Friday, August 31, 2012

Seven Quick Labor Day Weekend Takes

--- 1 ---

Scott mentioned offhandedly last night that he has Monday off. I am SO EXCITED, you guys. I don't know why, but days off just seem like the best thing ever now that I'm all grown up and stuff. (Probably because they're scarcer.) He was also nice enough to point out that stores might be closed on Labor Day so I might not want to schedule my shopping trip then. He was right, Aldi is closed, so we are going to have a romantic grocery shopping date tomorrow.

--- 2 ---

Scott and I had a "discussion" about chores last Saturday (and by "discussion" I mean "I said things and Scott agreed with them"). We came to the conclusion that he gets weeknights "off" because he works all day while I stay home and take naps, so I shouldn't feel it's unfair that I then have to make dinner while he zones out at his laptop.

However, I still have my whole normal workload on Saturdays, while he has nothing to do but play videogames and write brilliant philosophical treatises or whatever it is he does when he's typing away in the evenings. So I figure it's only fair that he does chores. Plus, there are certain things he needs to do/help with anyway, and if he does them on Saturdays then he guarantees himself nag-free weeknights.

(Sundays, I do just enough dishes to keep them from overrunning the apartment and eating us alive. I have already pretty much trained myself not to nag on Sundays, other than all the nagging I do about how we're going to be laaaate and how can it take so loooong to get ready for church?)

Please note that I am not making him work like a Dickensian orphan or anything, either. This past Saturday he took out the trash (which I had already bagged up and placed by the front door), finished assembling the nightstand (which I couldn't do because the last step took some upper body strength and I have the upper body strength of an abalone) (I have a real nightstand now, yay!), and did some dishes (he scrubbed out a couple of muffin tins that needed scrubbing before they could be put in the dishwasher--and somehow managed to cut his thumb and expected me to be sympathetic, which I wasn't really--please note he did not even have to load the dishwasher; he just had to pre-scrub some dishes). Three things. Because you can never go wrong with threes.

He also made dinner, with a little help, but that doesn't count because he did that autonomously. (I put beef on the stove to brown for stroganoff, and he was apparently very concerned that I was going to burn it like I did last time because he went into the kitchen and started stirring the beef and such. I must be becoming less of a control freak, because I totally let him take over instead of getting offended. Less work for me!)

Anyway, there have not been enough weekends to determine whether this is effective in keeping us both from feeling overwhelmed. So far my only take on the system is that it is really hard to not nag on weeknights. I really like to nag.

--- 3 ---

You'd never know that Matthew couldn't crawl 9 days ago. Reports on Facebook indicate that he is fast and into everything. I got to see him in action over Skype the other day. He's not content to sit still any more (though a month ago sitting up unassisted was the coolest thing ever); as soon as he hits the floor he's moving, usually making a beeline for the wires under the computer desk. (Mom obviously discourages this.)

--- 4 ---

This week's milestone was reportedly learning how to wave bye-bye, which he did three times yesterday. Apparently Thursdays are Matthew's "Hit a new milestone" days.

I demand partial credit for the waving; I read somewhere a while back that babies his age are supposed to know how to wave, so I started making a point of waving goodbye every time it was appropriate. I obviously primed his little brain for the developmental leap which he made when Dad left after his lunch break yesterday.

(Related: When Teresa was about 2, she was evaluated by the county for one reason or another and the evaluator noted that she should be able to stack blocks at her age. So Dad tutored her in block-stacking until she got it.)
--- 5 ---

There are at least two different topics I wish I could complain/vent about here, but I'm not nearly anonymous enough for either of them. I think that's one reason I complain about my poor husband so much; it's a relatively consequence-free way of redirecting all my whinyness. I mean, if I do it enough you all will think I'm a complete shrew, but Scott knows I'm only about 3/4 shrew and his is the only opinion that matters.

I wish more of my friends were on Skype regularly. I hate calling people up "just to chat" (i.e. to use them as free therapy) and Mari (the only other person who's on Skype every day) is sick of hearing about at least one of the unbloggable topics. She's probably sick of hearing about the other one too.

And no, I'm not doing paid therapy again. Really, nobody wins when I try to treat social anxiety by TALKING TO A STRANGER.

(I know, therapy is effective and helpful and all that. The cost/benefit analysis just doesn't work for me right now, so I cope with my mental health issues by making inappropriate jokes..)

--- 6 ---

I wish I had some kind of website or program to use to design and decorate houses. I have an easier time writing my novels if I can picture the place in which my characters live (otherwise the bedroom will be on the left side of the hallway one day and the right on the other), plus I just enjoy playing architect and interior designer for a day. But The Sims 2 is the only thing I have that can make 3-D houses and its ability to create realistic spaces is limited.

