Monday, August 30, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 30

 Hello, friends.

September begins this week.  Do you know what that means?  Yup!  It's Shelftember time again.  I'm not feeling it this year, but Jordan is talking about it, so I guess I might feel inspired at some point next month.  Maybe I'll at least make a list of things to use up and see what happens.

But, hey.  If you're going to Shelftember, let me know.  I'd love to hear about it.

  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, grilled broccoli, jello
  • Enchiladas, salad
  • One pot kielbasa pasta (third time's the charm?), green beans
  • Rice burgler, applesauce, rolls
  • Pizza, salad
  • Chicken nuggets, carrots
  • Grilled chicken, salad


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Another not-Tuesday tip: you need a home for homeless things bin

 Hey.  It's not-Tuesday again.  Here's a tip for you.  Or maybe a revelation?  Or a cautionary tale?  Feel free to use this (or not) however you wish.

I was listening to one of my favorite organizers and she said, among other things, that everyone needs a spot to put the things that they don't know what to do with: everyone needs a home for homeless items.  So when you come across something in your space, and you're not sure where it should go, you put it in the home for homeless items.  I know you've all heard the whole a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place mantra.  I have always had a problem with that, because I have always had things that I wanted to hold on to, but that didn't have an actual place.  This solves that issue!  

This is so smart!  The number one cause of clutter for me (and probably for most other people) is indecision.  If I don't know what to do with something, or where to put it, I just put it ... somewhere.  And then people (both me and other people in my household) see the thing there and think to themselves, "this must be the place to put things."  And before you know it, there's a pile, and no one's exactly sure what's in the pile, but it's messy and hard to look at and seems impossible to deal with.

While I was listening, first I thought, "that's brilliant!  We need a home for homeless items in our house!"  And then I thought, "um.  We actually already have a home for homeless items in our house, and it is our lonely socks bin."

This is our lonely socks bin.

In it, is one sock.

And a bunch of other things.

These are things that we don't know what to do with.  So we put them in the lonely socks bin, conveniently located in our laundry/mud room where we most often enter and exit the house.

The lonely socks bin has a purpose.  Its purpose is to be a place to put socks that have temporarily lost their mate.  Its purpose is not to hold thumbtacks a random screw, split ring, Webelos colors, tennis ball, large bells, command hooks, walkie talkies, disposable face masks, or anything that is not a sock.

This is our lonely socks bin now.

I brought the sock to its brothers*, and distributed the other items to more appropriate locations, including, in two cases, the trash.

I've decided that one, we need a smaller lonely socks bin, so that it's less tempting to throw random stuff in there, and two, we need a home for homeless things bin.

Now.  Where, exactly, I am going to put this home for homeless things bin is the question.  The laundry/mud room is the obvious choice, since that's where our unofficial HFHT bin showed up.  But the shelves in there are pretty full, so I'll have to do some rearranging. 

I'll keep you posted.  Maybe.

How about you?  Do you have a designated home for items that don't have a designated home in your space?

*bonus tip: buy socks that are all the same so you don't necessarily feel compelled to match them, and you don't feel like you need to throw away a perfectly good sock just because its mate developed an unfortunate hole

Monday, August 23, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 23

 You guys!

First of all, y'all need to help me come up with a more gender inclusive phrase for "you guys."  It has to have two punchy syllables.  You friends won't cut it, nor will you people.  You all or y'all sometimes works, but doesn't have quite the punch of you guys.  I dunno.  I'm kinda tired of male pronouns being considered default or neutral.


[Insert "you guys" substitute here]!  I went to my reopened regular grocery store today!  The new layout is a hybrid of the previous store and the store down the road, just familiar enough that it felt comfortable and new.  Yay!  

It felt so strange to leave the house today for the express purpose of running errands.  With Bubby's summer thing on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, all summer I've been dropping him off, then rushing to run the errands before picking him up an hour later.  Today, I left at about the same time that I would have left if I'd been dropping him off, and I returned at about the same time I would have returned had I been picking him up.  But there was no dropping off or picking up, and also no rushing.  I tried to get him to come with me, to help me get over the strangeness, but no dice.

