Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday Flashback - and Winter Vacation!

Happy Winter to you all! Today starts my week of time off, so you probably won't be seeing posts from me much next week. Though I might post here and there since we're staying home for most of it, but I'll probably be too busy doing projects (aka sitting on my arse and drinking eggnog) to get to the computer.

So, have a happy end of the year, a wonderful winter solstice, have a blast opening gifts, and give all of your loved ones some extra love.

Batch Cooking
Making Baby Food
Nacho-Less No More
Happy Thoughts
The Mommy Uniform

I need to make me some nachos.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Secret Agent Mom and Other Nicknames

My coworkers think they're clever. I have now been dubbed Cliff from Cheers because of all of the random crap that I know. <sigh> It's funny because it's true. I don't do the know it all thing like Hermione, but when it came up at a meeting, "what's the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt," and everyone else was stumped, I provided the answer. And when it came up how lard doesn't get used anymore, I pointed out how it really makes the best pie crust, but that a mixture of butter and shortening will work pretty well too... Well, maybe it's just me (and my relatives) but I thought everyone knew that type of thing.

At the same gathering where I got my new nickname, we also had a discussion about what superhero we'd like to be. I said Wolverine (coming from a 5'1" fluffy homebody) and my coworkers had fits. I amended with that if it didn't have to be a superhero, I'd be the lead from the show Alias because I really want to be a secret agent. Seriously, all my life I've wanted to be a secret agent. (hint, hint to any government officials out there, I'm ripe for recruitment) That topic got everyone going, apparently a lot of people dream of the thrill of being a spy or secret agent, etc.

In case you're wondering, yes we do work, and very hard. We've just had a couple of end-of-year gatherings lately where we've been able to chat about non-work related things.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Breakfast Hash in the Crock Pot (Mostly)

We had our end of the year party at work and I'd volunteered to bring the main dish - aka something that does not include sugar. Rather than ordering a breakfast pizza (like a massive omelet on a pizza crust) or doing the fall-back quiche I decided to do something different. Like - home cooking, nothing fancy, meat and potatoes different. It seems a strange world where that qualifies as something different, but with all the new quasi foodies out there basic cooking is now a lost art. Or a neglected art.

So I made breakfast hash. In the crockpot. Mostly. Kinda. Here's what I did...

I started with this recipe:

Then I -
  • Omitted the onion since I wasn’t sure if everyone would be ok with that much onion
  • Added about a Tbsp of dried minced onion because there should be some onion
  • Added 1tsp of dried minced garlic because everything needs more garlic
  • Used sweet Italian sausage and chopped it up - any sausage would do really, and chopping it up makes it look like more for a potluck
  • Added about 2 Tbsp of maple syrup (if I used a sweet breakfast sausage I’d skip the maple syrup)
  • I cracked the lid right before I went up to bed to let out some of the steam because the potatoes seemed really moist
  • Peppers and/or mushrooms would be a good addition too, and personally I’d like the chopped up onion in there
The next morning the potatoes were a little soggy and not as flavorful as I’d like. So –
  • I moved it all to another bowl and wiped out the excess oil from the crock
  • I heated up a big skillet and worked in three batches to brown it, about 3 minutes per batch (no additional oil needed)
  • I added a generous pinch of salt, a good shake of pepper, and a good shake of garlic powder to each batch
  • I put it back in the crock
  • Then I scrambled 8 eggs with some salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano (and milk, because scrambled eggs have milk) and tossed it all together
The morning part, including waking up hubby when he slept through his alarm, stumbling around when I flicked on the light, grumbling to myself, the egg scrambling, taste testing, chatting while hubby ate his cereal, etc, took all of 20 minutes. Combined with the chopping the night before, the dish took maybe 30 minutes total. In reality, probably 15-20 minutes if you don't include the stumbling, grumbling, eye rubbing...

I brought the crockpot in to work and kept it on the "keep warm" setting for the hour or so before the party with the lid cracked so it wouldn't get soggy. And... it was a huge hit! I got several compliments and yum noises, and there's only a tiny bit left (that I'll probably eat for lunch if no one else does) out of 5+ total pounds. My boss' boss asked for the recipe. :) SO, I highly recommend this one, as do my coworkers. Easy, fast (if you don't include the 8 hours of overnight cooking), and tasty.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Beautiful Food

image source
I got a thank you note postcard a few days ago and was struck by how beautiful the postcard is. I wish my canned goods looked that good.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Flashback: Chicken Soup and Highchairs

Ohh goody - I love that highchair post. I'm really freakin proud of the job I did on reupholstering it, but since I posted it right at the beginning no one was reading my blog yet so it didn't get seen.

