Sunday, December 27, 2015


I'm not a remarkable goal-setter.  I've wondered if that's something that is developed in child-hood in someone by their well-intentioned parents, or if it's developed over time by an individual of their own accord, or perhaps if it's innate to their being.  I know there was no goal-setting taught in my childhood, and I've never been naturally good at goal-setting.  At times, I have made lists for specific events, so perhaps that's a bit of goal-setting, however small, with an end in mind, but never any strong, life-long goals.

Recently, I had coffee with a couple of friends.  We've started doing this about once a month so that we don't lose touch with each other now that our sons (who are friends) are at the age where they no longer need us to shuttle them around, and they don't get together that often on their own.  The one friend said that we need to make sure we intentionally make a date to meet for coffee; that her own husband has been reminding her to be intentional.   Now, when we meet and before we leave to our respective destinations, we are intentional about finding a date and putting into our cell-phone calendars.  It's scheduled.  It's nearly set-in-stone.  We've been intentional

I can't say I've been intentional about much of anything.  Pretty much, my life happens willy-nilly and by way of however I'm 'feeling' at any given moment.  More than a couple decades ago, I had a friend who had been in the Navy.  She room-mated with me for a couple of months, and I found it remarkable at how disciplined she was.  At the time, I remember thinking maybe it would have been a good thing for me to have been in the military to provide some intentioned structure in my life.  Of course, at that time, I was already beyond enlistment age and had other life issues that would have prevented me doing that, but I was also pretty busy and did have a daily employment schedule, church activities, and other events going on that kept me pretty well self-intentioned in my plans to where I had to get Day Runner!  My at-home time was totally unstructured though.

Somewhere along the line, after getting married, then having a child, staying at home, and a whole lot of life's "stuff", I fell out of sync with any and all structure and intention.  I have days where I don't bother showering, and realize I haven't even brushed my teeth or my hair, or gotten dressed out of my nightgown until well after noon.  

Looking forward to 2016, IF I were to set a goal, or at least work towards a goal, I'm thinking it would have to be, to BE more intentional about all my doings.  I don't know how it'll work out if at all; it seems a pretty daunting task, but I know if I don't start at least, there can never be any measure of success...notice I did not say perfection but all steps forward, whether walking, or running, can be successful...there just has to be that first step, and it's always the hardest.

Do you set goals?  Do you see yourself as structured? Intentional?  Have you always been that way?  If you are, did you become that way in childhood through your parents' (or others) teaching or lessons?  Feel free to share.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Wishing my readers a wonderful, blessed and safe Christmas.

We're pretty low-key here.
This is all the further any of us got on decorating that tree.  A shame too as it really is a nicely shaped tree.  Those red bows & streamers usually hang from the upstairs railing.  Marty finally went out on Wednesday, to find the lights and he and Nick put them on.  

Marty was up first.  That's normal.  He made the coffee and then puttered around on his computer.

Having stayed up until past midnight watching a Lifetime channel movie, I was up later.  I dawdled around and eventually fixed breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hashbrown patties.

Nick woke up in time for breakfast, still in just his bathrobe as I started to type but is now in the shower.  After breakfast we finally got around to unwrapping presents.  The kitties got theirs first.  They were really into the whole Christmas present thing, and curious as to what was going on.
That mouse is the same color as you Flame!
I'm sure I can fit into this, sure Raven, aka "Chubs"
After opening the presents, I mentioned it would be nice to re-watch some of our church's Christmas concert [ if you're interested - it's a very good concert.] so Nick found a piece of equipment that we've had for probably a year or more and never opened, I think it's called Chrome Cast but I could be wrong.  It's attached to the TV but uses WiFi to operate, so he downloaded the app to his phone, then pulled up the concert and we watched on our larger TV.  About mid-way through, I needed to get up and get started in the kitchen.  There was some cleanup from breakfast, and ahem, pots & pans from who knows when ;p that needed to be dealt with.  I also had to put the frozen pie in the oven.  That was actually baking while we watched the concert.  

