Monday, April 22, 2019

Menu plan for the week of April 22

You guys.  My Instant Pot yogurt failed.  Yogurt is the one thing that I was thinking the Instant Pot would make easier.  It was the thing that made me think maybe I did want to own an Instant Pot.  Not that making yogurt in my slow cooker is difficult, but I do worry about the cultures getting too cold as I wrap their towel blanket around them and put them to bed.  The Instant Pot (Duo and better models) has a yogurt button, which tells the Instant Pot to keep those lactobacilli warm--without a blanket. 

I'm not sure what caused the fail, because if I had known I was doing something wrong I wouldn't have done it, but my working theory is that my instant read thermometer reads low, and I killed the bacteria by putting it into too-warm milk.

I'm going to try again, of course.  Wish me luck.

This week, we're planning on making more Instant Pot meals, some of which were suggested to me by people trying to convince me that I want an Instant Pot.  Do you Instant Pot?  Drop some of your favorite recipes in the comments.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

An Open Table (God's Extravagant Love)

One of my favorite things about my church is that Communion is served at an open table.  That means that anyone can come and partake of God's holy meal. 

And I do mean anyone

You don't have to be a certain age; you don't have to have taken a class.  You don't have to be a certain gender or race, of a certain economic class or level of education, or have a certain sexual orientation.  You don't have to be a member of our church, or any church.  You don't have to understand what Communion is about--because let's face it--do any of us truly understand the mystery of God with us in this holy meal?  All that's required is an open heart and a desire to seek after God.

And here's why: It's not our table.  It's God's table, and God gets to decide who is welcome, not me, not you. 

Who did God Incarnate invite to His table?  Whom did He break bread with, hang out with?  Jesus hung out with the margins of society: the sinners, the seekers, the questioners, the sick, the poor, widows and orphans, children.  Jesus hung out with the people who knew that they needed Him.

You know who Jesus didn't hang out with? 

Jesus didn't hang out with religious leaders who knew the rules so well they were able to exploit them in any way they wished, and often did, to their own profit.  Pharisees, who thought they could earn their salvation by following the law.  It's not that Jesus didn't want to spend time with the Pharisees or that He wouldn't have welcomed them. He invited them, too.  But they didn't want to spend time with Him.  They were so sure that their way was the right way.  They were so sure that they didn't need Jesus because they had the law.

I remember feeling taken aback by this wild, open invitation to the table the first time it was issued to me.  It felt so reckless, so extravagant.  When I was small, one had to fill out a little card and hand it to the usher in order to take Communion in our church.  It was such a big deal for church kids to go to Communion classes and to celebrate First Communion.  It was a right of passage, and it made us feel a little more grown-up.  I remember going to churches where I wasn't allowed to take Communion, because I didn't believe the "right" way--their way--and Communion is sacred.

Those churches are right: Communion is sacred, but it isn't sacred because of us.  It isn't sacred because we carefully curate its participants, ensuring that all those who partake are holy enough.  Communion is sacred because of the One who serves it, and the One who meets us in its mystery.  Communion is sacred and holy because of the One who invites us into relationship through the sharing of a meal.

Today's the day the church celebrates the first Communion, ever.  Come.  The table is set.  All are welcome.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Put on Your PJs Piggies: a Review

Put on Your PJs, Piggies is a sweet board book illustrated by Sydney Hanson, following 4 piggy siblings through their bedtime routine.  The illustrations are lovely, and the piglets are so cute.  Little ones will definitely identify with the different parts of the piggies' nighttime routine, and it might make bedtime for human readers a little easier because of that.  I love that Daddy pig suggests counting sheep, and there are actual sheep to count in the barn :) 

Put on Your PJs, Piggies is a rhyming book, of course, meant to be read aloud.  A couple of the rhymes are a little forced, and every time I've read the book, there's one page that always makes me pause because it seems like there's a mistake on that page*.  Still, it's a cute book, and a must-have for preschool pig-lovers.  I personally probably wouldn't purchase the book, but I would definitely borrow it from the library.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

*One page reads, "our day on Bedtime Barn was fun, But now our piggy day is done."  I think it should be, "our day on Sunshine Farm was fun."