Taking Breaks From the Keyboard
Soup Quest: Chicken Noodle Soup
Project: Highchair
Free Stuff from Vistaprint!

Actually, I did part of my holiday shopping with Vistaprint again this year also... that was a good reminder to me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All Joking Aside...

I mustache you a question, but I'll shave it for later.



Ok, sorry. I heard that from my cousin the other day and it just strikes me as so freakin funny. I told all of my coworkers (and attempted to keep a straight face), and my husband, and I almost told a guy from the department of defense, but he looked a little too serious.

I can't wait until Max is old enough to like jokes. I have a lighthearted sense of humor (you may have guessed) and it's looking like Max will be the same way. He already has played many jokes on us - one was that he called everything "dada" for over a month. If he was by himself or he was concentrating on something else he'd slip up and use the right words, and if you caught him he'd get this look on his face like "oh, crud!" and start saying "dada!" over and over. Thank goodness he's done with that joke, I like being mama again.

I told the above joke to a coworker (who has a 16 year old daughter) and after he stopped laughing he said how he misses telling jokes to his daughter now that she's too cool to think her dad's jokes are funny. I told him to wait, because eventually she'll find them funny again. My dad's happy that he can finally tell me the 10+ years worth of jokes he's been saving up.

Here's to a sense of humor, and may we never misplace it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Frugal Luxuries: Cleaning Carpets

image source
Want to know what hubby's and my gift to each other was this holiday? A carpet cleaner. (and a Wii) Sexy, I know. Our house came fully carpeted except for the kitchen and the bathrooms. (the dining room carpet was the first to go, btw - I can't handle carpeted dining rooms) But as much as I dislike having carpet in any room besides a bedroom, our budget just doesn't allow for replacing all (or even most of) of the carpets so I've restrained myself from ripping up carpet in the other rooms. Mostly. You'd think that with such a great old house there'd be great old wood flooring under there, but no such luck. If there ever was great flooring it was torn out years ago.

Most of my reasoning behind having solid surface instead of carpet is that they're easier to clean, and with a toddler and two cats (one with bladder issues) easy to clean is a priority. But as much as I crunched numbers and argued with myself, I just can't justify spending that much money just so I don't have to scrub as much.

So - to be frugal and feel luxurious: Instead of re-flooring the whole house we got a carpet cleaner with scrub brushes. And a scrubby upholstery attachment. I put it together (Max helped) and got it running on Saturday afternoon - and man is that thing awesome! I did the back room (where kitty has had the most incidents and where we have the exit to the deck) with just the basic cleaning solution that came with the cleaner and it made a HUGE difference. The stains are gone, the carpet is so much brighter (I actually like the shade of blue now, go figure) and the room smells much better. Yay! I purchased some pet-stain-specific solution as well, and if the basic solution is any indication then the pet-specific one will be fantastic.

It has some reviews that mention leaking, so I got it straight from Hoover rather than through Amazon like I normally would so if I have issues I can contact them directly but so far so good. The best part - between purchasing it on cyber Monday and coupon codes I got it 33.5% off and free shipping! Woo!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Sniffles and Coughs

image source
Max had a cough last week that was keeping him up (and of course, me as well). It wasn't nearly bad enough to go to the doctor, just one of those irritation coughs that gets worse when you lay down to sleep. Since he's just barely 18 months old there's not a whole heck of a lot that I can give him. I went to the store to buy some honey and while I was there I thought I'd check the pharmacy. Lo and behold: Maty's makes not just one but two kinds of cough syrup that are totally natural and safe for kids over one! (they contain honey, hence over one) I read the ingredients and was impressed that everything was normal sounding - no chemical crap. I got the banana flavored one since Max is a total banana-holic. I also picked up the baby chest rub which is for 3 months and up. I don't think I've seen anything else that is approved for as young as three months old!

I was impressed in the store, but hesitant that it would help his cough. But you know what? It worked. I gave him a teaspoon of syrup (which is thick, like caramel ice cream topping), slathered his chest, neck, under his nose, and the bottoms of his feet with the chest rub, and within 20 minutes his coughing had subsided and he was sleeping. I didn't have to keep him propped up all night, though I kept him in bed with me (hubby opted for the couch) for most of the night so I could keep a better eye/ear on him. Man that kid kicks like a mule. I had to re-administer in the middle of the night which was interesting, but again it worked. Considering he's so young I highly doubt it was a placebo effect.

So - I definitely recommend these two products. And as a pleasant side effect, my hands are softer this morning from the chest rub. I didn't receive any sort of compensation from Maty's, I just feel that it's good stuff. If they ever want to send me free products I wouldn't mind... I'd certainly appreciate it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Flashback: It's Been a Year!

image source
Actually, it's been over a year! Woo! Now that I've officially been blogging for a year, I feel I can start Friday flash-backs. Here's what I was up to this time last year...

