Monday, March 31, 2008

Menu for 3-30 to 4-5

Click over and enter my Knitted Dishcloth Giveaway!

B: Golden Grahams
D: Take out

B: Golden Grahams
L: Cheese and Crackers

Tusday (Home from Our Road Trip!)
B: Breakfast Burritos
L: Tamales and Nachos
D: Pasta Bake and Garlic Bread

B: Banana Muffins
L: Frozen Pizza
D: Chili

B: Muffins
L: Frozen Pizza
D: Ham and Mashed Potatoes

B: Cereal
L: Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
D: Mac and Cheese with Ham

B: Toast
L: Leftover Mac and Cheese
D: Pizza

This weeks menu is all from the pantry and the freezer. We didn't get the chance to go grocery shopping because we've been traveling all weekend. There's a chunk of ham in the freezer that's the last of the ham from Christmas, so I figured it would be better to get that eaten and then have it available, instead of trying to fit in a shopping trip.

Check out all the other menu ideas at Org Junkie!

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Elizabethtown, KY

We're in Elizabethtown this morning. We stayed at a Super 8 last night. For as much at we stay at Super 8, we should buy stock. It's always Marriott if Ben's work is buying, and Super 8 if we're paying.

Anyway, today we're planning to see the Lincoln Birthplace National Memorial and then we'll probably head to Shaker Village in Harrodsburg. I'm hoping to find a church here so we can go to mass too. I'm so excited to be back in Kentucky. It's always been one of my favorite places that I've always visited, ever since we we're here when I was 14 and Donna lived in TN.

Yesterday was a great day. We stopped and looked at some stores Ben needed to see, and we went through Corydon, IN, which is the neatest old city. They have a store for home brewing there, and we picked up a make your own rootbeer kit. I'm so excited to make rootbeer! There will definately be picture of that later this week. We didn't really get the chance to do a ton of sightseeing, since we didn't leave yesterday till noon, and we had to keep on the road, but it was a pretty drive and we had fun in the car.

Hope everyone else has a wonderful day!

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Road Trip!

Ben has a meeting in Nashville on Monday, and since he had to rent a car and drive down anyway (flights are so expensive last minute!), we decided we'd make a whole weekend of it and I'd go along for the ride! So, we're taking a little detour through Kentucky to see some historical sites, and then it's on to Nashville. I'm really looking forward to it, I love getting to go on car rides and see the sites. It's always been my family's idea of a vacation to just get in the car and drive. And now that it's just Ben and I, it's even more fun because he'll spring for hotel room instead of driving all night.

Anyway, I hope everyone else has a fabulous weekend! I'll update soon, since I'm taking the computer with me, and maybe I'll have some good pictures to post as well.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Contest Announcement!

This is a sticky post and will remain at the top of the page till the end of the contest. Please scroll down for new posts.

I've decided to join in all the giveaway fun I see going on at other blogs. My idea for what to give away came from a couple of blog archives I was reading that mentioned a problem with smelly dish cloths. I've never had that problem, so I decided I'd give away...

A Set of Seven of My Handknitted Dishcloths!
And Two Handknitted Scrubbies!

These dishcloths are sort of a tradition with my family. Everyone always prefers to use them over the store bought kind, and my mom and aunts make them every so often to pass out to all the rest of the family. They also happen to be the first thing I ever knit. In fact, making dishcloths like these is how I learned to knit!

The scrubby is 100% nylon, so it's safe for nonstick and cast iron. And the dish cloths are 100% cotton, so they're easy to care for. Just wash them in hot water with all the other linens. I always wash the scrubbies with the rest of the linens too. If they're very dirty, I'll rinse them well before throwing them in.

I think the reason that I never have smelly dishcloth problems is partly the make up of these knitted cloths. They dry quickly and don't seem to hold onto odor. I attribute the rest to the fact that I change my dishcloth each morning. That's why I knit a set of seven to go to the lucky winner!

How to Win:

I will randomly draw the winner from among all the entries. In order to enter, please leave a comment on this post telling me a good dishwashing tip or detailing your dishwashing eccentricities.

For instance, I'm very particular about the order I wash dishes. I have to get them all arranged and sorted on the counter before I even start washing. Then I have to rinse the sink before I fill it. When I begin to wash, I do all the drinking glasses and mugs first, then plates and bowls, then the silverware goes into the bottom of the sink to soak (all except sharp knives!), while I wash the plastic ware, like bowls and storage containers, then the silverware, the sharp knives, the mixing bowls, and the pots and pans last.

