Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Hard Can It Be?!

How hard can it be to find a sewing pattern for girl's bloomers. I'm not talking about the simple pants that come with every dress pattern. I want something a bit more tailored, a bit more refined. I want something more like the bloomers of vintage era costumes. Maybe a bit of tucking, a button or two in either strategic or decorative places... something that uses elastic at the top and gathering into a sewn band at the bottom.

Oh, and did I mention that it has to have either a gusset or extra fabric in the crotch? I want something that doesn't come to a sharp seam right at the most uncomfortable point. It has to be something my girl can run, jump, roll, swing, and otherwise rough-house in with comfort.

I know I'm a bit of an anachronistic soul, but my girl doesn't like to remain upright and has comfort issues with every under-dress solution I have tried. And I refuse to let her hang out with it all hanging out, as it were.

Do I really have to draft my own pattern?! Really? Sob.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meal 3 of My Cook and Freeze Experiment

We've moved into the part of the experiment where we get to actually EAT the food I slaved over. It's quite nice. Really, it's quite nice.

So far, we've eaten:

1. Pillsbury pizza, ick.
2. George Romney Meatballs, TDF!
3. Coronation Chicken

The two meals that even stood a chance at being any good were actually great! I loved the minimized cooking. I can handle heating and serving it up. I can handle washing lettuce and ripping it up. The girls will let me do that much cooking, easily! And, oh, the GR meatballs are heavenly. C has demanded that I add the meal to our monthly rotation and told me under clear terms that I am to never even consider using light sour cream in it. Or else. HA! How's that for recipe success?

The whole meal plan iss proving to be a success, I think. There are a few other cook-ahead style cookbooks that i want to check out, but I think that I'm going to try to continue this style of meal prep. As long as I remember that these meals are going to require fresh veggies to be added, I can plan ahead for that and be entirely pleased with the amount of cooking time I spend in the kitchen on a given night.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Done Cooking!

I finally finished my 2-week cook. It took me 4 hours including cleanup, all told. In the end, all but one item fit in my freezer, and that item didn't fit because it was too wide (a pizza). We had to eat the pizza right away and I have to say, I will NOT be repeating that one. Ugh. Pillsbury pizza dough. Ick.

So far I think I"m liking this set-up but there is one big drawback. If you forget to thaw dinner the night before, you're out of luck and eating out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Once a 2-week Cooking

I began my once a month cooking experiment yesterday, as you must have already read. :D Last night, after the girls went to bed, I started cooking. I knew I wouldn't be able to get all14 recipes done, but I wanted to do what I could before bedtime.

I was able to accomplish much more than I thought! In 90 minutes, I managed to cook 5 of the recpies AND do the cleanup! I was amazed at how easy it was. A few of the recipes required no more than simply combining ingredients and packaging them for the freezer. Easy peasy!

Tonight, I'll continue and try to put in another 90 minutes, and then tomorrow night as well. In the future, I'd rather get someone to play with the girls and simply spend a whole afternoon working on it and get it done at once. It's not bad to do it in blocks, but the payout of 14 days of meals for 3 nights of cooking is lower than I would like.

Gas

No, not that kind. The CAR kind.

My mother in law mentioned to me that her car gets better mileage on the ethanol-free variety than on the regular unleaded, so I decided to run a little experiment. Oh, yes, I am FULL of experiments these days. It must be the new house thing, what with needing to realign our lifestyle to accommodate all of the changes.

SO:

Here's what I did. I filled up my tank with ethanol-free gasoline and Wayne's Automotive in Monona. I set my trip meter to zero and drove until my tank was low enough to require more gas. I noted both the mileage on my trip meter and the amount of new gas I put in. The new gas was the standard ethanol-filled gas at mobile. I reset my trip meter and then drove my car until the gas gauge was low and refilled with ethanol-free gas at Sinclair.

Want to know what I discovered?

My mother in law is right.

Really really right.

Using the following handy dandy equation, I calculated how far each gallon of gas gets me.

  • # miles driven / # gallons required to refill tank = miles per gallon

Realize, though, that I didn't quite empty my tank after filling it with ethanol-free gas, so the ethanol-filled tank was actually lower in its ethanol ratio than is true to what came out of the pump.

My results:

  • Wayne's gas, ethanol-free: 317miles/9.8gallons = 32.34 miles per gallon
  • Mobile's gas, ethanol-filled: 241 miles/ 13.6 gallons = 17.7 miles per gallon

Can you believe that? I can't. Well, I wouldn't be able to if I hadn't actually written down my mileage and kept very close track of it. From now on, I'm definitely buying the ethanol free gas because even the 10% markup I have to pay for it is swallowed up in the amount of benefit my wallet sees to the mileage for that same tank of gas.

