Monday, November 12, 2018

Menu plan for the week of November 12

Hi friends.  We finished last week on track after a slight derailment midweek due to Hubby's last minute business trip.  That's a good thing.  But I'm also a little sad about it because that meant I had to come up with all new ideas for this week.  Well, I suppose I could have repeated, but I don't think the kiddos would be too happy about that.

I realized something after AKD left home for college this fall.  I realized I needed to start freezing meats and other freezer meals in smaller quantities.  I mean, I realized ahead of time that I would have to do that, but I didn't realize how early I would have to start doing it.  We have had months of extra hamburgers (because I would freeze them in quantities of five), and pork chops (also frozen in quantities of five), and chicken, and steak, and stew meat.

And now, he's coming back.  So the hamburgers, and pork chops, and steak, and chicken, and stew meat are frozen (solid) in too small quantities.

Anyway, AKD will be home for a week surrounding Thanksgiving, and some of his favorites will be back on the menu this week and next.  I've missed him.

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



Monday, November 5, 2018

Menu plan for the week of November 5

November already, friends. 

I guess that's all I have to say about that.

I realized, last week, that it's possible my youngest kiddo, who is now 11 years old, has never eaten lasagna.  Someone mentioned lasagna to him, and he was like, what is that?!  I think by the time Bubby came along, our oldest had already discovered his aversion to cheese, and due to that aversion, somewhere along the line I stopped making lasagna. 

What kind of parent am I, that my kids' lasagna education has to come from the streets?

I just don't know anymore.  In the grand scheme of things, perhaps it isn't important.  But lasagna is one of those things that everyone experiences at some point.  Well, everyone except for my kiddo.  It's something that defines us as Americans.  Sort of.  I mean, have you ever heard of someone not even knowing what the stuff is?

Anyway, of course my kid's lack of lasagna education has caused me to second guess just about everything.  What else haven't exposed my kids to?  What else have I inadvertently missed telling them about?

Yeah, so...lasagna is not on the menu this week.  But other things are.



Friday, October 26, 2018

18 for 2018 Update (October)

Hi friends.  It's the last Friday in October, so it's time for another 18 for 2018 update.  As you know, encouraged by Gretchen and Liz from the Happier podcast, I made 18 goals for myself to accomplish in 2018.  I have accomplished 15 of my 18 goals, and have made progress on two of the remaining goals.  I've thought a lot about the third of those remaining goals, too.

Yeah.  You're right.  I haven't done a darn thing in October, either.  Well, I did look at the filing cabinet.  And I picked up a hanging file folder that was on the ground and put the papers that had fallen out of it back in to it.  And I did think about addressing those Christmas cards.  And I listened to the deep dive Gretchen and Liz took into the "Facts of Life" book, and I almost started writing down categories for my household binder.

I don't know, friends.  Is it the thought that counts?

I've lost momentum, friends.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force.  I have been acted upon by an outside force that's mostly inside my head.  And now I'm an object at rest, that is tending to stay at rest, until acted upon by an outside force.

I've lost momentum, but I haven't lost heart.  I follow the #18for2018 hashtag on Instagram, which means that anytime anyone posts publicly using that hashtag, it shows up in my feed.  None of the posts that have shown up in my feed have shown 15 or more goals completed.  In fact, I think the most I've seen was 9.  Nine completed goals, of 18.  Most have completed far fewer.  I am so far ahead.

Or I'm right on track: 18 goals divided by 12 months times 2 months left equals 3 goals.

I've got this.

How are you doing on your goals for this year?

Here is a random Esther-feather photo.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Menu plan for the week of October 22

Well, football season is over, for both of the kiddos, so I suppose I should actually start making menu plans again.

