Wednesday, January 27, 2010

if you are curious

Are you curious? Is there something you've been wanting to know about me, but haven't asked?

If so, now is your chance.

Ask away in the comments.

Just be nice.

Answers will be posted sometime next week.

Monday, January 25, 2010

menu plan monday and a success

Well, the Eat from the Pantry Challenge is just about over. On Friday we had what should be our last grocery shopping trip for the month. For the month of January, we only went over our $400 budget by $1.24. This even included the food for Heather's birthday party we had at the house this weekend. This also included some non-food things too ~ like deodorant. I'm feeling pretty good about the challenge because not only did we spend less money on groceries, but we were able to use some of the stuff from the freezer that may have gone unnoticed until it was too late. More saving money there too. Even if we have to run to the store for something during the week, I won't feel bad because we will still have spent less than we normally do on groceries. I wonder if we can just spend $400 every month! Ha!

This week's menu is a long one because of the timing of our shopping trip we planned for about a week and a half.

  • steak & noodles
  • chili dogs
  • crescent chicken
  • tacaroni
  • beef stir fry
  • chicken piccata
  • orange chicken
  • tacos

For more menu ideas, visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, January 22, 2010

what do you talk about at lunch?

There are six teachers in my grade level ~ 5 women and 1 man. This beefy ex-football player, ex-bouncer, now-teacher of small people puts up with a lot from us chatterbox girls. No subject is off limits just because there happens to be testosterone in the room. We tell it like it is.

Two of the 2nd grade teachers have had babies in the last 6 months. Add 10 months of pregnancies on to that and you can imagine the depth and breadth of pregnancy and delivery talk that took place during lunch or grade level meetings. We have effectively scared the two single girls into a non-child rearing life and scarred prepared the boy teacher for his future wife. You'd think he'd get up and leave the room when we start in on girly topics, but he endures.

Yesterday, we somehow got on the subject of men who cross-dress. We started in on skirts and shoes and wigs. Apparently the mental image he was getting was not pleasant because he shuddered and blurted out, "Could we just talk about birth instead!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

basic white bread

Ask and you shall receive!

About 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 package dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter or margarine

Combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl; stir well. Combine water, milk, and butter; heat until butter melts, stirring occasionally. Cool to 120 - 130 degrees.

Gradually add liquid mixture to flour mixture, beating well at high speed of an electric mixer. Beat an additional 2 minutes at medium speed. Gradually add 3/4 cup flour, beating 2 minutes at medium speed. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Shape into a ball, and place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down; turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Divide dough in half. Roll one portion of dough into a 14- x 7-inch rectangle. Roll up dough, starting at narrow edge, pressing firmly to eliminate all pockets; pinch ends to seal. Place dough, seam side down, in a well-greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan. Repeat procedure with remaining portion of dough.

Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375 for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove bread from pans immediately; cool on wire racks. Yield: 2 loaves.

A couple of notes:

  • I did not use all the flour. I probably used 4 1/2 or 5 cups.
  • I did not use the dough hook on my mixer. I used the regular paddle beater. Next time I will probably try the hook.
  • The house was a little chilly the day I made the bread, because our programmable thermostat didn't know I was home on a weekday. So I turned the oven on 200 degrees and set the bowl/pans of dough at the back of the stove top so the heat venting and rising from the oven would warm it. This was still probably cheaper than turning the furnace up through out the house.
This recipe was out of my good 'ole Southern Living Cookbook.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

yeast ain't a beast no more

Years ago I tried to make something yeasty. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was the yeast. But it didn't turn out. At all.

After I was successful with the rolls at Thanksgiving, I have been wanting to try my hand at some regular bread. After all, bread made at home is cheaper and has less no preservatives. I'm not a fanatic about preservatives, but whenever we can cut them out, it's a good thing.

So Monday, I busted out the yeast and the loaf pans and made two lovely loaves of bread. I took pictures along the way because I actually measured out the ingredients in my new cute mini bowls (you thought I was joking about that, didn't you?). I was thinking of posting the recipe. But as it was baking I convinced myself it wasn't going to turn out as planned and deleted them from the camera.

Silly me, because this bread turned out so awesome. I need to work on my shaping skills a little, but it sure does taste good with some butter slathered all over it. Greg said it would be perfect for a sandwich ~ a nice one, not just a pb&j. Although Heather thought a pb&j would be just fine on it.

I'm going to try to bake bread more often. I'm looking forward to experimenting with other recipes as well.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go milk the cows and feed the chickens.

Monday, January 18, 2010

this one is for you, danny

After I posted the scary picture of my hand, Danny requested a picture of something else ~ anything else. I think he was scamming hoping to see pictures of the girls, but this is the perfect opportunity to show you my new set of bowls.

