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.

  • 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?


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
  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?


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:



* 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.
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