Here ya go:



Monday, October 15, 2018

Menu Plan (*wink*wink*nudge*nudge*) for the week of October 15

Wanna see what this week's meal plan looks like?  Do you?  Really?  OK, here it is:

  • Fend for yourself
  • Fend for yourself (or hamburgers if Bubby's team loses Monday)
  • Fend for yourself
  • Fend for yourself
  • Pizza
  • Some kind of chicken thing
  • Meatball soup, whole wheat bread
Yeah.  It's sad.  But Bubby is done with football for sure after this week, and MC is likely done after this week, and then we can resume normal eating around here.  Thank God the kiddos get a good-ish lunch every day at school.

In other news, Rocky's silhouette is startlingly chick-like these days.  She no longer has a tail, and her wings have greatly diminished in size.  I can finally tell that she's lost some feathers (I can tell that she's growing feathers, too.  Cute little pinfeathers everywhere).  The good news is the tail is generally the last part of a molting chicken to lose its feathers, so perhaps she is close to done.  For a couple of days every time she groomed a feather it would come out, and every time she shook, multiple feathers would fly off.  That hasn't been happening for a few days: further evidence, perhaps, that she is coming to the end of her molt.  I sure hope so.  Rocky hasn't been as naked as she could have been, but it's getting cold (cold being defined, at this time of year, in the context of molting, as below freezing) at night.

I've seen no further evidence of Toasty or Esther molting.  Perhaps they are being sensible and waiting until it's warmer.  Or perhaps they've read the chicken raising books that say chickens molt when they're 18 months old, which for them will be in November.  Yikes.

In other news, I received a clear message of God's loving care for all of God's people the other day.  I'm not going to attempt to explain.  I'm just going to say that it is amazing to me how God puts so many separate and unrelated events into motion to make His plans advance.  Made my scalp tingle.  There's nothing that Guy can't do.  Except stop loving us.

Monday, October 8, 2018

No menu plan this week ~and~ Molt-Watch 2018

Y'all, I surrender.  Football season has defeated me, and I can no longer maintain the facade.  There will be no more menu planning until football season is over.  We have plenty of food; no one's going to starve.  It's ok.  And it's only 2 more weeks.  I think.  Not sure how long the coaches are going to keep the sophomores practicing (and that's not really the team that makes menu planning execution difficult anyway).

So sorry to disappoint my loyal menu plan readers.  Here's some inspiration for you.

In other news, I'm engaged in Molt-Watch 2018.  Molting is the process whereby birds lose their feathers and grow new ones.  For some reason, chickens do this in the fall.  When it's getting cold.  Instead of when it's 100°F and losing feathers taking off one's feather coat makes sense.  We didn't experience molt last year because it only happens to chickens who are more than a year old.

Toasty Crunch seems to be the least affected by molting.  I've seen a few of her feathers on the ground, but no more, really, than normal.  She's decreased egg production, but we've still seen nine eggs from her in the past two weeks.  Esther, as I've mentioned, lost some feathers around her chin--her lovely, fluffy beard has been naked for a while, but I haven't noticed her losing feathers from anywhere else.  Esther has laid four eggs in the past two weeks.  On the other hand, Rocky has given us zero eggs in the past two weeks, and there are Rocky feathers everywhere.  The ground seriously looks like she's been tussling with something fierce, and losing.  But I honestly can't tell by looking at her that she's lost any feathers.  Rocky's also been spending more time off by herself, which I guess is normal.  Growing new feathers can be painful and exhausting, or so I've been told.

I've been giving the girls a little extra protein to help them along, but there's really not much else I can do for them.  I just hope they've got full coats before the cold really hits full force.  I'll keep you posted.

See?  No starving around here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Allllll the apples ~ and ~ Apple Pie Filling Recipe

Y'all.  We preserved apples this weekend.  So many apples.  As I mentioned, we decided to make some apple treats besides applesauce this year.

