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Monday Musings: 01.07.2013 Edition January 7, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff.
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I don’t know about anyone else, but we’ve had a bit of winter in our parts lately!

It’s always kind of pretty to see the way the ice melts and re-freezes, isn’t it?  Of course, it’s much nicer to be inside looking at it than, say, to be driving in it.  Or, even worse, walking in it!

The Jar and I have had some mighty careful morning walks around the neighborhood lately, let me tell you!

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Our Jarly is starting to show his age – while sometimes he thinks he’s a silly puppy, he’s really not.  And we do our best to look out for him and keep him comfortable in his old age!

I was thrilled when we saw a Serta “Perfect Sleeper” memory foam dog bed at Sam’s Club at a very reasonable price – if anyone ought to have a Perfect Sleeper, it’s our Jar!

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I guess it could be a little bigger, but I’ve noticed that in the winter especially, he likes to sleep curled up in a ball, so I think this will do just fine for him.

And he seems to agree, wouldn’t you say?

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You know one of the GOOD things about winter?

I have the use of my Backup Green Refrigeration System, otherwise known as the deck full of snow!

I made a big pot of chicken stock over the weekend, and Peeps set it out ON the snowbank before we went to bed (covered and with a cast iron lid to weigh the top down and keep marauding kitties out).

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By morning, the pot full of hot stock had melted the surrounding snow, all the way to bare wood, and the now-chilled stock was sitting nicely in a functional ice bath.

And all I had to do was skim the fat off the top and bring the stock up to the boiling point, and we had 17 pints of fresh chicken stock, ready for the canner.

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And oh my gosh, can you believe this?

There’s the dog, settled in for his afternoon snooze, and that old kitty’s just meandering around the house like there’s no dog at all – she was practically sitting in his lap!  (Well, by her standards, anyway.)

I guess our daily puppy-kitty treat-time is starting to pay off.

It’s almost like we have normal pets!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  You know, more than ever, when we’re still recovering from the holidays, and we’re tired and cold and don’t feel like doing anything, that’s when our weekly meal plan saves us!  First, because we don’t have to “figure out” what we’re going to eat every day – it’s already decided!  And second, we like to spend a couple of hours on the weekend preparing as much as we can ahead of time, so not only do we know what we’re doing for dinner, we usually have most of the work done – I can’t tell you how helpful that is!

Monday –  You know what we haven’t had in ages?  Pork tenderloin.  With that in mind, we  picked some up on sale this weekend and will try Spiced Pork with Bourbon Reduction Sauce – the pork is already seasoned and ready to cook.  We’ll serve that with steamed broccoli and some sort of grain – rice or barley or something.

Tuesday – Surprisingly, I’ve got a lot of recipes in the archives from Vegetarian Times – including this Indian Samosa Casserole.  That will make a nice change, don’t you think?  Peeps put the pie casserole together while I was painting, so it’s all set to just pop in the oven.  How simple is that?

Wednesday – For some reason, we seem to have an awful lot of corn in the freezer – I guess, even buying it 4 or 6  (or 8 or 12) ears at a time, it does start to add up, doesn’t it?  I’d initially planned to make a corn chowder with bacon, but I went with a a lentil and corn soup loosely based on this roasted red pepper soup – I also used some of our corn stock and emptied a bag of corn – look at us getting stuff out of the freezer!

Thursday – Careful readers will have noticed at this point that we’ve planned not one, but TWO meatless meals this week – and right in a row!  Before anyone thinks we’ve gone all vegetarian or anything, we’re going to roast a chicken!  I’ve got some fingerling potatoes and plenty of squash, so it’ll be a basic roasted chicken dinner, with lots of leftover chicken for a meal or two next week.

Friday – We always look forward to pizza night – Peeps’s mom joins us, and we eat our dinner in front of the TV while the dog enjoys a Kong toy – what could be better than that?