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

  • Chicken nuggets, green beans, fresh fruit
  • Nachos with taco toppings (and guacamole if any of the avocados ripen in time)
  • One pot kielbasa pasta, green beans
  • Fend for yourself
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, chips, roasted cauliflower, jello
  • Grilled pork chops, tator tots, grilled broccoli


P.S. It's kind of weird that I'm excited about my regular grocery store being open again, isn't it?  

Thursday, August 19, 2021

A tip (not on Tuesday)

 Yesterday, I was driving along that curvy road when I saw ... 

Toasty Crunch.  

And Charlotte.

... scratching in the tall grass on the shoulder.

Um ... what?  

That was pretty surreal, considering I was 2 or 3 miles away from our house, and when I left home about half an hour previously, Toasty Crunch and Charlotte had been safely ensconced in their secure run. 

When I got home, I walked out to the coop before I did anything else, just to make sure my girls were where they were supposed to be.  They were.  Whew.  Toasty Crunch isn't a terribly popular breed, but there are a lot (really a lot) of similar breeds that look just like her, so it's not that unusual to see a chicken who looks like her, but Charlotte's breed is even less popular, and there are not many (I can't think of any) other breeds that look like her.  Seeing that combination of chickens, doing something I see my girls do every day, without actually being my chickens, seems unlikely.

So TC and Charlotte have doppelgangers out there.  That's fun.

TC and Charlotte (literally) hanging around with me in the hammock
(Charlotte was on my belly--which didn't make for a very good picture, but we take what we can get)

Anyway, you came here for a tip, and here it is.

Use containers to contain.

I know.  I'm so good at tips.  Or maybe you call them hacks?  I'm good at those, too...

I have this area in my bathroom.  Hubby and I are the only ones who see this area, aside from the very occasional overnight guest.

These are things that I use frequently, but not necessarily daily.  At least not all of them every day.  I didn't want to keep them on the vanity--that would make it seem too cluttered, but I also didn't want to keep them in a cabinet or drawer, because I do use them frequently--so I keep them on a shelf of an above/behind the toilet storage cabinet.  And it still looks cluttered, no matter how careful I am to put them back neatly.

So I decided to contain them.  In a container.  This is a cute basket that used to sit on my desk, but it's spent the last 17 months or so in a drawer of the desk, so it was available for a new job.

These items take up about the same amount of shelf space as they did before, but now there's a boundary to their space, and through some mysterious psychological process, this little spot automatically looks less cluttered, just because it's contained.

Isn't that crazy?  Now my brain perceives this as one item, the basket of stuff, versus the six separate items my brain used to perceive.

How about you?  Do you have an area that would benefit from a well-placed container?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

August garden update

Seems like I've been bringing y'all a garden update about once a month, so here we go for August.  

I planted a single tomato plant this year, and yet somehow I still have grown a tomato jungle.  I'm not a huge fan of entropy in most circumstances, but I love the way the garden devolves into beautiful chaos at this time of year.  It feels so wild.

We've been harvesting cherry tomatoes by the pocketful.  There is nothing like a tomato picked from the vine, warm from the sun.  Delicious and sublime.  A sweet burst of heaven on earth.

The sunflowers are glorious.  And much taller than me.

One of the wonderful things about saving seeds is you never know exactly what you're going to get when you grow them.  I am loving this yellow marigold with just a few darker red stripes.

The zinnias are shades of pink this summer.  I am so glad I made the decision to devote 1/3 of my garden space to flowers this year.  I've been able to cut these pretty much continuously for the past month or so, bring a little bit of the outside beauty inside.

We have several Sakata's sweet melons growing.  I have no idea how to tell when these are ready, and last year, I feel like I waited too long, so I harvested one the other day.  It was good!  As promised, it tasted like honeydew melon in a cute, apple-sized package.  I think it could have benefited from a few more days on the vine, so I've left the others out for now and will try another soon.  

Eleven watermelons, friends.  After trying to grow a watermelon off and on for around 25 years, I have grown 11.  I am so pleased.  I'm sure the hot and dry weather we've been experiencing this summer helped.  I don't even mind that they're tiny.  Because let's face it: if I had 11 full-sized watermelons, that would be a little overwhelming.

