Thursday, October 19, 2017

Progress on 2017 Goals: August & September TJs purchases

As y'all know, one of my 2017 goals is to try something new from Trader Joe's each month this year.  Click here to read all of my TJs posts.

Knowing that the summer was going to be crazy and compressed, when I was at TJs in June, buying my chocolate (mmmm...chocolate), I picked up what I thought would be my July and August purchases: fire roasted vegetables with balsamic butter sauce, and zucchini fries.  I figured I might not get over to TJs during the summer, but with school starting up halfway through August, I'd have plenty of time to get there in September.

I ended up actually trying the veggies in August and the fries in September, and I was going to lie to you and tell you it was July and August, and then buy something else for September, but eh.  I did warn y'all that I might take the summer off.  So...it's all good.

I didn't like either of them.  I really wanted to, but...I didn't.  The veggies were a bit spongy and the balsamic overpowered.  The fries were soggy and I didn't like the flavor of the breading.  Hubby liked the zucchini fries, but otherwise these two were duds.

Only a few more months!  Any suggestions for me?


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Taco Bean Soup {Updated}

Hi everybody.

I'm making taco bean soup today, so I thought I'd finally update y'all on how I make it now.

It all started years ago, when a dear friend gave me her recipe for taco bean soup.  We were in a Bible study together, and the group decided to share our favorite soup recipes.  At the time, Minestrone was my favorite, but I didn't make it often because it's a lot of work.  Taco bean soup quickly became my new favorite soup, and continues to be my favorite because it is so tasty and, most importantly, easy.

Through the years I've made modifications, so I thought I'd share the recipe as it stands now.  I make this just about every week and freeze it in individual portions.  I heat it up for lunch or supper or even sometimes, breakfast, if I don't feel like putting any effort into breakfast that day.

Taco Bean Soup
(click here to print this recipe)


Ingredients (serves 14)
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (or ground turkey or shredded, cooked chicken)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
  • 1 10-15 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel or similar)
  • 1 quart home-canned pinto beans (or two 15 oz cans)
  • 1 quart home-canned black beans (or two 15 oz cans)
  • 2 15 oz cans no-salt diced petite tomatoes (or one quart home-canned)
  • 1 15 oz can yellow hominy (or white if you can't find yellow)
  • 1/2 of a 16 oz package (about 2 cups) frozen corn
  • 2 T homemade taco seasoning mix (or 1 packet taco seasoning mix)
  • 3 T homemade ranch seasoning mix (or 1 packet ranch seasoning mix)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1/2 t celery seeds
  • 1/2 t. truvia
Instructions

  1. Brown meat and add onion.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (do not drain vegetables--just open and dump).
  3. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally (I set my kitchen timer for 10 minute intervals so I don't forget).
Optional: serve this soup with crushed tortilla chips (or you can make some baked tortilla strips) and shredded cheddar cheese. So yummy!

Note: be sure to adjust the salt level based on your ingredients. I use no salt added beans and tomatoes, and my homemade seasoning mixes have less salt than their comercial counterparts.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Mountain Between Us

I borrowed this book from the library:


Because I saw this movie trailer:



And I knew I had to watch the movie, but I wanted to read the book first.

I should have known better.

Hubby was out of town, and I stay up too late when he's gone anyway, but I stayed up until 2 in the morning reading the book, until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  Then I woke up the next morning and finished reading before I got out of bed.  I spent the whole next day feeling groggy and out of sorts, but it was worth it.

I had to keep reading, because I knew the secret.  I just knew it, and I had to keep reading to find out if I was right (I was).  That is absolutely the best kind of book.

It's an amazing story of strength and courage, from where one would expect in a story of this sort, but also from a surprising direction that took my breath away.  I devoured the book.  I am so glad I read it: that I felt the things I felt and thought the things I thought.  I'll carry it with me.

But now, I don't know if I can see the movie.  Because there is no way to do justice to this story in a movie, and I don't think I can bear to watch a movie that doesn't. 

So read this book.  Or watch the movie.  But probably not both.

