Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Menu plan for the week of July 19

 I was feeling chaotic this week.  When I wrote it all down, all the things I had to do, it seemed like Not Very Much.  But when it was swirling around in my head, it felt like So Much.  It felt Huge.

I had So Many things to do.  And I think the biggest issue was that some of the things had firm dates and times when they needed to happen but other of the things had to happen but could happen at any time.  And how do you work with that?  How do you make a plan?  It was like this huge puzzle that had any number of possible solutions.  How to choose the best, most efficient solution?

I don't know if you know this about me, but I am not very good at switching course.  I plan.  And when things don't go according to plan, I don't like it.  I try to be ok with change.  Change is inevitable, after all.  I try to be flexible.  I try to go with the flow.  But I am not good at it.

And not feeling able to make a plan at all?  That is the worst.

That's, um, kind of why I plan meals.  

I'm feeling better now, because those few busy days are behind me.  All of the things, the things that had a specific day and time, the things that had a specific day but not time, and the things that had neither a day nor a time, all of those things happened.  And it turned out ok.  So I'm better.  But not 100% better because I don't sleep well under certain conditions that are now in effect.

So, hey.  Here's the meal plan for the week.

Supper:
  • Fend for yourself
  • Tacos
  • Pizza
  • Nachos or leftovers
  • Spaghetti with sauce, garlic bread, carrots
  • Out to eat
  • Hot dogs and brats?, miscellaneous veggies from the fridge?

Other:

Friday, July 16, 2021

Caramel Banana Muffins

 It started when I watched a Budget Eats video from Delish in which Delish Senior Food Editor June lived off of her leftovers and pantry for a week.  Y'all know that from time to time I like to use up random food odds and ends that I've collected, and that's exactly what June did during this extremely hot week of filming.   She's so good at it.  Seriously.

On the 6th(?) day June decided to make Banana Caramel Teff Cakes.  And I said to myself, "self, we have leftover caramel sauce in our fridge."  And myself replied, "yes, and we also have overripe bananas in the freezer."  

"We should make caramel banana muffins!" we exclaimed in unison.

It happened exactly like that.

And so I found myself googling banana caramel muffins, and I came across this recipe from Midwest Living.  Now, the disadvantage of this recipe is that it uses only a couple of tablespoons of caramel sauce, and we have ... well, we have more than that, but the advantage of this recipe is that it uses a little bit of cream cheese, which I and myself happened to have in our freezer, because of buying 8 ounces and then only using 6 and then letting it sit in the fridge until it was almost not good anymore and then sticking it in the freezer because maybe I/we would use it someday.

Y'all.  These muffins are so good.  Unlike traditional banana bread, these muffins are light and fluffy, more like a cake than a muffin, but also super moist, with just the right amount of banana flavor.  You can skip the topping if you like, but do not skip putting part of the topping mix into the batter.  Mmmm. So good.

Here, without further ado, is the recipe.

Caramel Banana Muffins

Adapted from here
Click here to print this recipe

For the topping (cut in half if you're not going to use the topping as a topping):
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
For the muffins:
  • 2-3 oz cream cheese, softened (I used 2 oz, because it's what I had, and it turned out great)
  • 1/4 c (half a stick) of butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled and mashed (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 T caramel flavored ice cream topping, plus more for serving if desired
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line 12 muffin cups (I use silicone muffin liners).  You could grease the cups instead, but be aware that you might decide you hate your life when you try to remove the muffins, and then later, when you attempt to wash the pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 c. chopped pecans, 2 T sugar, and 1 t cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together 2-3 oz cream cheese, 1/4 c butter, and 2/3 c sugar until combined.  Add 1 egg and mix well.  Add 1 mashed banana and 1 t vanilla extract, and mix until well combined.
  4. Add 1 1/4 c flour, 3/4 t baking powder, 1/4 t baking soda, and 1/4 t salt and stir just until combined.  Stir in 1/4 c of the pecan mixture.
  5. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared muffins cups, about 1 rounded tablespoon per cup.  Drizzle with about 1/2 t of caramel sauce (use your heart on this one, friends), then top with the remainder of the batter, distributing evenly among the cups.  Use a spoon or spatula (or your finger--I won't judge) to smooth the tops, taking care to cover all of the caramel sauce.  Sprinkle with remaining pecan topping if using.
  6. Bake in a 375° oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Serve warm drizzled with more caramel topping, if you like.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

21 for 2021 June/July update

Welp.  Yeah.  I told you I didn't want to do this.  But I've kind of been doing it anyway, so I thought I'd let you know how much progress I've made on my 2021 goals.  

Truthfully, I haven't even looked at these since February, but I think I might be surprised at how much I've actually done.