Greg and I didn't get each other Christmas presents this time in the traditional sense of a surprise-under-the-tree way. I saw a scrapbooking tool I wanted a month before Christmas and told him I wanted it for Christmas then proceeded to order it for myself. He wants some new tools and a fancy tool chest. We'll go shopping for that soon and work on it slowly all year.

We were in the housewares section of the store just after Christmas and I started drooling over this 10-piece nested bowl set. I petted it a little, then commented that I must be some sort of geek to get to excited over a bowl set. Since it was only $15 (that's only $1.50 per bowl), he said to stick it in the cart. Merry Christmas from the kids.

I love these bowls ~ especially the tiniest ones. Now I can pretend I have my own cooking show as I add spices and such. You're laughing because you think I am kidding, huh? Move over Rachael and Alton!

mother hubbard's cupboards are getting bare

We have been participating in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge this month. When I first thought about doing it, I got it in my head that Greg would scoff at the idea. But when I mentioned it to him, he thought it was a great idea. We'd spend less money this month, plus clear out the freezer and pantry before things went bad. I think we've done well so far. We are using many things from the freezers that would normally have gotten hidden away with new purchases. Yesterday I had to go to Costco to buy chicken and ground beef. I don't consider this cheating because we already used what we have and we don't have enough other meats in the freezer to sustain us for the rest of January.  Plus, according to the challenge, we get to make our own rules. I budgeted $400 for the month of January for our groceries. So far, so good. I think we'll make that goal.

So here's the menu plan for this week:

  • tostadas
  • pork chops & cornbread stuffing
  • steak and hash browns
  • chili dogs
  • chicken & noodles
  • chicken vegetable soup

To see other weekly menus, visit

To check in with other families as they Eat from the Pantry, visit

Thursday, January 14, 2010

simply smashing

Nope. I'm not talking about a new dress. Not even talking about a fancy new restaurant I've been to lately (except I haven't).

I'm talking about this:

Apparently, I was under the impression that I have cat-like reflexes. I am here to tell you that I do not.

Saturday, we were leaving the house to run some errands. Everyone was in the car, waiting on me, as usual. As I came out of the laundry room and into the garage, I realized I left the laundry room light on. I thought I'd just pop my hand back inside to flick off the light switch real quick before the h.e.a.v.y fire door finished its arc to a close.

Not so much.

That door bounced off my hand.

After I determined that I had not broken any bones, it puffed up in such a cute way. Charming, right? Can I blame the fact that it looks like I have the hands of a 90-year old on the garage door too? Yes? Ok, good.

The swelling is down, although there's still a bump. The entire top of my hand was a bluish tint. Now, we're moving on to the greeny-yellow phase. And it's tender.

What is the lesson learned here, besides the obvious? Well, I just don't know.

Monday, January 4, 2010

menu plan monday - january 4

After five and a half glorious weeks off, it is back to work and school for the kids and me. We've also had a couple weeks off from dance. Everything will be put back into motion this week. And this means I will be a complete zombie in a matter of days hours.

Here's our dinner plan for this week. Pretty simple, because that and one syllable words will be all I can handle!

  • chicken caesar wraps
  • white bean chili
  • breaded chicken & mashed potatoes
  • stuffed bell peppers
  • orange chicken
  • chicken noodle soup

Visit for more menu planning ideas.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

new beginnings

The ringing in of a new year always brings a sense of new beginnings ~ a chance to start something over ~ a fresh slate. What will you begin anew at the dawn of not only a new year, but a new decade?  What bad habit will you cast off? What will you resolve? What new goals will you set?

Even though the new year tempts the idea of new goals and resolutions, I hesitate. There is such a permanence with putting goals to pen, much less sharing them with others. I don't have a stellar track record with goal follow through. I am a great starter, but lack the stamina for the long haul. Maybe that's why reaching my reading goals for two years in a row thrills me to no end. Keeping track of my goals only in my head does not flaunt my failure to accomplish them. There is no accountability from myself or others, which works well for nonfinishers like me. Yet there is a never ending feeling of inadequacy that lurks behind the noncommittal resolve.

So with much fear and trepidation, I risk showing you some (and there are many) of my shortcomings in my day to day existence.

  1. Use Quicken to track our income/expenses all year.
  2. Read 35 books.
  3. Go to work 15 minutes earlier so I can come home earlier.
  4. Deal with mail and other paperwork right away to avoid pile-ups. 
  5. Be active at least three times a week. 
Surely there are more I could list, but let's start small. Plus, many other things that were candidates for this list could be considered steps to achieve the above goals or results of achieving these goals.

So there you have it. I will review and reflect on these goals sometime this summer, then again in December.

Wish me luck.