First, I made six half pints of caramel apple jam,

and I started a batch of apple cider vinegar with the scraps.
Why yes, I am using a pteranondon jelly glass as a fermentation weight in my apple cider vinegar.
The next day, I thought I was making apple cider, but it turns out I was actually extracting pectin.  Whoops.  I guess that's what I get for listening to random strangers on the internet rather than using a tested, trusted recipe.
This apple cider looks suspiciously like applesauce.
Oh wait.  I'm a random stranger on the internet.  For some of you, anyway.  Don't listen if I try to tell you how to make apple cider, kay?
Improvised jelly bag.  I wasn't ever going to finish that quilt anyway.
So, yeah.  I've got about a gallon of apple pectin.  Or apple juice concentrate?  It's slippery.  And does not taste like apples.  But at least it's a pretty color.

Next, we started in on the applesauce.  We ended day two with 25 pints.  We decided to do mostly pints this year because they're a better size for giving away as gifts.
Applesauce.  It felt like waaay more than this.

Day three, I made a batch of apple pie filling.  I had been planning on using a random stranger's recipe, because it sounded good, but after the apple cider pectin debacle, I reverted back to a recipe given to me by a friend a couple of years ago (recipe below--I don't know if you can trust me on this or not--it's one of those handed down recipes that has been used for years, but it's not necessarily approved by the USDA).
Apple Pie Filling.  So pretty.

Then we made another 6 quarts, 10 pints, and one half pint of applesauce, for a grand total of 10.375 gallons of applesauce, to round out this years' apple preserving.

We are done.  But y'all.  We made all that with the apples from just one of our two apple trees.  I might grab some off the other tree to make muffins or apple crisp, but we're going to #feedthewildlife with most of the rest of the apples.  The deer, turkeys, bears, and chickens will thank us.

Here's that recipe--enjoy!

Apple Pie Filling (for canning)
(Click here to print)

Ingredients (Makes 7 Quarts)
  • Apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (enough to fill 7 quart jars with one inch headspace)
  • 4 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. Clear Jel (a modified corn starch that's safe for canning--you want the "cook type", not instant)
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 1 t salt
  • 10 c. water
  • 3 T bottled lemon juice

  1. Peel. core, and chop the apples. I used our apple peeler to peel, then our apple slicer/corer to core and slice.
  2. Fill seven quart sized canning jars with apple chunks, just up to the neck.
  3. In a large saucepan, stir together sugar, clear jel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add water and stir.
  4. On medium high heat, cook and stir until the mixture boils and thickens (this took a lot longer than I was expecting, but be patient--it'll happen).
  5. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.
  6. Add hot syrup to apple-filled jars, using a bubble popper or the handle of a wooden spoon to help the syrup move down and fill all the air pockets. Leave 1 inch headspace, making sure all the apples are covered in syrup.
  7. Process in water bath canner for 20 minutes.
To Use

  • One quart will fill a 9" pie. Bake according to recipe instructions.
  • Apple Pie Filling also makes a delicious Apple Crisp. Just follow your favorite recipe for the topping.
  • Apple Pie Filling can be used to top ice cream or other desserts.
  • If you have extra syrup, you can use it to top ice cream or pancakes.
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Monday, October 1, 2018

Menu plan for the week of October 1

Hi friends.  It's just as well I didn't get a menu plan post up last week, because the plan broke down on day one.  That's why I've just given up on Mondays.  Fend for yourself, it is, until football season is over.

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



Friday, September 28, 2018

18 for 2018 (September) plus garden and chicken update

It's the last Friday in September ... (where did that come from?) ... which means it's time for another 18 for 2018 update.

So ... here goes ... are you ready for this?

In September, I ... did nothing ... toward my goals. 

Well, I did shred some of the previously purged paper related to goal #8, but I feel like that doesn't really count. And I listened to Happier podcast 185, wherein Gretchen and Liz encouraged listeners to make a "Facts of Life" book, which is what I need to do for my goal #9.  I am now busy waiting for them to do a "Deep Dive" into the Facts of Life book, so I can get more ideas about what to include.  The last remaining goal, sending Christmas cards in 2018, remains in stand-by mode.  Click here to see the entire list.