P.S. I probably will watch the movie, number 1 because I think Hubby will want to watch it, and number 2, for the same reason I had to keep reading--I need to know if I'm right.  And if I'm not right, if the movie is amazing and gives all the feels and all the chills, I can't bear to miss that, either.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Menu plan for the week of October 16

Hey y'all.  MC is done(ish.  He had his last game and last practice, but for some reason they need to have equipment hand-in a week and a half after the last practice.  I feel like that could have been easily accomplished the day after or even the day of the last practice), Bubby has one more week of football, and AKD has two of biking.  It's been a long couple of super-busy months, and I am so looking forward to menu planning being difficult only because I don't know what to serve, instead of it being difficult because I don't know what to serve and I don't have time to prepare it and we have to eat in shifts.  I can almost taste it y'all (and yes, I punned on purpose).

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

No other this week, not because I won't make anything else, but because I used up all of my menu planning energy on supper...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chickens: 22 weeks


I don't have much to report on the chickens, but I know y'all wait anxiously for these updates, so... here ya go.
Esther
Rocky and Toasty Crunch continue to lay approximately one egg each per day.  Approximately, because every so often, they don't.  Esther is not laying yet.  She's not doing the submissive squat, but her comb is pretty red.  The thing is, Easter Eggers aren't a breed--they're mutts, and the hatchery mine came from uses different crosses to produce a variety of colors, patterns, and egg colors--so there really isn't a "typical" age for their Easter Eggers begin laying.

I'm still waiting patiently.  Sort of.  Really looking forward to discovering what color her eggs are.
Rocky
Rocky has taken to pecking Esther.  For no apparent reason.  Esther has taken to avoiding Rocky.  For good reason.  So I guess Rocky's at the top of the pecking order, and Esther is at the bottom, and Toasty stays out of it.

Toasty Crunch
video

Monday, October 9, 2017

Menu plan for the week of October 9

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Power of the Timer (aka Just Start)

For the past several weeks, ok, months, every time I've looked at our front garden area, which is every day, I've thought to myself, ugh.  I really need to clean that out.  That being the weeds and dead flowers and spent vegetation. 

But, I think next, it will take for-ev-er

For-ev-er is a tad bit longer than I have to spend on a weeding/deadheading/preparing an outdoor space for winter project.  So I don't do anything.  And then the next day, I see the space again, and I think the thoughts again.  And, entropy being entropy, not only does the space not improve, it actually gets worse.

The other day I was watching a video. 

Oh my, y'all, I have fallen down theYouTube rabbit hole.  Did you know that there are things called "haul" videos, in which people who have gone shopping show and talk about everything that they bought?  I'm serious.  It's a thing.  Also a thing is cleaning videos.  How to clean, clean with me (wherein someone videos herself cleaning...and people watch!  Power hours are viewer favorites), favorite cleaning hacks, favorite cleaning equipment, (by the way, I need a Dyson V8 Animal Cordless Vacuum now, because that's what Love Meg uses on her hardwood floors), hoarder to minimalist.  And don't even get me started on the DIYs.

Anyway, I was watching a YouTube video, and the YouTuber told me that I should set a timer and clean for 15 minutes a day.  That something is better than nothing, and when the 15 minute timer rings, I can walk away.

I know this, of course, and even use it from time to time when I'm feeling overwhelmed by a cleaning task (Bubby's bedroom comes to mind.  I tell ya, I can completely understand why he gets anxious just thinking about cleaning his room, because it makes me, the equivocal adult, anxious).  But until that moment, I had never thought of weeding as a cleaning task.

Weeding is totally a cleaning task, y'all!

So yesterday, even though I just knew I wasn't going to be able to get very far in 15 minutes, I set a timer.  Trusting that something is better than nothing and nothing was ever going to happen if I didn't get started.  Know what happened?  I got through more than half of the flower bed.  What?! 

It didn't take half of for-ev-er to clean half of the flower bed.  It took 15 minutes.  And it looks so much better.  If I keep working on that flower bed for 15 minutes a day, it will take me one more day.  One.

So here's the take-away, and you can apply this to just about anything friends: just start. 

Just. Start.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Making apple pie (in three easy steps)

I'm making apple pies today.  Step one: pick the apples.  Oh, you're wondering how we have any apples left after the whole making gallons of applesauce thing?  We made applesauce with the apples on our "little" tree, which had more, but smaller, apples on it this year.  We did nothing with the apples on the "big" tree, probably because it didn't seem worthwhile to harvest apples that were so far apart.  Yeah, set up the ladder, pick one apple, move the ladder, pick 2, move the ladder, pick one and have another one fall off, precariously close to your head...

