Saturday, January 29, 2011

Excellent Saturday

The day started all right, although since it started at the Church cannery, I should have known there would be challenges. I keep a fairly big supply of long-term food storage at my house. You never know when something may happen: a job loss, can't get to the store (although in my climate I can't imagine how that could ever happen), or the truckers decide to go on strike. Of course Pedersen Transport wouldn't do that. Anyway, I made up my order using their online form and submitted it several weeks ago and arrived at the cannery at 7:00 this morning. Luckily the cannery is in my city, although on the other side of it.

The cute little old volunteer couples who help the patrons really try hard, but each one of them had different ideas of exactly how the canning process should go, and they were new to boot. Every time I go I have internal angst because some of the procedures don't make any sense at all. My partner was sweet, but really wasn't paying attention to what was needed. Two of the five items I ordered weren't available. In all, it seemed like going there this morning was a bit of a waste, but I was almost out of wheat in 25 lb bags and really wanted to get a couple bags. They did have wheat in stock.

I ended up getting:

2 25 lb wheat
4 5 lb bags of powdered milk
2 5.8 lb bags of hot chocolate mix, and now that I look at it again, I see they overcharged me

I didn't get to buy:

1 bag of flour
4 bags of pancake mix

I wanted the flour because the flour I have in storage turned out to have an off-flavor when I had to use some a couple of years ago and I wanted to build up my supply of good-tasting white flour in strong containers.

They also forgot to give me my refund for reusing some of my containers. I guess my canning time was kind of a wash today. On the bad side, they overcharged me, didn't have 40% of the items I'd ordered, and I had angst. On the good side, my family is a little better prepared and I got a ride down with one fun friend and a ride back with another fun friend.

When I got home dh and I decided today was the day to deal with the new little Tango Mandarin orange tree I bought a couple of weeks ago. We'd been trying to decide where to plant it. We have a backyard, but it isn't very big. It already has a very large grapefruit tree in it, a small orange tree that someone in the past planted under the grapefruit tree (duh), and a spindly, three-trunked, virtually non-producing lemon tree in another part of the yard. We also discussed a new location for a tree, which would be outside our bedroom wall with the hopes it would block some of the blazing summer sun from heating up our uninsulated concrete brick wall. In the end we decided to cut down the poor lemon tree and put in something with promise. Dh got out his chainsaw and within 30 minutes had the whole thing down and in the back alley in pieces. He worked really fast.

Then we raked up 25 years of fallen leaves, free-ranging succulent groundcover, and really cleaned up the area. It's a triangular corner of our yard on the far side of the pool. It is the the lower left of the pool in this picture. I want to point out this satellite picture was taken before we moved to this house; under our care the pool is always blue. Then we started digging through little and medium roots to make a hole big enough for the new tree. Luckily there were two additional circles with concrete edgers, one on either side of the old lemon tree. We used the one on the left and will put something else in on the right, leaving the space with the lemon tree stump bare. It took quite a bit to get the hole dug, but once it was big and deep enough, we added some homemade compost, some potting mix, some of the original dirt, and the rooting fertilizer to the hole along with the tree. The whole area looks so neat and tidy now! Just two more years before our tree starts producing like the one in the picture.

During all this time I made lunch, ran a load of laundry, hung it out, folded and put it away, walked S to the park with her on her Big Wheel, and swept and mopped the floor. Dh and I dropped off a large dining room table and 6 chairs at the Salvation Army thrift store and got milk at Costco.

By dinner time I wasn't exactly up to cooking, so I microwaved some large potatoes, heated a can of chili, and served the chili over the baked potatoes with sour cream and guacamole to add as desired. I squeezed 5 lemons and made fresh lemonade to go with it. It all was excellent.

Now I have a sunburn and feel like I accomplished a lot today. It really was a good day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Look for the similarities here

What similarities do you see here?

Some people wouldn't see any connection at all, but after my experience this morning, I do. Just a note, the car wash pictured is NOT the one I visited.

