Friday, April 30, 2010

Grocery lists

I promised pictures and copies of these pantry lists and grocery lists on a forum I participate in... so here goes!

Here is the list for the bulk store. The items I purchase there are listed by what aisle its on.

Here is my master pantry list. These are items I buy regularly and want to keep in my pantry or fridge.

Hope this helps someone!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Complaints and agrivations


A friend pointed me to this garden grant contest:!/yestocarrots

I thought, great, my school can use the money, we are working on building a school garden. I got all excited, got others excited, even recruited a few younger students to write a paragraph about they want in a new school garden.

Then, I bother to read the fine print. Its open to PUBLIC schools only. They have this no where on the main pages; no, you have to go to the "rules and regulations" to find this out. Perhaps I should of gone there first, always read fine print first.

Oh, well. Very unhappy and I want to complain. Unfortunately, I can't find a way to leave a comment on their facebook page (hmmm....), so I'll go look for an email method. Do they think that private schools just have all this money floating around? do they think we can grow our own money trees? My students are just as deserving as any other to have a school garden. BA HUMBUG!

I hope all my facebook buddies read this and chose NOT TO BUY ANYTHING from "Say yes to carrots". They don't deserve it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chocolate Pudding

I love chocolate pudding. Almost as much as I love chocolate and peanut butter. So, tonight the craving hit, and I remembered this post from Food Renegade.

So, I grabbed the recipe and went at it. I'm not one to skip a recipe just because I don't have some ingredient, not when I have something else that will work. I found that I didn't have any cocoa powder, but I did have unsweetened chocolate squares. I decided to substitute. I poured the milk, mixed in the corn starch (whisk well) and put it in a small sauce pan. I crushed 1- 1/2 chocolate squares into small pieces (plastic baggy + meat pounder) and added them. I added the honey and stirred, stirred, stirred as it heated. After perhaps 5 minutes (or less), it started to thicken and get bubbly. I added some butter and vanilla extract, and poured it into my Christmas gift ramekins. And took my first bite.

Not too bad. I can very distinctly taste the honey, which I'm not crazy about, and a bit more chocolate would be nice. I used non-fat milk and its plenty thick. I don't know that Hubby will like it, not if I'm ma ma hu hu about it (Chinese for horse, horse, tiger, tiger, meaning "meh").

Next time:

1/3 cup sugar
4 TBSP corn starch
2 sq. unsweetened chocolate squares
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp butter

Whisk together corn starch and milk in a small sauce pan. Crush chocolate squares and add to milk. Add sugar and stir constantly over medium heat.

When it begins to thicken, remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and butter until evenly distributed. Pour into serving dishes, and serve warm or refrigerate and serve chilled.

So, thanks Food Renegade. I might not use your recipe exactly, but it gave me a good basis to work from.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Power-outage anecdotes

Hubby reminded me of a few more funny anecdotes about the power-outage.

First, I must praise Hubby's heroics in getting the rain barrel open even as the rain began to fall (it refilled completely!) He was on his way back to bed when the electricity went out. He is so brave!

Then, on Saturday, we had a piece of furniture delivered (a replacement for a defective piece). When the guys got here, and had the piece in the living room, one asked "Do you have lights in this room?" It was hard not to laugh, since there is a decent-sized light fixture in the middle of the ceiling. "Sorry, no electricity." we responded, while stifling giggles. After a bit of discussion that it was the storm from the night before that knocked the electricity out, the guy comments "I wondered why my netflix kept coming in and out. It was very frustrating."

It seems that Tayler-ville behind us is still electricity-less. The big flood lights aren't on. I'm bummed that they are still without power, but we will enjoy a particularly dark night again tonight. We have slept so well the past 2 nights, with it being so dark.

And now.... I am off to that bed!

Loving electricty

Warning: long post!