The other day, I noticed that one was half rotted.  I removed the rotten melon, and split it open.  It looked like it had been ripe, with fully developed seeds.  That made me think maybe it was time to start paying attention to the signs of ripeness in the watermelon patch.  For one, the white spot on the bottom where the melon rests on the ground should turn a creamy yellow color.  For another, the tendril closest to the stem should wither.  

Looks like I might get some Brussels sprout sized cabbages this year.  Better than nothing?  It's been a fun experiment, to be sure, and there's still a lot of time before frost, so maybe we'll get some bigger- than-Brussels-sprout heads.

I also don't know how to tell when the beets are done, so I think I'm going to pull them up later this week.  The radish plant that I let go to seed hasn't set any fruit, probably because it's been hot and dry, so I'm going to pull that out, too, and probably plant more radishes in both the beet and radish boxes.

And finally...

This is not a drill, ladies and gentlemen.  We have grown, and eaten, a watermelon.

Similar to the Sakata melon, I wasn't sure if this guy was actually ripe yet, but I didn't want to let it go too long.  Its tendril was withered and its ground spot was creamy yellow, so I tried harvested it.  It had salmon-pink flesh, just like it supposed to have.  And it tasted good!  Sweet and juicy.  And so cute!

The garden tends toward chaos at this time of year.  It feels rich and indulgent and impossible and wild.  And I love it.  And even though there's still a lot of life left out there, and a lot of fruit to be eaten, I find my thoughts turning to next year's garden, dreaming of another year of growing goodness.  What a pleasure it is to bear witness to everyday miracles in the garden.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 16

We made doughnuts yesterday.  And by "we" I mean "I".  I made doughnuts yesterday, with a little bit of help from AKD and Hubby.  This was the first time I attempted filled doughnuts, and they turned out pretty well.  There is nothing sadder (OK, there are lots of things sadder, but work with me here) than an underfilled filled doughnut, so I took steps to assure that didn't happen.  We ended up with super happy doughnuts.  It doesn't matter one bit that they were incredibly messy and a little oozy and kind of difficult to eat.  Happy doughnuts mean happy people.

Hubby said the doughnuts were post-worthy, so I had to take a picture.

Here's the recipe I used.  The pastry cream was only enough to fill half the dough (I cut and froze the other half for future enjoyment)--which is not surprising, considering my mission to ensure that our doughnuts were happy--and the glaze didn't work, so AKD ended up making a different chocolate glaze.  Oh, I also used the bread machine to mix, knead, and raise my dough--just a tip, if you decide to go that route, do yourself, and your bread machine, a favor and halve the recipe.

It always catches me by surprise, considering how delicious and sweet doughnuts are, how little sugar is actually in doughnuts--it's the toppings, and in this case fillings, that make them taste so good.  The doughnuts themselves taste like fried bread, which, let's be honest, also tastes pretty good, but isn't necessarily the taste I think of when I think of doughnuts.  

And there are other things that taste good, too, including these things that are on our menu for this week:



Friday, August 13, 2021

Low carb chicken pot pie: a recipe

 Friends, we have another keeper!  This time it's a delicious and creamy chicken pot pie, that just happens to be low carb, at about 10 carbs per serving.  Don't worry about the cream cheese and mozzarella in the filling--you can't taste it, but it does serve to thicken the sauce and make it creamier.  I put mine in a bowl, crumbled up the biscuit, and mixed it all together to eat it.  So good!

