Monday, November 30, 2015

Teddy Therapy

{If there's a blogger award for crappy photos then, I WIN.  But people in my photos rarely cooperate and I have a story to tell, so I forge on...}
 The Girl came for a week during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Must. Read. Recipe.
She helped out by making a pumpkin pie, which, truth be told, was not up to her usual standards.  You see, she was fairly distracted... her new baby.  Meet Teddy!
 Most Spoiled Doggie Ever.
 He's a blur in most of my photos because he is always on the move.  For a shy dog, he really got around.  He followed her everywhere, and was very bonded with her, which is a good thing.  I guess.  I'm actually a cat person, so what do I know?
 He is quiet, well-behaved, sweet, and very shy.  According to The Girl, she was depressed and unhappy before she got her doggie.  I wish I had known that things were that rough on her, but it turns out she knew all along how to fix them..
And she is thrilled to bits with him.  He is keeping her sane and happy, which is good thing since she is on her own in the Big City.  It's hard navigating young adulthood on your own.  I'm happy that she has a sweet pup to help her through the rough times.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Day after turkey, 2015 - a picture says a lot..

Last year, it was a somewhat stressful Thanksgiving.  Yes, we were all healthy and together.  There was a lot of food, beautiful weather, games at the patio table, the firepit going.  Still, I was unable to do as much as I would have liked, due to recovering from knee surgery.  I sat down and made notes about how I wanted it to be different this year.  Adjusted my expectations.  Decided on doing things a little differently.   And, oh, what a difference a year makes.
Did I slog through mud at the tree farm all in the name of tradition to pick out the perfect tree?  NO.Did I cater to everyone else's tastes and requests when making out the menu? NO.  Did I get up and slave over homemade breakfasts?  NO.  However, I was the one doing the prep and cooking and washing up.  It was just easier that way.  And I did change the expectation that, once Thanksgiving is over, the house has to be decorated and ready for Christmas that minute.  This year, we got the trees up, and that's it.  Period.  The rest can wait until next week.  So, what does this pic say?  The house is reasonably clean, there is a pot of turkey soup on the stove, the tree that seems to get larger every year is decorated (as is the kids' tree) and mom hasn't lost her mind. She might be a little achy and out of sorts after walking 5 miles in the rain on Turkey Trot, but overall, the stress level here is much less than that of last year....that's fair start, no?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

6 thing Monday - yards, cast iron cooking, sweet potatoes, schtuff, cake, candles

I got a little off with 5 thing Friday, hence Monday being a tad different. Lately I have discovered that when I make a mistake on something it gnaws at me until I resolve it somehow. I'm funny that way.
The view from my front porch on a recent morning.  Everything is still green and beautiful.  The rain sure has helped the front yard.  The backyard is a grass-less wasteland.  So let's just focus on the front the Spring I will overhaul the back.
I've been using my cast iron pan more and more.  I roasted a pork tenderloin surrounded by chunks of pumpkin, garlic, and onion that was outta this world!  I also used it for my pan of cornbread. It's nice and seasoned now, so it cooks things beautifully.  Better than pyrex!
I bought some purple sweet potatoes from Trader Joe's then forgot to cook them, so I just baked them up one morning, thinking I would freeze them for Thanksgiving.  Then I peeled them and they were pale yellow.  Tasted the same and all, but I still bought more from HEB because they are ridiculously cheap this time of year.  We'll have the orange ones on Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean these will go to waste.  Sweet potatoes are my favorite thing ever.
 I "sold back" some PTO at work and bought myself a new purse for everyday.  I like tote styles as they can hold everything and generally have more pockets inside.
I also got some Converse.  Do they look silly on me?  Maybe.  However, they are wider than Keds and my toenail will not poke a hole through the top of the tennie; an annoying feature of Keds.  I think they still aren't right for wearing with certain things so I also ordered some black leather mocassins.  Happy Birthday month to me!
The middle of November is Radiologic Technology Week.  We got fed half to death at work, and I still managed to do well on my diet.  I made a cake for everyone on that Tuesday - I might have sampled it for breakfast.  Chocolate Cherry Fudge - it was the bomb.
Last year I couldn't get Hubby to cooperate and go get me the cinnamon pinecones I desperately needed wanted.  As soon as I saw them out at Michael's I grabbed a bag and made a little candle plate for the den.  Candles and this time of year just go together.  
Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dressing prep!