We experienced a big time storm Friday night, just after midnight (guess that is Saturday morning, isn't it?). By Friday afternoon, the house had warmed up with an extra warm day, and we debated turning on the a/c. We decided instead to open some windows and get a breeze through the house. It was a beautifully clear night, so we went to bed with the windows open. About 1215, I woke to distant thunder. I saw a flash of lightening, counted and realized it was about 5 miles off, so we had time. I laid there another minute, thinking if we should close windows. Finally, I shook hubby awake and said, "you close the office window, and I'll get the dining room window." Off we each went, closed the windows, and met back in the bedroom. "Do think it will rain?" hubby asked. "Well, it was raining gently when I closed the dining room window. Maybe I should close the bedroom windows also." Not seconds after I closed the second of 2 bedroom windows, the wind began to howl and the rain beat down. We went out to the dining room to watch the rain for few minutes, and as we returned to the bedroom, I felt dizzy as the lightning flashed so constantly; it felt like a strob light running in our house! We reached the bed, as we climbed in, all lights, save the lightning, darkened. "I think the electricity just went out" we said to each other. Great, another outage.

When we bought the house, we asked about outages. The previous owners, which we trust, said they hadn't had any problems with outages in the 5 years they had lived there. We, on the other hand, had at least 3 outages last fall, 2 of which were 6+ hours. We are laid back folks (except for internet) and can survive 6 to 8 hours without electricity. We avoid opening the fridge or freezer, and we end up eating out more than normal. At 1230 am Saturday morning, we called the number for Oncore, the electricity provider, to report our outage. "We estimate your electricity should be back on by 2 am" the recording said. Whatever! It was still pouring rain and blowing like a hurricane (though I've never been in a hurricane, so I have no real reference). At about 8 am, when we woke up, we noticed that there still wasn't any electricity. So, we called the Oncore number again, and this time, no estimated time of restored electricity was given. This is suspicious, we thought.

We decided to go to IHOP for breakfast (the whole house is electric, stove and all), and began to see the damage from the storm as we drove. We saw trees broken in half, blown over, pulled up by roots and all, deposited all over yards, in the street, and on one house. Wow, we said, this storm was pretty bad. After breakfast, I dropped Hubby at school, so he could work on papers, and I took a little friend out for hot chocolate and crocheting. We got home again about 1 pm.... and still no electricity. Hmmmm.... so, should we prepare for the worst? Perhaps days without electricity? By this point, the Oncore number was telling us, "there are a large number of outages in the Waco (and other places) area, and crews have been dispatched... " but still no estimated time of getting power back. How concerned should we be?

We pondered and pouted, and pouted and pondered. Finally we had some cold sandwiches, and headed off to acquire camp stove fuel, some dry ice for the freezers and lamp oil for the two lamps we have. We felt a bit more secure about the situation, knowing we can keep the frozen foods frozen and boil water for noodles and coffee. I had a school event so, I took off about 7 pm, but Hubby stayed home and worked by candle light and laptop battery on a paper. When I got home at 1045 pm, still no electricity.

Now, we've been this long with electricity before. But we were camping, we expected to start smelling funny after a day or two, and we had non-electricity-needing activities planned. Here in our own home, it was getting stressful. We have a septic system that uses electricity, and we didn't want to flood it. And by now, the water in the water heater would have cooled off. Hubby took a quick shower Saturday evening, and had only "warm" water. We are computer-internet loving individuals. I love to knit, but can only do so much at once. We love hot meals!

So, Sunday morning, I sponged off with cool water, and reapplied deodorant. We pulled some "tree-weeds" (a non-electricity-needing activity! see note at end for explanation of "tree-weeds") and off to church we headed. There, a good friend invited us to their place for lunch and a chance to do laundry. We did some errands on our way home, and when we got home, YEAH!!!!, the electricity was on!!!

We learned a few things. First, we love electricity. Philosopher Hubby pondered out loud "Aristotle didn't have electricity. Nor did Aquinas. How did they do it?" This afternoon, we have wandered around marveling at the joy of electricity. Second, we are better prepared for next time (assuming there is a next time). Third, we are peeved with Oncore. I'm sure they knew by Saturday morning where all the outages were (or most of them), and they could of have said, in their recording, something like "please plan to not have electricity for 1 (or 2) days. We were at 32 hours when the electricity finally came on. We put off some things we could have done Saturday morning, thinking it wouldn't be that long till we got electricity back. Perhaps it is me expecting too much from a massive bureaucracy.