I honestly thought I'd make more progress in September, considering the kiddos went back to school.  Turns out I underestimated the emotional impact of this years' back to school experience.  No worries.  I still have three more months to accomplish three more goals.

Well.  Since that's done, what else should I tell you?  How about a garden and chicken update?  Yes?  OK!

The weather has finally turned cooler, which means the garden is pretty much done.  There are a few more tomatoes still out there, and I'm planning on bringing them in, along with the jalapenos, this afternoon.  I also need to dig up the rest of the potatoes, and figure out what to do about the garlic.  I don't think the garlic is done, so I'm considering leaving it out over the winter.  Apparently, planting garlic in the fall and leaving it out over the winter is a thing, even in our northern planting zone.

Our apples are ripe, and quite a few of them have fallen, to be gobbled up by visiting deer.  I'm not too upset about that, since we still have a lot of applesauce left from last year.  With one of our main applesauce eaters out of the house, we just don't eat as much of it.  We're planning to do some applesauce, mostly in pint jars, since those are a more practical size for gift-giving, but we're also going to make some other apple products, like apple cider, apple pie filling, and caramel apple jam.

In chicken news, I noticed the other day that I could see Esther's chin--the same chin that's always been covered by fluffy feathers.  She hasn't been laying eggs; she's losing feathers.  Sounds like molting to me.  I do not understand why a chicken would want to replace her feathers just as it's getting cold.  I hope it goes quickly enough that she stays warm.  Rocky also hasn't been laying eggs, but I haven't noticed any missing or new feathers on her.  Toasty has slowed down, but is still laying pretty regularly.
Esther.  Her chin is less fluffy these days.
Rocky.  Maybe she is missing some feathers on her face.  That might explain why she's looking more wrinkly these days.
Toasty Crunch.  Our flock's matriarch.  Who persists in behaving like a rooster.

The Littles are making up for their older sisters' shortcomings in the egg laying department.  Indigo and Koko have become very reliable layers, giving us an egg each just about every day.  Hazel is pretty reliable, too, if not quite as prolific.

Koko, my would-be lap chicken.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Menu plan for the week of September 17

You guys!  Menu plan breakdown did not occur until Wednesday last week.  Whoohoo!  But when it happened, the breakdown was spectacular.  We finally got back on track yesterday.  This week, like last week, I suspect breakdown will occur in 12 hours or less, but maybe I'll be surprised and we'll be able to hold out longer.  Only 5ish more weeks of football season.  Then I won't have as good an excuse for not cooking and the consequential menu plan breakdown.

Menu plan breakdown isn't all bad.  Sometimes, it can be a good thing.  That's because I don't have to think of as many meals--I can just move the unmade, but shopped-for meals to subsequent weeks.  And yes, I am hopelessly optimistic sometimes, thank you.

I also need to tell you that the French onion chicken skillet was really yummy.  I liked it a lot.  MC said it was ok and he'd be willing to eat it again, Bubby tolerated it (but made toast at the earliest opportunity).  That's about as good as it gets around here.

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


Monday, September 10, 2018

Menu plan for the week of September 10

You guys.  I don't even.  I mean.  I can't.

See?  I can't even get a full sentence out (<-- oh, look.  There's one).  There is no way that this meal plan will make it through the week intact.  Absolutely no chance.  I know this with certainty.  And yet, I persist in posting.  I guess it just goes to show, hope survives even in the face of insurmountable odds.  And thank God for that, amiright?

I really liked the rotating two week menu plan that we used for 6 weeks during late summer, so I sorta kinda did something similar.  Some meals are repeated every week, some every other week, some every 3 weeks, and some not at all, but the upshot is, I have meals planned for most days in September and October.  And when October is over, so is football season, which will take a lot of the meal-making pressure off.

Here's the plan.  Care to make any guesses as to how long before menu plan breakdown occurs?