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 12.31.2012 Edition December 31, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Holidays Countdown, Home, knitting, meal plan monday, Musings.
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Can I just start by saying:  HOLY COW!  It’s the end of the year!  Where did this year go?

I trust our TENS of readers had a wonderful holiday and didn’t miss us too much!

As you can see by the photo, we’ve continued out tradition of buying a small live, potted tree for Christmas.    Assuming it survives the winter, we’ll plant it in the back yard in the spring.

It’s somehow sad to see all the used-up Christmas trees at the curb awaiting trash day for the next couple of weeks, isn’t it?

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One of the projects I’ve been working on the past few weeks was to make a couple of  special ornaments for some friends of ours – it just seems a little more personal than a Christmas card, you know?

I found a wee little mitten pattern (using leftover sock yarn!) that turned out to be the Cutest Mitten Ever!

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I even dragged out a crochet hook when I found some glittery crochet cotton – there’s very little prettier than a sparkly, lacy snowflake, is there?

Though you know? If I’m going to do this sort of thing for Christmas,  should probably start before December.  Someone should remind me next year . . .

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As we have for the past few years, Peeps and I cooked Christmas dinner for the family.

It was pretty standard fare – prime rib with individual Yorkshire puddings, this AMAZING mashed potato casserole (that we are DEFINITELY going to do again!). . . and we also did dessert.

When I saw the recipe, I could not resist making  a red velvet cheesecake cake.

I mean, WHAT could be more festive?  Two layers of red velvet cake, with a layer of homemade cheesecake between, all frosted with cream cheese frosting, with colored sprinkles on top – you know you’d try it too!

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So we got a bit of snow this week.

Actually a little more than “a bit”  – Peeps spent a good amount of time shoveling enough of the deck that he can get out to the grill for our annual New Year’s Eve Steak Dinner this week.

And, of course, since his Papa was out, The Jar needed to be out, as well.

And since The Jar was out, he got to enjoy a little bone time.

Too bad there really wasn’t a good place for him to lie down. . . though he managed!

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In other, non-holiday news, I’m hoping to get a start on painting the new bathroom this week – that drywall dust is driving me NUTS!

I want to make sure I have a clearer vision of what I want throughout the house before I start painting willy-nilly.  Again.

It’s unfortunate when you get done painting, take a step back, and realize, you know, I don’t really love that.  It’s even worse when your reaction is  “I hate that.”

I’ve got both going on right now.  Time for a little change of the scenery, I’d say.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  I don’t know if it’s the holidays, or the FEET of snow we’re suddenly dealing with, or the cold, or just simply old age, but WOW we’ve been tired lately!  For this week, anyway, we’re trying to keep things as simple as we can.

Monday – On New Years eve, rather than go out, Peeps and I have always made our way to the grill – even if we have to practically tunnel through the snow – and grilled a couple of rib-eye steaks.  And what would a steak dinner be without a baked potato?  A fresh salad, a little fresh bread, and, of course, a bottle of something fizzy, because, let’s face it, there’s no way we’re going to see midnight anyway!

Tuesday – I’m told that Hoppin’ John is traditional New Year’s Day fare, and we can certainly use all the good luck we can get – especially with the upcoming painting projects on our horizon!

Wednesday – We pulled a package of homemade breakfast sausage from the freezer and will do . . . something breakfasty.  Maybe sausage gravy and biscuits, perhaps sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches, or possibly breakfast burritos.

Thursday – So remember how, a couple of weeks ago, we had taco night?  Well, we had some meat left over (and that was even after a couple of weekend taco nights, and a few taco breakfasts and lunches for each of us!), and, in the spirit of not shoving stuff in the freezer and forgetting about it, we took the last bit of pork and some refried beans, along with some other stuff we had knocking around, ad we made soup – what’s better (and simpler?) on a snowy early January Thursday night than soup, huh?