Alas, now that I have my electricity, and thus my fridge, my stove, my lappy, I'm not so inclined to write a nasty letter to Oncore.

Other thoughts have been spawned. Can we adjust our life style to better accommodate the occassional outage? Or are outages rare enough that its not worth it. We are pretty conservative about our usage of electricity. We only heat the house to 62' in the winter (I demand that kind of warmth, Hubby would be happy at 58', I think). We only cool to 80' in summer (78' at night for better sleeping). I wash only full loads, and will hang stuff to dry when I can. We open windows when its nice out to both warm and cool the house. But we are academics and we love our computers. And hot meals. And the ability to boil water. The camp stove with fuel will solve many of those issues. But the pondering continues....

Hubby did get grilled steak out of it. That is certainly a good thing.

Note: "tree-weeds" are weeds that grow straight up and look like tiny little Christmas trees spaced through out the yard. The clover stays low to the ground, which doesn't look too bad. But the tree-weeds show off our non-grass yard more than we like.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Busy day!

Today was very full, and lots happened.
This morning, I made bread. And I broke my spoon. DRAT! I broke the pitch fork, and now my spoon. At the grocery store, I bought a new spoon with a very thick neck. Lets hope I don't break that one, its now the most expensive kitchen spoon I own.

Then, I discovered a bird's nest in one of my hanging tomato planters.

I haven't the heart to remove it! Is this bad? Will I get attacked by defending sparrow parents? ARGH!!!

After my success with hummus, I decided to give peanut butter a try. I could live on peanut butter, at least, I could live on Jiffy peanut butter. This was, again, an effort to use my new food processor. I put 1.57 lbs of honey roasted peanuts (purchased in bulk at the local grocery store) in the processor, and blended away. It was looking a tad dry, so after a quick internet look up, I decided to add a bit of veggy oil, about 1/2 Tbsp. It was a bit too much, I think, could do with less. Here is the result, about 1.5 cups worth:

Tastes nice, too.

This picture wasn't today, I didn't have time for a nap today. But I thought it was so very cute, Hank and I napping together.

Nice, wasn't as long of a post as I thought it would be!

Monday, April 19, 2010

snack success!

I have been seeking healthy snacks that Hubby will enjoy. We are both rather picky eaters and tend to LOVE things like chips, chocolate bunnies, cream filled eggs, etc, etc. You get the idea. We didn't necessarily grow up on these things, but its an easy taste to acquire. If I snack, I miss meals, because I'm not hungry. Thus, I try to avoid snacking to very much. And I'm happy with a spoon full of peanut butter, should the need for a snack arise. Hubby, though, loves to snack, and, like a good human, will have no problem making room for dinner. Plus, he's not as into peanut butter. He is also working hard on the bike twice a day, so a yummy snack before bed is a good thing.

I know he like hummus, but hummus is expensive. Garbanzo beans, however, are about $0.70/can. So, like a good girl, I pulled out my new food processor (gonna try making peanut butter next!), drained a can of garbanzos, added 3 cloves of garlic and blended away. Looked a tad dry, so I poured about 1 TBSP of EVOO in and blended. Now, it looked much better. I added about 1/2 an onion, and ~1 tsp kosher salt. I blended away, noting that it smelled quite nice. Hubby also remarked that it smelled good.

I pulled out the tortillas, and gave it a swipe. Wow. Quite a bit of bit, for sure, but quite yummy. I'm already imagining the various variations I can create with the variety of additives from the garden. Between peppers, tomatoes, and various herbs, we've got lots of options. (Love my voracious use of v's?)

In summary:
1 can garbanzo beans (also known as chick peas)
1 to 3 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
1 tsp salt

blend well. Serve with your choice of topables.

Crazy Travel

Am I crazy? Sometimes, I think I am...

I hopped on a plane last Friday, flew to Philadelphia, PA, spent Friday evening, all day Saturday and a tad bit Sunday morning with a good, good friend who I haven't seen in years (her bridal shower was Saturday afternoon), and flew home Sunday morning. Quite a whirlwind weekend, at least for me. I'm not a traveler, really. I'm a homebody. So this shows you how special this gal is to me.