And now that I've just outed myself as a completely OCD dishwasher (anyone who's ever met my dad will recognize who taught me to do dishes), I expect similar confessions from all of you!

The Deadline to Enter is Friday, April 4th at 9pm Central Time.

Good Luck!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Little Spring Cleaning

I've been seeing lots of spring cleaning on other blogs for the last few weeks, but I just haven't yet been hit by the springtime bug. Still seemed a lot like winter to me, I guess. But this morning, the sun was shining so I opened the windows to air the house, and it hit.

I ended up rearranging the bedroom furniture. Well, arranging it, to be honest, since it never really got put in with any kind of arrangement in the first place. I cleaned the floors, moved the furniture, dusted everything, and shook rugs outside. I set up my Glade wisp candle (thanks, CVS) and brought in a small table to hold Ben's clock beside the bed, since our bedside chests just wouldn't work in that configuration in this new bedroom.

I also usually resist spring cleaning, because I'm never sure what that means beyond regular cleaning. I suppose it means things like washing walls and rearranging closets. I guess I usually just prefer to spread those kinds of jobs out and do them a few a month. Maybe I'm missing the point? I also know that my plan doesn't always work, because when we moved out of the house in AZ, I found lots of places I hadn't ever cleaned. Like behind the washer and dryer. Or the back corners of all the closet floors. I guess those are the places spring cleaning is for?

Is anyone else doing any spring cleaning? Anyone know of any good resources for spring cleaning plans?

I also did a bunch of laundry and baked two loaves of that delicious bread. I may be addicted to that delicious bread. Of course, I don't really need to have two loaves around, but Ben wasn't home last night to finish what was left in the bottle of beer, so I figured two loaves made less wasted beer. Sure, it also called for the oven to be on twice as long. I didn't really think that one through. Then later on I thought, I bet I could use the flat beer in the bread. The yeast is doing the rising of the dough, and the recipe says the beer is for taste.

What do you all think? Is it worth trying with the leftover flat beer?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Blessing of a Wonderful Day

I had such a special day yesterday. It was just what I needed. I've been feeling slightly down for a little while. I'm sure that it was just a number of things all piling up, hormones, coming down from visiting my family, being so sick last week, but it seemed like I couldn't get ahead of my emotions for a few weeks, and that can be so discouaging to me. So, just as I was starting to feel out and out depressed, God blessed me with a beautiful day to make my birthday so special and remind me how loved I am, by Him and my friends and family.

My best friends called or sent cards, my in laws emailed me and arranged some sort of surprise that's arriving soon (maybe those mystery flowers?), all my brothers and sisters and my mom and dad called. My sister Donna sang me the fun song they sing for birthdays at the restaurant where she works. Brother Adam sang me Happy Birthday on my voice mail, and seriously committed to it. My mom and brother Wayne sent me lotto scratchers, and my Grandma sent me a handwritten recipe from my Great-Grandma. Sister Angie called me from their vacation and she and her husband and their two boys all wished me happy birthday. My adorable niece Julia and nephew Logan sang Happy Birthday to me. As you can see, I was showered with blessings.

Then Ben actually took a couple of hours of the afternoon off and took me out to the movies. And took me shopping where ever I asked. And then offered me a fancy dinner. But I thought that it might be more fun to use that money on something that would last a little longer than food, so I twisted his arm and got him to go to Best Buy and look at video games. We picked out American Idol and spent the rest of a really great evening playing together and singing!

Not to mention, there were presents. He got me a book on gardening in Illinois and a knitting book with all cat related patterns. And, a subscription to Cook's Illustrated Magazine!

As wonderful and thoughtful all the gifts were, it was just such a blessing to be reminded how I fit into everyone's lives and that I'm a special daughter of God. I know that He celebrates each and every birthday with us, but I'm grateful to have that made so obvious to me this year.

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Christmas in My Heart: Planning a Special Project

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

With our Easter celebrations still going on, it may seem odd to be thinking about Christmas, but now is the perfect time to start planning for certain things. No, I'm not suggesting you plan your menu so far in advance, but perhaps you'd like to start a needlework project now, so you'll have plenty of time to master any required skills and finish any details, so assure that you'll end up with an heirloom by Christmas, instead of a huge case of last minute stress.