Friday – As usual, Peeps’s mom joins us for pizza night – we like to make SURE she gets out of the house now and then, and she does enjoy Peeps’s pizza!

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 12.03.2012 December 3, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Holidays Countdown, Home, Musings, random stuff.
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How sad is it that I’ve been sitting around complaining about not being able to upload photos for, what? two weeks?  And then, when I FINALLY get it figured out, I’ve got, um, nothing interesting to upload!

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This was an official market week for me, though I kind of took it easy there.  I really didn’t need much, and I do try to be mindful of what I buy – especially at this time of year!  It’s so easy to just buy, buy, buy, you know?

I did grab a HUGE head of broccoli – it’s very late in the season, but broccoli holds up much better than some of the more delicate veggies.  And of course, my new favorite potato – fingerlings.  I’d always taken a pass on them, assuming they were “gimmick potatoes,” but they’re not.  They have a creamy texture that’s different than either a russet or a waxy potato.  We LOVE them and try to keep them around as much as we can – I really can’t get them after about March or April.

One of the farmers – the egg and dairy guy – has started bringing what he called “checks”-basically, they’re like egg seconds. The eggs are a little irregularly sized or shaped, and some of the colors are off, but they’re perfectly good eggs.  And they were $2 a dozen!  Given the fact that I paid $1.89 a dozen for the last eggs I bought at the supermarket, I am more than happy to pay an extra penny apiece for organic, cage-free, non-GMO eggs!

Oh, and the  Carmex!  As it gets colder in the mornings, I find my lips chapping more and more, which HURTS!  I keep a tube or a tub of this lip balm in the pocket of virtually every coat I own.  Plus my purse. And my desk.  And pretty much any other place I may think it would be handy.  So imagine how thrilled I was when I snagged a bunch of them for  50 cents each!

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So we’re hoping planning to have a crew of contractors here this week. Wish us luck – we’re putting in a second bathroom!   Well, half a bathroom anyway.  Between  the fact that The Jar is, well, not a fan of strangers wandering around upstairs, and the advancing age of our respective parents making it difficult for any of them to climb our steep stairs, we decided that this was easier than moving to a bigger house!

Of course, the whole dog-hating-strangers thing makes it a little problematic – he’ll be spending mornings in doggy daycare (where, hopefully, he’s learning some new people doggy skills) and afternoons at work with me, where I’ll keep him until the coast is clear.

Wow this is going to be fun, isn’t it?

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Last weekend Peeps and I picked out our Christmas wreath – I can’t believe I never got a photo!

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I don’t want to cover the house and yard with lights and sparkly things – just a simple wreath on the outside is really all we need.

I will admit, though, that I’m kind of a sucker for the fancy wreath – not the ones covered with bows and ornaments and glue-gunned glitter, though.  I love the wreaths with the mixed greens – some spruce, fir, holly, all of the greenery.  And, of course, some tasteful fake holly berries!

The perfect place for a robin’s nest  in the center again next spring!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.   Since we’re expecting to have a less than relaxing week (to say the least!), we’re going to keep this week’s meals as low-effort as we can.  Although the forecast is calling for “unseasonably warm” temperatures for most of the week, it’ll likely also be rainy and dark early, which means soup weather!

Monday – Shockingly (or not),we never got the Canned Lentil Soup with Frozen Kale and Pretend Sausage made that we’d planned for last week.   Well, it’s made now and it’s going to be Monday’s dinner.

Tuesday – Gotta love those freezer meals!  We’ve got a quart of lamb shanks cooked with great northern beans – such a lovely dinner to come home to, especially when it’s already cooked and just needs reheating!

Wednesday – We also defrosted a package of Peeps’s Asian chicken wings – he made an extra package and shoved in the freezer a while back .  I can’t help thinking this will be perfect with some steamed rice and part of the giant head of broccoli I brought home this weekend.

Thursday – And again with the soup!  The bean guy was at the market this weekend, and when I saw that he had dried peas, I just couldn’t get the idea of split pea soup out of my head!  Yum!