I am hoping somebody takes pity on me and suggests something. Last time I posted something like this I discovered MyHeritage family tree software, which has been exceedingly useful in creating totally fictional family trees. (Thanks, Melanie!).

--- 7 ---

About a month ago Mom brought me a box of random stuff.  I need to do a longer post with all of the awesome stuff I've been unearthing, but here's my favorite. This is part of a story that I wrote when I was probably 8 years old. My favorite thing about this story is definitely the fact that I included deliberate spelling/capitalization/etc. errors in the composition by "Meg", because of course it's completely unrealistic that an 8-year-old would have a firm grasp of written English. ;)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

French Pudding

I pretty much made this up myself, inspired by this recipe (which I had made before) and this recipe (which I hadn't). Also inspired by the fact that I had a bunch of bread heels and didn't want to make bread pudding.

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1/3 cup sugar
A little bit of cinnamon
9-12 bread heels
4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter and pour into the bottom of an 11x7 pan.
Add sugar and a dash of cinnamon; stir.
Tear bread heels into smallish pieces and layer in pan. You want enough for about 3 layers.
In a separate container, mix eggs, milk, vanilla, and another dash of cinnamon.
Pour over bread heels.
Stir up the bread heels a bit so that they are evenly coated with the milk/egg mixture.
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

I recommend that you eat this hot and top it with custard, fruit, pancake syrup...whatever you normally have on French toast.
It would probably taste better if you used white bread, but I use wheat bread so that's what my heels are. It's still good, just kind of whole-grainy.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Seven Quick Takes: Milestones and First World Problems

--- 1 ---

For the past several weeks, Matthew has been THISCLOSE to crawling. According to my mother's most recent Facebook status, he finally figured it out. My mother doesn't believe in using punctuation on Facebook, so I'll paraphrase instead of copy-pasting with last names edited out. (Her lack of punctuation is a lifestyle choice rather than a lack of intelligence, so I'm allowed to make fun of her.)

Earlier today, Matthew was playing on the floor, near Tammy-cat, who happened to be sleeping. Matthew decided that he wanted to pet the cat, so he managed to get up on his hands and knees and start crawling after her. Tammy woke up, saw him coming, gave Mom a look that apparently communicated, "See, I KNEW he was going to start chasing me someday!" and ran away. Matthew was very disappointed that all his work was for nothing.

Also, Mom found the old baby gate and put it up in his room yesterday so he can play in there while she folds laundry or whatever. This is not to be borne; Matthew learned how to crawl for the express purpose of going over to the gate and crying pitifully until he is rescued.

(Somewhat relatedly, my first sentence was reportedly "OPEN THE DOOR!" My mother doesn't remember when exactly this happened, because I was the second child so nobody cared, but she estimates that I was about 15 months old. Strangely, my early start at talking was not a sign of future talkativeness.)

--- 2 ---

Matthew's official first word will probably end up being "Kitty"; both of our parents have heard him say it at some point in the last few weeks. (Dad also claims he says "Dada" meaningfully, but everybody knows that "Dada" and "Mama" don't count unless both parents hear it.)

That's right: All his milestones are inspired by the cats; the rest of us are just chopped liver.

--- 3 ---

Teresa, not to be outdone by her little brother's milestones, apparently learned to read this week (after a year of practicing letters and such). Times like these I wish I didn't live 80 miles away...

--- 4 ---

Last week, Aldi was out of bread (and I was tired and it was late, so I didn't want to go anywhere else), so Scott only had enough bread for 2 sandwiches this week. The other day I folded his lunchmeat into cute little triangle thingies (it's round lunchmeat; what's a quarter of a circle called?) and sliced his cheese into quarters and stuffed them both into a baggie with some crackers and called it Lunchables. Because I can't rid myself of the idea that my husband is 5 and will think something is cool if I give it a fancy name.

He also had to suffer through green apples instead of red apples. I felt bad about that for a little while, and then I remembered that I only think things like this are hardships because I'm the 1% (not in America, but, you know, from a global perspective) and a little suffering is probably good for Scott. Think of all the starving children in Africa who would LOVE to have those apples!

--- 5 ---

When I made my initial grocery list, I calculated it out and would have gone $10 overbudget for the month if I had actually bought all those things. So I slashed it down to the bone and got underbudget. The first thing to go was, of course, the $5 Bucket o' Ice Cream. I whined a lot about that because I was kind of looking forward to it.

