Monday, January 30, 2017

What the week holds, and last minute cookies

I didn't used to be a procrastinator.  In fact, I was fairly organized on a daily basis, having all chickies in a row.  My friend, Carol, used to remark that she envied me that.  I don't know why - the woman is a teacher and I'm pretty sure she is as on top of things now as she was in college.  But I think having four kids forced me to get my act together in a lot of ways and that's a good thing.
Lately, though, I seem to put things off just a little longer.  No hurry.  We'll get there.  I knew a week ago that I would need a dessert for tonight's scout meeting, and what do you think I planned?  That's right - winging it.  I put it off.  I kept thinking, oh yeah - I'll think of something.
I came home from work yesterday and found half a bag of mini chocolate chips in the pantry and set them out to remind myself today that I needed to make cookies after work.  It just turned out that I had everything else I needed for these super simple cookies.  Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, soda, salt, vanilla, and chocolate chips.  I would be embarrassed to even post a recipe...
I used an ice cream scoop to make them over-sized, then covered a paper plate in foil to make a fancy serving dish to take to the meeting.  There is always So. Much. Food. at these things.  So, 11 jumbo cookies fresh from the oven is all I am taking!  And no one has to know it was a last minute deal.
This week, we celebrate Hubby's birthday, and I have a visit to my mother planned.  Other than that, all is calm...ahhh...January!  I might even finish up decluttering the kitchen!  What does your week look like?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Valentine mantel

I don't usually decorate up for "holidays" that happen between Christmas and Easter - mostly because after I get done putting up all things holiday I just want our home to stay "basic" through the rest of the winter.  But I had seen several cute Valentine ideas on Pinterest and I knew I had all of the supplies for a cute banner!
It took me about an hour to make and it brightens up the den - I am really pleased with how the vision in my head turned out just right!
I started with the rest of the wide burlap ribbon I had purchased from Michael's a couple of years ago.  I cut six equal lengths of it and ironed it flat.
Then I made a template of a heart from cardstock and cut out 6 hearts in assorted fabric scraps.  Some of the fabrics were flimsy, so I ironed some interfacing on those first.
I gave the top raw edges a zig zag, then folded down a casing and stitched it with a straight seam  - just wide enough for a small safety pin to fit through.
 Then I pinned and top stitched with zig-zag the hearts on the fronts. So easy. 
I also zig zag stitched along the bottoms of the burlap pieces to keep them from unraveling.  I threaded the jute string I had through the casings (with that small safety pin), then starched and ironed each burlap flag flat.

I still have command hooks on either end of the mantel, so it was easy to tie a small loop in the ends of the jute to hang the banner.  A small piece of extra burlap ribbon, tied with florist wire, hides the hooks.
And wah-la I was finished.  Six is our lucky number!  I love that the hearts aren't all pink or red - I will leave them up until the end of February.
I added a few red touches up top - the glitter heart picks are from the Dollar Spot at Target from years ago.
So sweet!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday Menus #4 and make it up as you go along

I actually enjoy grocery shopping.  I have a fairly organized list and I pretty much follow it, though I won't say I stick to it 100%.  A lot of times, a new item, or one that's on sale, will catch my eye and I will think "I can use that later even though it doesn't fit into the menu this go-round".  Such was the case with this sauce I bought about a month ago:
I'm going to devise a pasta dish with boneless chicken thighs, pasta, and some fresh grated cheese.  No recipe - I'm just going to wing it!