Monday, April 15, 2019

Menu plan for the week of April 15

Hi friends.  Are y'all curious as to how we're doing with the Instant Pot?

Well, so far I've done the "water test," made hard boiled eggs, Kraft mac-n-cheese (yes, from the blue box, because I could), and warm-me-up sausage quiche.

The hard boiled eggs took about the same amount of time as they would have had I steamed them on the stove, by the time the pot came to pressure, cooked, then released pressure, and were about as easy to peel, however 4 out of my 12 eggs cracked in the cooker.  They're still good to eat, but they don't look very good.

The Kraft mac-n-cheese also took about the same amount of time as it would have taken on the stove.  The noodles were a little softer than we're used to, so next time (if there is a next time), I would cook for a shorter time and do a shorter natural pressure release.  The one advantage was I only had one pot to clean, verses a pot and a colander.

The quiche was not a success.  I ended up baking it in the oven for 40 minutes after cooking it in the IP for 20.  This was definitely not a time or energy saver, as I usually bake that quiche for 40-45 minutes anyway.  In the Instant Pot's defense, I used a deeper dish than usual, and it was probably too full.  But I wanted to make the full recipe so it would be a fair comparison, and my regular dish doesn't fit in the Instant Pot.

If I had to decide right now, I think I would accept and use an Instant Pot if someone gave it to me, but I would not purchase an Instant Pot.  I am so very thankful to have the opportunity to try before buying, as I'm thinking I would have a serious case of buyers remorse if I purchased one.

Anyway, I have lots of Instant Pot recipes on the menu this week (and a few next week, too).  Maybe the Instant Pot will reveal its gloriousness to me yet.  Wish me luck!  I'll keep you posted.

  • Rice burgler--I thought about making this as a one pot meal in the Instant Pot, but I think for my first IP rice experience it should be just rice.  So rice in the IP, everything else on the stove.
  • Chicken chili verde--in the Instant Pot.  I'll have to add more liquid because the 8 qt IP that I'm borrowing calls for a minimum of 2 cups of liquid.  Trying to decide whether I should do this pot-in-pot or just straight up.  Hopefully it'll be OK.
  • Instant Pot Beef & broccoli
  • Instant Pot Chicken burrito bowl
  • Pancakes, eggs, bacon, fresh fruit
  • Hamburgers, buns, oven fries, grilled veggie
  • Best Instant Pot Honey glazed ham, corn, applesauce


Monday, April 8, 2019

Menu plan for the week of April 8

I'm trying to decide if I want an electric pressure cooker.  They seem to be life changing for people who have and use them, but I'm not sure I would actually use one, or that I'm willing to give up kitchen space to store one.

As I see it, the main advantage of electric pressure cookers is that you can cook slow cooker type foods much faster.  So if you find yourself at 4 p.m., having planned a slow cooker meal, but having forgotten to put the meal in the slow cooker (and possibly not even thawed it yet), you could put said slow cooker meal in the pressure cooker and it'll be done in time for supper.  But the thing is, I don't make a whole lot of slow cooker meals because my family tends to not like those sorts of meals, so that's not that much of an advantage for me.

Other kinds of things that I might make in a pressure cooker, like mashed potatoes, hard boiled eggs, rice, or yogurt actually take about the same amount of time in a pressure cooker as they do using other methods, because the cooker has to come up to pressure, then cook for however much time, then release the pressure*.

So I'm just not convinced.  I put it to Facebook, and overwhelmingly, my friends told me that I did want an electric pressure cooker and that I wanted a big one.  Well, all except one.  She got an Instant Pot for Christmas, and it sat on her counter for a while until she decided to relegate it to the garage.

And she's lending it to me.  So I can try it out.  For an unspecified period of time.  I don't think my friend knows that the last time someone lent me a pressure cooker for an unspecified period of time, I kept it (thanks again, mom & dad), and I still have it.