I'm sure all the starving children in Africa will weep bitter tears for me as I'm forced to make a pan of brownies instead. (Or possibly another cake. I haven't decided.)

--- 6 ---

I don't like eating the heels of the bread loaf (weep, weep). Scott would probably eat them himself, but I am the arbiter of all that takes place in the kitchen, so I've been stuffing them in the freezer instead. For the last month, little bags of heels have been attacking us whenever we open the freezer, so I figured it was time to do something with them.

My mother will usually make bread pudding, but I wasn't feeling like bread pudding, so I googled around and cobbled together a recipe for something I'm calling French Toast Casserole Bread Pudding, or French Pudding for short. I will post the recipe another time (You: "I have pins and needles that I'm sitting on!"), but I will say right now that it was DELICIOUS. I only made a small amount just in case I ruined it, but I am definitely going to have to make another batch or two.

--- 7 ---

I will let the last word in this post be from Matthew, who was Not Impressed with having to be part of Mom's fall fashion shoot earlier this week.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August grocery shopping and menu planning part 3

First: I was actually cleaning the living room on Saturday (nobody is more surprised than I am...) and found the receipt for the powdered sugar I bought that one time last month. It was 1.49, not 1.29. Fortunately, 20 cents won't break my grocery budget.

Now on to the actual post. These groceries were bought on Thursday, August 16.

Mik: $1.69 at Aldi

Lemon-lime soft drink: 87 cents at Kroger

Orange juice: $1.29 at Aldi

Sour cream: $1.29 at Aldi

Shredded cheddar: $2.99 at Aldi

Peas: 99 cents at Aldi

Eggs: 2 dozen for $2.30 at Aldi (Walgreens had them for 99 cents but they were out so I got a rain check)

Sausage: $2.29 at Aldi

Slice provolone: $1.99 at Aldi

Corn: 99 cents at Aldi

Fruits and veggies are all from Aldi.

Lettuce: $1.99

Grapes: 2 lbs for $1.50 (they did not look like that when I bought them; I was hungry)

Tomatoes: $1.49

Granny smith apples: $2.99 (Scott prefers red apples, but there weren't any good-looking ones. Poor him.)

Carrots: $1.29

Celery: 99 cents

Pickles: $1.19 at Aldi

Garlic: 99 cents at Aldi

Flour: $1.58 at Aldi

Egg noodles: 99 cents at Aldi

Cream of mushroom soup: 69 cents at Aldi

Diced tomatoes: 59 cents at Aldi

Dry red beans: $1.65 at Meijer (usually they're $1.50. Boo.)

Total: $34.62

Month-to-date: $175.96

Grocery > Other month-to-date: $33.61 (go me!)

Now a menu plan, for the first time in way too long!

Vegetable soup and garlic-cheddar biscuits (Friday) / Stroganoff and salad (Saturday) / Southwest chicken (Monday) / Pork roast, peas, garlic butter rice (Wednesday)

We'll probably actually have salad with our pork roast; we have a TON left and I am determined not to let it spoil. The peas will keep another week.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Seven Quick Takes: Budgets, chores, and children's books

--- 1 ---

For the past week and a half, I have been Doing The Budget. Scott will fetch me receipts and bill stubs and pay stubs and things, but I don't let him help enter the numbers, because he is crazy.

Exhibit A (which is actually my only exhibit): Let us say that we have an electric bill. The electric bill deals mainly with electricity which was used in the month of July. We receive the bill on perhaps the second or third of August and pay it a day or two later. (It is due on August 16, but it is easier to pay all the bills at the beginning of the month rather than paying the rent on the fourth and the student loans on the fourteenth and the electric bill on the fifteenth and the phone bill on the nineteenth.)

Scott, because he is crazy, thinks that the amount of this bill should be entered into the "Gas/electric" line for July's budget. (Our electric bill is actually a combined gas/electric bill, but it would have been cumbersome to call it that in the previous paragraph.)

I maintain, as any sane person would, that it should be entered on the appropriate line in August's budget, since the money actually leaves our account in August.

(Similarly, if Scott receives a paycheck on August 1 it is entered into August's budget, not July's, even though he did the work that earned that money in July.)

Even if you don't side with the sane on this, you can certainly see why it is better to have only one person entering the numbers. Otherwise there would be all sorts of horrible inconsistencies.

--- 2 ---

For the first eight months of my marriage, my approach to cleaning was to think, "I should clean something," clean the most offensive mess, and then get overwhelmed by the five million other messes. This worked okay, but certain chores never got done, like vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom. (Well, the bathroom would get cleaned once a month or so when I ordered Scott to do it.) 