Finding Middle Ground

Naptime Filing

Holding it Together With Tears and Laughter

Sprouting Onions

Crock Pot Basics

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cool Recycled Envelope

Check out this envelope that I got from Germany (yeah, I got mail from Germany. I tell ya, opening that envelope made me feel like a kid again even though it was work related. It just seems so exotic...)

It's a map! Yes, a topographical map that this envelope making company used to make the envelope. The outside is white and professional looking, and as you can see from the photo the inside is the printed map side.

I checked out their website (which I've forgotten the address for, sorry), and even though I couldn't read a lot of it my barely remembered high school German was enough to figure out that this company makes a lot of interesting and useful things out of unwanted or overstocked items from other companies. Like map making companies.

I know there are a lot of tutorials on how to make your own envelopes out of scrap paper, and I always mean to do it, but it would be nice to have a company that does it for you. Do you know of one in the US?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a White... Thanksgiving?

When we got up the morning before Thanksgiving, here's what we saw:

Yeah, snow, and lots of it. Freakin A.

Normally not so big a deal. But when you have a 6 hour drive ahead of you, not so cool. After looking at the weather report and tracking the storm which was still blowing all along our route, we decided to drive on Thanksgiving day. It turned out to be the right decision, and though the snow was annoying for the drive, it was pretty cool for Max!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

The air was crisp, Max and I had spent an hour outside playing, and I was having a major hankering for muffins. I considered blueberry, banana, or cranberry, but no. I wanted something simple but rich.

Hel-lo Cinnamon Sugar Muffins. You gorgeous things, you.

I used one of my basic muffin mixes and baked them with no additions. In the meantime I melted a few tablespoons of butter, and in a small dish mixed together 1/4 cup of white sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon. When the muffins had cooled enough to handle I brushed the melted butter on top and dipped them in the cinnamon sugar mix.

Ah, bliss.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Thrift-Mas...

<haha> Man, I crack myself up. Thrift-mas...

Sorry, back to the subject at hand -

We went out on Saturday and did a little shopping. I got a few things at the local Goodwill, mostly for Max and hubby. I did pick up those frames there, .99 cents each new in package, that will be part of a few Christmas gifts. I got Max a new outfit that's super cute - and is in the wash so I can't take a photo of it. The sweater (below) is a size 4T so he has a little while before he can wear it, but I couldn't resist. It is just too sweet, and I love the button details!

As a side note - ladies small fitted t-shirts make good toddler night shirts.

We hit up a few big box stores as well, though I'd almost rather shop online. It's so tempting to buy things we don't need when that stuff is right there, begging to be picked up. I was good and kept to my agenda (mostly) and got Max some new socks and another winter jacket - all on sale. I had gotten him not one but two winter coats this summer at yard sales, and he's pretty darn close to outgrowing both of them. <sigh> Darn kids and their growing. He's not even 18 months old and I had to get him 2T-3T socks which I was sure were going to be too big... nope. They fit just right. He has some pretty massive feet.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monkey is DONE!

Here's to finishing projects! I started this one back while my friend's grandson was still on the belly side of things... and now he's almost 6 months old. What can I say, I don't like knitting when it's warm out!

It turned out pretty cute tho - my first attempt at a monkey, knitted all in the round on double pointed needles. I used to hate DPN, but I've now downgraded it to merely dislike. After that much practice it doesn't seem so bad anymore. Especially with sock weight yarn and size 3 needles. Ugh. SO worth it tho, just look at that face! I used the pattern in Itty Bitty Toys by Susan B. Anderson for A New Sock Monkey.

Max had to help with the photo shoot... and run off with Monkey. I suppose that just means it's kid-approved.

what do you mean it's not mine?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fall Re-Potting

There was a single somewhat warm day a little bit ago - just warm enough to do some re-potting outside before winter sets in. I started with two african violets to be split, a few pothos ivies that had rooted, and some miscellaneous plants... and ended up with a dozen "new" plants! I already gave a violet to my grandma, and I plan on giving another to a co-worker. The others might stay... if I have room!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Self-Watering Plant

I have a fainting plant at work. I water it on Fridays and when I come in on Monday it's all flattened. I knew that it wasn't going to make it through the Thanksgiving break so I went to the local farm and garden store to get a waterer - but to no avail. So, I made one!

Step one: Procure a plastic bottle (if it's from the floor of your car you get bonus points because that also counts as cleaning your car).