Handmade ornaments, blankets, decorations, and table linens create such a wonderful atmosphere during our holiday events. But these things, whether knit, crocheted, cross-stitched, quilted, embroidered, or made by any other technique, can take hours and hours to complete. And during the Christmas season, most of us are too busy to take on tasks like this, let alone finish them.

It is important to keep these skills alive and to use them to enrich our homes and our family traditions. Imagine your grown children showing their own children the tablecloth and napkins that you all embroidered together when they were young. Or picture the joy on a dear friend's face when she opens a package from you and sees a wonderful hand stitched ornament. I'm sure such a gift would become a very special part of her celebrations. Needlework can bring such joy to all of your loved ones, it is definately worth a little planning to finish these projects with plenty of time to spare.

If you'd like to take on a large Christmas themed needlework project this year, follow these steps and ask yourself these questions:
  • First, browse through Christmas themed crafting books, and select which project you'd like to make.
  • Decide what skills you may need to learn to finish the project and research classes or other ways you could gain this knowledge.
  • Plan the project into steps, and decide how much you can reasonably finish in a given time period. Perhaps you can plan to finish one quarter of a tablecloth every two months.
  • Try your best to stick with your plan, but make sure to leave the month of November and even perhaps October free for any finishing touches or last minute pushes.
  • If you're planning a very large project, feel free to plan two years to finish it. Just be sure that you don't let it languish too long in the closet.
  • Once you've mapped out your game plan, write it down, and be sure to include it in your weekly or monthly planning. Don't forget about it or it won't be completed on time.
  • Plan any supplies you made need and make sure you have or can get what you want to complete your project.

My plan for this year is to knit the figures in this Nativity Set. Because I'm planning seven figures, Mary/Baby Jesus, Joseph, a Shepherd, the Three Kings, and a Sheep, I know that I can set a goal for myself to knit one figure a month, beginning this month and ending in Sept. I'm planning to finish the pieces as I go, ie. sew and stuff them, so I don't have a bunch of tedious finishing work at the end of the seven months. I am planning to start with yarn scraps in my stash, but will also order some KnitPicks Pallette yarn if I want particular shades. Because the figures are all different people and are small, I won't have to worry too much about matching any shades and can order as needed if required.

Join in with keeping Christmas joy all year round. Use the Mr. Linky below to link to your own plan for an heirloom Christmas needlework project. Share your progress with us all as you plan and complete it. Don't have any needleworking skills? No problem! Find a project you'd like to complete and outline your goals for learning the needlework skill of your choice!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

My Birthday

I turn 28 today! But since I don't look a day over 27, you really wouldn't be able to tell.

I've been pretending I'm a lady of leisure today, and I haven't done a single constructive thing beyond my morning routine. Just knit and watch Lost. So far, it's shaping up to be a fine birthday! I've already gotten a birthday card, from the wonderful Alison. The sun is playing hide and seek, but at least I'm seeing it occasionally. There's delicious Easter leftovers for lunch and yummy lamb cake for dessert. Ben's taking me out for some sort of surprise, and he said we could stop at CVS and at Goodwill (to use the five dollar coupon they sent me for my birthday). And there are flowers somewhere out there for me that will be delivered tomorrow. The flower shop called to assure me that someone loves me enough to let me know that at least flowers are planned.

I've also been playing around with ideas for my blog, and I'm hoping to annouce a contest later this week!

Now, I'll go back to my knitting, and wait for Ben to spring my surprise on me.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lamb Cake

In Ben's family there is a tradition of making a lamb shaped cake for easter every year. I've always thought it would be nice if I could find a lamb pan so I could do this for him. Well, this past summer, my MIL was super nice, and found me this lamb pan at a friend's rummage sale, along with a bunch of other pans. So I was very excited this easter to get to try out my new lamb pan, and try my hand at lamb decorating!

This is what I came up with. I could have made it fancier, if I'd taken the time with it, but Ben wanted to eat some, so I had him help with the stars covering the lamb. Then I did all the bunches of flowers and stuff. It was really fun, and it the end, I think it actually did turn out looking like an Easter lamb. Later, I'll post pictures of what we rigged up to be able to wash the decorating tips in the dishwasher to I didn't have to scrub them all out with the little brush I usually use.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

18 hr, No Knead Bread from Cook's Illustrated Feb. 08

3 c. of Flour (the recipe calls for all purpose, but I used bread flour the second time and got a much smoother dough. so either, I guess)

1/4 t. of instant yeast (I used regular, about 3/8 of a t. and it worked just fine)

1 1/2 t. table salt

3/4 c. plus 2 T. room temperature water

1/4 c. plus 2 T. Bud (they call for a mild lager instead of stout ale or something else because it adds more of a yeasty bread taste)

1 T. white vinegar (I had apple cider, so I used that. it worked fine.)

Whisk together the first three ingredients, then add the rest and fold it together till it forms a ball. Cover losely with plastic wrap, and let sit for 12 - 18 hours somewhere room temperature. I just put it in the cool oven to keep it safe from the cats.