I decided I'd make a broccoli salad this year, so looked up every internet recipe and then did my own thing using my gleanings as a reference.  To the broccoli, I added crisply fried bacon pieces, sliced almonds, a little sliced green onion, some finely diced red bell pepper - green and red are Christmas colors you know - and then the mayo, a little garlic white wine vinegar, sugar and the usual salt & pepper.  Oh and raisins, can't forget about them.  When I worked for a large aerospace company, our cafeteria had the best broccoli salad and I sure have missed it.  

In addition to the broccoli salad, we will have our traditional prime rib roast - I wrote about it here for Toaster Oven Tuesday back in January.  We will also have crescent rolls from the pop open tube, boiled red potatoes with butter and fresh parsley, buttered corn, cranberry sauce, and for dessert, peach pie - Claim Jumper frozen - and ice cream.  I think that's far more than plenty for the three of us.  I'd have probably skipped the corn even, but Nick wasn't keen on the idea of broccoli salad, so requested corn.  

I also had to get the table cleaned off enough to be able to at least put a Christmas table cloth on half of it and we'll have some nice ambiance for dinner.  I pulled out a couple pillar candles too, and our cable provider has been broadcasting a Yule log with Christmas music, so maybe we'll turn that on in the background and it'll feel like we're in front of the fireplace.  

Marty has taken off to do a short hike while the roast cooks.  We're in the mid-50s here with clear skies, but gusty winds.  Had hoped we'd have the rain today that was predicted a week ago, but as is often the case, the forecast changes daily, and the very little bit of rain came in a day or two early and it's dry out today.  I sure miss the Christmas weather of my childhood, and the excitement of knowing we could get a white Christmas.  It almost always snowed on Christmas or within a day or two either side of it.

I hope your Christmas has been as bright and shiny as Flame's laser-cat eyes.  Stay safe, and give all your loved ones extra hugs.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Toaster Oven Tuesday ... Not

Yes, well it usually is Toaster Oven Tuesday, but I haven't been doing a lot in the kitchen lately so I've nothing to write about on that subject.

December and I seem to not have a very close friendship, and it's a struggle to "do" December every year.  Putting up with a cold that threatened both a bronchial and sinus infections didn't help either. My friend Vertigo reappeared mid-month as well and it seems to be more off-putting than the last bout.   As I told my daughter, I should make it a point to have all things Christmas ready and done before Thanksgiving and that way I can hibernate through most of December. Hah!

Nick & Marty went out...on their own...and picked out a Christmas tree on Saturday, or was it Sunday?, but it has yet to be decorated.  It does sport two decorations, one a bow that was in a tin that Nick handed me yesterday as he was (finally) cleaning his room, and the other is one that's been hanging from a door jamb for at least two years and of which I've forgotten its origin.
beautifully shaped little tree
You have seen on Webs of Thread though, that I have put in some quilt time.  Most of that because I was able to sit in one place, with the box of tissue within arms reach, and a television just feet away.  There have been a lot of naps these past two weeks.  I am much better of course, but finding it hard to get in gear for anything more than the basics of day to day.

But, today I got out and took Nick to get his hair cut, got a late lunch, killed some time at Target without making a purchase, got him to his dentist appointment, stopped at the grocer but they didn't have the main thing I was looking for so picked up only a couple necessities and will head to Costco in the morning, to be there when they open.  My son's dentist is right across the street from Costco, but at 4:30 in the afternoon, there was no way I was going to battle for a parking spot and then battle the crowds and checkout lines when it's three days before Christmas.   After I get Costco out of the way, I'll probably go to Walmart or Target and see if I can't get some things I have in mind.  It might be a year for finding images online, printing, and putting that in a wrapped box.  

Where, oh where has my Christmas excitement gone?  I used to love putting up lots of decorations and getting the tree, and planning and cooking a feast, spending time with friends.  I'd put on Christmas music as soon as Thanksgiving was over, ask Marty to pull the decorations from the rafter storage area (and wait, and wait until he did).  I'd write the Christmas letter, and prepare all the cards.  Something's gotten lost over the last few years.  I'm thinking I just got tired of "doing it all myself".