  1. Set up a spreadsheet to keep track of mystery shopping assignments, payment, and reimbursement.  DONE
  2. Set up an electronic list of future projects. DONE
  3. Complete 10 of the projects from my electronic project list.  One?  I haven't been doing many projects this year, nor have I been keeping track.
  4. Declutter and reorganize Pinterest boards.  I'm currently sitting at 20 boards and 889 pins, and I'm calling it DONE
  5. Declutter electronic mystery shopping receipts, photos, and screen shots.  DONE, but this is a never ending project, because I keep doing shops.  
  6. Unsubscribe from 21 email lists in the first 21 days of 2021.  DONE
  7. Improve my scores on all 2019 and 2020 Just Dance Extreme versions to Superstar or better.  Only one more to go!
  8. Complete 12 new (to me) hikes.  Four.
  9. Complete streaks of 20 and 21 days.  I completed the 21 day streak.  I attempted the 20 day streak (walking 3 miles a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks), and made it to day 16 before it got hot and we went out of town.  I think if just one of those conditions had occurred I would have completed the streak.  I'll definitely try again.  When it's cooler.
  10. Send birthday cards to 12 people I don't usually send birthday cards to.  Nope.  And I don't think I actually know 12 people who have birthdays in the last half of the year, and whose addresses I have.  So this one isn't happening.
  11. Walk at least 202.1 miles.  Through June, I had walked 186 miles.
  12. Plant a pine cone. Not yet.
  13. Go to at least one in-person flower show at the conservatory.  None so far.  Christmas is my favorite, but it's risky to wait that long to complete the goal, because December is hard.
  14. Obtain a non-plastic countertop compost bin.  I'm working on it, friends.  Most countertop compost bins are metal (which is susceptible to rust) or plastic (which holds odors).
  15. Make marshmallows from scratch.  Nope, but I've thought about it often in the past few weeks, and it might be not-humid enough this weekend, so maybe.
  16. Make a list of 21 go-to meals that (mostly) everyone in my family likes. I'm up to seven.  This one is a lot more difficult than it looks.
  17. Oil wooden spoons, bowls, and cutting board regularly.  I have oiled the spoons, bowls, and cutting board twice.
  18. Attempt to donate blood 6 times.  I'm up to four.  First time, my appointment was canceled because of a problem with the equipment.  Second time, I donated successfully.  Third time, I wasn't feeling well.  Fourth time, well, we won't talk about that time except to say that Dan needs to improve his bedside manner and I am really disappointed that I was able to start, but unable to complete that donation.  I'm feeling discouraged, but I do have another appointment scheduled for August.
  19. Volunteer not-at-home at least 12 times this year.  Six so far.
  20. Grow paperwhites. Waiting until November.  Again, this is risky, because November is also hard.
  21. Create a new goal.  Eh.  Not really?  I don't think?  Maybe?

So hey.  Not too shabby, eh?  Especially for not intentionally working on any of my 2021 goals.

I will continue to not work on them, and maybe I'll update you again sometime.  Or maybe I won't. 

How are you doing on your 2021 goals? 

Friday, July 9, 2021

It's time for a garden update

 It's been about a month since I talked about what's happening in the garden, so I thought I should bring y'all an update. 

The watermelons and Sakata's sweet melon have really taken off, and they're filling the garden bed.  There are also lots of flowers on the plants, but I don't think there are any actual melons yet, or even female flowers.  Of course, I didn't really look closely, so maybe they're there.  It's been so hot this summer, which is perfect for melons, so I'm hopeful that we'll actually get a harvest this year.

The grape tomato plant is huge.  I started the season pruning off the suckers, but then I decided to just let it go.  The cage fell over repeatedly, so I added a heavy pole to counteract the plant's weight.  So far, it's holding.  There are lots of fruits on the plant, and even more flowers.  Hopefully we'll be eating these right off the plant in a few weeks.  Fresh cherry tomatoes right off the vine are a sublime experience.

The sunflowers are huge compared to a month ago.  I think they were maybe an inch tall in my last garden post, and now they're a solid 4 feet.  I am so looking forward to seeing their sunny faces.

The zinnias are also a lot taller--around 2 feet, and I think all of them have buds.  They have some Asian beetle damage--every time I see them, I pick the beetles off and feed them to the chickens.  The marigolds are also doing well, but I haven't seen any buds yet.

The sugar snap peas have been a disappointment.  I mentioned last time that I had reseeded due to poor germination, and one of those came up.  One.  Ugh.  Plus, since these are a bush type instead of a vining type, they will produce fewer per plant.  The plants I do have are flowering, and this one even has some set fruit.  I was hoping for more, though.  I still have plenty of seed, so I think I will plant this variety again next year, but I will start them indoors so the squirrels or birds or whoever stole my seeds won't get a chance to do so again.

I've thinned the cabbage plants down to three per pot, which is still too many per pot.  But y'all!  It gets harder and harder to bring myself to thin plants as they get bigger.  This is definitely something good to know--next year all the plants need to be thinned by the time they half an inch tall.  An inch max.  I thought I would wait to thin them down to 1-2 per pot until they were bigger and leave the strongest ones, but I have not been able to pull out anymore since the last thinning.  Fortunately, there's plenty of room in the pea bed if I want to transplant the extras instead of just feeding them to the chickens.  I was noticing quite a few cabbage moth larvae a few weeks ago, but after about a week of diligent picking, I haven't seen any since.

Yes, that is a radish flower--your eyes are not deceiving you.  I decided to let this one plant bolt to try to see if I can catch the seed pods when they're delicious and tender, rather than tender and bland or delicious and tough.  This one was from the first planting, and it never bulbed, so we weren't going to eat it anyway.

And here's one of my beets.  I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be sticking out of the ground and I'm also pretty sure that it's supposed to be round rather than long and skinny, but this is the farthest I've ever gotten with beets (in all the two years that I've attempted beets), so I'm still hoping for the best for these.

That's all I got for ya.  There are some disappointments and some encouraging signs.  I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Menu plan for the week of July 5

 Remember when I told you that I write my grocery list in the order in which I will encounter the items in the store?  And that occasionally, I will go to a grocery store that is not my regular store, but is part of the same chain as my regular grocery store?  And that even though it's the same brand as my regular store, it'll be laid out slightly differently?

Well.

My regular grocery store is closed for remodeling.  Which means, of course, that I have to go to other grocery stores.  There are four more of this grocery chain within easy driving distance, so I've been kind of alternating.  And I discovered something.

Not only are each of them laid out slightly differently, but half of them are on a different sales cycle than the other half!  What?