After the wait time, knead the dough on a floured surface about ten times, form it into a ball, and place it into a skillet or shallow dish that's line with parchment paper sprayed with non stick spray. Spray top of dough lightly with nonstick spray. I'm not sure if the nonstick spray is strictly required, but make sure to use parchment paper, not waxed paper. Let it sit at room temperature for about two hours.

Half an hour before baking, put the dutch oven in the oven, and heat to 500 degrees. In the meantime, lightly flour the top of the dough ball and cut a slit in it with a sharp knife. Once the oven is heated, carefully take the dutch oven out and use the parchment paper to drop the bread down into the dutch oven. Just leave the extra paper hanging around the top. Put the lid on, turn the oven down to 425 and bake for half an hour. Then take the lid off the dutch oven and continue baking the bread till it's browned, about twenty minutes.

This does seem like a complicated recipe, but it's easier than it looks. I think Cook's Illustrated is just that kind of magizine. All their recipes make you feel like a real chef or baker. I highly reccommend the magazine if you get to browse it, it's so interesting. They really go into the science and the testing of their methods. My MIL showed it to me, and I just love it. If I'm a very good girl, I've been promised a subscription from my inlaws next Christmas!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Thank you CVS!

It's actually kinda hard to believe you can get such good deals, but I'm pretty thankful that CVS makes that possible. We have $13 in ECB for next time too. It's hard to see in the picture, but there's three lipsticks and two of the spray hand santizers in the front, along with everything else.
The beer is for this new kind of bread I tried yesterday that we both loved, so we picked up some beer to make some more to bring with us to a friend's house for dinner tomorrow night. I got the recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine, it's baked in a dutch oven, and it turned out so well. We ate most of the loaf with our chili last night for dinner, and finished it off for breakfast this morning. Anyway, my CVS deals made something like beer, that we hardly ever buy, a good enough deal to keep us in delicious yummy bread for a while!
Learn how at MoneySavingMom!

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Menu for 3-23 to 3-30

This menu includes Easter Dinner and my birthday on Monday. The noodles that I have to go with the marinara sauce for my birthday dinner are Princess Pasta that I bought at Disneyworld when we were there last month. I'm just a little kid at heart.

I tried to allow for leftover ham, but it's one of those leftovers that I don't have many creative ideas about. Does anyone have any good leftover ham ideas?

B: Boiled Eggs
L: Ham and Mashed Potatoes
D: Leftovers

B: Muffins
L: Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
D: Noodles and Sauce with Lamb Cake filling in as Birthday Cake for dessert!

B: Muffins
L: Pasta Salad with Ham Chunks
D: Chicken Nuggets and Tater Tots

B: Pancakes
L: Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
D: Chili

B: Muffins
L: Pasta Salad
D: Fajitas

B: Muffins
L: Tamales and Nachos
D: Pizza

B: Muffins
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Sausage and Eggs

Check out all the other yummy menus at Orgjunkie.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to Make the Castle Cake

Here are the details of making and decoarating the Castle Cake I made a couple of weeks ago for my nephew. It could easily be made into a Princess Castle for a little girl if you use pink and purple and other little girl colors. I colored the icing for my boy version with royal blue and a little black to get a gray kind of color. I used bright yellow, red, and green for the accent colors.

You'll need:
1 deep 9 inch sqare cake pan
2 6 inch round cake pans
4 cake mixes of your flavor choices
six drinking staws
sugar cones (for tower spires)
gumdrops (for ramparts)
small stick pretzels (for drawbridge)
a wafer cookie (for castle door)
candy trees (to decorate the outside)
any other candy that you might want to use to decorate the castle
a toy, if desired, that can be used in the setting, such as a plastic dragon or toy unicorn
decorating tips: a writing tip, a star tip, and a grass tip
other decorating supplies: icing spatula, piping bags, etc.

It is best to plan two days to make this cake. One full day for the baking, cooling and construction of the cake, and the next day have a few hours available for the finishing touches and piping decorations.