Friday, September 7, 2018

Late summer garden and chicken update

According to Hubby, summer is over, because to him, Labor Day marks the end of summer.  According to my calendar, summer will be over September 22.  According to my kids, summer will be over Monday, when they head back to school.  According to my garden, the end of summer is eminent. 

Yes, the garden is straggling along.  We've got a few more tomatoes left in the garden.  I did get one batch of salsa made with tomatoes and jalapenos from our garden, and the rest of the tomatoes I've been harvesting as they ripen, then blanching, peeling, coring, quartering, and freezing them.  I was hoping to get enough tomatoes (25 pounds) to make spaghetti sauce to can.  Now I'm thinking I'll probably just dice and can them.

We probably have enough jalapenos still on the plants to can a load.  Maybe I'll get to that next week.  The jalapenos on one of the plants turned purple almost right away, and long before they were ripe, which makes me think that one plant is a different variety than the others. 

The cantaloupe did really well.  I harvested one that was over 7 pounds, and there are three more melons on the plant.

The Brussels sprouts did not as well.  There are sprouts on the plants, but they're not very big, and I don't know if it's worthwhile harvesting and eating them.  Brussels sprouts like the cold, though, so I'll just leave them out there and see what happens.

I decided that we needed to dig up at least one of the potato plants before AKD headed off to school, since it was his idea to plant potatoes.  We did, indeed, get some potatoes, but they were pathetically small.  The volume of potatoes that we harvested didn't even equal the volume of the potato we planted.  We do still have four more potato mounds, so maybe those did better.  We're waiting until the plants die away before digging those up.

I do not have high hopes for the garlic and carrots.  They're root veggies, so obviously we can't tell what's going on with them, but looking at the leaves, it's not looking good.

Our basil plant was doing really well, and I should have pruned it and dried basil before we left to take AKD to school, but I didn't have time so I left it, and by the time we got home, the plant was shriveled and black.  It rained a lot while we were gone, so it wasn't lack of water that did the basil in.  The lavender plant is blooming again.  It seems well established, so hopefully it'll come back in the spring.

In chicken news, the Bigs' egg production has dropped big time.  I don't think we've gotten an egg from Esther in 5 or 6 days.  Got one from Rocky and one from Toasty yesterday, but before that it had been a while for both of them.  The weird thing is they're still sitting in the nest box.  They're expecting eggs--they're just not coming.  Surely, it can't be lack of sunlight already that's causing them to lay less.  Or maybe it can?  This development has me seriously rethinking my no-light-in-the-coop-to-give-the-girls-a-rest policy.  The other possibility is that they're entering molt, wherein they lose their feathers and then grow them back again.  It seems really odd to me that a chicken would lose her feathers just as it's getting cold, but nevertheless, that's what they do.

Luckily, the Littles' egg production has been ramping up, so we're still getting about three eggs a day.  They're little eggs, but at least they're eggs.  I was thinking I wouldn't have to buy eggs anymore once AKD left us, but I'm not sure if that's actually going to be the case.  MC is still eating three eggs a day, and I'm still eating one.  Bubby seems to have passed through his waffles-for-every-meal stage, so at least we're not needing eggs for that.

Speaking of little eggs, we've been getting so many double yolk eggs since the Littles started laying.  Apparently it's really common for new layers, and old (near the end of their laying years) layers to lay double yolks, but we never got any from our first set of hens.  It's mostly Indigo laying the doubles, and they are huge.  Poor Indigo.  But lucky us.

I haven't made much progress toward turning Koko into a lap chicken, although she did let me pet her without running away yesterday.  I guess I'll keep working on it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Summer 2018, Part 5

Hi friends.

Sorry I've been neglecting you.  One of the podcasts to which I listen is Organize 365.  And one of the things Lisa talks about is that she divides her year into three parts, each with a "new year," with new goals.  I've talked about how for people associated with the school system, the beginning of school is more of a new year than January 1.  Same concept.  Her year-parts begin in January, May, and September.  Another thing Lisa says about her year-parts is that they always begin super-organized and dissolve into chaos by the end.