A couple of weeks ago, I made my list, based on the sales flyer, and I was a bit confused that some of the items that were supposed to be on sale were, in fact, on sale, but others weren't.  And then I got the next week's sales flyer, and I understood.  Those two stores are half a week ahead of the other two stores, and I receive the sales flyers dated for the stores that are half a week behind (and the items that were supposed to be on sale and were, in fact, on sale, were supposed to be on sale the next week*).

I mentioned they were all in easy driving distance, right?  Which means they're all pretty close to each other, geographically speaking.  I won't say it blew my mind that this would be the case, but ... I was surprised at my discovery.  And now that I know, I can use it to my advantage.  For instance, I can buy avocados on sale this week, and then buy them again on sale next week, in a different store.

My regular grocery store will reopen sometime in August, and then I will have to learn its new layout.  But until then, we will continue to eat food.  Here's what's on the menu this week:


Supper:

Other:


* I feel like my parenthetical clarification did not do anything to clarify the situation, but I'm ok with it.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Mins Game conclusion and wrap-up

 Were y'all worried on Tuesday when this post never appeared?  Did you think I abandoned the game and that we were never going to speak of it again?

Well, sorry to disappoint you, because I'm back today with the final post and wrap-up for this series.  Just in case you haven't been paying attention, I invited my readers to play the Mins Game with me in June.  And no one took me up on it, so I win!

June 22
For this week's mini decluttering lesson, I want to talk about one in, one out.  This is the concept that when you bring a new one of something into the house, like, for instance, a hat, or a mug, you should get rid of one of the old somethings that you already had.  Hubby acquired both a new hat and a new mug when he was on an excursion, so he found three hats to let go of, and one mug.

June 23
Is anyone else delighted to be coming to the end of the current mask era?  I mean, now that we're used to wearing them all the time, I don't think they'll go away completely--I think we'll still see them from time to time, during flu season, or perhaps during the next pandemic, but the truth is, at this point, the only place I've been required to wear a mask in the past month or so has been at my doctor's office.  Oh, and the UPS store.  I kept some masks for future--just in case--use, but honestly, these three that I'm letting go, I never ever reached for.  They were never my first choice.  I think I wore each of them out once.

June 24
One thing about this challenge that makes me thankful that I undertook it is that it made me get rid of some things that I had been meaning to get rid of, but hadn't yet, for whatever reason.  I (and Dana, of A Slob Comes Clean) call this procrasticlutter.  Either you've made a decision about it and haven't yet carried out that decision, or you delay making the decision, and in the meantime the pile grows.  These dead CFL bulbs are a great example of that.  And just in case you're wondering where you can get rid of yours, many hardware stores take them for recycling, including Home Depot, which is where I took these.

June 25 & 26
This day I tackled the shelf that's in our garage just outside the door, along with the not-Tahoe.  I found some interesting things, like my husband's debit card that he wasn't even aware he was missing.  Because he wasn't missing it.  Because it was the old one.  But still not expired.  I also found a lot of straight-up trash.  Isn't it amazing how much builds up in our vehicles?
The next day, I went through part of my craft stash and decided I could part with some of my blanks (I kinda feel like if I haven't done anything with them in the three years I've owned them, I'm probably not going to do anything with them, ever), some random scraps, and this empty container of paint.  I saved the empty container because I really liked the color and wanted to remember what it was called.  Turns out, that color had been discontinued, but I still had the empty bottle.

June 27
It was around this time that I decided I needed to stop counting items each day and just declutter what needed decluttering.  The reason I decided to stop counting is that I found myself contemplating getting rid of things just so that I could say I completed the challenge.  Which is completely ridiculous, because I told you from the start that I didn't think I would be able to do it.  And also ridiculous, because if I had just chosen to count some items differently, I more than accomplished the challenge of decluttering 465 items in a month.

Anyway, I went through a bookshelf and found some books, including an old, obsolete textbook, a dictionary, and an almanac, to get rid of, along with some DVDs that we don't watch.  There was some number of items, maybe 27, maybe more, possibly less.  Who knows?  I wasn't counting.

June 28, 29 & 30
I decluttered a few random items that I came across, but decided that I was done.  Yup.  I fizzled out.  And that's ok.

I was going to end with a dramatic shot of all of the stuff in the trunk of the car right before dropping it off at the donation center, but there will be a charity in our neighborhood picking up donations next week, so we're going to go the easy route, and let them come to us.  Maybe I'll take a picture of the stuff at the end of the driveway, but probably not.

In total, I have five boxes, two large garbage bags, and a few loose items, like the vacuum cleaner.  There were also items that left the house in stages, so let's call that another large garbage bag's worth.  Not bad, eh?

And for my next decluttering challenge, I'm going to play all of our games with the fam, and upon completion of the game, have all participants vote on whether or not we want to keep it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Italian Cauliflower (or Pasta) Salad

 Today I'm sharing a recipe that I've been making about once a month lately.  It stores well and makes a great side dish or even a light lunch, and is an easy way to eat your veggies.  The dressing works well for pasta salad, too.  Feel free to add or subtract veggies or meats as desired.

Italian Cauliflower (or Pasta) Salad

Modified from here
Click here to print

For the Salad:
  • 1 pound cauliflower florets (about half of a medium cauliflower head) or pasta, cooked according to package instructions, and cooled
  • 6-8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into 3/8" cubes
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 c. ripe olives, cut into slices or quarters
  • 1 c. chopped spinach or kale, optional
  • 4 ounces salami slices, diced
  • 4 ounces pepperoni slices, quartered
  • 1/4-1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup pepperoncini, diced
For the dressing
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 T lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano*
  • 1 teaspoon basil*
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary*
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced

Instructions
  • Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and place in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 3-5 minutes or until as tender as you'd like. Drain the liquid from the bowl.  Allow to cool.
  • Add the salad ingredients to the bowl with the cauliflower and mix.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/2 c. olive oil, 4 T. lemon juice, 1 t. salt, 1 t. oregano*, 1 t. basil*, 1 t. rosemary*, and 1-2 cloves minced garlic until well combined. Taste and add additional lemon, herbs, or salt as desired.
  • Pour the dressing over the cauliflower salad and toss to coat.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld before serving.
* Substitute 1 T Italian seasoning for the oregano, basil, and rosemary, if desired.