Every year I tweak the dressing recipe - sometimes fresh herbs, sometimes adding cream of chicken soup, etc.  I think it's fun to experiment a little, even with big family holiday meals.  You never know - you might hit on something everyone loves so much you don't want to to change it!  It so happens that in my family, the dressing is MY favorite thing.  So I pretty much get carte blanche making it, and it always gets rave reviews from Hubby.
 This year I decided to add sausage.  YUM.  Sausage is a genius add-in; it's already seasoned up with sage so it will make the dressing extra wonderful.  This was Jimmy Dean all natural pork sausage - smelled so good!
 I sauteed celery and onion in some butter and added dried herbs - thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley.  Salted and peppered it a little, too.  My measurements are never exact, but I would say I used about a teaspoon or less of each herb.  You can always add more, but once you add it, it's in there for good, knowwuttamean?  I also added the celery tops - I think they look and taste great.
I stirred the cooked and drained sausage into the cooked celery and onion, just to make it easier to mix it all in with the cornbread.  Then I added a little turkey stock to be sure the cornbread was nice and moist. 
Oh!  The cornbread!  Here is the recipe I used:
Simple Cornbread
2 c. cornmeal
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/8 c. sugar
2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
Grease a cast iron skillet and place it in the oven while you preheat it to 425.  Mix dry ingredients and set aside. Beat eggs and add to buttermilk.  Stir wet into dry, pour into hot cast iron skillet, bake for 30 minutes.
Once the cornbread was cooled, I crumbled it and tossed with the sausage/celery/onion mix. Then I carefully placed it into a big plastic container to freeze until next Thursday morning.  I will put it in a greased casserole dish after the turkey comes out of the oven, spoon some turkey drippings over it, and bake it for about 30-40 minutes while we carve the bird and make gravy.
Is it just me, or are you hungry for Thanksgiving, too?

P.S.  Happy Birthday to me tomorrow!  55 years young!  (:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Getting ready for the Refi

One day last week we had Camp Rustown appraised.  We are refinancing to get a better rate - still leaving the mortgage at 15 years, which is where we would have been anyway.  I talked Hubby into it.  He didn't feel like he had the mental energy or time to deal with it.  But I know the main work is getting all of the documents together, and since I am the one who files everything, that wasn't an impossible task.  And if we can skip the December payment, then have our payments lowered by $200 a month, then hot dog, let's DO IT.
The day of the appraisal I cleaned like a fiend.  I cannot have a stranger come into my home and take pics of a giant mess!  Plus, it needed to smell nicer, frankly.  And I have to say, last week this house was the cleanest it has been in months - inside and out.
I can only do so much on short notice - hopefully the deck in sad shape, the recently patched ceiling, the dying grass, the shifting driveway, and the bathroom floors that desperately need replacing won't mean we get appraised for lower than what we expect.  We have a lot of work ahead of us to get some things done around here.  But, isn't that always the case?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tiny trees - Christmas 2015 is on it's way!

I've been playing catch up on doctor and dentist appointments - time really got away from me this year.  So yesterday I finally got in to see the doc that did my last colonscopy.  The only days she could fit me in were either the day of the family portrait we set up, OR Christmas Eve.  No, that is not a typo.  So I went with Christmas Eve.  What?! We have already gotten everyone's schedules fiddled with for the portrait and I REALLY want that done.  Time to get started NOW on Christmas.
I wanted to get Firstborn and The Girl each a small tree for their apartment.  But little pre-lit trees are really expensive!  And I'm not sure they really have the space.  But stopping by Tarjay, lookee what I found in the Dollar Spot - perfect little trees and tiny ornaments.
I cut the ornaments tube clean in half.  Then I tossed the flimsy sparkly string they included (because its ridiculous) and fished my florist wire out of my craft stash.
I used the circumference of my finger as a guide, twisted the wire to close it and tucked the sharp edges in.
 A little hanger you will not be able to see once they decorate their tree.
 Then I put the all back into their tube halves and put a piece of tape on the ends. I had a couple of small bags, but a wine tote would work better.  If I find some between now and Thanksgiving I can switch them out.  Or maybe not...I have a lot to accomplish before Christmas Eve!
For $3.50 apiece a pretty easy and inexpensive little craft.  I hope these tiny trees will make them smile - perfect for their desk or kitchen counter.  I will send them home on Thanksgiving night - probably along with many leftovers!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Freezer Meals #14

I found some recipes I wanted to try for freezer meals this time around that I made minor changes to - using up some of what I already had on hand and substituting where I couldn't find certain things.  I cleaned out the freezer, made my list, and got to shopping!  An hour of assembly later and I had about 9 meals. Not bad! They're not diet meals, for sure, but highly adaptable if I don't load up my plate with the the potatoes, rice, and sauce.  But I will make those to go along with some of them because I have skinny people to feed here!
 The containers above are for thawing and cooking on the stovetop.

