Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Love/Hate with IKEA

I have a love/hate thing with IKEA.  I think a lot of their designs are perfect for simple, easy living and I love a lot of the colors they use.  (I have a friend who jokes that the only reason she goes there is for the paper napkins!)  On the other hand, a lot of things they sell have to be altered to actually work for me - pillow covers, frames... but that didn't stop me from going over there on Saturday as I ran errands.  I get there at 9:30 when they open the doors so I can meander halfway through the store to the cafe. 
For $2 I can get a pretty wonderful breakfast with coffee.  I sit there and make my list out - what all do I need to pick up?  This time it was napkins, a step stool, coasters...Meanwhile, the cafe filled up with a crowd of hungry people.  You really can't beat that breakfast deal.
You can't get past the cafe where the rest of the products are - for some reason it bothers me that they rope it off.  What's the harm in letting people LOOK?  They are already in the store, anyway. It's going to take them awhile to look at all of it and the more they do, the more they'll buy.  Just my two cents!
 As I was walking through to the checkouts, I spied this amazing tiny home display!
I took a few pics to show Hubby, and after he saw them, he agreed to go again this Saturday to check it out in person.  Admittedly, Saturdays are not the best time to do any shopping/driving in Austin, but that's the only day we can go together.  Plus, breakfast!
Hubby wants to build several tiny cabins like this at Highlands.  Mostly they will be guest quarters, but he also envisions running some sort of retreat thing.  The way they have this tiny home set up is ingenious!  Folding chairs stored on wall hooks.  A futon for a bed. A folding table with bonus storage drawers.  A tiny kitchen with a pot rack and room underneath for a small fridge. And isn't the color scheme fun?
I left with mostly what I came for, but as usual I stopped and admired the antique Turkish patchwork rug I cannot afford (want!).  All of it fit into the small step stool I bought for the shower in the pumphouse.  When I arrived there were less than half a dozen cars - as I left it was a parking lot nightmare, totally full of people and cars.  (Maybe that's the hate part about it)  The quicker the trip, the better, but it's always fun to look around there. 

{P.S.  On the news Sunday night we heard that the founder of IKEA had passed away the day before...}

Monday, January 29, 2018

Mealplan Monday #178

The theme for menus this week is freezer clean-out!
Monday - Alamo Bowls (with rice, cooked chicken, sauteed peppers and onions, black beans, cheese)
Tuesday - Stuffed Baked Potatoes with pork tips (sounds weird, but I think it will be tasty!)
Wednesday - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Hubby!  Italian Shrimp, Steakhouse Mac and Cheese, salad, rolls, Granny Smith Apple Pie, ice cream
Thursday - Tamales, cheesey refrieds, leftover salad
Friday - Beef Stew Pot Pie
Saturday is YOYO
Sunday -  Chicken Bacon Sub Sandwich, chips, tomato soup

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hamburger Soup

I try to stick to the menus I post each week, and most of time I think I do pretty well.  But every now and again I change it up last minute and this week I decided to forego the chicken curry dish for a crock pot of comfort instead - my late SIL's Hamburger Soup. Every time I fix it, I think of her.  (:
Feeds a crowd and is pretty wonderful!
Like all great family recipes, this one is highly adaptable.  I have "made it my own" over the years by changing up the veggies I put into it, or using a different kind of canned soup.  There may be the last dab of this or that added from the fridge, and a little extra garlic or parsley added...always turns out great!  Here is the basic recipe:

Hamburger Soup
3 lbs. ground chuck, sauteed with 1 large chopped onion
Drain that and add:
2 cans tomato soup
1 can stewed tomatoes
3 beef boullion cubes
2 c. water
1 bag frozen mixed veggies (2 c.)
Season it up!
Cook on low in the crock pot all day
This particular time I added the rest of the pico de gallo from last week's Chipotle Beef Tacos night, the rest of a bag of chopped potatoes, along with some chopped garlic and a couple tablespoons Worchestershire. 
I set up the crock pot, thawed some rolls in the fridge, wrote the instructions on "the green plate" (as the boys call it), and ran out of the door to go to work.  And it fed us two nights this week which was great to come home to after a long day!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Making a fmily meal work (when you work, too)

