entry Way – Bruce 5-in W High Impact Walnut Locking Hardwood Flooring

Bruce 5-in W High Impact Walnut Locking Hardwood Flooring

Image from


Picture of the Floor Display

Carpet for the Living Room and Hallway – Stainmaster Active Family Exuberance Notably Textured Indoor Carpet

STAINMASTER Active Family Exuberance Notably Textured Indoor Carpet

Image from


Picture of the Floor Display

DIY Breakfast Nook Project

Last year I had the idea of putting in a breakfast nook. At this time, our kitchen remodeling was only a dream and we were skill managing with a mini-stove, about 4 feet of counter space, and no dishwasher. Fast-forward 1 year and we have a whole new kitchen! The idea of a breakfast nook was forgotten until more recently. We moved the table to where it would be with a bench and left it that way for a few weeks to see if we liked it. The positioning really opened up the kitchen, so we decided to go with it. The week after boards, I got started on the bench. J was a huge help when I needed and was great at stepping back and letting me build on my own when I wanted.

kitchen - window update 3

Kitchen Before the Bench

I debated about white vs. wood and open vs. closed for a the weeks when we had the table moved. Ultimately, we decided to do open since there is a vent and an outlet on the walls (and I didn’t want to have to build a duct or extend the outlet through the bench). We also decided on stained wood instead of white since the entire room is already basically white and white would show shoe prints.

We made the bench out of plywood, 1x2s, and decorative molding (it has a nice vine pattern). There were a few kinks along the way, but for the most part, it turned out how I wanted.  I stained it to match the cabinets, so now the only thing that is out-of-place is the table, which is a totally different color.

bench and quote 6bench and quote








The next step was to make the cushion. Given the custom size of the bench, I couldn’t buy a pre-made cushion for a decent price. I did find one at pottery barn for $89/each that would work, but I didn’t want to spend $180 on cushions. I looked at Jo-Ann fabrics and was surprised to see how much foam costs – $20/yd ?!? Then I looked at home decor fabric, so we had something a little stronger – another $20/yd?! These were with sale prices! Our bench is basically 5′ on one side and 5′ on the other side, so this was going to add up fast ($80 in foam…$160 in fabric, since the cushions need fabric on each side). Even with other sales/discounts I could find, it was easily going to cost over $100.

Then I found some individual chair foam cushions. While it wouldn’t be one uniform piece, I figured I could make it tight enough that you wouldn’t really notice. The $80 foam purchase became $22…much better. I cut the foam to size and laid it out on the bench.bench cushion prep

I made sure to number the pieces so that I wouldn’t mix anything up. I didn’t use a pattern for the bench cushions, but got ideas from here and here. I measured the pieces by laying the foam out on the fabric and folding it how I wanted. Not the official way to sew, but I’m OK with that. I opted to make 2 cushions instead of 1 L-shape, because it would be easier to remove the cushions to wash the fabric, if needed. I also decided to put velcro on the underside, so that the cushions could be easily removed (I really didn’t want to have to stuff them in from one end). While, I still wish I would have done piping, the pattern gives the bench enough character that is OK for now. While it worked ore-cushion, we are not keeping the table cloth on, since it clashes horribly (sorry for the hideous picture, haha).

bench cushion (2)

breakfast nook

DIY Pot Rack and Organization Center

I am not going to lie…I am pretty proud of this post. I have been wanting a pot rack and organization area for quite a long time. The pots were nested in each other in the cabinets on the long wall. The “organization center” was basically on 1/4 of the counter on the long wall. The pots were annoying to dig out of the cabinet and I had to move the organization center stuff around to get to the counter space. Add a big blank wall to the picture, and I basically saw that entire area in need of a major makeover. I had been looking at some ideas for a pot rack for some time and the week after boards I decided to make it happen. I am super excited to show you all something that I built on my own. J was quite impressed with my handiness.

First, I built a floating shelf for over the dog dish. The leftover boards were a tad too short, so I left a space to the right. I told J that I would make it work, but he wasn’t a believer (the engineer in him likes balance and completeness). After a few days it came to me and I made the gap an area to hang keys and the dog leash. I picked up the dry-erase calendar/magnet/cork board for 90% off at Micheal’s Craft Store…Originally $45, now only $5 (can I even get a printed calendar for $5?!). The picture is fuzzy, but the wood basically matches perfectly and the cork board and magnet are exactly what I wanted. The wooden stand is something I picked up at Hobby Lobby for 75% off. Basically this entire organization center cost $30.  organization areaAnd now for the glorious pot rack. This was also a cheap project. It is a pine 1x10x6′ board stained with the walnut stain we used for all the cabinets and trim in the house. Since pine is so porous, it only took 1 coat.  The brackets are 1x2s, mostly leftovers. I used 1″ conduit for the pipe (J cut it to size and smoothed the ends) and some pipe brackets to hold it in place. I put S-hooks for all the pots and pans.  The total cost was about $15, with S-hooks being the most expensive part.

pot rack3Ahhh look at that counter space! So much better 🙂

One pan was a little short and we wanted to balance things out, so I found some hardware (I’m sure it has a name but I don’t know it) that has an S-hook on one end and an eye on the other end. The S-hook attaches to the eye and voila, it is the right length. The end is adjustable, so we can change how low it hangs down. It works perfect. For the decor, I (again) wetn crazy at the clearance racks. The plates and bowls are part of our party dishes for when people over (which I got on 60% off at hobby lobby last winter). The flowers were all 80% off at Micheal’s for the end-of-the-season (because white and cream flowers have seasons?).  The glass jar and tipped flower-pot were 75% off as well. If I had to guess, the decor was $25 total (including the plates and bowls).

pot rack complete

Bigger Wallet, Smaller Waist

Here are some website I have found with great tips on eating well while staying on budget:

  • Eat Well for $36/wk with some tips from You.Beauty! Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost much. It just takes a little planning and strategy.
  • I hate that I buy canned beans. Dry beans are so cheap and simple to prepare. The problem is that it feels like such a task to soak them ahead of time. I usually forget and need the beans NOW. Thankfully, Ella at Naturalla Ella as some helpful tips on how to freeze those beans so they are ready when you need them!
  • Whenever we make soup, we do it in the crock pot (why work if you don’t have to) and we make so much that we can freeze over half. This saves us time and money. The Kitchn has some great tips to “Freeze First, Eat Second.”
  • Looking to try canning this year? Old Fashioned Families has some great tips on how to prepare for and can produce from your garden!
  • More Ella I seriously LOVE her blog. She has some great tips on canning you should check out. We plan to use some of these recipes in late summer when our tomatoes and cucumbers are going crazy!
  • Have you ever thought about feeding your family with your garden, but weren’t sure where to start? Becky at Your Modern Family has a great post with tips to get you started
  • Oh Ella…did I mention I love this blog? Oh yes, just a minute ago. Well, this post is great too. It has tons of tips for homemade staples and how to stock your pantry.
  • Last, but certainly not least – Mavis. She blogs at One Hundred Dollars a Month (yes, it is what you are thinking – she feeds her family with $100/mo) and has more tips and tricks than you could ever imagine. If you are ever looking for fresh-from-the-garden recipes, tips and tricks for gardening, or ways to save money, this blog should be your first stop. She also raises chickens and travels all over, so there really is never a dull post.