Monday, June 28, 2021

Menu plan for the week of June 28

 Hey, last week in June, y'all.  As is typical for our family, we've been gone a lot during June, so much so that it almost feels as if summer "vacation" hasn't yet begun*.  We certainly haven't settled into any sort of routine.  And now we've got about 2 months left--still plenty of time to do all the fun summer things.  

If I can figure out what the fun summer things are. 

It was a lot easier to know what the fun summer things were back when the kiddos were elementary age and we weren't 16 months into a global pandemic.

Know what's not fun?  Planning meals.  But eating is fun.  Or can be fun.  So at least there's that.

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

Supper:
Other:
* I know, I know.  Most of y'all consider traveling to be vacation-y.  I don't, really, because generally when we travel it's more work for me.
** We currently have carrots.  We'll see if we still have carrots by the time we want to eat this meal.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Menu plan for the week of June 21

 Happy summer, friends!  

I used to think it took a lot of mental effort to keep track of everybody back when we had three kiddos that had to be in 5 places at once, but that was nothing compared to what we've got going on now.  Now, my friends, we have four adults and one teen.  And, more importantly for keeping track of where everyone is and when they're going to be back and if they're going to expect food* when they get here, four drivers and four vehicles.  And some of the four drivers have friends who sometimes show up, too.

I used to have a handle on everyone's comings and goings.  Or at least I used to think I had a handle on everyone's comings and goings.  Now, it's pretty much just chaos.  And I have some choices.  I can get upset and stressed about not knowing everything about my people at all times, or I can embrace the chaos and consider my job complete if no one starves.

I kinda go back and fourth on those.

So, I have developed a menu this week, just like I have developed a menu every week for, practically, ever, but the menu has become yet another thing that I have to hold loosely, because I can only control myself.

All that to say, this menu is feeling loosey goosey and I am trying to be ok with that, but I am combatting a lifetime of (at least feeling like I am) being in control.

Here's what I've got:

Supper:
  • Itty bitty pigs in blankets (the fake kind, not the yummy kind), carrots (except I neglected to obtain carrots**, so...not carrots.  Some other vegetable)
  • Hot roast beef sandwiches (not our exact recipe, but close-ish) with buns and provolone, carrots (yeah.  About those carrots**... Some other vegetable)
  • Beef stroganoff, green beans (finally, a non-carrot veggie), applesauce
  • Kielbasa and potatoes/kielbasa and cauliflower, carrots (there I go with the carrots again.  I'm hoping I will have obtained carrots** by the time this meal comes up)
  • Pizza, salad
  • Brats or hot dogs, buns, chips, sweet peppers. Or maybe carrots**.
  • Fend for yourself or out to eat

Other:


*Y'all.  They always want food when they get here.  It's just that sometimes they want actual food and other times they want snacks.  Which are, technically, also actual food, but require little to no prep work from me.

**I bought a 3 lb bag of carrots for a family trip.  And then no one ate any of the 3 pounds of carrots while we were on the family trip.  So we have had carrots every day for forever.  But then the carrots decided to start getting slimy.  After I had written carrots as the veggie for pretty much every supper this week.  And after I had written my shopping list, without carrots.  Because we had plenty.  We fed the carrots to the compost, and I was going to buy new ones, but they weren't on the list so...

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Mins Game week 3

So.  How's it going?  Have you been doing any decluttering this month?  Here's my update on the Mins Game that I'm playing (by myself), but first, a mini decluttering lesson.

This week I want to talk about the concept that a done something is better than a perfect nothing*.  In other words, it is worthwhile doing things that you know you're not going to be able to do perfectly, and it is much better to do something than to do nothing while waiting for the perfect time or enough time to make it perfect.  

Let me say it again: it is worthwhile doing things that you know you're not going to be able to do perfectly.  It has taken me a long time to realize this, and some days, I still find it a little hard to believe.  

The truth is, though, as a human person, I am rarely going to be able to do anything perfectly (I mean, there was that one time I got a perfect score on Just Dance ... out of the thousands of songs I have danced), so if I only do things that I know I can do perfectly?  Well.  I'm not going to ever do anything at all.  And there is no joy in that.

Be gentle with yourself, friend.  It is all well and good to set decluttering goals, like decluttering 465 items in a month, but if you discover that 465 items in a month is beyond your capability, don't give up.  Instead, do your best.  Or even not your best--just keep moving forward.  Good enough is good enough.

Here's what I've decluttered this week: another 126 items, for a total of 231 in June so far.

June 15
Some shirts that the youngest kiddo has outgrown and some washcloths.

June 16
More outgrown clothing (remember I told you that if I was able to complete this challenge, it would be because I have kids who grow?  Yeah.  That), along with some hats and gloves.

June 17
More hats and gloves, two holey socks, some face masks that I finally used.  Not pictured:  two pairs of shoes and a soccer ball that is too small for anyone here.

June 18, 19, 20, 21
Maybe you think this is cheating, but since you're not playing, I don't think you get to have an opinion :-)  I was planning on counting these stickers as one item, but then I realized I was going to have to go through them one by one before passing them on to a nearby preschool program, because there were some stickers with our name on them.