It was a good weekend. I had a good time (Chinese foot massage, oh yeah!), met some some new friends (nod to you if you found me!) and had some good food (True Chinese food, yes, note the capital letters). I'll see about getting some pictures from those who had cameras and will post a few.

When I got home Sunday afternoon, my garden was amazing! It rained here all day Saturday, and I could tell. The potatoes are HUGE, and everything has grown like crazy. I haven't seen the school garden in almost a week, I wonder what it look like? Probably like a jungle!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

You can tell its a Saturday!

Only because of my several posts in one day! That really only happens on Saturdays.

Two trees I must show off. Mr. Pecan is a volunteer that showed up in my flower pot on the porch. I guess I have Monsieur Squirrel to thank for that. I found another pecan volunteer, but that one didn't make the cut. It is in the compost pile now.

This is Senor Tree (not sure how to put the ~ over the 'n'). He is a Giant Sequoia, but is still a baby -- about 3 years old now. He has done very well with the move to Texas (from California) and with our unusually cold winter. Though, I think the winters his species is designed for are colder, but he would normally be covered completely in snow and nicely sheltered. Anyhoo, he has done well.

Finally, I got the cinder blocks for my first truly and completely raised bed. Poor Anaconda (that's the car) was weighted down big time with 18 8x8x16 blocks. But she got them home and I set up the bed today. That bed has potatoes in it, and I'll fill in the bed as summer goes on. I've read you are suppose to do that for potatoes anyways, so they produce more potatoes.

I also made bread today. A Saturday tradition is being developed. But today... I let the bread rise for too long, I think. What do you think?

And now pictures of the tomatoes. The ones in the hanging pots are growing big time and have lots and lots of leaves. The tomatoes in the garden, however, are still small. Pictures here....

Any thoughts?

For this evening, I'm on kitchen duty and I need to some major picking up. Our house is looking very 'lived in' right now. Ah, yes, a nice cup o' tea and a bit of puttering around.

Gardening Questions

Several questions about gardening... well, maybe two. If you have answers, please tell me!

1. The tomato plants in the hanging baskets are already producing flower buds. But the tomato plants in the veggie bed are still small. Why the difference? Its with soil warmth? Is it soil pH? the hanging pots are using just normal potting soil with compost and bagged manure mixed in. Garden soil is ground dirt plus compost and bagged manure. Our ground is lots of clay... and so alkaline, and tomatoes like more acidic. I figured these two possible reasons, both get about the same amount of sunlight, though the pots are more sheltered and nights are still a tad chilly (upper 40s, low 50s).

2. The Red Malabar still hasn't sprouted! the other seeds I stuck in pots at the same time are already transplanted into their spot in the yard, but this hot weather "spinach" isn't doing squat. Maybe its just not hot enough yet (seeds all from same place, SSE, at same time). I should do some more research on this.

Okay, only 2 questions. Anyhoo -- any thoughts? Any one? (I'll get pictures of the tomatoes up a bit later today.)

Friday, April 09, 2010

My very own lettuce

Yeah! First harvest! Well, we ate a little over half of it before I took the picture, but this is a sample of it. I'm very proud of my row of lettuce.

Two of the tomato plants in the hanging pots have flower buds.... so I wonder if I'll start getting tomato sooner than I thought. And I'm seeing the potatoes peek their tops up from the soil. This is a great time of year!

PS. Today, I rebel against the establishment and eat my own home-grown lettuce!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Week of April 5

whew... been a crazy week so far, and its only Thursday!

I had Monday off, which was beautiful. Tuesday was our last day of Bible Study for this spring, nothing more till next fall. I got tons done at school on Wednesday. Today I hope to get lots done around the house and at school. Speaking of which, I should get started on my day, it is nearly 8 am!

Last weekend I made bread again. I really enjoy making bread, and its good exercise. I tried using, for 1/2 the flour, whole wheat flour. The loaves came out very nice, and very yummy. They are much more "wheaty" than the all white flour loaves.

I saw a picture where the baker had put the slice in the top down the middle of the loaves, instead of diagonal across the loaves. So I thought I'd try that. You can see that it resulted in the top layer of the loaf splitting wide open. The loaves still taste good, and that's what counts..... but they don't fit in the toaster now.