Wednesday - Crock pot of beans with last of the ham from Christmas!
Thursday - Chicken Tacos (this keeps getting bumped but I am determined to make it!)
Friday - Italian Wedding Soup, hot rolls
Saturday - Dad grills
Sunday - Crock Pot Roast with onions and mushrooms, freezer mashed potatoes, salad
Monday - Smokey Pumpkin and Chipotle Chicken Thighs, pasta, salad
Tuesday - Hamburger SOS on toast, green beans
I think the main reason I cannot subscribe to those grocery services where you place an order then drive through for pick-up is that I need to SEE the item I am buying as it goes into my cart.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but how else is there to buy produce?  Also, HEB and any other place I buy food frequently has food marked down - I love shopping at Super Target for this very reason.  Grocery stores only have so much room for stock and if an item is deemed seasonal, it gets marked down as soon as the retail calendar says that holiday is over.  Plus,  there is always something I spy in the store that I forgot to add to my list.  Last week it was toilet paper - a pretty crucial item.  What about you?  Do you enjoy grocery shopping?

Monday, January 23, 2017

What the week holds and dinner at Bell Springs

On Saturday I got off a few hours early so Hubby and I could go to a New Year's Supper Club Dinner at Bell Springs.  Food was by Jobell Cafe and Bistro.  And the wine flowed.
Once we settled in, I took a grand total of ONE pic.  We had a great time, though.  The owner of the restaurant came over and introduced himself and told us about the inspiration behind the food; which was wonderful, by the way.  There was a Split Pea Soup with mint creme, Duck Bruschetta with almond pesto and a balsamic reduction, Pecan-crusted Rainbow Trout with wild rice and asparagus, and a mini Bundt carrot cake.  Our table mates were very personable, and included the winery owner.  I tried several new wines I really enjoyed, including the Symphony white and a fabulous malbec. 
The next day I slept in, then Hubby took Bubbie and I to Joe's Mexican Bakery for breakfast.  I lay on the couch for a while, listening to my quiet Sunday house and admiring the beautiful outside...then I had to get up and be at work by 1 p.m.  Boo, hiss.  I am looking forward to more weekends spent doing weekend things!  This week, Bubbie orders cap and gown and graduation announcements (!!!), and Hubby will be in San Antonio for two days.  And that's it - no crazy schedule here for my days off, and that's just how I like it!  What does your week look like? 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Brisket Chili Crock Pot - Firstborn's Birthday Meal

If you are fortunate enough to have leftover brisket to make chili out of, like they do at Pok-E-Jo's, you can make some darn good chili. (If not, just go buy a brisket at HEB like I did - it's not cheap, but it made a wonderful birthday dinner for Firstborn!) Carol and I had it at Sidecar when we went to a wine pick-up party.  It's one of my favorite things and I knew I had to make it for him. 
 This is the brisket I used - it made enough chili to feed 12 people!

Brisket Chili
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2T chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 t. oregano
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can kidney beans, drained
1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained
1 8 oz can tomato sauce (not pictured)
3 c. beef brisket, chopped up
Cook onion, jalapeno, and garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Add the spices in and saute until they are fragrant - about 2 minutes.  Add to the crock pot with all else.  (Add a little water if you like your chili to be more like soup)  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.
 Steaming chili in the soft glow of the kitchen - a very comforting meal on a cold day.
I served it with jalapeno spoonbread - it's similar to a Jiffy corn casserole, but I used a Mexican cornbread mix, half the sour cream, sauteed a minced jalapeno in the butter.  We put a big spoonful of it into our chili bowls - YUM.
I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe for berry cobbler, but used 4 cups of raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries and served it with ice cream.  It was buttery and warm and a perfect end to our meal.  And I guess Firstborn enjoyed it all, too - he told me he would be back the next day to have leftovers chili for lunch!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wednesday Menus #3 and flexibility is key

A lot of times I will make out the menu with my planner smack dab in front of me, to make sure I know if there is an activity that would impact us at dinnertime.  But that doesn't necessarily help when hubby decides a day or two before that he's going out of town for business.  On those days I just have to adjust the menus a bit so that we don't end up with a fridge full of leftovers at week's end.
Firstborn was certainly flexible!  Lots of times he would come home with scraps and bruises from skateboarding, but he never complained about it and he never stopped loving being a daredevil!