Friday – You know, one of the best things about pizza night in the winter (besides, of course, the pizza!)is having the oven running and the house all toasty warm.  One of the best things about having the oven running is that I can roast a bunch of beets for another day.  Assuming, of course, I remember them!  I need to write myself a note or something – I’ve already forgotten for two weeks in a row!

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 10.01.2012 Edition October 1, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Musings.
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Wow, it’s been a long week!  Mostly, I guess, because I’ve picked a virus or bug or plague or something – I’ve been miserable!  I actually stayed home from work for two days last week, and, honestly, what a waste of good sick days!  I spent both days on the couch, fading in and out of a Benedryl-induced stupor!

I did manage to catch Mr. Cardinal on the back fence – though I missed Mrs. Cardinal.  I guess it’s time to start putting some sunflower seeds out for them soon, huh?

Anyway, I’m still not feeling 100 percent (or really, even 70 percent) so if you don’t hear much from me this week, fear not – I’m probably snoring on the couch again!

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There was one thing I did manage to accomplish before I was ready to lie down and die – I got a batch of apple jelly finished!  This was my very first time making jelly EVER, and I was quite happy with it!

I will be sharing that with you soon – this week, I hope, assuming I’m back to normal soon.

I wonder if I’ll ever stop being astonished by how simple this is?

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PhotobucketI’ve been picking up the knitting needles again – well, actually, I haven’t really put them down, just slowed down a bit.

I’m still working on a scarf I started last winter, and sometimes it seems like I’ll never finish it!  I did get a pair of socks done, which I was quite happy with.  Though I think I was a little premature in wearing them – it’s still a little early in the season to be wearing wool-blend socks all day!

Speaking of socks – get a load of this!  You know how the Boy recently moved back out and into an apartment, right?  Well, I asked him to let me know if there was anything he needed that I could help him out with.  On the tidy (if lengthy) list he left for me, he included his foot size (as if I didn’t already know he’s a size 13!) and his young lady friend’s size.

Is that a hint, or what?

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  Now that fall’s here (holy cow, it’s OCTOBER!), we’re shifting more to hearty, warming meals.  We still hope to have the occasional “hey it’s a nice day, let’s fire up the grill” evenings, but, as happens every year, those days are becoming scarcer for the time being.

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Monday – Well, the results from last week’s poll came back, and, as of this writing, it’s a tie!  We had equal votes for the Cook’s Country Dakota Chicken-and-Dumpling Soup and the Cook’s Illustrated‘s Chicken Pot Pie with Savory Crumble Topping, so, in keeping with the “I’m sick” theme for the week, we’re going with the soup.  The pot pie, however, is definitely up next for leftover chicken – fear not!

Tuesday –  The October issue of Cooking Light has an interesting recipe for Spiced Lentils with Poached Eggs that looked intriguing.  However, rather than carrots, I think I’ll pan-roast some broccoli, since I’ve got a bunch still in the fridge.

Wednesday – Peeps suggested pancakes for dinner one night – not sure yet what pancakes we’ll make (I can think of three recipes off the top of my head that we LOVE!) but I’m sure we’ll figure it out by dinnertime!  And of course, we’ve got homemade breakfast sausage to go along, and maybe even a bit of applesauce, too.  

Thursday – Back when we ran the meal-prep business, one of the more popular selections was a buttermilk-brined pork loin.  It was so easy, and it was so good – the pork is soaked in a solution of (wait for it) buttermilk and kosher salt, then it’s roasted with fresh herbs.  It’ll be wonderful with sweet potatoes and some green beans, plus there should be plenty left over!

Friday – And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve got no problem adding some of that leftover pork to my pizza on Friday night pizza night!  I should still have some tomatoes, too, though mine are just about done for the season, I fear.  I will take advantage of every last one I can!