If I can get through this winter's malaise, perhaps next year, it can look more like this again:
and this:

Perhaps by Thursday I'll be able to get to those oatmeal cookies I want to make.  I haven't made cookies in my toaster oven yet, but I'm guessing they'll come out pretty well. 

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Toaster Oven Tuesday, Week 51, 2015

We're getting awfully close to the end of the year now.  My cell phone calls the last week of December, Week 53.  Funny.

For this week, I had a big old chuck roast that I thought I'd try by mostly following a method posted by Pioneer Woman, found here.

 I think my big Lodge cast iron skillet could be seasoned better.  That's a few tablespoons of olive oil getting ready to heat up.
 A couple of onions cleaned and quartered and already seared a little bit.  Same for the mushrooms which were my own addition and not in PW's recipe.  I had them, I wanted them, and they were GOOD!
 Searing up the carrots too.

 The roast seasoned with salt & pepper and just hanging out while I seared up the veggies.
 Oh, I did mention salt & pepper, right?  Be generous on the salt.
 What? No individual photo of the seared roast?  Nope, I forgot! until I'd already added all the veggies back to the pan. And I'd deglazed the pan with beef broth (from a can) and added the whole can to the pan.  I also forgot to take a shot of the foil wrapped over the top - I don't have a lid for this pan, and I don't have a Dutch oven, bt this large skillet fits in the toaster oven perfectly, on the lower rack setting.  I'm thinking this is a moist roast since it's covered, and I roasted it for three hours at 275F.  PW says to roast until it falls apart; mine wasn't quite that well cooked, but was cooked well enough.

 I transferred the roast into the serving dish and cut it into chunks and then scooped out all the veggies placing to one end.  There was a lot of juice in the skillet, so some of that was poured over the meat & veggies.  Oh, I forgot to mention, I didn't have fresh spices so used just a little dried thyme and rosemary crushing it before putting over the top during the last half of the roasting time.  With the remaining juice, I poured it through a strainer into a saucepan and thickened it with flour to make gravy.  To that I added about a teaspoon of beef bouillon because it seemed to need to taste a little beefier.
For additional sides, I boiled some quartered potatoes and reheated some leftover green beans and then just piled it altogether on my plate and pouring gravy all over everything.  Yum, this was one of those warm you to the bones, love in a skillet, comfort foods.  I should make it more often.  

Another successful dish from Toaster Oven Tuesday.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Trash Day

Friday's are trash day in our neighborhood, and this week it hasn't come soon enough. 

I've been battling a cold since Sunday.  How do you battle a cold?  Drink plenty of water, keep the humidifier going, maybe use some Vick's Vapor Rub, and take lots of naps but always, always keep a box of tissues and a trash can at hand.  I've used so many tissues, my nose hurts from them rubbing against it.
This is a FULL office-size trash can from my craft room.  There are others in every room of the house, and there are boxes of tissues in every room of the house.  I'm down to one reserve box in the storage closet.

Nick said I was snoring louder than Marty the other day.  

My eyes are watering, and my bronchial area hurts when I cough.

I'm most concerned about Nick catching this and praying he doesn't.  He has one more week of school for 2015, and I believe he has finals.  

Nick has the responsibility of gathering the trash from all rooms and setting the barrels at the curb.  It seems to be a constant area of "forgetfulness" until the morning.  Sometimes the trash truck arrives first.  This morning was another "forget" as well as blaming the alarm for not waking him up.  While he was in the shower, I gathered all the trash and set it by the door, tying up the bag ends so that he didn't get too close to all those nasty tissues.  It was the second time this week he's overslept, but he made it to school on time today as I fixed his breakfast for him, and he'll come home for lunch.  I haven't heard a trash truck yet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Toaster Oven Tuesday, Week 50, 2015

Way back in the 1970s, I loved reading, so I joined the Double Day Book Club to save money on books.  They had a lot of 'clubs' like that back then.  By the time you added shipping & handling, I'm not sure there was much savings.    I don't know that I still have a lot of those books, other than a set of John Jakes books that came out ca. 1976, but I know I DO still have my favorite cookbooks which I ordered from them.  