The kitty has gone wacky this week. With cool nights and mornings, but warm days, I've been opening windows to get a breeze (trying to put off using the a/c for as long as possible). This means opening the guest bed room door, which extends the kitty running track by several feet. I think Hank also likes the open windows and will race from the dining room, through the living room, into the guest bed room, into the guest bed room window and then back to the dining room window. Then he will run to the master bed room window, and then turn around and dash back to the dining room window. He will repeat this, with slight variations including a run into the office, or to pounce on one of us as we cross his path, many multiple times a day. It's a ton of fun to watch. I see he has found something in the front entry way. I should go see what it is, just in case it is something to paper-toweled up and thrown away.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Garden Updates

I've done tons over the past weekend and today. I saw a blog talk about keeping a garden journal, which I do, where I keep notes about what I do and how it turns out. But she also mentioned making drawings of the garden and its layout. I enjoy drawing, so I took a swing:

It was fun to do while watching TV.

I also worked out back a fair bit today. I hug the tomato pots and repotted a few items on the back porch:

I also dug 3 hills for the butter squash, cucumber, and mixed gourds. Here is the final view of the back yard from the dining room window.

That's the compost bin in the back, then the lettuce/onion/carrot bed, then the tomato/pepper bed, then the herb and huckleberry bed, and without boards, the potato bed. The dirt spot closest is just what's left over from the scoop that sat there for a week before we got the dirt (mostly clay) onto the beds. To the right you can see 3 small mounts of dirt. Furthest back in the butter squash (like pumpkin), then cucumber, then mixed gourds.

And I have to brag about my lettuce, which is doing beautifully, even after getting flooded 3 times this past winter (after the seed was out).

Boy, am I tuckered out this evening. I declared dinner OYO (on your own) and have been spacing on the couch since. I'm working on my knitting and thinking about what to put on the telly to keep myself awake till a decent bedtime (after 8 pm, I think would be best).

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Good movies

I'm all about promoting good movies. I don't see ones that are crazy impactful, drawing tears, making me want to boo certain characters, be afraid of other and yell for yet others. This movie was extremely effect at manipulating my emotions to cry, rejoice, disdain, and hope, and I really enjoyed it.

A friend from school told me about this movie: Ink. Its an indy film, with excellent acting and amazing light effects. The story is very good vs. evil, with eternal destinies in the balance.

Jurassic Park is also a good movie for completely different reasons, and I'm disappointed that Netflix doesn't have it, at all. No DVD, no instant. Nada. Bummer on you Netflix.

The Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour...

...was yesterday. I drove down to Austin, picked up the sister, and we went for it. I planned a route that took us to the farthest out spot and worked our way back in. Had I planned the route working our way out, we might have seen more coops, but 7 out of 17 isn't too bad. And we both registered for the giveaway prize: a mobile chicken coop. Should either of us win, not sure what we would do with it; I imagine I can find someone who could use it. No probably not me, we just aren't in a place in life that we could take on caring for chickens, not matter the joy of a fresh egg each day and the entertainment chickens provide. For now, I will only dream.

On the drive down, the bluebonnets were amazing! Lots of folks stopped along the side of one small highway taking pictures with tripods set up, and babies crawling in the bluebonnets.

In general, there were some fancy coops, some simple coops, and all were impressive. I saw a house I really liked (next door to the house with the coop) and plenty of nice looking gardens. Chickens were fun to watch as they wallowed in the dust (is that like taking a bath for them?). There were plenty of impressive gardens also. I tried to focus on the coops, but was hard to not examine all the veggies growing nearby. :::sigh:::

Pictures can be seen at:
(please note that I was not the one who took the pictures, I am only the benefactor of my sister's camera)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Guess what I'm setting up....

A worm farm! I'll bring home worms from school next Tuesday (got that one set up Thursday and added worms then). Woot, woot! Composting at high speed, here I come!

Ants... the curse of my yard


Yes, that much. They settled in both compost piles (old and new) and in two veggies beds. I have several bites on my left ankle now that itch like crazy. If any one knows a nice, organic method of keeping ants out of my veggies, please let me know. For now, I will nuke them with the little balls of poison I found at Home Depot. I don't like it, but getting bit everything I go out isn't an option. I'm not allergic, but I also don't want to get bit so much I start reacting to it.