So about a month ago I divided the apartment into four zones. Monday is "bedroom," Tuesday is "bathroom," Friday is "kitchen," and Saturday is "living room." I have to spend at least 20 minutes cleaning every day; within those 20 minutes I can pick whatever zone-related task I please. (20 minutes is my magic number; even if I'm bored out of my skull I can focus for 20 minutes.)

(Wednesday is "making the grocery list," Thursday is "grocery shopping," Sunday is, obviously, "resting.")

(Doing the dishes does not count as "kitchen." For it to count, I'd have to clean out the microwave or toaster oven, mop the floor, reorganize the fridge/pantry for easier food access, that sort of thing.)

Sadly, so far this means that my bedroom is kind of clean and the rest of the apartment is in disarray. Particularly the dining room table, since I haven't decided yet whether the dining room counts as part of the kitchen or part of the living room. I did make a valiant effort to clean the bathroom at one point. The tub is still grungy because I seem to be fundamentally incapable of cleaning a bathtub. I have managed the toilet and sink, though. And I vacuumed the floor and the rug at least once. I haven't mopped the floor yet. The other zones have been spot-cleaned according to the old method because I've been busy on the weekends and thus never actually get to them in the rotation.

(I am thinking of doing a rolling rotation wherein if I clean the bedroom on Monday and the bathroom on Tuesday and then don't do anything else, the next week I clean the kitchen on Monday and the living room on Tuesday. But I am worried that would be too hard to keep track of and I'd fall back into the old method.)

This isn't really crowdsourcing; I'm just talking this out so I feel semi-accountable for discovering workarounds to my laziness.

--- 3 ---

Am I the only one who only realizes she's sick in hindsight? I mentioned last week that I was feeling under the weather, but secretly I thought I was just being whiny. Now, though, I feel SO much better it's obvious that I was actually sick.

(This phenomenon is about 1/3 of the reason I never go to the doctor. The other 1/3 is stubborness/stupidity and the other other 1/3 is paralyzing terror of condescending attitudes and needles, both of which I associate--fairly or not--with doctor's offices.)

--- 4 ---

This post by Simcha Fisher reminded me of my own very favorite children's book, Charlie the Caterpillar.

Quick summary, composed by myself: Charlie is a caterpillar. None of the other anthropomorphic animals want to play with him because they think caterpillars are ugly. Charlie is, of course, very sad. Later, he turns into a butterfly, and suddenly everyone wants to play with him because he is SOO BEAUTIFUL! Charlie says, essentially, "Why would I want to play with you losers?" and flutters away. (At some point he also befriends a little girl caterpillar who got picked on by the anthropomorphic animals too.)

I LOVE this book, possibly because it is one of the few children's books that doesn't end with everyone joining hands and singing Kumbaya. I am not sure if that makes me a bad person or not. (I loved this book when I was about 7 years old too, by the way, though I doubt I could have articulated why.)

Relatedly, this is the best version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer EVER. Make sure to listen all the way to the end.

--- 5 ---

After Doing the Budget (yes, these Quick Takes were written over the course of several days), Scott and I decided we should try to cut back our spending a little if at all possible. Right now I am working on two main areas:

A) The Grocery > Other category. This is for all non-food items purchased at grocery stores--usually things like Ziploc bags or toothpaste, but I've put other things in this category too. (Sometimes thank-you notes and such are in this category and sometimes they're in the Miscellaneous > Other category. Consistency is for tiny minds, not creative geniuses such as myself.)

Anyway, I arbitrarily decided pre-marriage that the Grocery > Other limit would be $50. I have never actually been under this limit. In June I spent about $92. (I got a really big package of AA batteries! And other stuff!) So this month that's going to change. I will probably start including a tally at the end of my grocery posts, though I doubt I'll post pictures because who wants to see other people's toilet paper?

B) The Gas/Electric subcategory. (I forget what its parent category is called. Something clever like "Bills.") Our spending in this subcategory has almost doubled since May. This is unacceptable, so I have been setting the thermostat a whole 2 degrees higher than usual. (And then I complain a lot, because I am not very virtuous yet.) I've also been turning off lights when I'm not using them and hibernating my computer at night instead of leaving it running. (This is safer for the computer anyway, if there are thunderstorms.)

(Just now, I turned off the air conditioning entirely and opened the patio door because somehow it is 13 degrees cooler outside than it is in my apartment. And now my apartment smells like the woods after rain. Win all around.)