 I have a number of "go to" recipes in there.  One is for meat loaf.  The recipe is titled "Beef and Pork Loaf".  I'd had these books for 20+ years before trying this recipe in 1997 and I followed it exactly.  You can see that I added notes.
The whole recipe.

 I don't make it exactly as printed anymore and I don't bother measuring very accurately either, and sometimes I'll use a slightly different ingredient.
 I don't bother turning the bread into crumbs, nor is it soft or white.  In fact, this is Milton's Multi-Grain bread and usually includes the heels.  I pour the milk over it straight from the fridge (cold) and just kind of wait until it's mushy - squishing it around with my hand now and then.

 The egg gets beaten pretty well....
 ...and added to the bread/milk mixture and all mixed up so that any bread edges get soppy too.
 Equal parts ground pork and ground beef...1 lb. each according to the recipe.
 You'll see in the recipe, I noted 8-oz for the onion, but it can be whatever amount you want.  If you're really gung-ho, use a nice big one.  This one was a Maui White and probably more than 8-oz.  Because Nick isn't overly fond of onion, I dice it up really fine (the recipe says minced).  I've even lightly sauteed it on occasion.
 Now this was what I thought was the weirdest thing to add to a meat loaf.  Pickles! Gherkins to be precise and if you're like me, mincing things is a real pain, so I've found that my micro-plane does a great job at 'mincing' them.
 The usuals, salt, pepper, a little Worcestershire sauce.  The recipe calls for a whole tablespoon of salt.  We found that to be way too salty, so I never use more than half that amount (1 1/2 teaspoons), and if anyone wants more salt, they can add it at the table. 
 I mix all the small stuff up together with the bread/milk mixture before adding the meats; it makes it easier to incorporate it completely.
 All mixed, and this batch looks like I left the onion a bit larger than usual.
 I dumped the meats in and mixed it thoroughly by hand.
 I then shaped it into a nice loaf in my oblong Corning Ware baking dish and baked at 350F for 1 1/2 hours.  You can put it on a rack in your baking dish/pan, or place it in a loaf pan or two.  I've considered making small individual loaves at some point, which I imagine would not require as long to bake.  I will usually take it out of the dish to a serving plate, and thus out of the oily drippings, as soon as I remove it from the oven; it then rests for about 5 minutes before being sliced.
This bakes up very well in the toaster oven, with the rack in the lower position and using the convection setting.  

Not too long ago, I'd been seeing all the meatloaves topped with bacon via social media, so tried it.  Yech, nope, did not like it that way.  It is perfect just as it is.  If you like a bit of catsup or bbq sauce spread over the top, I don't see why it couldn't be done. 

As a child, my mom's meatloaf was just the basic ground beef, with dry oatmeal, catsup, an egg, salt and pepper.  It was ok, but I think I just grew tired up it, and was looking for something that was more savory that would be good with a brown gravy over it.  This one is that way.  With using two pounds of meat, this makes a large meatloaf, so we have leftovers for several more meals.  I like taking some slices of this and putting it on sourdough bread with barbeque sauce or mayonnaise and even some Provolone cheese.

Monday, December 7, 2015

FT and TT

I often use abbreviations on my grocery lists.  FT is facial tissue and TT is toilet tissue.  So far today, they have both been my best friends.  I'm planning on running a couple of errands, but am waiting a bit to make sure I don't have any sudden needs for the one.  The other I can take with me ;p
Sitting in church yesterday, I was feeling like I was being attacked by allergens, requiring those FTs several times as well as needing to clear my throat.  By the end of the day, with tissue box ever ready, I realized I was more likely getting the first cold I've had in close to three years.  Count my blessings, right?  Amen!  I'm praying this one will be short-lived, and that the requirement for the other was because I ate dinner really late and it was a salad, even later followed up by vanilla ice cream smothered with cherry pie filling and whipped cream.  Maybe not the best diet, but it sure satisfied the cravings for sweet.