On the bright side, sort of, its raining here! Yeah!!!! Rain barrel refilling in progress. I got two rows of potatoes planted (Red and Russett) and replaced two pepper plants that got eaten/stepped on with new seedlings. I wish I'd started more Amish Paste Tomatoes. I have boo koos and boo koos of Cherry Romas and Mexico Midgets, but only 3 of the 6 Amish Paste I put survived that cold snap we had.

And on the funny side, the 1/2 chicken must be dieing off, because Hank was on the table this afternoon and ate some of the meat out of my sandwich I left on the table. Yes, yes, I shouldn't of left the sandwich on the table, but, goodness, he is getting bold.

Off for some coffee and planning our route for the Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sucralose (& worm farms)

Here he is... the one, the only.... Sucralose!

And what he does best is hide. Yep, hide out in his pouch...

... or even in my pocket. I think its the light, he doesn't like light, perhaps because he is a nocturnal animal.
He is home for the weekend, since it is a 4 day weekend. Hank has taken an interest in him, so he will spend a fair bit of time in the garage. I think this precludes summers here. I guess I'll have to find someone else. Also realized, as I have him home in a different cage (the aviary is too big for the car), its the cage that stinks! I have been working hard to de-stink Sucralose and everything in the cage, but never thought about the cage itself. Hmmmm.... that's going to take some thought.

Hubby and I were in the garage doing some spring cleaning and setting up shelves, and with the garage door open and the lights on, the Mayflies were swarming in. Hubby has just started catching them to kill them when we thought of offering one to Sucralose. Wow, did he go after that! We gave him about 10 or so Mayflies and he gobbled them down quickly... though not the legs. He went after the raisins I offered him earlier also, but not like this! I'm not sure I should share this revelation to the students, I'm afraid of the number and types of bugs that may arrive in the classroom and the Grammar 4 teacher isn't the boldest when it comes to critters.

Finally, I got my worm farm at school all set up and worms added. Its very exciting. I have many ideas of how to use it for teaching about food cycles, recycling, composting, ecology, etc. Everybody loves seeing Surcalose, I hope they like the worms at least half as much. :P

How cool is this?

When I saw this on a blog.... I had to get it. I might have to start roasting coffee just to use this label!

Cat Condos, open windows and geckoes

We recieved some packages from a popular internet company.... and you guess who? I decided to make a cat condo, based on something I'd seen on another website. So I pulled out the "duck" tape (duck brand, not duct type), scissors and box cutter and went at it. So, what do you think?

Hank hasn't done much with it so far, and I'm not sure I expect him to hang out in it too much, but it was cute getting him in it if only briefly.

Today is the first day this year that outside is cooler than inside, and its still a nice temp outside. Inside was registering low 70s according to the various thermometers I have posted around, and, and the outside thermometer, register it low 60s outside. So, as the tightwads we are, I opened windows to cool inside off in prep for the the warm day that it is likely to be. Low and behold, look what I found...
Not sure what incubated in that, but I'm not sure I want to know. I do believe the previous owners NEVER opened the windows, as filthy as the part between window and screen are. I cleaned out the two side dining room windows this morning. The large middle one was cleaned last fall and still looks like.

In the living room window, we've had this little guy living between the window and screen for a while.

I wish I had a better zoom in camera, but I'm sure you get the idea. There is a second gecko that I felt brush my fingers when I opened the window (that scared me!), but it is hiding somewhere. I'm sure one or both will find their way into the house at some point, when I will scoop them up and deposit them outside. These guys eat tons of bugs... how can I do away with something like that?

I've also decided to bring Sucralose home for the weekend (4 day weekend with Easter) -- that's the sugar glider. He might spend a fair bit of time in the garage if he is noisy, noisy at night, or if he stinks (seems to be better as I get the cage and stuff it in really clean), or if Hank takes too much interest in him. I'd rather not have to announce to a class of 10 year-olds that my cat killed their new found favorite animal.

BTW, Hank is loving the open windows!