Step two: Drill/poke a hole in the cap that's about the size of a strand of yarn.

Step three: String a length of natural fiber yarn through the hole, knotting on both sides. Leave about 1" on the inside and 8"+ on the outside. (use natural fiber, like cotton, because it has better absorbancy)

Step four: Fill bottle with water and secure cap.

Step five: Tip the whole deal upside down in the plant and tuck the string around the base, touching the dirt.

Done! Now hopefully when I get back to work tomorrow the plant will be alive and upright.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Peppers - They're Red, Green and Frozen

In the time honored tradition of the day after Thanksgiving being all about the Christmas holiday - I'm featuring red, green, and frozen. That's right - peppers.

I found a great deal on local peppers at the market - the last batch of the year before the frost. I chopped them up, froze them in a flat layer (that's key to making sure they don't freeze in a giant chunk) and then bagged them up. Yay for peppers all winter!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Revenge of the Counter: Part 2

Yesterday I covered the prelims to the counter change.

Today, you get to see the results!

Firstly: Clearing the counter of all my junk stuff essential cooking items.

Note the test tile - I still couldn't peel it up!
Next: Peeling up the old counter top. It's nice that it was relatively easy to get up, but a little scary at the same time...

my little helper
Remove all loose paint, goo, splinters, dust, grime (not that there would ever be grime in my kitchen) and clean the surfaces. Then prime and paint the edging. I chose to match the cabinet paint rather than try and match the tiles.

freshly painted edges
Lay the tile, cutting with a utility knife to fit (try not to slice open your finger, ahem). I decided to use quarter round painted white around the back under the back splash.

painting the quarter round
This is all very hard work. My little helper worked so hard that he fell asleep during his lunch break.

Finally - the painted parts are painted, the tile is installed, the quarter round is in, the cracks are caulked, edges are sealed with silicone...

look at that!
And the counter is done! DONE! I still have to do the back splash (and the counter by the sink...) but this part of the counter is DONE.

Isn't it pretty? <sigh> I'm so smitten!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Revenge of the Counter: Part 1

I had a busy weekend! Not only did I do a bunch of the regular stuff and have date-night with hubby - but I also replaced 2/3 of our counter top! Woo!

You may remember how the counter (well, the whole kitchen) originally looked:

that's forest green counters and a pine edge and back splash
I couldn't handle the counters, so after we painted the cabinets I primed and painted those counters too.

gray - just gray
I knew that painting the counters was a temporary solution, there was no way it wouldn't get scratched. And, of course, it did. In the meantime I had put a few peel-and-stick tiles on the counter to see how they hold up. The verdict: they worked really quite well! It makes sense, they are made to handle foot traffic, including wet and dirt and dogs, they should be able to handle relatively light wear and tear on a counter.

I picked out a light gray tile that I liked (actually, I let hubby choose between two light grays that I liked, he likes to feel included) and this weekend I finally had the time to go for it. Stay tuned for the results tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dishwasher Drama

yay new dishwasher!
Our house came with a dishwasher. A mechanical one, that is - not a person. Said mechanical dishwasher was pretty old and not great quality. So when it started leaking we weren't surprised. Rather, I wasn't surprised. Hubby was indignant that such a thing would happen, and took it as a sign that the house is falling on our heads and that we should get out while we still can. (he gets a little dramatic sometimes with the, "woe to us, the world is ending, everything is turning to crap," stuff)

The cost to repair the dishwasher would be as much as buying a new, inexpensive dishwasher - so I got a new one! Woo!

Dad installed it for me because he's awesome and handy like that. I "helped" kinda like Max "helps," but I at least handed him real tools instead of toy ones (or dinosaurs). I also took pictures, as you likely noticed. I don't know if you can see it well, but the back of the dishwasher compartment has clapboard siding from way back when the kitchen was added to the house - cool, huh?

100+ year old siding and strapping!

This was a few months ago, but what makes me think of it now is that last week I noticed that the floor was getting a little damp around the dishwasher, though not like the flood that happened last time. I put on my Fix-It hat, pulled out the dishwasher and determined that the intake pipe was leaking at the joint and that it probably needed either a new gasket or a thicker/second one to seal the joint. Dad came over to fix it just in case that wasn't the problem and the dishwasher blew up (I fear dishwashers blowing up on my watch).

BUT - I'm awesome and that really was the problem. I was ready with the new gaskets (it took two), I handed him tools, did some of the heavy lifting, and my dishwasher is all fixed. The best part (besides having a non-leaky dishwasher) is the satisfaction of a correct diagnosis and knowing that if I had a better wrench I could have fixed it myself. I feel so empowered!