ETA: You may pause here to ask, well, what was my driving style over the 4 weeks of the experiment? To answer:

I drive 60 miles round trip to work 5 days every 2 weeks. This is 80% highway driving.

I drive to town, 50 miles round trip, probably once in that same period, and it's 90% highway.

I drive around town, maybe 2-5 miles each time, about 3-5 times over that period.

So, largely highway, and largely consistent over the period of the experiment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Cooking Experiments Continue

Most of you have by now read on my facebook page that I'm starting to play with the "once a month" cooking concept. IF you haven't and you have no idea what I mean, let me spell it out. For Once a Month Cooking, you spend one per month cleaning out the fridge, shopping, stocking the fridge, and cutting up vegetables and meat ingredients. The next day, you devote and entire day to cooking all the meals you will need for the next 28 days. Then you go out for dinner to celebrate. For the rest of the month, you haul out a frozen meal every night at bedtime and the following evening bake, fry, or cook it as directed.

The idea is that you cram all of the hard work into one day so that most evenings you can simply set the stove and relax with the family. I will take all the relaxed evenings you can give me! Where do I sign up? HOWEVER, having said that, the next two weekends are particularly bad for me to institute this new cooking policy as next weekend we have a garage sale and the following weekend Dear Husband is out of town for 5 days.

I lieu of a full 30 day cook schedule, I will start with a 2 week, 14 meal cycle. I checked out Once A Month COoking and the companion book More Once a Month Cooking by Mimi and Marybeth... something. I can't remember their names. SIgh. Anyhow, I've elected to cook Meal Cycle C from the second book. There are a few meals in that cycle that I"m really not that excited by, but in the end, I think that in order to give the system a full trial, I have to simply knuckle under and do it.

This morning, I went shopping with the girls. It was a 90 minute adventure that didn't hurt the pocket book NEARLY as much as I expected. We got out of there for under $130 and only missed 4 ingredients, 3 of which they just don't carry there. :D $130 for 14 4-10 serving meals? WHy, that sounds delightful. That's about a buck a serving.

I have taken the time today to chop the vegetables but not to cut the meats. I am leaving that for after the girls are sleeping. I'd rather not be slinging a butcher knife wet with meat juices while I chase the baby out of the cupboards and corral the toddler into TIME OUTs for some creative use of language, as I had to do while chopping veggies this afternoon. LOL. Ah, this is the life and these ARE the days.

Summary of My Menu Experiment

Well, the week has passed and my experiment is over. I have to say, all in all, we did pretty well. We often ate the meals on different days than I had planned, but I did serve them all and we even made it through the leftovers. Of course, I still have that second half of the chicken casserole in the freezer, but I can think of good ways to use that!

Some of the meals from the week that went over particularly well were:

Cheater's Tuna Casserole
1 box of whole wheat Velveeta Shells and Cheese
1 can of tuna
random fruit and raw veggies to suppliment

You can probably figure out what to do.

Bangers and Mash
2 packages of chicken sausage
1/2 of a green cabbage
4 red potatoes
one onion
salt to taste
butter for the potatoes, for whipping

In the crock pot place the washed and cut potatoes, the chopped onion, the sliced cabbage, and the sausages. Add enough water to almost cover the sausages. Turn it on and let it go. After all is cooked (5 hours on high or 8 on low), remove the foods and whip the potatoes with butter.

This coming week, I"m doing an even more extravagant experiment in pre-planned cooking. Read on above for the details!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Monday's Cooking

So, last week, I posted that I had a menu plan for the week and would update it as to my success with keeping to the menu. On the first day, I broke it. oops. We had pizza rather than whatever I had planned, which I can't even remember. On Saturday, I served leftovers.

On Sunday, I returned to the planned menu. We had dinner with the family.

On Monday, I cooked the chicken casserole. Here's the recipe:

Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 can Campbell’s Cream of chicken soup
1 can Campbell’s Cheese or cheese and broccoli soup
For creamier version add
1 can Campbell’s cream of mushroom or celery soup
3 cups Minute rice
3 Cups chicken Broth or water (add salt to taste)
1-½ cups chopped broccoli (we use frozen I would steam it first if you use fresh)
½ lb - 1lb chopped or shredded chicken
2-3 cups Shredded cheddar cheese

Boil chicken broth/water. Add rice lower heat and cover for 5 minutes or until there is no more liquid left. Add cans of soup, Broccoli, and chicken spread into 3qt casserole pan and cover with cheese. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes (or until cheese is melted and golden brown). To spice it up add Salsa and sour cream as a topper.

I cannot take credit for this recipe as I snagged it from a $5 Meals thread on a forum I visit. To modify it, I added a bit more chicken and cooked jasmine rice in my rice cooker with water rather than chicken stock.