Last Thursday was Firstborn's birthday.  Although all of us work during the day (and sometimes into the evening) I wanted us to be able to gather around a great meal and celebrate his birthday with him.
The trick to that is always a little advance prep!  The birthday dinner included Baked Rigatoni, Caesar salad, garlic rolls, Texas sheet cake, and ice cream.  All of it was delish!  And I had all of it in the fridge, ready to go, before I left the house at 10:30 that morning.
 I had literally one hour to prep it after dashing home from a last minute trip to Wal-Mart to find him some thermals for work.  I had rigatoni bubbling while I browned some ground chuck and added marinara and a few seasonings.  (Meanwhile I baked a cake!)  I layered sauce and pasta with some spoonfuls of cottage cheese, thawed chopped spinach, grated parmesan, and shredded mozzarella in a big dish covered with foil.
 The cheese that goes on at the end was in a baggie on top,
and right below it was salad and roll fixin's, all ready to go!
Hubby put the pasta dish in the oven and when I got home, I added minced garlic to the cresent rolls and baked them up.  Meanwhile, Scout and Dutch arrived, and Bubbie and I got home from work.  It was a late dinner (815ish) but it really hit the spot on a cold night.  And I think Firstborn had a good birthday!
Dessert was a box mix (shhh...) topped with toasted pecans and a scoop of Bluebell.  And I have to say, even had I been home all day, it wouldn't necessarily have tasted better or gone more smoothly.  But I'm a big believer in the prep!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Mealplan Monday #177

Monday - Sammie Night (last week was roast beef and cheddar on sesame buns)
Tuesday - Panaag Curry Chicken, rice, squash
Wednesday - Turkey and Spaghetti (OLD recipe from Hubby's mom)
Thursday - Smoked kielbasa and beans, veggie
Friday - BBQ Chicken and onions in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, veggie
Saturday and Sunday are TBD

Friday, January 19, 2018

5 thing Friday - dabs, beer, Ted, lotion, birthday dinner

I hate throwing the last dibs and dabs of stuff away, so I almost always am on the lookout for how I can use stuff up completely when cooking.  The last bit of ketchup can go into the stew, that bit of leftover veggie can be added in to a soup or casserole, and so on.
And the last few spoonfuls of almond butter, peanut butter, and pumpkin spice cookie butter can be made into a giant peanut butter cookie with the last bits of chocolate chips sprinkled on top.  It was a warm from the oven treat that hit the spot!
Hubby and I took our growler to Whole Foods Market on Sunday to enjoy the spring-like temps on the balcony in advance of Inga.  We also had oysters and smoked salmon nuggets.  Bonus points for this particular venue being about two minutes from Camp Rustown.
Teddy has been a good houseguest and is warming up to all of us nicely.  Though I'm pretty sure he's asking for me to stop reading and pay attention to him here.
I have containers of lotion in every room of this house, and my tote bag and purse, and I use it liberally and often and yet still my hands look like a crone's.  I am trying to limit the time I have them immersed in cleaning products, and even the shower, but I fear I am fighting a losing winter battle.  I even bought new gloves for driving because the bite of the dry cold kills me...
Firstborn's birthday dinner last night was delightful: Baked Rigatoni, Caesar salad, garlic crescent rolls, Texas sheet cake with roasted pecans, and ice cream.  It required that I prep it all in advance before leaving for work, but it was a snap to heat up and serve. 
Happy Weekend, everyone!  I feel like we earned it this week in Texas!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Remembering a past January, 28 years ago

Hubby and I became parents at age 28 with the birth of  our first baby.  (which is, by the way, how old he will be tomorrow!)  We had married just three years prior, had bought a house two years before -  we knew it was time.  And we felt ready.  When I think back on that, I am so glad we approached parenthood that way we did, even though I think you can never fully prepare yourself.  It was a bumpy road at times, and we learned so much from this very first baby.  We were as green as they come.
It's amazing to me to look back on these photos - all the hopes and dreams of  new parents casually posed and placed into a simple film image.  Nothing fancy, not composed or staged or lit in any certain way.   Neither one of us ever holding a baby, much less diapering and feeding one.  But we felt like we had a lot to offer and were so grateful and excited to be given this perfect little baby!
There were three others that followed, but there's something magical about the first.  Looking forward to so many milestones, having so many plans, getting know that baby through the's a wondrous process.  And Firstborn was a wondrous and much-loved child.  So these photos, showing us on the brink of our adventure?  They remind me of a time that seems both far away, and yet so recent. (Weird, huh?)
He might have outgrown Hubby's shoulder, but he will never outgrow our hearts.
Happy Birthday, Spencer Austin!  We love you so much!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mealplan Monday #176

Monday - Sammie night (last week was honey ham on apple bread with Havarti- so good!)
Tuesday - Leftovers night
Wednesday - Happy Birthday dinner for firstborn!
Thursday -   Turkey Taco Casserole (instead of chicken), salad 
Friday - Chipotle and Onion Shredded Beef on tortillas, sour cream, pico de gallo, etc.
Saturday is TBD.  Sunday will be Baked Beans and Elgin Sausage, garlic toast
Yesterday I made a whole new batch of freezer pie crusts and  ranch dressing mix, too!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Eggnog pie