Anyway, I'm excited to try it out.  I actually already had a pressure cooker meal on my menu for this week that I was going to make in the slow cooker.  Next week, I'll have a bunch of pressure cooker recipes, I'm sure.

Do you have an electric pressure cooker?  Do you use it?  What do you make in it?

In the meantime, here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Oatmeal chocolate bars (I didn't make these last week because we still had another dessert that we were eating on.  The other dessert is *almost* gone, so I'm sure I'll get to the bars this week.
  • Some kind of muffins.  It's been a while since we've had muffins in the house.
  • Warm me up sausage quiche.  The girls are laying a lot of eggs.  Gotta use 'em up.

*with these foods, I'm told, the advantage is not in time, but in the fact that you can set it and forget it.  Nothing boils over or makes a mess (well, unless you do a quick release and liquid comes spewing out).  There are two foods: mashed potatoes and dry beans, that always (and I do mean always) boil over when I cook them on the stove.  I'm just not sure that's enough of an incentive to store something that big in my kitchen.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


Our sweet Hazel left us on Sunday.  We found her scrunched in a corner when we checked on the girls in the afternoon.  I don't know what happened to her.  She laid an egg, and then died.  In retrospect, there were signs that she wasn't feeling well--she had been moving slower than the other girls (which I thought was just because she was bigger), we got a couple of blood-streaked eggs from her, and she passed some watery stools, but all of those things are normal things that happen with chickens from time to time, so I wasn't too alarmed.  Chickens are experts at hiding sickness or injury, so we didn't know there was anything wrong enough to cause death.  Poor Hazel.



 Hazel was Bubby's favorite.

Miss you, girlfriend.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Menu plan for the week of April 1

Hi friends.  Remember last week, when I asked for suggestions for using some of the not-regularly-used-in-our-household ingredients languishing in my cupboard?  Well, my fraternity sister, Bert, came through for me, suggesting I make oatmeal chocolate bars using sweetened condensed milk, very similar to this recipe.  So I'm going to make them this week.  Thanks, Bert.

If you want a shout-out on my blog, let me know: what should I make with evaporated milk, turkey gravy, a jar of what I think is probably homemade chocolate cake mix, four candy canes* and/or unflavored gelatin?  Bonus points for not making me buy any new ingredients.

* because it turns out, in addition to the three candy canes I found in the cupboard last week, I also had a small bag of already-crushed candy canes, which was the perfect amount for the cookies I wanted to make, and there were four candy canes, not three.

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



Friday, March 29, 2019

9 for 2019 March Update

Hi friends.  It's the end of March, which means it's time for another update on my goals.  

This month I:

  • Crocheted a purple scarf, which I told you about here.  I also decided that I'm going to make a poncho next.

I had already accomplished these:

  • Replace dish cloths

  • Put together a traveling charger kit--You know, cords and wall chargers that are specifically designated for travel.

I've completed 47% of my goals, and we are about 25% through the year.  Yay, me!

And I still have these to do:

  • Plant sunflowers by the chicken coop--These will be multipurpose sunflowers.  They'll be pretty, provide shade, and provide food for the chickens.  The challenge will be keeping the girls from eating them before they get strong enough to withstand the chickens' pecking.

  • Make/install chicken swing--My sis said I should do this one, and I have to admit, I'm looking forward to seeing the girls enjoying it.  I hope they do enjoy it.
  • Cover a box that I store things in to make it pretty--I've been meaning to do this for years.  Even though it's a box that I use in our master bathroom, so hardly anyone ever sees it, it will make me happy to have a prettier receptacle.

  • Facts of life book--This goal, of course, is continued from last year.

How are you doing on your 2019 goals?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Glory Road by Lauren Denton: a Review

"Written in Lauren Denton's signature Southern style, Glory Road tells the story of three generations of women navigating the uncertain pathways of their hearts during a summer that promises to bring change--whether they're ready for it or not." -- from the book jacket

This novel is told from the perspective of three generations of women in turns: Jessie, a divorced mom running a garden shop; her daughter Evan, who is poised to begin her first year of High School; and Jessie's mom, Gus, who is suffering increasingly frequent memory lapses.  The reader follows these three women, living and working together on Glory Road, through a summer that brings new people and new opportunities, as well as the chance to face fears and move beyond past hurts.