Low Carb Chicken Pot Pie ( about 6 servings)
Adapted from here
Click here to print

For the biscuits:
  • 1 1/2 c almond meal/flour
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/3 c butter or coconut oil
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  1. Cut 1/3 c butter into 1 1/2 c almond flour, until butter is pea sized and evenly distributed throughout the flour.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk 4 egg whites until frothy.
  3. Add frothy egg whites, 1 t. baking powder, and 1/2 t. salt to the almond flour mixture.  Mix until combined.
  4. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

For the chicken filling:
  • 3 T butter 
  • 1 small yellow onion, medium diced
  • 1 medium-ish turnip or rutabaga, medium dice
  • 1/2 cup carrots, medium dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 T dried mixed herbs (I used rosemary, thyme, and oregano) OR 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, chopped finely 
  • 1 cups chicken stock 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 c broccoli (fresh or frozen), chopped in small pieces
  • 2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (use a rotisserie chicken, if desired, for convenience)
  1. In a medium pot or Dutch oven, melt 3 T butter over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, add 1 diced onion, 1 diced turnip, and 1/2 c. diced carrots.  Add salt and pepper, and sauté until the veggies are soft, about 8 minutes.  Add 3 cloves minced garlic and sauté for another minute.
  2. Add dry or fresh herbs, 1 c. chicken stock, and 1/2 c heavy cream.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low until sauce thickens a bit, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add 4 oz cream cheese.  Heat and stir until melted.
  4. Add 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese and stir until melted.
  5. Turn off the heat and add 2 c chopped broccoli and 2-3 c cooked chicken.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
  6. Pour into a 2 qt casserole dish, and top with biscuit dough--scoop it out in 6-8 mounds, then pat down to flatten.
  7. Bake at 375° F until biscuits are golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Chicken update

 It's been a tough few months to be a chicken around here, so I thought I'd bring you all up to date.

Two of my favorite lap chickens, Esther (on my knee) and Charlotte (on my boot)

In late May, we lost Buttercup to a fox.  Buttercup was the sweetest chicken, and she loved to perch on my shoulder, or anywhere else, for that matter.  I feel so guilty and sad that we lost her, and especially that we lost her to a predator.  It's my job to keep the chickens safe, and once again, I failed.


That same day, Rocky was also taken.  I saw the abduction, but didn't realize at first what had happened.  When I realized, I chased the fox through the woods in my bare feet, until he let Rocky go.  Rocky's wing was damaged, and I think she sustained some nerve damage as well.  Rocky has since recovered enough to be able to fly up to the roost at night, and she resumed laying eggs as well, although her range of motion is a little less in the injured wing.  Based on feather evidence, we think a fox must have gotten close to Koko as well on that day, but she returned to the coop at dusk, and seemed traumatized, but physically OK.

I didn't let the girls out on their own for a couple of weeks.  But foxes are nocturnal, doing most of their hunting at night.  They're active at dawn and dusk too, but generally not in the middle of the day.  Plus, I hadn't seen a fox since the end of May.  So in mid-June, I let the girls out by themselves for about an hour in the middle of the day, figuring they'd be safe.  Koko was taken.  I did see a fox later that afternoon, so I assume she was taken by a fox, but we didn't find any feathers, so it could have been an aerial predator.  Koko was clever, a consistent layer, and friendly. Although I tried, she never did take to being a lap chicken. 


Yeah, so no more letting chickens out by themselves.  Ever.  I also make a point to listen to podcasts at full volume when I'm out there supervising their ranging--most ground predators will stay away from human sounds.

Last week, Indigo died in her sleep.  She was moving slow, and hadn't been able to hop up to the roost for a while, so her death wasn't really a surprise, but it was still unexpected.  She's buried under a tree.  Indigo was such a gorgeous bird, curious, and sweet.


During this time, Charlotte decided to go broody three times.  Going broody means a chicken wants to incubate eggs--she wants to be a mama.  If I had been making a list of chickens I thought would go broody, Charlotte would have been at the very bottom.  We don't have a rooster, so no matter how long a chicken sits on any of our eggs, she will not hatch chicks.  But chickens, their hormones just take over, I guess, and they will continue to sit on eggs until they hatch.  The broody hens only get up for about an hour a day, which means they don't get as much food or water as they should for those three weeks, and since our eggs will never hatch, being broody in our flock is potentially fatal.

Charlotte.  About double her normal size.
Chickens fluff up their feathers when they're broody.

Each time, I ended up putting Charlotte into the chick grow out pen with food and water.  The idea is to put the chicken in a situation where she can't sit on eggs, and eventually she'll lose interest.  Charlotte didn't have a nest and didn't have any eggs, so eventually she decided she didn't want to be a mama anymore.  At least for a couple of weeks...