Make two square cakes, each consisting of a whole cake mix. Make two round cakes, made of a little less than half a cake mix each. With the leftover mix from the round cakes, bake five cupcakes.

When the cakes have cooled, layer the two square cakes on a large base. Layer the two round cakes on a six inch cake round. Place the drinking straws in a circle in the square cakes to support the round cakes. Trim the straws to be flush with the top of the square cakes. Center the round cakes on the square bottom and place on top of the straws.

Cover the entire cake with the frosting in the color you desire. Smooth this layer and try to keep it fairly neat. Right after this, while the frosting is still moist, place gumdrops around the top edge of the round cake and the edges of the square layer. Trim the five cupcakes to be flat on top, and put them, trimmed side down, in the icing at the four corners of the square cake and one in the center of the round cake. Stick the wafer cookie into the center front of the square layer to serve as the castle door.

Put the cake aside overnight for the icing to develp a crust and the candies to stick. It is always much easier to pipe onto icing that has dried overnight. You can then cover five sugar cones with chocolate or Wilton candy melts, if you'd like them to be smooth and colored, or you can leave them plain.

In the morning, pipe vines around the walls of the castle, using the star tip to add small flowers. Also pipe details, such as windows and molding as desired. Pipe around the door to make a frame, and lay down pretzels to make the drawbridge. Using the star tip, pipe a thick line of frosting around the open edge of each sugar cone, then "glue" each one to a cupcake. Pipe windows and decorations on the cones, making a border where it meets the cupcake.

To finish the cake, add candy trees or other decorations, then pipe a line of "grass" with green icing and the grass tip all along the bottom to finish the bottom edge of the cake. Add grass on the base where ever it is needed. Add the toy as a finishing touch. If it is a dragon, place it as though it is menacing the castle.

You can also make flags for the tips of the towers, using toothpicks and constuction paper if you'd like to. The possibilites for decorating are as endless as making a ginerbread house. You could do an authentic medieval castle, a princess castle, a castle from a particular story. If you wanted a seasonal cake instead of a birthday cake, you could do a haunted castle, or a castle in the winter, decorated for Christmas, or a springtime May Day castle, decked out in flowers.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Embroidered Easter Banner

Before I left on my trip to visit my family in MI, I'd finished the embroidery on this banner. It's part of a set of four in a packaged kit. Today I sewed the backing on, washed the ink marks out, and rigged up the hanger for it. To finish the edges, it was sewn right sides together to the backing, along the sides. A space for turning was left open at the top. After it was turned, and I used a chop stick to make the corners nice and sharp, the opening was slip stitched closed. The the top was folded down about an inch to the back and slip stitched to the backing fabric to form the rod pocket.

For the hanger, I used a small length of dowel, with two large wooden beads left from another project that just happened to fit right on the ends. I just tied the hanging ribbon around the dowel between the banner and the bead. I may paint the dowel and beads, if I can decide on a color that will go with all of the eight banners that I'm planning. Probably white. That way, I can use the same hanger with all the banners and just slip them on and off.

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Lost Without My Lists

I feel like I've gotten so much accomplished today! I'm sure this is partly because I've not gotten much at all done all week because I was feeling sick, but it's also because I actually sat down and got organized today. I started out by making my lists again, something I'd neglected since I got back home from MI. My morning routine consists of:

1. Get Up, Get Clean, Get Dressed
2. Listen to Readings
3. Empty Dishwasher and Drainer, wash all dirty dishes on the counter, and wipe down the surfaces
4. Make the Bed and Tidy the Bedroom
5. Clean Litter Boxes, Change Trash, and Feed Cats

I make sure that I do these five things every morning. Doing this helps my day go so much more smoothly. These are the bare minimum requirements to keep my house comfortable and make it possible to cook meals and feel relaxed.

I also make a to do list every morning of things specific to the day. I always ask Ben if there's anything that I can do for him during the day, and I usually just think of what I have to be prepared for in the coming day or week. Sometimes this includes things that happen at least once a week, like cleaning the floors on Monday or washing the sheets on Friday. Sometimes I write down very simple things that are important not to forget, like today I had to make sure to call my sister, because it's her birthday. (Happy Birthday, Donna!) Sometimes these are projects I have to finish or make progress on or maybe just remembering to take meat out of the freezer for the next day's meals. I might have a very big project one day, like baking lots of muffins to freeze, or something small, like finally remembering to hem pants or sew a button on for Ben.