Pesto Chicken
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts with pesto sauce slathered over.  I will pop it into the skillet from frozen and gently cook til the chicken is tender, then serve with some pasta

BBQ Meatballs
I mixed up half a jar of Raspberry Chipotle Marinade with some ketchup and poured it over store bought meatballs.  I will gently simmer til meatballs are heated through and servce with a salad, and some mashed potatoes for the boys. (This is just another version of the old grape jelly/chili sauce combo everyone and God knows about)

Autumn Harvest Chicken
Same as the chicken above, but with Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest sauce and some chopped garlic.

Beef Barley Stew
Each gallon zip loc bag has:
1 1/2 pounds bonelss chuck roast, cut into cubes
4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cubes beef bouillon
1 bay leaf
1 t each dried thyme and rosemary
1/2 barley*
(7 cups water, added at time of cooking on low in crock pot for about 8 hours).
 I searched all over HEB for barley, and finally gave up and bought this.  I think it will work just fine!

Fiesta Chicken
I added 2 large chopped chicken breasts to the  big zip loc bag, then added:
McCormick's Fiesta Chicken Seasoning
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
half an onion, chopped
1/2 a large seeded jalapeno
a can of black beans
and some fresh chopped garlic
I'll probably add a little chicken broth and cook on the stove top til the chicken is tender, then make some rice to go with. But I could just as easily plop this into the crock pot.

Lime Shredded Pork from New Leaf Wellness
I used 2 pounds bonelss pork ribs, country style, well-trimmed of fat
the juice of two limes
1 T honey
1/2 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
Added all of it and poured over the meat in a gallon zip loc bag.
I will cook this in the crock from frozen for  6-8 hours.

Sweet Garlic Chicken
2 lb. chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 package Stir Fry Seasoning powder
2/3 c. pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. water
1 T cornstarch
I added all the ingredients to a big zip loc and will cook, from frozen 8 hours, in the crock pot.

The best for last!  We had this beef recipe a week ago, and Hubby could not stop talking about it.  Possibly his diet makes him think anything with gravy is from heaven.  I know the feeling...

Slow Cooker Roast and Gravy
2 lb. chuck roast
1 envelope onion soup mix
1/4 c. water
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 a carton of mushrooms, each cut into fourths
Place all in large zip loc and cook from frozen 8 hours.  Cut the roast into chucks and serve over mashed potatoes or rice.
Self control means there will be little sauce and no rice or mashed potatoes for me or Hubby...but we can still enjoy a delicious meal!

Friday, November 6, 2015

5 thing Friday - Halloween, friends, front door, chicken, not panicking

Throw back to a not-so-simple time:  With four kids under the age of 10, things here in 1999 was at stress level Britney 2007 (not my joke, but funny!)  Hubby and I sometimes didn't know whether we were coming or going.  But we sure did love our babies.
Darth Maul (9), Creepy Dad, Worried Baby (10 months), Devislishly Cute Girl (8), and a Birthday Boy Ninja (4). 
 Mango flavored cake mix made some colorful and interesting birthday cupcakes!
Scout turned 20 on Halloween - only one more teenager left at our house!  We celebrated with pizza and nachos and cupcakes and Dr. Pepper. 
And for fun they listened to very loud music and played Bean Boozled.  Nicest five 20-year-olds you'd ever want to meet. 
 Bubbie and his GF carved a pumpkin that literally rotted and dissolved in three days.  We had to scrap it from the bricks, then scrub them.  It was a good time to throw out my now-dead mums, too.
I priced crotons at Wally World ($12!), and decided to go check out Home Depot.  Where I found two lovely ones that were just the right size - $2 each.  Into my car they went!  Crotons are lovely Fall-colored plants.  No flowers to die.
I've lost 3.8 pounds as of today.  I know the slow and steady loss is the way to go, but it'll be the end of January to drop 20 at this rate!  I am trying to keep up my good habits, and eat more veggies and protein.  Borrowing a tip from The Girl, I cooked some thin chicken breasts that I can freeze and add to my lunches with a salad or other steamed veggie.
Firstborn has come over a couple of times since moving - no money in his budget for groceries and with his tiny fridge, no where to put them anyway.  I don't mind him eating here, and I can give him a haircut now and again.  And when he told me he is still having heartburn, and found a roach swimming in his toilet, I tried hard not to look like the CWM I feel.  I calmly bought him some Tums and some roach motels, 'cause what else can I do?  
Can we go back to 1999 now?


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