It's a good thing I did, too, because there was quite a bit of trash, too.  So that's why I'm counting these stickers as the 78 items for June 18-21.  Honestly, if I had counted each sheet of stickers separately, there probably would have been enough for the entire challenge**, so ... 


* I heard this from Kathryn from Do It On a Dime 

** Which means I am officially ... done ...  See ya! ... ... ... Just kidding.  I'll be back next week with more decluttered items, although I may have to get more, shall we say, creative, with my counting in the last week of the month.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Mins Game Week 2

 Y'all.  The Mins Game is getting much more difficult, and we're not even halfway through the month.

Based on the fact that no one told me they were playing with me, I figure I'm winning, though, so there's that.

Oh, and I was planning on giving y'all a mini decluttering lesson each week, but tell that to my former self, who did not include a mini lesson in last week's post.  By the way, last week's lesson was supposed to be about the container concept.  Here's an explanation from A Slob Comes Clean, since my former self deprived you of an explanation from me.

For this week's mini lesson, I wanted to talk about how using things up is a completely legitimate way to declutter.  Maybe you bought an ingredient for a recipe that you ended up not making, or you made the recipe but didn't use all of the ingredient.  Maybe you received a free sample of something.  Maybe you have two open jars of salsa in your fridge.  Use it up.  After you use it up, it will be out of your home and out of your life forever.  And that, my friends, is the very definition of decluttering.

Here's how it went this week:

June 8
I decided to start this week working in the living room.  We have had these fitness bands for I do not know how long, and I don't think they have ever been used.  If they have, it was a long time ago.  I did wonder if I would regret getting rid of these, but then I looked up the price on Amazon, and you can get a similar set of bands (but 5, not 4) for under $10.  So I decided to just go ahead and get rid of them, and if I regret it later, I can get some more.  Spoiler alert: I am probably not going to regret it.

Those cars and launchers--I was not going to get rid of them.  It is true that my kiddos are really too old for that kind of thing, but I get a kick out of them, and they're fun to have around.  I decided to test them, to see if they're still as fun as I thought they were.  They were not.  We don't even have a car that fits in the yellow launcher, and the other ones only go about a foot.  They are not, in actuality, fun.  So out they go.  And I even resisted temptation the temptation to count the cars and launchers separately.

June 9
We keep our candles behind some picture frames on our entertainment center.  I kept a couple of candles, but the truth is, we don't really burn candles very much.  Three of these won't light anymore because the wicks are too short, and we don't have (and I'm not certain they make anymore) the scented oil refills for the scented oil thingy.  I don't know.  I just felt like it was time to get rid of these.

June 10
I found this randomness in the remote control basket.  To the trash (and recycling) it goes!

June 11
Yup.  I found more resistance bands in another basket in the living room along with some other random stuff.  Since I had already gotten rid of four, the decision was easy to get rid of these two.  In the kitchen, we had acquired some food that none of us will likely eat (we would eat the wild rice eventually, but we still have about 2 pounds left in an open bag in the cupboard, so we will pass this 1 lb bag on to a food bank).  The tray is the warming tray for our latest electric griddle.  We threw the griddle away last week because its stickiness had become intolerable, but we still had the tray.

June 12
Six skeins of yarn to be passed on to a friend, two decorative flags, two DVDs, and two drawstrings that I don't use.

June 13
A wooden sign, four books to donate, two books to return to schools, a mask, earrings, sample lotion, fingernail stickers, electronics cloth, and hickies.

June 14 
Some paper mask patterns, paperwork pertaining to the child we used to sponsor, mystery shopping receipts from 2018, old coupon inserts, four packages of pencils to be donated to a school. 
Not pictured: three packages of paper napkins, a stack of papers from Bubby's desk top, a stack of papers and trash from Bubby's backpack, a stack of papers and trash from MC's backpack.

So that's 77 items this week, for a total of 105 so far this month.  Not sure if I'm going to last another week.  I'll keep you posted!


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Mins Game week 1

Are you playing the Mins Game with me this month? How's it going? Leave a comment below to let me know. Here's how my first week went.

June 1
I ordered these cords to go with my new tablet before the tablet arrived. The Google assured me that these were the right cords. The Google was wrong. So on the first, I dropped these off to be returned. I'm not going to lie--I did consider counting this as 5 items, because that's what it would have been once they were out of the package, but since it was ordered as one item, I resisted that urge.

June 2
If I am able to complete this challenge, it will be because I have kiddos who keep growing out of clothes. On the 2nd, I moved these two shirts to our donation area (I'm saving my daily donations to be taken to the thrift store at the end of the month).

June 3
Three pairs of pants. It's alarming how quickly Bubby grew too tall for these pants.

June 4
Four pairs of pants, including football pants that haven't fit since 2018.

June 5
I raided the lonely sock bin for these.

 June 6
I've been meaning to go through my nail polishes for a while because I had one too many for the container they're in. I had two that were very similar colors, so I got rid of one. Also two cute little brushes, and three broken hair ties.

June 7
I don't use this kind of barrette anymore, so off they go. Even though they don't take up much physical space, they do take up mental space, so it feels good to get these out (I did save a few to declutter on another day).

So that's 28 items out in week one. See you next week!

Monday, June 7, 2021

Menu plan for the week of June 7

 What?  Can you believe it's June already?  And not just June, but a week into June?  School's out, and summer is upon us.  What are you most looking forward to this season?

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

Supper:

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Garden update

 Hi friends.  It's time for a garden update.

Last time I talked about the garden, I had just planted cabbage, radishes, and beets outside in pots.  