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 09.17.2012 Edition September 17, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in canning, meal plan monday, random stuff.
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We’ve had a busy busy weekend!

First off, I started chicken stock Saturday – I absolutely HAD to get some of the chicken, um, stuff out of the freezer – it was taking over!  We decided to can it this time around in pints rather than quarts – mainly because I had 3 empty quart jars and 2 and a half cases of pints!

I had also intended to make my lovely, lovely kale and bean soup and try canning that, and would you believe, there is apparently not a wide-mouth pint jar to be had in Rochester!

I gave up in disgust, came home and tried canning just the beans (fingers crossed!) and ended up ordering some jars online.  Maybe next week we’ll try again . . .

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Although the garden seems to have pretty much pooped out on me, I’m still picking a bowlful of those little Juliet tomatoes every few days.

I’m of two minds about these tomatoes – they’re too small to want to peel and can, but they really don’t have a nice, vibrant flavor like a cherry tomato.

However, I’ve found that if I halve the little buggers, toss them with some garlic, shallots and olive oil, with a bit of salt, then roast them, the blend into a sauce that’s not  bad at all.  In fact, I’d say it’s pretty darned good – especially on pizza!

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I decided that it might be a good idea to take a sock-knitting class.  I’ve got the basic hang of it, but I just can’t get my heels to look nice.  And I can’t seem to work an actual class into my schedule – either they’re in the afternoons when I’m at work, or they’re in the evenings and run past my bedtime.  Then I came across the idea of an online class – something I can access whenever I want to.

I’ll let you know how it works out!

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Poor old Jar!

He had his obedience class Saturday, and this is pretty much how he spent the rest of the day.  Why yes, I do need to vacuum those stairs!

Even though he knows most of the material we’re covering in class (sit, down, stay, heel), it’s still awfully hard for him to be the same room with 6 or 7 strange dogs.

But he’s doing very well – I think the combination of his medication, and better consistency and handling techniques on my part is actually helping!

Of course, the sheer volume of treats he’s getting is staggering!

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Lest anyone think the dog is the only one getting treats, though, I assure you, that is not the case!

Whenever I make chicken stock, I always make sure to pick out a few tasty morsels for our kitty!

I find the best time to lure her out into the Real World is about half an hour before her dinnertime – then she’s STARVING and doesn’t care if there are  dogs around or not!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  We’re still trying to hang onto as much summer as we can, though the cooler weather is certainly welcome.

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Monday –  We are STILL trying to get stuff out of the freezer – we’re so used to shopping and cooking for 3 plus leftovers, that it’s really hard to just cook for two!  We’re finishing up some tilapia – since it’s looking to be such a stellar day, Peeps will grill it, and we’ll serve with some polenta and a nice tossed salad.

Tuesday – I did pick up some chicken on sale (though none went into the freezer!), and we’re going to do one of our all-time favorites – pan roasted breasts with rosemary.  I think it’ll be quite nice with some barley (we NEVER have barley, and we both love it!)  and I’m going to roast some butternut squash that my mother gave me from her garden.

Wednesday – We had planned to test our freshly-canned kale soup, but since we were unable to find the proper jars, we’re probably going to wing it.  Maybe we’ll try some sort of bean burgers or something.  Ideally it’ll be something mostly meatless.

Thursday – We realized that we hadn’t had those fancy French pork chops in a while, and it’s still grilling weather!  Since I have neither fennel pollen nor fronds on hand, I may try making the rub with salt, pepper, and just a little bit of ground fennel seeds.  Could work.  Peeps has taken a real liking to foil packets of baby potatoes on the grill (not to mention homefries made with any leftover potatoes!), so we’re going to do that, along with what’s sure to be leftover squash from Tuesday’s chicken.

Friday – See, now I’m torn pizza night – I adore my fresh tomato-herb pizza.  But I’m also not hating the roasted tomato sauce.  And a gal can only eat just so much pizza. . . it’s rough, let me tell you!

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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