Thursday, January 29, 2009


With no Day Out Tuesday and no karate class yesterday, Gryffin was getting a little restless. (Understatement of the year) I give my kid credit, when he's hit with boredom he's also hit with creativity. He came up with the idea of throwing Mike a surprise party, with cake and streamers and sign. Damn, my kid is brilliant. I knew Mike could really use a good cheering up after having a few rough days at work, so it was party time!
Gryffin helped me bake the cake, crumble it up into the icing and stir into a stiff mess where we scooped it with a melon baller and froze it. Then we melted some chocolate and dipped the cake balls in. We made a lovely, delicious mess. Mmmm, red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, covered in white chocolate. Gryffin also picked up all of his toys to make the house 'nice for Daddy' and he helped me hang the streamers and drew a volcano on a piece of paper emblazoned with the words, 'We Love You'. When Mike pulled in the drive, which he had gotten up at 4am to shovel, Gryffin and I hid behind a chair waiting. When he opened the door, we jumped up and yelled (of all the original things) Surprise! I really don't know who had the biggest smile, Gryffin for pulling it off, Mike for feeling so much love it melted some snow, or me being a witness to the wonder of my son and husband, and being the luckiest woman on the planet.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Wondermeal

We have enough snow on the ground that I can no longer see the neighbors grass sticking up. That's a lot of snow, folks. Oh, and have I mentioned they just NOW got rid of their Halloween pumpkin and put up a bunch of bird feeders? I hate birds.
Last night as soon as Mike got home I sent him right back out in it with Gryffin. They played in the snow for about a half hour before it got too cold so I could work on picking up the house. Nothing destroys a house like a cabin fevered little boy and a lazy mom. I at least had a nice hot Shepherd's Pie waiting for them though. It was the perfect dish for a cold, snowy day.

Shepherd's Pie

1 lb ground lamb
1 lb frozen mixed veggies
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 small onion, diced
2.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes, chopped with skins on
1/2 cup or so of Fat Free 1/2 and 1/2
Garlic powder
Salt & Pepper

Put the taters on to boil. Cook the lamb and onion together until the meat is no longer pink and drain, return to pan. Slightly steam the frozen veggies but do not cook all the way. This will get them to release some of their liquid. (I forgot to do this last night so mine was slightly watery, but still good) Add the veggies and spices to the meat, stir in the tomato sauce and place all this in a big casserole dish sprayed with non-stick spray. When the potatoes are tender, drain and combine with the 1/2 & 1/2. Using a mixer, whip them into a frenzy. Hey, you're making mashed potatoes! Spread the potatoes evenly over the top and stick in a 350 oven for about 30-45 mintues or until the potatoes are nice and golden. Let this rest for a few minutes before serving. (I also forgot this step last night, which was another reason it was a little watery)

This recipe can be used with ground beef or a combination.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I doubt there is even two inches of snow on the ground and everyone is panicked. The weatherman, aka Guessman, has predicted anywhere between 0-967 more, way to CYA dude. Needless to say, all the schools have closed.
Time for an agenda redo.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My man is good!

Mike passed his test! He not only passed, but passed with a 90%. The national average is 73%. I am so proud of him.
Yesterday he came home with a big bouquet of flowers. I got gussied up while the boys waited for Grandma to show up. We shipped Gryffin off with her and Mike took me out for sushi. Mmmm, sushi. Saki on the other hand, I'll leave that up to Mike. We got some new movies, settled in on the couch with some drinks and called it a lovely evening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I slept so hard I think my brain fell out. That's pretty rare for me, I'm usually a light sleeper. On the rare nights when I do sleep like last night, I have the hardest time waking up. Couple cups of coffee, a shower and Gryffin waking up in a good mood helps.
Yesterday I watched the Inauguration. What a moment in history! One step closer to equality for all and hopefully better times ahead for the nation (and world).
Last night I did something I haven't done in forever. I made pizza. It was so good that I forgot to take pictures before we devoured it. Gryffin ate three pieces! I know that I've posted the recipe before, but knowing me I forgot to label it so here it is:

Freezer Pizza
3/4 cup warm water
2 T olive oil
2 c flour
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t yeast

Place the above in order in a bread machine and turn to the dough setting. Let that baby do the work. When its done, pour the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out until the size of your pizza stone. Prick the center with a fork to keep it from bubbling up and bake for 10 minutes on a pizza stone at 400. Carefully remove the crust and top with your faves or freeze for use in the future. If not freezing, return to oven all topped with goodies and bake addition 10-15 minutes.
To cook from frozen: no need to thaw, just top with what you like and place on a pizza stone in a 400 degree oven until cheese is bubbly and crust is GBD (golden, brown, delicious), about 15 minutes.