I have about 12 cabbage plants spread between three pots.  I've been thinning them as they grow, and will end up with one, or at most two, cabbages per pot.  Or, I should say, one, or at most two, cabbage plants per pot.  Who knows if they will actually form heads?  Seems kind of impossible, to be honest.

Both my homegrown radish seeds and the store-bought seeds from a few seasons ago had a good germination rate, and we harvested and ate some the other day.  I reseeded in the empty spots left by the harvested radishes, and will continue to do so as I harvest them, so hopefully we'll have radishes throughout the summer.  Also hopefully, they won't go to seed this year.

We have beets!  One of the weird things about planting beets is that the seeds are actually a cluster of 2-5 seeds inside of a dried fruit.  So when they come up, they come up as multiples which need to be thinned so the roots will have the space necessary to develop.  About half of my beets germinated, so I resowed in the empty spots about a week ago, and a few are already up.

I've got high hopes for the melons this year.  I've got three Sakata's Sweet Melon (pictured above) and seven  Otome Watermelon (pictured below) that I started indoors and transplanted outside a couple of weeks ago.  They have plenty of space, and a trellis to climb, plus they don't take as long to ripen as other melons and watermelons, so maybe, just maybe, this will be the year I successfully grow a watermelon.  Those seven were the last of my watermelon seeds, so if I want to attempt watermelon again after this year, I'll have to purchase starts from the nursery, or buy more seed.  
Or harvest seed from these watermelons.  Keep your fingers crossed!

No, don't keep your fingers crossed, because you might need to do something with those fingers at some point in the next couple of months.  But do cross them in spirit: in solidarity with my watermelon growing dreams.

I planted sunflowers, zinnias (seed I saved from last year), and marigolds (the last of the commercial seed from several years ago, plus some I saved from last year) in the middle garden bed about a week ago.  These might be zinnias.  They're in the spot where I put the zinnia seeds, and they look sorta like zinnia seedlings.  I am really looking forward to a bed full of beautiful flowers.  I also transplanted a cherry tomato from the nursery into one corner of this bed.  

Fewer than half of my sugar daddy snap peas came up, but those that did are looking good.  I have heard that squirrels, or maybe other small rodent-type creatures, will watch where the humans plant peas and then dig them up later to eat.  I did not see any evidence of this, but perhaps the small rodents are clever and covered their tracks.  Small rodents digging up my seeds would certainly account for the poor germination rate we seem to always experience with peas.

I replanted in the blank spots earlier this week.  It'll be nice to have peas ripening in succession rather than all at once, because we love (and I do mean love) sugar snap peas, but even we have our limits, and I don't think we would like them as much preserved.

I decided not to plant potatoes this year, but I think I probably will next year, especially if I can get my hands on a red, white, and blue seed potato mix.  I think red, white, and blue potatoes would be so much fun.

I deployed the butterfly bombs in front of (or behind, depending on your perspective) the chicken coop.  So far, they're still looking like lumps of clay, although there might be seedlings emerging from one of them.  The seeds in the bombs are perennials or self-seeding annuals, so my hope is that the plants will decorate the front (or back) of the coop for years to come, providing food for pollinators and beauty for my eyes.

And that's it.  What's growing in your garden?


Monday, May 31, 2021

The Mins Game: join me in June!

 I was introduced to the Mins Game by The Minimal Mom, but according to her, the concept came from The Minimalists.  The idea is to start at the beginning of a month.  Day 1, declutter one item; day 2, declutter two, all the way up to decluttering 30 items on day 30 (here's the explanation from The Minimalists).  By the end of the month, if the player has been doing it right, they will have decluttered 465 items.  

Sounds like a lot, right?  It is a lot.  I've heard that the average home in the U.S. contains around 300,000 items, so surely you can find 465 you'd be willing to part with over the course of a month, yes?  Maybe?

The reason it's a game is because one is supposed to be competing with others, and whoever gets the farthest without skipping a day wins.  And if everyone gets to the end?  Everyone wins!  Ever since I saw a video where Dawn mentioned the Mins Game, I have wanted to try it, and I hope you'll do it with me.  

If you've been with me for a while (and I think you probably have, since no one reads my blog except family and close friends), you know that I don't tolerate clutter well.  I get rid of so much stuff that it's a wonder I have anything left.  So, you have a good chance of beating me, since I'm not sure I'll be able to find 465 items to get rid of.

I'll do my best each day, and I'll update about once a week to let you know how I'm doing--watch for my posts.

What do you think?  Are you up for a challenge?  Are you willing to play?

We start tomorrow.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

So. About those goals.

 I set some goals for this year.  And then I almost immediately regretted it.  And since then I've been ignoring them entirely.  

It's a bit flummoxing.  I mean, I absolutely rocked my goals last year, finishing 20 goals by the end of June.  And if ever there was a year with a good excuse to give up on goals, it was 2020.  But I didn't give up last year.  And I did give up this year.  Or actually, I didn't give up, I just avoided, which is probably worse.  I am not willing to admit to myself that I made a mistake, so I'm just not.  Not anything.

It is actually not at all confusing or perplexing, y'all.  I am spent.  All of the emotionally energy required to make it through the past 15 months, supporting and loving my family well, has emptied me, and I got nothing left*.  There is no more emotional energy to care about completing goals that I don't actually want to complete.

Anyway, it's not all bad news.  Or even any bad news.  Just news, I guess.  I may or may not complete any or all of my original 2021 goals, and that's ok.  I have given myself permission to not stress about it (which does not mean that I am, in fact, not stressing about it, but whatever.  Baby steps).

Well.  I'm glad I've got that off my chest and out there into the universe.  So how about an update**?