First of all, I was advised to spray the car with a low-pressure soap. It came out of a tiny gun thing and took forever to even reasonably cover the car. At least it seemed like forever when I'd just put $2 into the machine and had only 5:20 to wash the car. Being that I drive a small Honda, I really didn't think time was going to be a problem, but I had tossed in a couple of extra quarters anyway for good measure.

Next was the "high pressure" soaping.

Next was the "foam brush." That's the one I have actual faith in.

I had just started rinsing with the "high pressure" rinsing wand when the bell started ringing, so I sighed and tossed in another quarter for another 40 seconds. I want you to look at this picture and then I'll tell you how it differs from my actual experience:

There appear to be actual quantities of water emerging from the spray gun in this picture, unlike the one I had. Oh sure, there was spray all right, but it was about 5% water and 95% air. It was almost impossible to wash the soap off.

At that point I had already figured out I had been taken for a sucker, so I just rinsed the car the best I could and resigned myself to driving it home partly rinsed. When I got home I parked in the driveway and finished rinsing it with the hose, then dried it with some towels from the house. It looked fine.

I hope the $2.25 the car wash got from me makes them feel satisfied, because it will be the last they see from me and I'll be happy to repeat my story to anyone who is thinking of stopping by that particular car wash.

It's a bucket and hose for me from now on!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Meal Plan Sunday

We're still eating as much out of our cupboards as possible, so here is the menu for this week:

Monday: Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken Soup with Baked Tortilla Strips
Tuesday: Spaghetti with sauce, garlic cheese bread, sauteed crookneck squash
Wednesday: Chorizo Black Bean soup (from last week, but we had so many leftovers we didn't get to it
Thursday: Grilled Buffalo Chicken Sticks, celery and carrot sticks
Friday: Pizza, and since I'll be out of town, I'll bet dh picks one up from Papa Murphy's on the way home

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beautiful Saturday at a strangely odd park

Last Saturday I took the girls to a park on the outskirts of our city. We'd been there one other time with our neighbors. I've discovered the way to find out about interesting places in your town is to make friends with someone who has lived there years and years and years. I've lived here less than two years, so I'm always open to my neighbor's suggestions.

I'll let the pictures tell most of the story. We brought along a picnic lunch. In fact, I think using our picnic basket is what made the girls want to go to the park in the first place. :-)

Of my three younger girls, these are the two I'd expect to be little daredevils. If you look at the protrusion on the upper left side of the trunk, you can see a cactus growing out of the palm tree!

Palm trees gone native:

Remember, I live in the serious desert.

There is a large pond or small lake with fish and turtles in it.

After walking along the edge of the pond for a few minutes, we followed a path out in the natural area. Sure looks like desert, doesn't it?

Aren't they cute?

All four of us:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pantry Challenge

I'm combining the Pantry Challenge with $5 Dollar Dinner weekly menu and shopping list. Good deal for me all around, as I have been COMPLETELY out of fresh ideas for meals. They have been dull, dull, dull around here and I'll be the first to acknowledge that fact.

Tonight was Baked Italian Chicken which is another version of a long-time favorite of ours. The only difference is this recipe calls for baking the chicken and I put mine in the slow cooker.
I did it in the oven though, because I also served this delicious rice casserole with it, and it called for oven baking as well.
The only thing I had to buy for this dinner was the chicken. I bought fresh, large boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Albertson's for $2.49/lb and used about $6 worth. The recipe called for Italian dressing which I didn't have, but I have an Italian dressing recipe in my More Make-A-Mix Cookery
More Make-A-Mix cookbook that I used.

I didn't have the instant brown rice the side dish called for, but I cooked up some regular brown rice, then reduced the water in the recipe by 1/2 cup and stirred in the cooked rice. I also had fresh spinach on hand and used a reduced amount of that.

Both dishes were a hit with my family and I'm sure dh is still trying to figure out what has gotten in to me to actually be cooking and to have them be meals starring meat. I know he's happy though.