Gallons of applesauce.  It's so yum this year.  Sweet and a little tart.
And, randomly, an iron. 
Lest you think I was actually ironing clothes, not to worry--
our iron is for crafting purposes only
Kind of like the coffee filters.
Anyway, I had to pick the apples.  But before that, I brought the chickens some fermented food.  Since I'm so efficient (not really, but go with me here), I approached the chicken coop carrying the ladder.  True to form, the chickens freaked out.  Toasty even went into the hen house until the other girls told her it was OK, it was just that crazy chicken lady who brings the food, and I had put the ladder down

I wasn't really expecting any eggs this early in the morning.  As I explained, it takes more than 24 hours for an egg to develop, so the egg appears later each day, until the day there isn't one, and the next day, an egg will show up early in the morning again.  So I wasn't expecting any eggs, but I checked the nest box anyway, and found another rubber egg under the roost.  Does this mean Esther is laying and the first one surprised her?  Or does this mean that Toasty Crunch was so freaked out by her human carrying a ladder, that she just had to let that egg go before it was ready?  Let us hope it was the former, 'cause I can't handle never carrying a ladder or rake or shovel in the vicinity of the chicken coop.  I'm kind of waiting patiently for Esther to begin laying, but I really would like to know what color her eggs will be.

I'm using frozen crust for the pies, because they need to be in disposable pans, and why buy disposable pans and then put your own crust in, when for less than a dollar more, you can buy disposable pans pre-filled with crust (this reminds me of the egg carton thing)?  As I went through the checkout lane with my turnips, potatoes, and pie crust, the cashier queried, "making pumpkin pie?"  No.  I am not making anything at this time.  I am, however, buying pie crust, turnips, and potatoes, lady (oh, I guess that means I'm making a purchase).  What's it to you?

Why?  Why would you go there first?  Pumpkin?  Apples are in season, too.  If anything, she should have been wondering if I was making turnip or potato pie.  Of course, based on the number of apples I was able to get (possibly not enough), I might be making pumpkin pie, too.  But that is most definitely beside the point.

Maybe.  The answer is maybe, lady, ok?   And yes, friends, I know the cashier was just making conversation.  Whatever. 

I'm using my friend's apple pie recipe.  I asked her for it last year, when she mentioned making pies (using free apples and store-bought pie crust) and selling them.  She texted me a picture of a recipe card: "Grandma Opal's Apple Pie," it said.  Oh, how sweet, I thought.  KT's making apple pie from the recipe handed down from her grandma.  I wish I had my grandma's apple pie recipe.  Well, actually, maybe I don't.  I don't remember my grandma ever making a pie.

But no.  In the next text message, KT shattered my fantasy, "truth be told, I don't have a Grandma Opal.  It was the recipe on allrecipes.com that had the most reviews."

Alrighty then.  At least now I don't have to feel bad about not having my Grandma's pie recipe.  And actually, the recipe card KT sent me bears only a passing resemblance to the recipe posted on allrecipes. 

Apparently, step 2 in the apple pie making process is blogging about it.  Blogging is, after all, one of my favorite chore avoidance techniques.  Not that making apple pie is a chore, but peeling, coring, and chopping apples for the pie is.  I'm trying to decide if I think it's worthwhile to get out our peeler/corer/slicer for 12 apples.  And, you know, writing about it helps.  Or at least delays the decision.
The boys, peeling, coring, and slicing apples. 
Wish they were here now...
But, I think I need to get going, because my feet are cold.  And it's not like I can close the window or put socks or slippers on.  I need to get away from the open window so my feet will not be cold.

Step 3: make the pies.  Just Grandma Opal and me.  In the kitchen.  Here I go.

Maybe.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Menu plan for the week of October 2

Y'all, this is seriously the longest September ever.  Know why?  Even though I spent half of August thinking it was September, and since September has 30 days, I should think it's halfway into October already, I still think it's September.  As I was typing that title up there, I was kind of squinting at the September section of my little year at a glance calendar, thinking, ok, what's the date?  September 11?  Yeah.  That sounds about right.  So weird, y'all.  You would think I really like September or something.  I mean, it's alright, but not 8 weeks-worth!

We canned applesauce this weekend.  I'm so glad.  We were running out, and the apples were ripe, and we've got stuff going on every weekend for the rest of September October (see?  I did it again), and making applesauce is not really something I want to do on my own.  So yay.  We had a smaller than usual harvest this year, so we only made 6.25 gallons.  Yeah, I know.  Only.