You guys.  I am so close to achieving a Superstar or better rating on all of the Extreme versions in Just Dance 2019 and 2020.  I am one song away.  What?  Who am I?  A superstar, that's who. (That was ironic.  There is no way on this earth that I would actually call myself a superstar.  Ha.  The very thought is preposterous.) 

I'll keep you posted.

Or not.

*****

* Are you as annoyed as I am by how dramatic I'm making it sound?  I mean, it feels dramatic, but also the human system tends toward homeostasis, which means we can become accustomed to anything, so it's not actually all that dramatic.  It just is.

** I believe what you just experienced is known colloquially as whiplash.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Menu plan for the week of May 24

 It feels like a busy week.  That's probably because it is?  Not sure.

One thing you can be sure of: regardless of how busy we become, we will continue to want to eat food.  Here's what's on the menu this week.


Supper:

Other:

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Mediocrely inefficient and unproductive

 I am being spectacularly inefficient and unproductive today.  And before you tell me, oh, everyone needs a rest day every now and then, let me make it clear that I do not need a rest day today.  Not physically, anyway.  Possibly mentally and/or emotionally, based on my inability thus far to do anything other than check email, scroll Instagram, and watch YouTube.  

I take that back.  I did shower today, so there's that.  Oooh.  And I made the bed.  And started and switched a load of laundry (which will now spend approximately 3.8 days in the dryer until I need the dryer again to actually dry clothes, at which time it will be dumped into a laundry basket to wait another 2 to 5 days to be put away.  Wouldn't want to overexert myself).

So ok.  Maybe I'm just being mediocrely inefficient and unproductive today.  Can't even do that right.

It's raining today, which is what I'm blaming my inertia on.  Also the laws of physics.  It is all the fault of the laws of physics.  There was a break in the rain from the time I woke up (probably before then, too, but I wasn't awake, so it doesn't really matter in this context) until around 8 a.m.  I should have gone for a walk this morning after Bubby boarded the bus--I would have been able to get 3+ miles in before the rain started, and I would have set up my day to be a little more ... worthy*?  

Anyway.  If I had actually done something that early in the day, I probably would have continued to do somethings throughout the day.

But no.  I did no such thing, and now I am still doing no such thing, hours later.  And blogging about it.

Well.  I did tell you that blogging is my favorite housework avoidance technique.  And now, I'm off, to continue being mediocrely inefficient and unproductive.

* * * * *

* Where did that come from?  Why does my brain think I'm any less worthy of taking up space in the world on days when I sit around doing nothing than on days when I do countless tasks that I will have to do again within hours, days, or weeks?  Oh, right.  Because in the US, only people who are productive are valued and those who are not, are not.  

Monday, May 17, 2021

Menu plan for the week of May 17

 I found pickles.

Turns out, all I had to do was buy pickles of an alternate variety, and pickles of my preferred variety appeared the next week.  And there were lots of them, too.

So, you know, you're welcome for solving the national pickle crisis.

Here's what's on the menu this week, plus pickles at every meal:

Supper:

Other:

Monday, May 10, 2021

Menu plan for the week of May 10

 We're going through a rough patch for menu planning around here.  The people who live here have stuff going on every evening, some of which takes some of them away at suppertime, and some of which takes me away at supper prep time.  It's ... challenging.  I'm trying to think back to other times when menu planning was a challenge*, and all I can't remember much.  I must have blocked it out because it was so traumatizing. 

So for now, I'm plodding through.  There's only about 3 more weeks of there being an issue every week night.  I think I can hold on until then.  Maybe.

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

Supper:
Other:

*I'm referring to times when menu planning was a challenge from an external circumstances standpoint, rather than a brain-power or motivation standpoint (which is pretty much all the time).

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Thoughts on today, May 5th

 It's Cinco de Mayo today.  And we're having Italian beef sandwiches for supper.  Whose poor planning is at fault for this travesty?  I mean, come onEveryone knows we're supposed to eat Mexican food, or at least a poor American imitation of Mexican food, on Cinco de Mayo.  We don't even have guacamole here, friends.

I just don't know if I'm going to be able to go on today, y'all.  Might as well go back to bed and try again tomorrow.

Also, I missed out on an opportunity--the opportunity to have a no-brainer dinner this week.  Instead, I expended precious mental energy planning a not-no-brainer meal for today.  Can I get a do-over?  Please?

Anyway ... AKD is home from school for the summer.  That means we currently have four licensed drivers and three working motor vehicles at our house.  So that's ... if I'm doing the math correctly ... one more driver than vehicle, or, in other words, one fewer vehicle than driver.

We (mostly me? I'm not sure if any of the other drivers thought about it at all) thought it wouldn't be that big of a deal, since one of the drivers works mostly at home, and one of the other drivers strives to stay home as much as possible, but we're already, after just three days, having an issue. Today.

Oh, bother.

Yeah.  We'll figure it out; it's a little inconvenient at the moment, but it's not insurmountable.  

For today, we (the driver who has an appointment and the other driver who has an appointment in the other direction at around the same time) told the driver who was planning on going in to work that he had to work from home today, which he prefers anyway, so all is well.

Oh look.  A baby cabbage.

In other news, I've got baby radishes and cabbages emerging, and maybe baby beets, too?  The sweet melons and watermelons have not yet emerged, and I haven't planted anything else yet because we're not yet past our average last frost date.  But it is good to have a start in the garden...even if the start isn't actually in the garden.

Monday, May 3, 2021

In a pickle ~ and menu plan for the week of May 3

 We ran out of pickles.  We actually ran out of pickles a few months ago, but I didn't put pickles on my grocery list when we ran out.  As a general rule, we don't go through all that many pickles, and also, I believed us to not be out of pickles, because we had two jars of pickles sitting on the shelf that houses our home canned food.