Next step: Fix something without dad helping...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cat Brain Pickles

Ok, so did you make a guess?

The eye of newt was mustard seed with reconstituted (uncooked) tapioca. The rat intestines were red onion relish. And the cat brains were really pickled cauliflower. The garlic oil really was garlic oil. And no, the apples weren't really poisoned.

I've been eating the onion relish since 11/1, and it's sooooo gooooood. Nom. I'm not an onion fan, but I love me this relish. I first saw the recipe in Cottage Living (rest it's magazine soul) but you can find it here. I gave my parents a jar of each, but my mom was skeptical of the whole intestines thing. Brains apparently were ok.

poisoned apples, rat intestine relish, cat brain pickles, garlic oil
Cat Brain Refrigerator Pickles

2 heads cauliflower (I used orange, it seemed to hold its color well)
10 cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
2 Tbsp sweet pickling spice (or hot pickling spice if you dare)
1/8 tsp turmeric (for that creepy yellow glow)

Combine the vinegar, sugar and water in a big pot over med/high heat. While that warms up, make packets out of your pickling spice. I wrapped mine up in a couple of paper muffin liners. Add the spices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the flavors mingle for 15-20 minutes.

Cut up the cauliflower into chunks, making it look as much like brain cross sections as possible. Be creative. Pack the cauliflower tightly into sterilized jars. Add the liquid to cover. Process jars as desired.
After processing I added fun labels. Instant coffee does a great job of aging paper...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Halloween at Work

Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I totally brought it to work. Yes, I wore fangs at the office. Because I'm cool.

Anyhow, to further emphasize my coolness, I put (purposefully) stained white sheets on the couches (like in old abandoned houses), put out some creepy decor (namely gross looking stuff in old jars), and offered treats. Now, the popcorn was much more popular than the cat brains, rat intestines, garlic oil, or eye of newt - but the poisoned apples went pretty well too.

Yes, you heard me right. Cat brains. Rat intestine. Eye of newt.

Can you guess what each one really was?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Halloween - Boo!

Yes, I know Halloween has passed for this year - but I was doing that 31 Days deal-e-o and didn't get to do a post about it. And it's not like you can really post about your whole Halloween on Halloween, or at least I can't. I'm too busy eating candy and trying to freak people out. Except for my kid, no freaking him out. He thought my wig was pretty spiffy tho.
the undead makeup was overshadowed by the rockin' wig, but that's ok
Is that a hint of fang in there? Why, yes, it is. I was a vampire, complete with fang caps for my canines. Heck to the yes.
And, no, not a Twilight type of vampire. Seriously. They effing sparkle. That's just wrong, man.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Apple Picking

2011 - looking for the perfect apple
Fall just isn't fall without a visit to an apple orchard. We have a particular favorite that's about 15 minutes away - they have a great little storefront where they also sell other produce... and cider donuts. Homina homina. Ahem, excuse me, I had started drooling a little bit there.

We took Max last year and told him he came from a cabbage patch just like that one. I don't think he believed us.

This year he really got into the whole eating apples business - and running. Lots and lots of running.

2010 - telling Max where babies come from

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Final Harvest (mostly)

all from my garden!
It certainly wasn't the best gardening year, but 42 pounds of tomatoes is nothing to sniff at. Out of two gardens (one of which produced next to nothing), here's what I got:

42 lbs tomatoes
6 bunches of lettuce (approx. 2 salads worth per bunch)
3 GIANT zucchini and one small zuk
2 quarts strawberries
2.75 lbs currant tomatoes
7.5 oz basil
6 cukes
1 small bunch chard
7 ears of multi-colored popcorn
5ish lbs green/yellow/purple beans
2ish lbs potatoes
3 eggplants
a couple dozen or so sweet peppers
a couple dozen or so green tomatoes
3 carrots (so far, there's a bunch in the ground still)

Not bad - but next year will be better!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Taking a Break

Whew. After a month of posting daily, I need a little break.

Of course, Halloween and a sugar-rushed almost-one-and-a-half-year-old yesterday might have something to do with being pooped. He did make the cutest fire chief tho. :)

See you in a couple of days!

Monday, October 31, 2011

31 Days of Inspiration: Max

Max is the reason why I get up every day. He's the reason why I seldom have to set an alarm clock. He's the reason that I wanted a house with a yard and room to run. He's the reason why I grew more green beans than I knew what to do with. He's the reason why I sew tiny clothes. He's the reason why I do an extra load or two of laundry a week. He's the reason I was put on this planet. He's the reason why my love knows no bounds. He's the reason why my patience has expanded to almost boundless. He's my ultimate inspiration.

He's also the reason why I go to sporting events. He loves it. :)