Today, I had laundry to catch up on, and I wanted to be sure to finish the Easter banner that I embroidered. I also had some articles to write for Associated Content. Also on my list for today is mixing up some 18 hour bread, so we can have it for lunch tomorrow.

By writing down my morning routine, I'm reminded to do things that are not quite automatic habit for me, and motivated to finish the tasks that I may not enjoy so much. And by mixing the chores on my to do list every day, I find that I can get so much more done in a day because it keeps me on task and I don't have to stop and think about what to do next. I can also be sure that I'm balancing the, um, not so inspiring homemaking work, like dishes and floors, with the things that I really enjoy and get me motivated, like baking and needlework.

I'm planning to institute an afternoon routine as well, now that I've gotten firmly in the habit of writing down and checking my morning routine at the bottom of each day's to do list. My afternoon routine now looks something like this:
1. Empty dish drainer
2. Set up Ben's coffee grinder and coffee maker for the morning
3. Prepare anything for dinner that needs to be made
4. Finish any laundry still in the washer or dryer
5. Bring in and sort the mail, pay any bills or answer any letters

I may change this around as I start to put it into practice consistently. The important part is that I have these routines in place before I start having outdoor work in the garden and canning to add to the lists everyday. I don't want the interior of my home to suffer while I'm learning to garden this spring and summer.

I find that my to do lists are very quickly becoming my most valuable tool for homemaking. I'd never before found a way to make them work for me, but this system is working beautifully, and I think it could be adapted to many lifestyles. How about you? Do you use lists for your tasks? How do you make to do lists work for you?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Cats

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Still a bit under the weather

I had a great day yesterday celebrating St. Patrick's Day. There was some serious wearin' o the green at our house. Of course, I'm still in the grips of some sort of virus, so I'm quite sniffly and watery eyed. I haven't gotten a ton done since I've been home. Yesterday I did clean up most of the kitchen and emptied my suitcases, but there's quite a bit of cleaning to get done before the weekend so the house will be nice for Easter. I'm planning to do all the laundry today, and then do the floors and bathrooms and vaccum the couch and dust tomorrow and Thursday. That will give me more time to rest today before I tackle the harder jobs.

I don't have any progress to report on any knitting or sewing projects either, unfortunately. I've been knitting on my pi shawl for now. I've decided that instead of reserving it solely for travel knitting, I wanted to use it for mindless recuperating from a cold knitting as well. It's coming along, but pictures of progress on a million miles of stockinette stitch aren't particularly interesting.

I did finish embroidering my Easter decorative banner, but I've got to finish the edges and iron it, and then I'll take some pictures. It turned out pretty cute. Maybe this afternoon, I'll get out the Spring one and start on that.

Scroll down for the latest recipe Tuesday post detailing Corned Beef and Cabbage. You can also get a glimpse of me looking rotten from being so sick, yet bravely wearing my green! :D

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Recipe Tuesday - Irish Corned Beef and Cabbage

I use the slow cooker to cook the Corned Beef Brisket. I think it's a good way to make sure it comes out tender and with the most flavor. Ben firmly disagrees, however, with the use of the slow cooker for the cabbage and root vegetables (he says that the three components should never be cooked together, like a pot roast or boiled dinner), so here are pictures of how I cook our traditional Irish meal for St. Patrick's Day.

Start with a corned beef from the grocery store. And really, if you want to try this, don't wait till next year, just run out and get one right now, they'll all be marked down! Also, spicy mustard and a bottle of beer. I know the Negra Modela isn't precisely Irish, but it was in the fridge. It also helps if there's someone around willing to drink the rest of the beer, since the other half of this bottle went flat and got poured down the sink.

Or just skip the beer and use broth or water.

Rinse the meat off and put it into the slow cooker, fat side down. Make sure to keep the spice packet that comes with the meat. Add a quartered onion, pour in just enough liquid to come up the sides of the brisket, spread the top with some mustard, and sprinkle on the whole contents of the spice packet. Cook this on high for 3-5 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. It won't change color when it's done, so don't wait for it not to be pink anymore. Use a thermometer if you want to be sure, it should be 160 degrees inside.

The root vegetables should be peeled, cubed, tossed with a little olive oil and kosher salt, and spread on tin foil on a baking sheet. This is turnip, potatoes, and carrot. You can do any combo you want, adding rutabega and parsnips too.