Verdict: Definitely doable. Everyone ate it and liked it. King Crafty said, "that looks sinfully delicious." I split it into two 2 Qt casseroles and froze one for later eating. It still served 4 adults, even cut in half. We'll keep this recipe.

Childhood Memories

Now that we've moved into our new house in the country, we find that we're reliving a number of childhood experiences. By this, I mean that we are suddenly living a lifestyle which more closely resembles that of our childhoods and are now providing for our children experiences that parallel our own.

For example:
  • newer subdivision with lots of young families
  • undeveloped land nearby
  • parks within walking distance
  • Sentry withing walking distance
  • carpeted home
  • space for a dog
  • fenced backyard
  • carpeted kitchen

and so on. This week, however, I found myself reliving one more very small childhood memory in a way I didn't expect to. I bought 2 half-gallon bags milk and as I plopped one into the white plastic pitcher provided by the dairy I had a sudden moment of disorientation. I was wondering why the pitcher wasn't red. Mom, do you remember when we drank milk from bags and the plastic pitcher that held the bag was red? It's been 30 years since we poured our milk from a red pitcher, but I still remember it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meal Plan

I have a meal plan this week. We'll see if I follow it. I've only listed dinners here:

Friday: Salads with hard boiled eggs, ham, cheese
Saturday: Chicken casserole
Sunday: family dinner
Monday: Saturday Night Supper
Tuesday: Bangers and mash
Wednesday: cottage Pie
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Tuna noodle casserole

Dear God

Every night before falling asleep, my daughter starts her prayers with, "Dear God," and then continues to list out who she loves and is grateful for. My husband and I decided long ago that the easiest way to teach about praying was to start with who you love. As she gets older, I hope to start including other items and less tangible aspects of life for which she can thank God.

While thinking about National Prayer Day yesterday, I realized that I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My life has really come about 180 degrees over the last 4-5 months and I need to make sure that I take none of it for granted.

Dear God,

Thank you for:

my family: both near and far, and the special roles they play in my life. My life would not have half the joy in it without them.

my job: it may be unexciting, but it's steady and comes with great benefits and allows me a good amount of time with my family.

my husband's job: A new job has gone a long way to helping both him and us in so many ways. I am grateful for the new level of confidence and self-worth the new job has brought. And yes, the added income doesn't hurt.

my home: I may be currently houseless, but I am not homeless. Thank you to everyone involved in our recent move and soon-to-be-ours new home. We weren't looking for a shift in dwelling space but were wise enough to say yes to the opportunity when it came knocking. Thank you Grandpa and Grandma for wanting us to have your home. Thank you to my in-laws for helping orchestrate it all and for keeping on top of things so that everyone is getting the good end of the deal.

my belongings: I have more than what I need and am seeing the value in having less. Cleaning out the new house has been a good lesson in material goods and their proper place in our lives. We may have a long way to go to get down to what we really need to own, but we're moving in the right direction.

my health, my family's health: We have had a relatively smooth winter this year and I greatly appreciate that. I also appreciate the traumatizing brush we had with the stomach flu this winter for reminding me of the true value of our health.

my security net: friends, family, you know who you are and how important you are to us. Knowing that you're there for us has made it possible for us to take the leaps of faith necessary to bring us to where we are now.

my good fortune: we may not be rich, but the things we need have fallen to us when we needed them most. We do not go without.

my life: a gift well-appreciated.

Amen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Butter Talk

A: Flower butter comes from yellow flowers. Real butter is made from containers.

Me: Real butter is made from cows milk and put in containers.

A: No, real butter is made from white cheese, cow milk, and rice milk.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The National Weather Service Has Issued a "Time to Poop" Memo

The other night we had bad weather. It was lightening and thunder with tornado watches. Ooo fun! So I packed up the girls and went to the basement to wait it out. I had turned on the TV to stave off complaints of boredom.

For those of us who know our older daughter, what I'm about to describe may sound familiar. Bear with me.

We potty trained our older daughter very early. By 4 months, she could stay dry all day as long as we took her to the toilet every two hours. We did this mostly by verbal cues which we tied to her bodily functions. She first learned to expect the cues (grunt, grunt, grunt) while moving her bowels at 6 weeks of age and it all progressed from there.

We have been trying to do the same with our younger daughter since 6 weeks of age as well, but with pretty much NO success. She simply didn't give us any signs that she was filling her diaper and so we never managed to get her to associate the cues with her bodily functions.

So, back to the stormy night. As we were sitting there, watching Sid the Science Kid, the Weather Service broke in with another tornado watch. It began with those horribly discordant buzzes, three short ones, to get our attention.

M's head whipped around and she stared at the TV. She cocked her head to the side and said, "ghhn, ghhn, ghhn," (Grunt grunt grunt), squatted, and proceeded to fill her diaper.

So, apparently, the National Weather Service is better at toilet training that I am.