We just had a simple pepperoni one last night. While making it I read the label on the cheese and got really ticked at Sam's Club. They have stopped selling the 2% low-fat Kraft shredded cheese in favor of their own which is definitely not low in fat. 9 flipping percent! I cook as healthy as possible and this will not work. I'll just have to go back to looking for the low-fat stuff on sale and stocking up. Luckily, it freezes really well.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

There's a dusting of snow on the ground, it's cold and I'm out of coffee. At least one of those (the most important) can be remedied. I just hope they haven't closed Day Out because of the snow. I know Mojo is happy to have it. Nothing makes and old Husky smile like snow and maybe a good belly rub and some table scraps.

Mike takes his Series 7, investment broker's test, on Thursday. He's been studying like a madman and after spending 15 years in the industry, I know he will do well. Don't go asking him to be your stock broker though, he plans on staying behind the scenes. Sometimes I miss having a job. Most, if not all, of you know that he and I worked together for over 10 years. From what I've heard, I wouldn't want to go back there though. Times are a changing, for better or worse who knows.

I definitely plan on catching some Inauguration coverage today. Yippee! My side won, now let's see what they can do. Sorry Dad, don't mean to rub it in.

Ok, the jammies and robe aren't cutting it and Gryffin won't share the blanket so I better get off my duff and put the homeless look away. Or maybe I'll just pour another cup of coffee to warm up.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ok, we're safe. Infact, better than safe.

The seafood chowda' turned out lovely. I won't post the recipe just yet, as it's not perfected. Next time I will use all seafood stock instead of half seafood, half veggie. I will add more crab and salad shrimp, lots of paprika and maybe even some other kind of whitefish.
I am really proud of my first attempt though. I just need to learn how to cook for us and not the whole neighborhood because even after delivering some next door to P & S, I have about a gallon left.

Oh Lord, I think it might be takeout night

I'm currently trying to make a seafood chowder, with corn and potatoes, crab and shrimp. I'm not real confident about it, but we'll see. Stay tuned for the sordid details.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

You know it's gonna be good when...

You're wearing killer boots,
Got Loretta Lynn, Social Distortion and Elvis Costello on shuffle
And with an empty house
Are cleaning.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Damn, I'm good. (And humble)

I've been trying to get Chicken & Dumplings right for months now. And I've finally done it.
I started off making my own chicken stock. I had roasted a chicken for Monday's dinner and saved the carcass. I put that and an onion, bay leaves, fresh parsley and rosemary, some Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute and water into the crock pot yesterday morning on high. I let that simmer away until about 3:30.

After straining it into a big stock pot, I got this lovely golden stock. I then made the dumplings, which are so easy:

1 cup flour
1 t baking powder
3/4 t salt
1 T shortening
1/2 c milk

Mix the dry ingredients and then cut in shortening. Add the milk to make a stiff dough. Roll out on a floured surface until 1/4" thick, cut into 1" squares. Bring the stock to a boil and add the dumplings one a time to prevent clumping. Let them boil for about 10-15 minutes.
I then added the leftover chicken meat, minus the skin and a bag of thawed peas & carrots. I dissolved about 2 T cornstarch in a cup of low fat milk and added this to the pot. I turned the heat down and let this simmer away until nice and thick.
This is the hearty, thick, uber-yummy Chicken & Dumplings that we had the pleasure of devouring last night. In fact, I had to keep myself from eating the leftovers for breakfast this morning.
From now on, I'm making my own stock. It truly made all the difference in the world and was so easy to just throw in the crock pot. I'm sure that if I freeze it, I can just pop out a couple cups and make a smaller batch of Chicken & Dumplings in no time.
Which on a single digit temperature day- like today- would be an awesome way to warm up. Of course, last night Dad gave me the wonderful idea of making Pork & Dumplings, using ham stock. Mmm, I've getting hungry all over again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The visit with Mike's Aunt & Uncle was short but good. And I got a clean house out of it. Yesterday I hit the grocery store for some Can't Pass Up deals. With the uncertainty of the economy we have decided to stock up on frozen and dry goods. I got 5 boxes of cereal and two huge bottles of laundry detergent for $30. Doesn't sound like a deal until you realize that these purchases got me a $15 off coupon for my next trip to the grocery. Plus, they were things that I needed anyway.
We also stopped by Lowe's to pick up a shelving unit for the basement. Mike set it up next to the deep freeze and I'm going to spend some time today cleaning the upstairs pantry and putting the extras in the basement. This is a much needed task since I overloaded a shelf in the pantry and it tipped backwards spilling all my canned goods over. Oops! Luckily, nothing broke.
I also got a loaf of Honey Wheat bread baked yesterday and have a chicken defrosted for roasting today. I think along with a little laundry that will be my course of action for this cold Sunday.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Maiming Mood LIfted

I'm no longer in a maiming mood. My jaw is well enough to eat some cereal and drink coffee. That's really all I require.
We are getting some out of town guests this evening and Dianne has been kind enough to agree to watch Gryffin while I scour the house. Something about out-of-towners makes me want to make the house perfect. That and the fact that I really haven't had opportunity to get much cleaning done this week. Note to self: never schedule an appliance repair, chimney sweep and dentist appointment all in the same week.
Along with cleaning today, I have to hit the grocery store and maybe pickup a little firewood. Better get started by getting out of PJ's, slippers and robe.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Dental hygienists should be shot in all four appendages, hung from a tree upside down and used as a pinata until their teeth fall out. But this is just my opinion and only a temporary one at that. I'm sure once I'm able to move my jaw again the anger will subside. A little.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ice, #*&%!

Ice hit last night and the schools are closed. Damned ice. This was to be Gryffin's first day back to Day Out since before Christmas and I had a bazillion things to do. Oh well, I guess they will just have to wait. At least there is still hot coffee.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Pinching Pennys

Here are more of my strategies to saving (or avoiding spending) money.
1. Use cash, when it's gone it's really gone.
2. Break bills, never give change away. When you buy something use bills and let the change collect. Once a week I clean out my wallet and put the change in a big jar on the dresser. When that gets full, I turn it in for anywhere from $40 to $100 at a time.
3. Save first, set up automatic transfers to your savings account on payday.
4. Use credit for bills, I have every bill I can billed to my credit card and an automatic payment to my credit card set up from my checking account. That way, I rack up the cash back bonus and use it, along with all that change as a Christmas Club.
5. Calculate the cost, I keep a small calculator in my purse and use it to figure out price per ounce or unit. I did this the other day at Target and found that buying 72 Pull-Ups was cheaper by $.10 a diaper than buying the pack of 44. This also comes in super handy at the grocery store.
6. Clearance, Clarence. I only buy clothes from the clearance racks. This goes for me, Gryffin and Mike. I usually don't even waste time looking at the full-price stuff.
7. Coupons, we usually only go out to eat if we have a coupon for the restaurant or we get it as take out to keep from having to tip. Plus, when you eat out if you order water that's a good $2-$4 savings per person. I even go so far as to ask for hot water and bring my own tea bags.
8. Track the sales. It seems like our grocery store has the same things on sale about once a month. By keeping track of what goes on sale when you can figure out when to stock up and when to hold off. Take spaghetti sauce, our store puts it on sale every other week. I only buy enough to last two or three weeks because I know it will going on sale again soon.
9. Wash in cold. Mike is going to kill me for this one but, I wash everything in cold water. We use a good detergent and Oxy-Clean, so cold water gets everything just as clean. Every once in a while I do a load of bleaching, this is the only time I use hot water. I also skip the extra rinse cycle. It is also important to clean out the lint trap on the dryer EVERY time you use it so it can work efficiently and not be a fire hazard.
10. Don't go shopping unless you NEED something. Wandering through Target is a nice way to spend a few hours but it can turn into an expensive trip. I also try to leave Mike and Gryffin at home, this makes for a shorter run.