Roast these at 400 for about 20-30 minutes, stirring them up halfway through cooking. They'll get lots of yummy brown color on them.

The cabbage should be blanched separately in a big pot of salted boiling water by a lass in authentic Irish dress. ;) Quarter the cabbage and let it boil about 5-10 minutes.

Lay out all the components on a platter. Serve this with more spicy mustard, salt and pepper, and don't forget some vinegar for the cabbage!
Save leftover meat sliced thin for sandwiches (breaking out some sauerkraut for these is usually very popular). To make the hash, I'm using the leftover roasted veggies with about an equal portion of the meat. These will be chopped fine together and then fried.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In addition to the fact that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, I've married into an authentic (part)Irish family and so now can speak from a place of authority. Because of this, I (the very French-Canadian me) will be bringing you the proper way to prepare Corned Beef and Cabbage later today. Admittedly, I'm a big cheater and I use a slow cooker for the meat, but when you see what my husband makes me go through to prepare the rest of the meal, you'll pity me. I will also post some pictures of the famous annual Soda Bread that was lovingly prepared last night so my Benji could have an authentic Irish lunch. It actually looks so pretty, I'm tempted to try some, but that would be a huge mistake, considering my absolute revulsion to raisins and caraway seeds.

Here's one of the Soda Breads of St. Patrick's Day Past. But I get pretty consistent results, so you can imagine, this one is very similar. Now, go out and celebrate! Wear some green, eat some cabbage and potatoes, ponder the Sacred Mystery of the Trinity, knit something with cables, or crochet some Irish lace, listen to some Celtic music, read the Prayer of St. Patrick (over to the right, under the shamrock), have a small slug of whiskey, plant a shamrock! Just stay away from that green beer. I have it on good authority that it's not really authentic. ;)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Menu for 3-16 to 3-22

B: None
L: Noodles and Sauce
D: Bacon and Eggs

Monday (Happy St. Patrick's Day!)
B: Pancakes
L: Soda Bread and Baked Potatoes
D: Corned Beef and Cabbage

B: Banana Bread
L: Corned Beef Sandwich / PB&J
D: Nachos

B: Apple Muffin
L: Pasta Salad
D: Chicken Fajitas

B: Corned Beef Hash
L: Sandwiches
D: Chili

B: Muffin
L: String Cheese and Apples
D: Scrambled Eggs

B: Muffins
L: Fruit Salad
D: Pizza

Check out all the other menus at OrgJunkie.

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My Place in the World

I'm back home today and it feels really great to be here. I missed Ben a lot, and the kitty cats. I didn't get a chance to miss too much though, because I always stay really busy when I'm visiting my family. Here are the highlights of my week:

  • I shopped with my mom and oldest sister and tried to teach them to do CVS.
  • I baked a ton of cakes and put them together as a castle.
  • Visited with my Grandma and Aunt and Uncle and Cousins and Brothers and Sisters.
  • Surprised my nephew with a Castle cake.
  • Played Rock Band with Donna and Adam.
  • Cooked dinner for Ma and Dad and Adam and Grandma.
  • Taught Adam to make Cheddar soup.
  • Planned St. Patrick's Day surprises for Ben with my Mom's help.
  • Watched movies with my mom.
  • Played Wii with Cousin Greg and Adam.
  • Saw my niece and nephews.
  • Watched my dad's old super 8 films from Viet Nam and my parents' honeymoon.
  • Helped my mom sort and organize a ton of stuff in her room. (And got paid in vintage buttons!)
  • Talked politics and Dexter Cows with brother Wayne.
  • Got Dad's help planning the garden a bit.

One of the lowlights is the fact that I got very sick about a day ago, and I'm still not really feeling up to snuff. My ears and chest and throat are congested, and I've got a sore throat. Donna was sick with something similar, so I probably caught that. But Ben's offered to take care of me, so that's good.

There's also plenty to take care of here, the cats managed to knock the crown moulding off the top off the kitchen cabinets. They're so weird. So I'll have to take care of that. And there's a bird trapped in the eaves of the roof. I'm completely unsure of what action to take on that one. But it was really worth it, and it's so wonderful to get to visit everyone!

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'll be visiting my family in MI for the next week, so I probably won't be posting much during that time. We'll be celebrating my nephew's birthday, and I get to make the cake. It's going to be a castle! I'll definately have some pictures of that when I get back.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sticky Buns!