When I awoke this morning, my throat was pretty sore too.  It's a little better, so maybe some of that was from night time breathing issues and snoring.  I was supposed to go to the dentist this afternoon to have my crown permanently put on, but called and changed the appointment, not wanting to share my germs with them, though for all I know, that's where I contracted the germs in the first place at my appointment one week ago for the root canal (after a year of waiting to see if the nerves would settle down - I have problematic nerves - which they didn't, thus the r.c.).

I'm thinking it's safe to find my shoes and socks now and head out to get those errands done.  I also need to get tomorrow's Toaster Oven post written up and get a whole lot of housework done - it was a lazy weekend when it came to housework.  My sewing projects took precedence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Toaster Oven Tuesday, Week 49, 2015

Sometimes life gives you lemons!   I love lemon bars! But I have never made them, not even from scratch. My dad had put this box of lemon bars in the stuff he gave to me that I brought back in August. I thought this would be a good time to make them.  My mouth was salivating at the thought of them.

The ingredients: lemon bar mix, three eggs, 1/3 cup water.

Mix the eggs and water...

...until they look like this.

Add the 'lemon filling' to the egg mixture and mix with a whisk.  Hmm, something isn't smelling right but I didn't want to taste at this point since it had raw eggs and I was sure my sniffer was smelling right.
 Now, I'm wondering how long these had been in my mom's cupboard.  The box itself looked fresh, there was no "best by" date, but there was a code.  I sent off an email to the manufacturer asking about the code.
Pressed the bag of "crust" into the pan.  I lined it with parchment paper on the bottom and sprayed the sides.  Bake it for eight minutes until lightly browned as in the photo.  So far so good.
 The crust smelled fine, but I'm still wondering about that pouch of lemon filling, it smelled...rancid.  Of course, what could go rancid in it?  I checked the ingredients and didn't see any oils listed.

The finished product.  It set up perfectly, and surely looked good.  Oh so anxious to try it when it's cooled.

 In the meantime, the manufacturer promptly replied with:

"Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Krusteaz Lemon Bar Mix. We appreciate your interest and are happy to provide you with additional information.
We have been using a "Best By" date on our retail products since April 2010. With our previous method of coding our products, the manufacturing code was embossed (indented into the cardboard) or printed in dark ink on the top or bottom of the package. The code was based on the date of manufacture and reads as follows:
  • The code starts with two letters. The first number following the letters represents the year of manufacture.
  • The next three numbers represent the number of days into the year (using the 365-day calendar).
Based on the manufacturing code you provided, this mix was produced on 05/11/2006, and expired on 05/11/2007. Our products are safe to use when they are beyond their best by date; however, you may not get the same quality performance (the finished product may not rise as much or it may not taste as fresh).  I would advise against using this product. There is an oil that is in the filling that causes it to go bad." [emphasis mine]

These are the ingredients.  The best I can reason is maybe the "natural flavor" contains real lemon oil and that's what went rancid, or the modified food starch. 
  SO, it appears my mom had this in her cupboard for a very long time.  That's around nine years!  I'm not one to be overly mindful of expiration dates or use by dates...I think I've posted my views on that in the past, but I guess nine years IS a bit extreme.  Maybe I should go check the other mixes I brought back.  I should be learning something here, especially after the recent cornbread mix issue as well.

As it baked and then cooled, I continued to smell some rancidity so I cautiously took the tiniest of tastes when it cooled.  Oh my, and oh yes, it was very rancid!  I was very disappointed after looking forward to delicious lemon bars.  I had to find some mints to get that taste out of my mouth.