Speaking of only, we only have two more weeks of crazy, crazy, crazy busy.  Only two more weeks of needing to leave the house to pick up a kid every day right at supper-making time--MC's football season is almost over.  Then it'll just be crazy, crazy busy.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Girls: 20 weeks (aka the Toasty Crunch show)

Love those fluffy chicken butts!
Esther, Rocky, Toasty Crunch

So.  For those of you who found this post by googling something like:
     how long will my pullet/hen/chicken
          just coming into lay/beginning to lay
               continue to lay rubber eggs/shell-less eggs/thin shelled eggs,
let me just get this out of the way right now.

As you know, if you have googled such a thing, the usual, and perhaps only, answer out there is: a little while.  Every hen is different.  Just be patient.  The girls are working out the kinks in their egg-laying systems.

Ha.  Easy for them to say, when we are waiting on pins and needles for those perfect eggs.

Here's my answer.  My hen (and I'm not sure whether it was the cinnamon queen or the barred rock--I used to think it was the cinnamon queen, but now I'm leaning toward the rock, based on other clues that have come to light), laid rubber/shell-less/thin shelled eggs every day, sometimes multiple per day, for 9 days, then started laying regular hard-shelled eggs.  Again, every hen is different, but perhaps that will give you a little peace of mind in the midst of what seems like a never-ending string of weird rubber-like eggs.

I need to be straight with you here and let you know that during that string of weird eggs, the temperature was warmer than usual, which might have been a contributing factor in the longevity of the rubber egg run.  But there it is.  Nine days, and probably 20 eggs.  I'm pretty sure we didn't even find all of them.

All right, so, back to the update, for those of you who are not compulsively googling about thin-shelled eggs (those of you who are, are welcome to stay for the update, too).

The girls have been with us for 20 weeks, which is about 4 1/2 months.  We've been getting 1 or 2 cute little eggs a day pretty consistently for about a week, which is fun.  It's a little like a treasure hunt.  I mean, when you have 2 dozen laying hens, pretty much anytime you decide to go check the nest boxes, you're going to find eggs, but not when you only have two.

A lot of people assume that chickens lay their eggs at the same time every day, but that's not true.  It takes more than 24 hours for an egg to form, so the girls lay the eggs more than 24 hours apart.  We haven't quite figured out the girls' laying schedule yet, so we just go when the mood strikes us, and sometimes we find an egg or two.

Speaking of having two laying hens, on Sunday morning, we found another two shell-less eggs.  So it's possible Esther is getting close to laying, or it's possible that Rocky succumbed to the heat and wasn't able to keep those eggs in long enough for the shells to deposit (one was perfect except for the lack of shell; the other was pretty much a yolk in a membrane. We know it wasn't Toasty Crunch, because she laid an egg later in the day, and there's no way she would have had time to form a third, perfect egg in that amount of time).  My gracious, y'all.  It was so hot.  And those poor chickens are wearing down coats.  It's ok if it gets hot during the summer, 'cause they're acclimmated to it, but this time of year?  Nope.  Not a good situation.

I helped the girls cool down a little bit using a three pronged aproach.  First, I gave them strawberries frozen in water, to cool them from the inside out.  Second, I put ice in their waterer.  Third, I made a little icewater bath that they could stand in, if they chose.  I don't think it helped a whole lot, but they did seem to appreciate my efforts.  And now, it's cool again, and we're all much happier and less pant-y.

And now for the Toasty Crunch show (she was exceptionally photogenic these past two weeks, I guess)!
Climbing the tractor trailer to get a better view.  After this, she flew onto the arm of my chair and then tried to fly up to my shoulder or head (not sure which, because she didn't make it that far, what with the flailing human-arms in her way)
Peeking out of the nest box

Just a boy and his chicken.
This was the best I could do between the uncooperative chicken and the boy who kept making weird expressions.

Esther, panting in the heat (just making sure you're paying attention)

Dust bathing.  Look how fluffy!

Fresh eggs
Top row from Toasty Crunch, bottom row from Rocky, along with a store-bought egg for size comparison
For those of you who are wondering, yes, I am still buying eggs, although I only bought one dozen yesterday, rather than my usual 2 or 3.  Like I said, we've been getting one or two eggs a day, and I'd estimate they add up to about a dozen a week.  The eggs we're getting from our girls are about half size, which is actually kind of nice--there have been many times when I've wanted half an egg for various reasons--now I've got some.