About three weeks ago, I decided I wanted pickles, so I opened one of the jars.  And that's when I discovered that we were, in fact, out of pickles.  They tasted bad.  The tasted so bad, in fact, that I fed them to the compost--not even to the chickens.  Just, you know, for future reference, do not substitute dry herbs when the pickle recipe calls for fresh.  You can thank me later.

So about three weeks ago, I wrote pickles on my grocery list.  And when I went to the grocery store, there were no pickles*.  I didn't think much of it, just made a mental note to carry pickles over to my next grocery list.  And the next time I went to the grocery store, there were also no pickles.  The next week, there were still no pickles.

Three weeks without pickles, y'all.  I mean, I've definitely gone more than three weeks without eating a pickle, but always I have known that I could eat a pickle if I wanted to eat a pickle.  And it seemed strange that every** store would be out of pickles. So I asked the universe (aka the google), "why can I not find pickles?"

And it turns out, there is an actual pickle shortage that people of the universe (aka people on the internet, which is, technically, a part of the universe) have been talking and writing about.  In fact, one of the national fast burger joints delayed the release of a new sandwich because of the pickle shortage.  

Of all the things I thought would never be in short supply, pickles is, well, not at the top of the list, because it's not on the list of all.  Who thinks pickles*** are going to be in short supply?  Anyway, I just thought I should let you know, so that if you do happen to spot pickles, you can stock up.

And I'm crossing my fingers (but not holding my breath) that I'll be able to find some pickles tomorrow.  In the meantime, here's what's on the menu this week:


Supper:
  • Cheese, crackers, and summer sausage, raw veggies
  • Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli
  • Italian beef sandwiches, buns, green beans
  • Leftovers
  • Hamburgers, buns, green stuff, raw veggies, chips
  • Hot dogs and brats, buns, green stuff, raw veggies, chips
  • Cilantro lime chicken with avocado salsa, salad


Other:


* Of the variety which I wanted to purchase, which was dill slices.  There were bread and butter slices, and dill spears and whole pickles, but no dill slices.  
** Every store that I went to, which included 2 different locations of one grocery store, one other store, and as many local stores as I could think of that would tell me online whether or not they had any pickles.
*** It sounds like it's not actually pickles that are in short supply, but glass jars, which is affecting pickle storage and transport, although why that would affect a fast food chain?  I do not know.  I feel like national restaurant chains do not buy their pickles in glass jars.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

2021 Garden plans

 I planted beets, radish, and cabbage yesterday afternoon.

And then 3 hours later, I was outside, in the rain, checking to see if anything had sprouted yet.

Y'all. Not only is 3 hours not a very long time for seeds to sprout, but it was also around 45°F at the time, which is not warm enough, really, for seeds to sprout.  That deserves a facepalm, yes?  I just can't help myself, though.  There is something magical about an entire plant being contained in a tiny little seed.  And that first sign of growth?  Awe inspiring.

Here's the garden plan for this year.  As a reminder: I have three 4x4 raised beds, three large pots, and two window box rectangular planters.  There are also other places I can plant things around the property, like in front of the chicken coop.  Which might be behind the chicken coop, depending on your perspective.

In the raised bed that is farthest east, I am planning to plant sugar snap peas.  That's it.  Sixteen square feet of sugar snap peas.  I bought a bush variety for this year, so they supposedly won't need trellising.  I may do something crazy and plant another crop after the peas are done.  If that happens, it'll be something like Brussels sprouts or radishes or lettuce.

There used to be strawberries in the raised bed that is in the middle, but I pulled them all out last year because I was fighting a losing battle with little white worms and we weren't ever going to get enough of a harvest from that bed to make caring for the strawberries hand picking all of those little worms worthwhile.  In this bed, I'm planting flowers.  I have some marigold and zinnia seeds that I saved from last year's plants, and some nasturtium and sunflower seeds.  I will probably plant a cherry or grape tomato in this bed as well.

In the raised bed that is farthest west, I am going to plant Sakata's Sweet Melon and  Otome Watermelon.  I started the seeds indoors yesterday.  No growth yet (double face palm).  Y'all.  We came so close to having edible watermelon last year.  I'm trying not to get my hopes up, but of course I am hopeful.  Gardens are all about hope.  I may also plant beets and/or radishes in this bed.  Both of those are small plants that don't take long to mature, so they'll probably be done before the melons start to shade them out.

Also in the garden enclosure, I may plant potatoes in a huge bucket that AKD brought home from work a couple of years ago.  We'll see how I feel about that when it comes time to actually do it.  And also, we'll see what kind of seed potatoes we can come up with.  Lately, we've been eating the grocery store potatoes before they sprout, so that might not work for us this time.

As I mentioned, I planted cabbage, radish, and beets yesterday.  The cabbage is in the three large pots--I planted it mostly because I had the seeds (they were the free seeds included with one of my Baker's Creek orders) and I wanted to see what would happen.  There were no planting guidelines on the packet, so I just threw some seeds in there, and I'll probably have to do some thinning.  I planted radish in one of the window boxes, and golden beets in the other.  Last year was disappointing for both radish and beets--the beets never came up that I could tell, and the radishes ended up going to seed.  Yes, I planted my homemade radish seeds--we'll see what happens.

I have some butterfly bombs that I think I will deploy in front of the chicken coop.  Or maybe I'll try corn there again?  Or sunflowers?  If I do plant something there, I need to protect it from the girls, because they're currently using the area for dust bathing.

And that's all I have planned for now.  I'll keep you posted.  Maybe.  We'll see.

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