Here are some pictures of the Sticky Bun process that I took last week Thursday. I'm sure I don't have to actually tell anyone this, but these are terrible for you. You don't actually want to make them, they will kill you.

Here is the sticky part. One and half sticks of melted butter with three quarters of a cup of brown sugar mixed together and poured into a 9X13 baking pan.

The dough is a standard sweet roll dough. I use my bread machine to make the dough. Then it's rolled out to a 12X18 inch rectangle. Spread an entire stick of softened butter on the dough. I told you they'd kill you.

This is sprinkled with a 1/3 cup of sugar mixed with 1 Tbs. of cinnamon. Roll up and squeeze the seam to seal.

Then you get to slice them up with your totally awesome, really really cool bench scrape from the Amish hardware store, which is obviously the best store in the world.

Aren't they cute, all sliced up? This may seem super simple to most of you, but I've found that the easiest way to get 18 equal-ish slices is to cut the roll in half, then cut each half into thirds, then cut each third into thirds. It works way better than just starting at the end and hoping for the best.

All the rolls then get placed into the pan on top of the sticky.

Here is the set up I've started to use for letting things rise. I wait to run the dish washer till it's rising time, then I take advantage of the heat it makes on the counter by leaving the dough there and covering it with a towel to hold in the heat. We keep the thermostat at 65 so it's hard to find a warm place for dough, and this way, I don't have to heat the oven up just to turn it off again. I figured out the dishwasher thing from watching Columbo. He always lays on the counter when it's running. Poor kitty, I've stolen his warm spot.

They rise for an hour or so, and here they are after baking for 35 min. at 350 degrees.

Flip them out onto a baking sheet right away so they don't stick in their own sticky. Make sure to scrape out all the sticky from the pan and get it on the rolls. It's really the best part.
But remember, you don't actually want make these. They involve two and half sticks of butter. That's just wrong.

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I signed up for Pay Per Post

Well, I was reviewing Crystal's Making Money Through Blogging Series, and I read quite a few good things about Pay Per Post. Basically, this is a service that allows advertisers to let bloggers sign up to post about them, so they'll get more word of mouth exposure. They also don't allow blogs that are made up of all advertisement. They require that you post at least one non-sponsored post for every paid post.

Since I just started, I'm not completely sure yet how it all works, or how successful I will be, but I'm pretty optimistic, since I did so well with Associated Content, and I got that tip from the same people. I'm actually hoping that I might be able to start earning $40-$50 dollars a week through my blog and take over the grocery expenses for the household. Then we could have that much more of Ben's income to go toward an emergency fund. I think that Pay Per Post will help a lot with that goal. I've definately heard some good things about them, and I think it's a great way for the people like me, who don't get enough hits yet for some of the other affiliate programs, to try their hand at earning some affiliate income and practicing these kinds of posts.

So, every once in a while, I may post about a product or provide a link, but you can be assured that I'll never post anything but the truth in these paid posts. You can trust that I won't post about things I don't know about or don't approve of. There's plenty of choices available, so I'm sure to find opportunities that will allow me to be honest and get paid.

Click to find our how you can get a blog and start Pay Per Post yourself.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

My Latest Finished Item

Here are some pictures of the pillowcase I finished embroidering last week. It's for my niece, Julia, and since it's a kids' style design, there was just one of them. I enjoyed not having to turn around and do the matching one. Sometimes it's boring making things in pairs.

I had to change up a lot of the colors, since I didn't have the ones called for in the instructions on hand, but I'm pretty pleased with the way it came out.
Now I'm working on one of the Easter banner from the Holiday banners set that I bought. It's almost finished, I just have a little bunny to do. After I'm done embroidering it, I'll have to sew it to the backing and make the hanging pocket. Then I'm going to look into making a fancy hanging rod with a dowel and some wooden beads or finials or something.
I'm planning to settle in and embroider the bunny right now, since I've finished everything on my list for the day so far. Ben worked from home today, and this afternoon when he's finished with a call, we'll be going grocery shopping and to the bank and to CVS. I'm excited about the CVS trip, there are some really good deals this week!
After we come back with the groceries, I'm planning to put together and bake some baked oatmeal for our breakfasts this week. I might also bake some muffins to put into the freezer, because I'll be leaving for a visit to MI and my family on Thursday and won't be back for a week, so I'd like Ben to have a good quick breakfast option next week too.
So far, I've had a really awesome Monday, and I'm feeling better, so let's hope that whatever I managed to catch last week has run its course.

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