I guess that's all for now.  I don't know if you've noticed this, but I love those silly birds.  They're more than just chickens; maybe I'll explain someday.  I miss Austro and Red, and I often think about how it would be if they were still with us.  My sis said they're probably out in the world having a grand adventure.  That's a much better way to picture them.  <3

Monday, September 25, 2017

Menu plan for the week of September 25

It has been unseasonably warm here for the past several days.  It's autumn, according to the calendar, the meteorologists, and the position of the earth relative to the sun, but we've been in the high 80s and even over 90°, and humid.  I'm not positive, but I think this past week has been hotter than it even got during the summer (we were out of town during the hottest week of the summer, so it's possible it was warmer then).  It's reminded me of my week on a mission trip in Tennessee: it was so hot and humid that I would dry off after my shower, and immediately be wet again.  Yuck.

When it's hot (and humid), it's hard to even think about food, but somehow, I managed to come up with a menu for this week.  And praise God, it's supposed to be much cooler for the next several days.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Monday, September 18, 2017

Menu plan for the week of September 18

Hi everyone.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

18 weeks

Remember when I said I was ready to deal with all of the stuff that goes along with owning chickens?

It turns out I was wrong.  

A week ago, the girls were out free ranging.  Two of our chickens didn't come home that evening, and they are presumed dead.

I am distraught.  It's not like I didn't know that things like this might happen, but still, I feel sad, and guilty, and like I failed my girls.  This is definitely my fault.  I still get teary when I think about it.  Those poor, sweet chickens...  

We don't even know what happened to them, although that's probably a blessing, because having the image of their torn-apart bodies in my brain would make this even worse.  It seems very strange for two of them to go missing together--chickens are so skittish, there's no way a single predator would be able to get two of them.  Nevertheless, they are gone.  I'm trying to take comfort in the fact that they had a good life.  It's not working very well.  It's the guilt.

The other chickens seem to be adjusting to their new normal.  Here they are eating some fermented feed.  Well, two of them were--Esther kept pecking at the bowl--it was the first time I used a yellow bowl for their feed, and she wasn't quite sure what was happening.

Esther, Rocky, and Toasty Crunch

I don't think I can let the girls free range anymore, and they really, really want to...

Before the tradgedy, the girls introduced themselves to the family of deer that frequents our back yard.

In other news, we found something eggstra in the nest box on Saturday.

It was pretty eggsciting.  We think that part of the yolk didn't make it into the egg (here's how an egg forms)--we're postulating that's what the yellow stuff is to the left of the egg (the "egg" on the right is a nest egg).

I'm amazed and impressed that this egg appeared in the nest box.  I mean, we put the ceramic eggs in there to show the girls where eggs go, but if they've never laid an egg before, how do they know that there's an egg coming out?  Such clever girls.


It was a cute little egg, as first eggs often are.


We think Rocky laid this egg, because her comb and wattles are the reddest and she was the only one who had been doing the submissive squat, but since we didn't catch her in the act, we're not sure.

 Rocky.  That chair in the background is where I sit to watch the girls (it's usually on the other side of the coop, but I move it around to get the best view).  I've heard of chickens being used as therapy animals and I can understand why.

 Poor Esther--the confinement is taking its worst toll on her.  She paces frantically back and forth in front of (or is that behind?) the door whenever I approach the coop.  Makes sense, since she's descended from jungle fowl.  Esther kept wanting to photobomb with her fluffy cheeks.  No wattles and her pea comb is still pink. 

 Toasty Crunch, looking prehistoric.  Just in the past week her wattles have gotten bigger and her comb has gotten redder.  She did the submissive squat for the first time on Sunday.

On Tuesday morning, Toasty greeted me with a loud bok, bok, bok-bok, baaaaaawk, as I walked out to the coop.  It seemed like she was trying to tell me something.  Turns out she was.

Now these are the weird, misshapen, thin-shelled eggs I was eggspecting for the girls' first eggs.  I think Toasty's is the oblong one, for various reasons.

Two chickens laying, one to go!  We're crossing our fingers for blue or green eggs from Esther.



Red and Austro <3
Miss them.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Menu plan for the week of September 11

Things are about to get even more complicated at supper time, friends.  AKD begins working two evenings a week this week, and Cub Scouts starts up next week.  Will we ever eat supper as a family again?  Sure.  As soon as bike season is over.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:
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