Rocky, Toasty, Esther, Charlotte 
Dust bathing 

Three of the girls are molting.  Esther is growing feathers, and Charlotte and Rocky are losing feathers.  Toasty has stopped laying eggs, so I think she might be preparing for a molt as well.  It's early for them, but it's so much more sensible, I think, to lose and regrow one's feathers when it's 85 or 90°F rather than <32°F.

My hammock buddy, Esther

So that's the update.  It's been a tough couple of months to be a chicken mama around here, too.  

Monday, August 9, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 9

 Remember when I said my regular grocery store was closed for remodeling?  And that I was kind of rotating through four other close-ish locations for my grocery shopping trips?  Well, now one of the kiddos has something for an hour every Monday, and I'm going to the same grocery store location every week while he's doing that.  It doesn't make sense for me to go home in between, so I drive another few miles down the road to the grocery store.

Someone left this painted chicken rock for me at the grocery store weeks ago. 
I thought about taking it, because they obviously left it for me
I didn't. 
It's gone now.

I'm getting to know that store's layout pretty well.

The thing is, it takes about 15 minutes, depending on traffic and traffic lights, to get from where I'm dropping off the kiddo to the grocery store.  And then, of course, it takes another 15 minutes, depending on traffic, to get back.  So I've got a maximum of 30 minutes to park, obtain a cart, grab the groceries, pay for them, pack them up, put them in my vehicle, return my cart, and return to my vehicle.  Which is fine.  It's a small store, so I can totally do it.

It just feels like every week, it's getting closer and closer.  The first week, I got back with about 15 minutes to spare; today it was about two.  I'm not sure I'm liking this trend.

Way back in April, I asked one of the team members at my store when they'd be reopening, and they told me August, so it should be open, and I should be back learning the new store layout, soon.

In the meantime, we continue to eat.  Here's what's on the menu this week:



Friday, August 6, 2021

Beef Barley Casserole: a Recipe

 I made this hearty casserole the other day, and it is definitely a keeper!  I'm on another** use-up-the-half-used-stuff kick, and I had an open box of pearled barley in the cupboard.  You guys.  In 2019, I used up the last of a box of barley that expired in 2011.  And then I bought more barley!  And actually used some.  But not all, of course.  Which is how I ended up with another open box of barley in the cupboard.

When I think of barley, I inevitably think of soup, but I just ... didn't want ... soup.  But barley is a grain, just like rice, and where does rice show up, about half the time?  In casserole recipes.  So I went on the lookout for a barley casserole recipe.  And I found one***.  The problem was, it was more of a side-dish than a main dish.  So I tweaked it a bit to create to this deliciousness that will probably lead to me buying more barley.

This is a filling main dish casserole, with a lovely beef flavor, complemented by the slightly nutty flavor from the toasted barley.  I made mine in a 12" cast iron skillet because my main goal in life is to use as few dishes as possible, but if you don't have an oven-safe stove-top pan, you can transfer it to a greased baking dish before putting it in the oven.  Try it--I think you'll love it.

Beef Barley Casserole  
Adapted from here
Click here to print

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 cup quick cooking barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 (2 oz. pkg) onion soup mix
2 cups chicken broth, plus more for baking
  1. In a large oven safe skillet or Dutch oven, cook 1 lb ground beef until no pink remains.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Drain excess fat.
  2. In the same pan, melt 1/2 c butter over medium heat. Add 1 c barley and 1 medium chopped onion and sauté until toasted and golden. 
  3. Stir in ground beef, 1/2 c sliced almonds, 1 packet dry onion soup and 2 c chicken broth. 
  4. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes, and adding more liquid* (chicken broth or water) if needed (I used about another 1.5 c of turkey stock).  

* The original recipe says to bake the casserole covered, which would reduce the need for additional liquid, but I really liked my uncovered version.

** I feel like I am almost always on a use-up-the-half-used-stuff kick...

*** I actually found another barley casserole recipe.  It was a tex-mex casserole, and while it sounded good, it just wasn't what I wanted.  

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