Wednesday - Slow Cooker Brisket Chili, grated cheddar and sour cream, jalapeno spoonbread, Mixed Berry Cobbler with ice cream for Firstborn's Birthday 
Thursday - Tilapia with onions and peppers, seasoned rice
Friday - Leftover Chinese takeout from Sunday (freezer meal)
Saturday - YOYO! Mom and Dad out {We are going to a supper club event here}
Sunday -Hubby doesn't want o grill, so we are having a Velveeta Skillet and some corn
Monday - Slow Cooker Green Beans, Potatoes, and Kielbasa, rolls
Tuesday - Raspberry Chicken, Loaded Mashed Potatoes (freezer), peas
Eventually it will be just hubby and I, plus the occasional hungry person who lives or works nearby, such as Firstborn.  I don't mind as I love seeing that guy.
Happy Birthday to a young man who was never boring!  Here's to your best year yet, full of opportunity and success - jump to it!

Monday, January 16, 2017

January - kitchen decluttering

As part of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge I am following, the first place to tackle was arguably the most important room in our house:  the kitchen.  We are halfway through January, but I have made made big progress.  Lucky for me I like to clean and purge and declutter!  The first two weeks were all about the kitchen counters, sink area, the island, kitchen table, utensils, knives and measuring cups, linens, silverware, junk drawer, wrap and plastic, food storage, and under the sink.
The sink area - shiny and spiffed, and I even bought myself some nice hand cream to use after doing dishes.  The green mat is mostly for Scout to use after he cleans his French press, but the bowls of fruit are always there, too.
I cleared Christmas off the counters and put the owls back!  Plus, I scrubbed the cooktop which was just plain awful after the holidays.
 Cute measuring spoons from a friend will live right here next to my recipes.
I try to keep the kitchen table and window seat uncluttered most of the time.  There is a tray in the middle of the table with napkins, S&P, and a candle.  Because what is better than breakfast by candlelight, I ask you?
 The window seat stays clear, but I would love to add a couple more potted plants and some pillows.
Under the island top:  Linens - again, I purged things that were stained or torn.  Hubby and I both have an apron in here, and its where I store the cork hotpads.
Next to linens is the silverware - guess I need to get us some more teaspoons!  I keep plastic utensils in there in a basket, too.
 Under the island on one side is crock pots and other smallish appliances.
The island opens up on both sides which is super handy.  Those small white baskets have food processor blades, a fat separator, handles for Tervis tumblers...stuff we don't absolutely have to have, but we have a spot for them, so I kept them.  Across from  the island is the knife drawer: 
 I have purged it to where it is just the basics now.  I really disliked having a knife block on the counter, so if we have too many knives for this drawer, some have to go.  This is known as The Rule.
 The junk drawer is pretty much always under control as I COULD NOT STAND IT if it weren't.  And I use it often, so it has to stay that way!
 And to it's left is are the wraps and clips, including some leftover shelf liner.
Above those two drawers - junk and wraps - I keep cookbooks and etc.  Plenty of open space for when I need it!  My purse lands here a lot.  This counter makes me very happy!  The opposite side of the kitchen:
Just the basics.  I have purged this a couple of times.  I use pretty much everything in here.
 Plastic lids - just easier to have them up here.
 And Just below are the containers, pretty much stacked. I got rid of every container I could not find a lid for and vice versa.  Next to it:
This super skinny drawer has wine corks, a foil cutter, straws... pretty much that's all these skinny drawers are good for!
The last place I worked on was the under the sink area and it was a MESS.  The faucet had leaked last month and I had not known there was all kinds of mold under there.  UGH.  I cleaned with bleach spray and replaced the shelf liner.  Then I organized from left to right: cleaning cloths, floor cloths, sponges and dishwasher pods, general cleaning supplies.  I felt super virtuous after that!  And tired.  So hopefully, the rest of the January declutter challenge won't involve a lot of cleaning labor!
What about you - done any January decluttering?


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