This sweet story drew me in and captivated me until the last page.  In fact, it captivated me beyond the last page--I would love to catch up with these characters again sometime.  In turns, I found myself feeling wistful and yearning, hopeful and inspired.  The settings and characters are beautifully described and relatable.  I want to live on Glory Road and be friends with these people.

"In one summer, everything will change.  But for these three strong Southern women, the roots they've planed on Glory Road will give life to the adventures waiting just around the curve." -- from the book jacket

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

I went to IKEA

A couple of weeks ago, I went to IKEA. 

Here's what IKEA says about itself:
The IKEA Concept starts with the idea of providing a range of home furnishing products that are affordable to the many people, not just the few. It is achieved by combining function, quality, design and value - always with sustainability in mind. The IKEA Concept exists in every part of our company, from design, sourcing, packing and distributing through to our business model. Our aim is to help more people live a better life at home.
If you've never been, IKEA is ... an experience.  It's a labyrinth, which is to say, there is only one way through, and one must travel through the entire store in order to get out.  Well, sorta.  Unlike a labyrinth, there are shortcuts.  Like a labyrinth, it is winding and laborious.

I find IKEA to be completely overwhelming.  There is so much to see.  And if you're not prepared for the store's format, it's confusing and strange.  On this, my second ever trip to IKEA, I knew what to expect, and was able to move through the overwhelm to inspiration. 

There is so much to be inspired by at IKEA.  That said, I think IKEA is definitely best visited with a specific project in mind.  As I wandered through, I found myself feeling like I wanted both everything and nothing.  It was too much and too little.

I bought a succulent.  And took pictures of countertops.  And want to go back.  And want to avoid all future contact. 

And checked off 1/4 of another 9 for 2019 goal.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Menu plan for the week of March 25

Last week was "spring" break here, and I must say, it does feel pretty spring-like.  It rained for three days week before last, which meant we lost a lot of snow.  It also means we're wallowing in mud.  We had standing water in the chicken run.  It's merely soggy now, instead of straight-out wet (thanks to a week or so of not-rain, and judicious application of shredded aspen), but I'm pretty sure one of the girls' food bowls in buried in muck, possibly never to be seen again.  I kept seeing pictures of friends in warm, sunny, non-muddy places, and I'm just over here, wearing my chicken boots, trying to keep my chickens from being swallowed by the muddy abyss.

In my continuing quest to use up pantry and fridge items that are open, but are not ingredients used in our regular recipes, on Saturday, I made Cheerio Treats.  I used up three separate open packages of marshmallows, and that still wasn't quite as much as the recipe calls for, but no way was I going to open one of the two unopened packages in our cupboard, lest I need to find another way to use those.  My go-to when using up dry or sticky marshmallows is rice krispie treats, but in the spirit of not buying anything new that will then, in turn, need to be used up, I went with honey nut cheerios instead--although I have been thinking about making clif bars lately, so I might be buying rice krispies anyway.

The remainder of the 2011 barley ended up being just a tiny bit over the 2/3 c. called for in the Beef Barley soup recipe, so, as promised, I threw it all in.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about these things), Hubby and I really liked the soup, and I think AKD would, too, so there might be barley in our cupboard again soon.

This week, I'm making Italian sausage and white bean skillet to use up a can of beans that my sis gave me.  The recipe also calls for spinach, which I just happen to have in my freezer, leftover from another recipe a couple of months ago, and I'm planning to cook the little bit of penne pasta I have left in an open box to serve with it.  I'm also using up an open bottle of salsa verde on Thursday, and I found 3 candy canes in the cupboard, which will be going into cookies this week.

I also found cans of evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk, and a jar of turkey gravy in the cupboard.  Any ideas?