Prep Time:20 min
Start to Finish:1 hr
makes:8 servings (1 cup each)
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 medium carrots, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups water
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup (I used cream of chicken soup)
2 boxes (9 oz each) Green Giant® frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained (I used about 5 oz fresh baby spinach)
1 1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup diced cooked ham (I left this out)
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (3 oz)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water and soup; heat to boiling. Add spinach, rice, Italian seasoning and pepper; return to boiling. Remove from heat; stir in ham, 1/4 cup of the Cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Spread in baking dish. Cover with foil.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese. Let stand uncovered 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Booking It 2011

One of the blogs I follow is promoting a reading club for the year. The blog owner chose the books, which are:

February 10 – The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
March 10 – Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (Get a Kindle edition free right now.)
April 10 – Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
May 10 – Finding Your Purpose as a Mom: How to Build Your Home on Holy Ground by Donna Otto
June 10 – The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (Get a free Kindle edition here.)
July 10 – Dancing with My Father: How God Leads Us into a Life of Grace and Joy by Sally Clarkson
August 10 – The Help by Kathryn Stockett
September 10 – Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider
October 10 – Not Your Mother’s Casseroles by Faith Durand
November 10 – The Reluctant Entertainer by Sandy Coughlin
December 10 – The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson, the third in The Wingfeather Saga

I will probably not read all the religious ones because I have other strong LDS religious influence in my life, but it's a nice framework for the year. I'm free to choose other books as desired to replace ones I can't find or don't want to read. I ordered the first two books from the library and the March book Mansfield Park has arrived and I'm about 75 pages into it. I've never read Jane Austen before and in fact, this is only the fourth "classic" novel I've read. So far I like it a lot.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dinner not really out of the pantry

For New Year's Day dh made a perfect standing rib roast. It was truly delicious and the best he has ever made. We had leftovers that needed to be eaten.

Tuesday night I made sublime French Dip sandwiches. It was simple: I made au jus by mixing 3 cups of water with a tablespoon of good boullion and sprinkling in some dehydrated onions. Then I thinly sliced some of the boneless beef into the au jus. I sliced four buns, buttered and toasted them, then piled on the beef. I sliced each one on the diagonal into two halves, then gave half to each dd and half to my mom. (They are all small eaters). Dh and I each had a whole sandwich. I poured the au jus into custard cups and served it on the side. It was absolutely delicious.

Tonight I made beef soup from the leftover beef that was on the bone. I boiled the beef for a bit, then removed it from the bones and chopped it up a bit and returned it to the broth. Again I added some of the boullion (how do you spell that anyway?), then some potatoes, carrots, and celery (purchased last night). I thought "beef and barley soup" sounded good, but I didn't have any barley, so I sprinkled in some cracked wheat I had in the cupboard. That turned out well and I'll add some wheat like that again.

With the soup I served some light sourdough bread from my freezer, buttered and toasted. It all was a hit.

I went shopping at Fry's today. There wasn't much I wanted so it helped me not add a lot to my stockpile. I got:

4 boxes of Special K @$1.99/ea -2 B1G1F mqs = <$1/box because they gave me the pre-discounted price on the mqs
4 boxes of Kashi Crisp @ $2.29/ea - 3 $1/1 and 1 $3/1 = $0.79/ea
Yoplait x8 to use a $1/8 mq = $0.32/ea

Total: about $7.50

On top of that it was "Senior Citizen 10% off day" (first Wednesday of each month). But "This Gal"!!! You aren't a senior citizen . . . yet! Right, but I brought my mom along, a newly minted 76 year old and SHE got the senior discount. :-)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Pantry Challenge

Over at Life As Mom an annual event is taking place . . . the Pantry Challenge. The goal is to use up as much stored food as possible to reduce your grocery bill in January. Or . . . if you don't have a stockpile, there are other options. However, I have a stockpile. Boy, do I ever! I don't necessarily want to deplete it, although that would be impossible with only one month and only six of us, but it would be nice to rotate out some of the food items a little faster.

I'm also going to keep track of my food expenditures this month and see how much I actually spend.

$9.54 Milk--6 gallons
$5.86 Veggies, sausage for Friday pizza and weeknight beef stew