Cleaning out the fridge in advance of my Monday grocery run, I spied a half-full jug of eggnog that was to expire the next day.  Which is weird, because I only bought two of them, and that was several weeks ago...
Firstborn, December 2007

Such a thing used to never happen at my house!  Firstborn LOVED eggnog.  I mean, if you didn't get yourself a cup of it right when you saw it, it would be GONE the next time you went to the fridge.  The kid loved eggnog, I tell you.
Fast forward to now, and he barely had a cup or two of it.  I guess you can "grow out of" foods, too...however, it being so close to expiring, I thought, why not add it into something instead of just tossing it?  Stir it into hot cocoa? Bake it in a cake instead of the milk the recipe calls for?  Make a quick bread recipe with it?  What about a pie?  Pie it is!
I pulled out the very last pie crust from my freezer and let it come to room temp while I assembled:
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
3 eggs
the rest of the eggnog (2 c.)
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled
My pie crusts weren't perfect but were they good!  (no more Pillsbury for me) I fold the blob of crust over several times, coat it with more flour, then roll into a ball and use my rolling pin to make a big circle.  After I fit it into the pie plate I let it chill while I mix up the filling.
 Dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another.  Stir the butter in at the last.
 I actually had too much filling for the crust - it was dangerously close to spilling over.
And when I pulled it out of the oven (350, about 45 min), it was puffed like a souffle!  But I figured it would settle down, and it did.  I left it to cool a bit, then stored in fridge.  And it was the second best pie I made this holiday season!
And a piece of it makes a nice companion to my morning coffee today!
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Random bits of Christmas - a recap

I feel like I barely talked about anything Christmas-related on my blog this year.  (except for random rants about being under the time gun)  So I went back into my phone to find all the many, many pics I had taken of Christmas and Bubbie's birthday and New Year...and guess what?  I had pitifully few pics of any of it.  Note to self;  do better documenting next holiday season!  So, here's a tidy recap of Christmas and New Year:
The Girl was my helper on decorating the trees this year - blue, gold, and naturals for the family tree; red for the kids' tree.  I tried not to put too much stuff up this year - I knew I wanted a simpler look.  The house was so cozy and pretty this year.
We just literally put all of the Christmas stuff up on Jan. 9th.  I kept wanting to get it done, everyone else wanted it up longer.
 We ate "slapatizers" on Christmas Eve during the day.  (don't know why The Girl calls them that, but it has stuck)  We had smoked trout with sliced Asian pear, Thai chili lime spiced cashews, and some mini freezer pizzas and such from Trader Joe's.  All of the food this holiday season was delicious - brisket, coleslaw, and cornbread casserole the Saturday before, homemade tamales from a friend at work with queso and crockpot pintos for Christmas Eve night, spiral sliced ham for Christmas Day with a creamy broccoli and cauiflower casserole, Buche Noel for dessert ...all soooo good.
 Along with our Christmas sangria of (very) cheap cabernet, sprite, and brandy.
It went down a little too easily...
 People were super thrilled to be eating and socializing.
 As you can tell.
Hubby enjoyed sitting around the firepit with his peeps, enjoying a pipe or two with some brandy.  {Note:  I have not one single pic of Bubbie at either Christmas or New Years...super weird.  He was there, in fact. I know someone video'd him blowing out his birthday candles, I just have to get that person to send that to me}
 Poor Dutch is learning how obnoxious we can all be after a full day of snacking and drinking.  But I think she had a good Christmas with us.
Puzzles were put together!  I have zero pics of Bubbie's girlfriend and Dutch helping us build these, but they so did.  As I mentioned before, I spent $1 each on the puzzles and they are quite pretty so I mod-podged them and now need to figure out what to do with them...also cards were played half to death. 
Teddy is still here - The Girl left him at our house until March 1.  We will either decide we love having a dog and get one of our own, OR we will decide a dog is not for us.  Either way, he will be well-cared for while she works many many hours during their busy season.
 Santa brought me anti-snake boots.  Come at me, snakes.
 We stayed in on New Year's eve and played cards and drank wine, while eating slapatizers of BBQ mini sausages, eggrolls, and baked cheese sticks, and enjoying smooth jazz and the fireplace.  The Girl and Bubbie both went out, so Firstborn had us all to himself.  Lucky him as we were having a wild time at the kitchen table...
On New Year's Day, we had our usual feast, along with this walnut raisin pie which was THE BEST PIE EVER.  I know it sounds like all we did was eat, play cards, make puzzles, enjoy the firepit and each other's company, and have a great Christmas, but that's only because we did!
{and now if I could just kick this rotten cold I have!}


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