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



Monday, March 18, 2019

Menu plan for the week of March 18

You guys.  I made Bubby's favorite muffins again the other day.  Remember when I made a double batch and I forgot the vanilla extract?  And sugar?  No one noticed.  Well, this time, I forgot the chocolate chips.  Seriously, what is wrong with me?  I'm not sure if anyone would have noticed this time because I pointed it out to them before they had a chance to notice.  Bubby has decided they're not worth eating without the chocolate chips.  Now, I agree, chocolate is life, but I honestly feel like leaving the sugar out would make muffins taste worse than leaving the chocolate out.  Am I wrong on this?

And now we have a new rule in our house.  I can only make these muffins when they are the only thing I am making at the time, and when all of the dishes have been washed and the counters are clear.  Because that's what happened, again.  I was making a graham cracker crust for one of our Pi day pies, and decided I might as well make these muffins too, since the previous batch was gone, and I was already crushing graham crackers.  There were dirty bowls and spoons and rubber scrapers and pastry blenders and pie plates and rolling pins everywhere, so I didn't want to add to the chaos by lining up all of the ingredients for this recipe.  And I was so careful to make sure I was adding everything.  Until, of course, the chocolate chips.  *Sigh*

In my continuing quest to use up pantry items, this week I'm making Beef Barley Soup, to finally use up that barley we have in the cupboard.  I don't even know how much barley is still in the box: I don't know if it's more, or less, or just the right amount, for the soup.  Regardless, it's going in.  All of it.  I caved, and peeked at the expiration date.  2011.  It's ok.  We'll be fine.  Really.  Dried grains don't really go bad.  In the soup, I'm also using some of the carrots and celery that I purchased for the lentil soup two weeks ago.  In addition, we have spaghetti and meatballs on the menu today.  I've got some meatballs in the freezer, and a half jar of spaghetti sauce that I used for the stuffed shells.  We're also eating down the pasta collection.

It's satisfying, this using up of the things.  I love the challenge, and I love not wasting food.  I also love getting seldom-used ingredients out of my cupboards.  Until the next time I buy a seldom-used ingredient, that is.  How about you?  Do you have anything in your cupboards that you're not sure how to use?

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


  • Spaghetti & meatballs, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic toast
  • Tacos with veggies
  • Pancakes & bacon, strawberries
  • Slow cooker beef barley soup, rolls
  • Pizza (saucecrust), salad
  • Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled veggie
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, grilled veggie, jello
I don't know.  I'm finding it difficult to commit right now.  But I'm sure I'll make something else this week.  Oh, yeah.  Warm me up sausage quiche.  I'm making that.  Probably other things, too.  But probably not muffins.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Saving daylight and chicken birthdays

You guys.  Daylight savings time is kicking my butt.  Or it could be that weird dream that woke me at 4:20 a.m. yesterday, and wouldn't let me go back to sleep again, is kicking my butt. Either way, it was a rough morning, and a rough afternoon, yesterday. 

I've seen a lot of social media posts in the past couple of days saying that people's animals are confused because of us humans changing our clocks.  The animals are not confused.  They're just keeping on, using the sun to tell them when to wake up and when to go to sleep, unlike us poor humans.  We're the confused ones.  It's not like our animals have somewhere to be at a specific time.  They're not watching the clock.  They don't care that now MC is heading out to the bus stop in the dark again.

I remember my first beginning-of-daylight-savings-time as a mama.  A couple days after we sprang forward, I was talking with a couple of other new mamas, and one of them asked me if the time change had messed AKD up.  No, it hadn't.  He was still waking up at the same time as always, only now we were calling it 5:30 a.m. instead of 6:30.  It didn't mess him up, but it kinda messed me up.

Even though I'm tired, I have to admit that I'm enjoying the fact that the sun has been at a lower angle when I've gone out to read to the chickens in the morning the past couple of days.  There's something so joyful about the sun being in my eyes.  In that place and at that time of day, anyway.

Speaking of chickens, the Littles had a birthday!  Or hatchday, I guess.  Last week.  Hazel, Indigo, and Koko, at a year old, are officially hens.