Making them in the toaster oven worked very well.  Perfectly in fact.  I will make them again but probably from scratch, so you may see yet another post for them somewhere down the road.  Unfortunately, this batch was bad, and I had to throw them all out.  I wasted three good eggs, but that's a small price to pay.  In loosening the edges from the side of the pan - guess I didn't spray well enough - I broke a spatula.  Not a big loss either, it was a well-used, over 19-year old, plastic one that must've become brittle and it just snapped in two.  I'll enjoy shopping for a new one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Toaster Oven Tuesday, Week 48, 2015

Today's toaster oven cooking comes from the urge to have something reminiscent of childhood.  Weiner Wraps!!  I don't recall that we had these so much at home, but our small town school with farm wife cooks, served them for lunch.  They were a favorite.
 I started with a package of these.  They're my preferred hot dogs.
 Then I grabbed a can of these.  There's one more roll in this package than there are hot dogs, so it was 'just a roll'.
The finished product.

For the toaster oven, I still followed the directions on the label of the crescent rolls and baked them on the lower rack position.  I served them with a can of 3-bean salad.  

Little fuss, no frills, quick & easy.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mt. Washmore

I've borrowed the title of this post from Flylady.   Many years ago, I jumped on her band-wagon and tried to get my guys on board too.  I should have known better!  Since then, I've fallen off the wagon but much of her ideas stay in the back of my head.

Awhile back, I mentioned my woes about the laundry system I set up and the issues I have with my guys.  As a refresher, I primarily use six laundry bags that hang on racks that have a rod and shelf at the top.  For Marty and Nick, my request is that they bring their dirty clothes to, and place them atop, the washer.  I'll sort and determine when any given bag is full enough to run a load.  The goal was to do laundry as needed as opposed to spending a single entire day doing nothing but laundry.  I started this so many years ago that I've forgotten how long it's been, but this simple request should have become a routine habit by now, but it's so much easier for them to just leave their clothes either in a pile or scattered all over the floor.  Occasionally I remind them and I have gathered them myself and not said a word when I did.  I ask very little of either of my guys.

Well, yesterday, they brought their clothes down.  I'm showing just Nick's....
 It doesn't look like so much in the picture, but it is.  He ran out of his preferred tee-shirts and had to start wearing polo-type shirts...something he was very happy to give up after we transferred him from private to public school.
 However, the other side of bringing his laundry down, which also lands in the category of his required chores, is that he take his clean clothes to his room and hang them up.  These have been hanging here for at least a week, maybe longer, and are mostly his preferred tees.
This is his bedroom floor as of this morning.  Socks and shirts amongst his school books, shoes and who-knows-what.  

Time to go sort that pile and start the first load. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Toaster Oven Tuesday - Week 47, 2015

Start with one large flat baking dish. 
This had been my mom's.  It's not that old, I don't was made in China and is not Corning Ware.

 Take one large ham...this was around 8 pounds and way too big for the dish and more than we'd eat, so I cut it in, and only used, half.
 Follow these directions. 
 The ham halves.  Beautiful ham.

 Covered and in the oven.  Ahem, see, didn't I tell you the inside of this oven became quite dirty during my many absences and I've yet to clean it.  I wonder if the 'set a dish of ammonia in it overnight' process will work so that it can just be wiped out?  Anyone ever try that?
 I split the current sauce that came packaged with the ham in two also.
 Sealed it up with a clip and bagged it and the other half ham and put in the freezer for another meal.  In hindsight, I probably should have cut this ham into three or four separate pieces.
I almost forgot to take a picture after it was baked.  We'd already eaten our dinner portions by this point.  We've eaten quite a bit, and yes, I've ignored the "once opened, use within 3 to 5 days".  Boxed scalloped potatoes and canned corn rounded out this meal.  I heated the corn in the microwave...oops...can't run both at the same time, had to go out and flip the circuit breaker back on! 
One night I took some leftover ham and diced it up, put some butter in a cast iron skillet, added the ham, some onion, some diced up raw cauliflower and sauteed till veggies tender, then scrambled up 3 eggs and added to the skillet along with some grated cheddar, letting it cook for awhile and then flipping it to finish cooking.  Oh was that ever yummy. 
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