Tuesday, April 30, 2019

9 for 2019 April Update

Hi friends.  It's the last day of April, which means it's time for a 9 for 2019 goal update.

In April, I:

  • Went on a playdate with myself  to Hobby Lobby.  Oh, how I love all.the.things at Hobby Lobby.  Maybe someday I'll actually even buy some of them.

  • Made and installed a chicken swing--So far, the girls have regarded the chicken swing with a equal parts mistrust and disdain.  I did manage to get two of them up on to the swing separately, one by picking her up, and placing her on the swing while feeding her Grubblies, and the other by holding a bowl of chopped hard-boiled egg so that the girls could only reach it by hopping onto the swing, but I didn't get pictures of either.  I think that the ladies needed to have been exposed to the swing as babies in order for them to enjoy it (take note, new chicken mamas).  The good news is, the swing will already be in place the next time we have chicks around here.

This month, I also bought material with which to cover my box.  Well, material with which to cover the top of the sides--I'm having trouble deciding what to do with the bottom.

And I finally started on that darn Facts of Life book.  I decided that I should work on it for 15 minutes a day, but then I realized that 15 minutes at a time is not enough, and that I don't have the fortitude to do it every day.  But I've started.  And even if I don't ever work on it again, what I have done will be helpful for those who need it.

I had already completed:
  • Replace dish cloths
  • Put together a traveling charger kit--You know, cords and wall chargers that are specifically designated for travel.

I still need to: 
  • 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.
  • 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.

Wow.  Not much left.  Well, except for the never-ending Facts of Life book--that's much.  How are you doing on your 2019 goals?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Menu plan for the week of April 29

Well, the Instant Pot is heading back to its home this week.  Last week Hubby said that I was sure using it a lot for someone who doesn't like it.  Again, I am so thankful that I was able to try one before buying, because I was pretty sure I wanted one until I actually used it.  It's not that I dislike the Instant Pot, it's that I can do all of the things it can do using other methods, and it doesn't fit in my appliance cupboard.  Well, ok, it just barely fits in my appliance cupboard if I take the inner pot out and store the lid separately.  Also, that silicone ring really does pick up unpleasant odors (I'm really hoping I can get that smelling better before I give the pot back).

The main advantages of electric pressure cookers, as I see it, are:

  1. being able to make slow-cooker type meals much faster
  2. being able to make rice and pasta recipes. all in one pot
  3. being able to cook using less energy and without heating up the kitchen on a warm day
And those advantages are just not all that meaningful to me.  Well, the not heating up the kitchen on a warm day is meaningful, but that's why I have my grill and my slow cooker.

The yogurt, by the way, worked the second time.  Turns out there are three settings for the yogurt button, and the first time, I had it on the less setting for incubation instead of normal.  Don't ask me what one would use the less setting for, because I do not know (if you know, feel free to enlighten me).

This week, I've got one last Instant Pot recipe that I didn't make last week.  I already have all the ingredients (and I'm using up some chicken thighs from the freezer), so I'm gonna make it.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

  • Instant Pot Pepperjack chicken
  • Nachos (regular nachos, as requested by the children, who have grown weary of recycled instant pot meat nachos), guacamole
  • Chicken, bacon, ranch sliders (I was going to do this one in the Instant Pot, but decided the slow cooker version was easier), raw veggies
  • Pizza (crust, sauce), salad
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, jello, roasted asparagus
  • Hot dogs or brats (maybe we can pretend they're light sabers), buns, oven fries, green beans
  • Chicken tacos, guacamole (gotta have guac on 5th May)

  • There is no other this week.  Well, there probably is some other, but I don't have the brain power to think of it right now.

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:



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