Crockpot Beef Stew

My attempts at crock pot cooking have either been hit or miss. Not just miss by "it needs something", I mean hit by " eek, gross, throw it out- NOW". My last attempt was of the latter category. Chicken and Dumplings that turned out to be Chunky and Dump It. Today I'm trying beef stew. I really, really, really hope this works out. This is what I did:

1 lb of stew meat
1 lb of baby carrots
1 lb of potatoes, chunked
1 onion, sliced thick
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt, pepper and TJ's 21 Seasoning Salute
1 T olive oil
1 can beef broth, low sodium, fat free
1 can tomato sauce
1 T garlic, chopped

I coated the meat in the flour and cooked in the olive oil until just browned. I added this along with everything else to the crock pot and set on low. It's 10:30 am now so I'm hoping to have dinner by six.
I'm also hoping it tastes good. Stay tuned...

UPDATE: It was awesome and perfect and perfectly awesome. Dinner at six, Mike home at 6:30 and I'm really hoping to get a book, bath and a glass of wine in- all at the same time.
MMmmmm, coffee.

That's exactly how I feel this morning. A rough night of no sleep past 2 am and an early morning of Gryffin being up at 6:30, that ought to make for a lovely, groggy day. Oh well, I've made it through worse situations.
The New Year brought about new changes to my daily routine and a review of the budget. I didn't keep up on what I was spending on Christmas and went a little overboard. Along with getting the fridge fixed, the chimney cleaned and a dentist appointment this week, things are going to be tight. Tight like trying to cram my fanny into a pair of size six skinny jeans that just came out of the dryer. That's OK too, nothing a few paychecks and eating out of the pantry won't cure. But all of this did make me realize something... my envelope trick works- when I use it!
You see, I have in my wallet six envelopes labeled: Fun $, Me, Grocery/Lottery, Jeep, Sam's and House. Every payday I fill each envelope with the allotted funds, the Fun $ gets $50 for eating out, movies, etc. The Me one gets the same, this is my allowance. The other envelopes get their allowance. When the envelope is empty, no more spending! This week the grocery and house envelopes got emptied immediately. These are the days when I wished we got a paycheck every week instead of every two. But I WILL make do. I'm bound and determined to get back on track.
Speaking of getting back on track, I better get some laundry in while Gryffin is embroiled in a battle of good vs. evil playing with his Batcave.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Fat Free Gravy

Do those words make you cringe? Do they make you think of jarred, gelatinous goo that tastes a lot like poo? Think again, my friend.

My husband is a gravy lover. I've always liked the taste of it, just couldn't stomach the fact that it was so fatty. Last night for dinner I made mini meatloaves, broccoli & cauliflower and mashed potatoes and FAT FREE GRAVY. It was solely done as an experiment and I really didn't think it would work, but it did. Here's how I did it:

Fat Free (yet yummy) Gravy

1 can of fat free, low sodium beef broth
2 tsp onion flakes
1 T cornstarch
1 tsp browning sauce- you can find this in the spice isle or sometimes with the nasty canned gravy

Add about 1/2 the broth along with the onion to a sauce pan, bring to a simmer.
Add the cornstarch to the remaining broth and mix until dissolved. Add this to the pan along with the browning sauce. Whisk together and let simmer until thick.

Even more surprisingly, this gravy stood up for leftovers the next night! Hmmm, I wonder if it would freeze well?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Avalanche to crafty, at last!


After. That's Betsy in the corner, she was a Christmas present from Mike. Yay!




New Year's Eve was just as I had predicted... Gryffin and I asleep with Mike playing video games. I think he kissed me at midnight. Our New Year's Day was just as kicked back. Gryffin helped Mike take down the outdoor Christmas decorations and I cleaned out the avalanche room, aka- sewing room. It had accumulated all the bits and bobs for wrapping presents along with all the other stuff that needed a temporary storage spot.
When I got it all in order, I sat back and admired my work. I wanted to start something crafty but found that the mood didn't last long. I was exhausted. I'm thinking this weekend I will get my craft on and at least start something fantabulous.