Koko, enjoying some oatmeal cookies. 
I left out the bugs and eggshells, so these are actually yummy for humans, too.
We celebrated by having extended free range time, which wasn't really all that free because there was snow on the ground and there's a huge snow dam around the coop, which means they didn't have much more room than they have in their enclosed, snow-free run.  I also fed them cookies, which were kinda yummy.  And I gave them a gift--freeze dried black soldier fly larva.  Yum!

The girls have picked up their egg-laying, and now we're getting 3-5 eggs daily from 6 hens.  A week or so ago everyone laid an egg on the same day.  So I made a flower.

From top left: Rocky, Koko, Toasty, Indigo, Esther, Hazel
And then I put them in an egg carton.  And I had to take another picture. 

Pretty, right?  I'm thinking my pickled eggs will be in process sooner than I anticipated.  Yay!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Menu plan for the week of March 11

My baby's home for spring break this week, so some of his favorites are on the menu.

Here it is:



  • Pie

Thursday, March 7, 2019

I finished my purple scarf

I finished my purple scarf.

I must have pulled out my stitches 10 times to start over, only to discover my new work was just as wavy and inconsistent as the previous work had been.  The first day, I crocheted for a total of about 6 hours, and at the end of the day I had a bunch of unraveled yarn to show for it.  I finally realized that if I was going to finish this scarf, I had to stop starting over.  And if the scarf turned out wavy, so be it.  Friends, this scarf is a testament to the idea that some things are worth doing poorly.  It was better to make an inconsistent, but finished, scarf, than a perfect, nonexistent scarf.

And so I started over one more time.  And somehow I lost stitches, which made the scarf narrower than it was supposed to be, but I persisted.  And then somehow I gained stitches again, which made it the right width again.  Still, I persisted.  And now, it's done, in all its thin and thick and imperfect beauty.

I made this purple scarf as a gesture of welcome to the participants of the 2020 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Now, I don't even know if there's going to be a General Conference in Minnesota in 2020, or if there is, if my church will be a part of it.  If there isn't, or we're not, I'm not sure what I'll do with this purple scarf.  I do know that I won't keep it.  This purple scarf was made to be given away.

I didn't grow up in the United Methodist Church, although now I've attended UM churches for more than half my life.  I didn't know there was such a thing as a Book of Discipline, or care about the organizational structure of the church.  I had no idea what all these conferences were about: Charge, Annual, General.  Truthfully, I still don't, nor do I care, really.

My husband and I grew up in different Christian denominations, and as we were looking for a church together, we didn't really concern ourselves with what the churches called themselves.  Rather, we paid attention to the people: their attitudes and values, and how we felt when we were there.  And one thing that I especially appreciated about the United Methodist Churches that we visited, and ultimately joined, was their absolute, almost aggressive, welcoming inclusivity.  They went out of their way to let everyone know that they were loved and valued and welcomed by God, and, therefore, loved and valued and welcomed by the church.  The only rule seemed to be Love.

I was shocked to discover last week that not all churches called United Methodist feel the same.  That some think there are whole groups of people who are not as valued, who are less than.  It broke my heart.

Now, we the church are on the brink of something new.  It's scary.  And exhilarating.  Well, exhilarating, if you go for that kind of thing.  I, personally, have no desire to stand at the top of a cliff and jump off.  But here I am.  Here we are.  Poised to jump into the unknown.

Friends, let me be clear: I don't care who you are or what you've done.  I don't care how you identify or about your sexuality.  I don't care how much money you make or how you choose to spend it.  I don't care what color you are or where you're from.  I don't care that you just cut me off in traffic.  You are loved, you are valued, you are worthy.  Not because of who you are, but because of who God is.  Who am I to exclude someone whom God welcomes?

It was good practice, making that scarf, I suppose.  By the end, I was more consistent in my stitches.  The second half of the scarf has fairly straight edges.  In the same way, we will find our way to the something new, imperfectly, perhaps, but growing and learning and becoming better.

I say that we are poised to jump into the unknown, but that's not exactly true.  We are poised to jump into a more perfect love.  That, we absolutely know.  The unknown is how exactly we'll get there, and how, exactly, it'll look.  We do know that it will be beautiful.
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