That is what has happened here.  My summer year-part started organized with all kinds of plans and schemes, and has devolved into chaos.  And I am still there, in the chaos, because school hasn't started yet.  We're having the longest summer ever, thanks to the ongoing construction in our school district.

A week ago, I left my first baby in a place where they don't know him, and could never love him as well as me.  I know he is ready.  I know he will find his way.  I have always known that this day was coming.  That doesn't make it any easier to bear.  I cry, not for him, but for me.  I miss him.  And I know that our relationship will never be the same.  He will always be my baby, but he is not a child anymore.  My heart aches with sweet memories of the boy he was and the time we shared.  I guess I just need to grieve a little longer before my heart is ready to accept the new sweet memories that are sure to come.

So that's why I've been neglecting you.  Chaos and grief.  There is still chaos; there is still grief.  But I'm back.  I think.

As a result of the chaos, I lost my enthusiasm for taking pictures to share with you.  But here's what I have.  Love ya.  Talk to you soon.

Friday, August 31, 2018

18 for 2018 (August)

It's time for another 18 for 2018 update!

In July, I said I didn't know if I would make any progress in August.  I am happy to report that I did, indeed, make some small progress.

In August, I ordered Christmas cards (because ten of them were free, and another six of them got my Shutterfly order up high enough to get free shipping), so 16 of you get Christmas cards (you will note, I did not specify how many or when these cards would be sent).  I also got some Christmas postage stamps, because there was a deal.  And I found the envelopes I saved from last year's Christmas cards so I know who to send cards to this year.  So that goal is well in hand.
And that's all.  Still working on the paper and the household binder.  And I feel like I have to wait until at least October to send Christmas cards.

Here's the entire list:
18 for 2018
  1. ** Make oyster shell and grit dispensers for the chickens
  2. ** Plant a garden--with tomatoes and jalapenos
  3. Can jalapenos--they don't necessarily have to be the ones I grow
  4. Have everyone in the household take the love languages quiz--we could do this on Valentine's Day, but since it's also Ash Wednesday this year, I don't think that's gonna happen...
  5. Go on a date with each of my boys (AKD, MC, Bubby)
  6. ** Send friend mail 8 6 4 times (if you'd like to receive friend mail from me, use the contact link above to give me your address)
  7. Obtain and begin using a to-do notebook--this has already been so useful!  I have a running to-do list now, instead of having to start fresh every day.  It's a lot more difficult to misplace than a random piece of paper.
  8. ** Purge file cabinet and create paper organization system--Ugh!  We have so.much.paper.  Half of me wants to get rid of it all.  The other half is afraid I'll shred something we'll need later.
  9. ** Create a household binder/legacy box--I think my boys would be lost if something happened to me.
  10. Delete saved electronic mystery shop screen shots and receipts--yep, I've got every screen shot and almost every receipt from every mystery shop I've done in the past four years.  It's a lot.
  11. ** Buy desk task light--I've already tried once this year, but I didn't like it, so I need to try again.
  12. Buy phone charging cords for each of our vehicles--I told Hubby I was going to do this, and he was like, but we have charging cords in all the vehicles, don't we?  Well, yes, we do...for his phone, but not for AKD's and mine.
  13. Make a chicken sign--It's going to have the silhouette of a chicken, and say something along the lines of, "Danger: Dinosaur Area."
  14. Take a class through community education or a local craft store--I used to do this fairly often, but somewhere along the line, I stopped.
  15. ** Finish valances for master bedroom.  I've only had the material for...3 years? 4?  A long time.
  16. Crochet messy bun hat or Arm knit scarf
  17. ** Get the boys' picture taken--the place I used to take them to closed, so I need to find a new photographer.
  18. Send Christmas cards in 2018
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