--- 6 ---

I have been having a hard time with the whole food measuring concept this week. First, I decided to bake a cake on Saturday. Because I'm a grown-up and can bake cake whenever I feel like it. The Devil's Food Cake recipe in my cookbook was for two 9-inch round cakes, and I wanted a 13x9 rectangle cake. So I doubled the recipe.


My 11x7 pan was occupied by leftover cornbread, so this is what I ended up doing:

Take note of the fact that the cake is *THISCLOSE* to overflowing from the smaller pan. Here's another picture just in case that one isn't clear.

I somehow still managed to put frosting on top without making a huge mess. The little cake is gone now. (It lasted a surprisingly long time, considering that my mom had a piece, my older sister had a piece, I had a piece every day, and Scott had a piece every day he remembered. He actually likes it, even though his first comment on the frosted cakes was "Those look WAY too chocolatey." Silly boy.) I am going to break into the larger cake as soon as I do some dishes.

Then on Tuesday or so I decided to make sausage egg muffins. I normally make 2 dozen muffins with 1 pound of sausage. I had a pound of sausage, but only one clean muffin tin and I didn't feel like washing the other one. So I figured I could freeze half the sausage.

And then I forgot and just distributed it all among the 12 little muffin cups.

I'm not going to lie, egg muffins with double the sausage are pretty delicious. But I have a feeling routinely doubling it would damage that whole "cutting down on expenses" thing I'm trying to do.

--- 7 ---

Before he left for work this morning, Scott said, "Remind me to clean the bathroom when I get home."

Me: "You don't have to tell me twice!"

Scott: [laughs]

He is the best husband ever, am I right? Even if he does turn up his nose at my attempts at cleaning the bathtub.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Garlic butter rice

I am slightly appalled that I have never posted this. We haven't made it lately (I might have to make it this week), but this is definitely one of Scott's favorite sides and we've eaten it a LOT in the last 9 months.

1 cup rice
2 tbsp butter
2 cups water
2 tsp dried parsley
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Combine and cook/simmer until tender at least 30 minutes. 

When I make this with brown rice I often use 3 cups of water (and some extra seasoning if I remember) because in my experience brown rice takes longer to cook.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August grocery shopping parts 1 and 2

The first three pictures are from an Aldi trip on August 1. I had to go to Joann's to buy thread for my sister's tote bag and since we didn't have enough stuff to make anything for dinner I made a "quick stop" at Aldi. ("The Other Aldi", as I call it, is right next to Joann's.)

On August 3, the day after my sister got her tote bag, I went out again: To Meijer for chicken, applesauce, dishwasher soap, and laundry quarters (there's a bank in the store); to GFS for beef and those sponges with the green scrubby side; and to Kroger for vegetable boullion. (It seems ridiculous to go to a store and buy only one thing, but it was on the way back from the other stores at least.)

Total Week 1: $84.65

The next three pictures are from a combined Aldi/Meijer trip on August 9. I'm surprised by how few groceries there are; I wasn't feeling well that day so the trip seemed much more difficult and time-consuming than usual. (Side note: The eggs weren't on sale or anything; I just needed a lot of them.)

Total Week 2: $56.69

Month-to-date: $141.34

I'm actually lower than I was last month at this point, which I'll take as a sign that I'm at least not hopelessly off track. (I feel like I haven't been staying on top of stuff with all the busy-ness and being sick, but apparently I have this down to a science.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Seven Quick Takes of Mostly Awesome Stuff

1. I was going to write a long woe-filled take about how the stars aligned just the wrong way and it took me literally an hour yesterday to find Scott and pick him up after he was deposited by the bus (he fell asleep and missed his usual stop, etc., etc., and then I cried) but when I was deleting the five messages from Scott off our landline's voicemail this morning I also discovered one from my friend Grace. Of course I had to call her back, and we ended up talking for an hour and I felt much better and now I don't care enough to type out the whole saga. Which is good because this is supposed to be QUICK takes.

2. To counteract our Fail-A-Palooza of yesterday evening, Scott and I unclogged the sink drain all by ourselves this evening. The sink is kind of cantankerous and we've had to call the landlord to come fix it at least 3 or 4 times since we moved in 9 months ago. But now we are REAL grown-ups and can do it ourselves! *pats self on back*

3. After Scott finally got home yesterday, he told me that at a meeting at work his higher-ups mentioned that since the team does such valuable work for the company they have decided to extend all the contract workers' contracts to the end of the calendar year (Scott's team is almost entirely contract workers). Then at the end of the year they'll reevaluate and decide if they want to hire the contract workers as regular full-time employees.

My response was "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on", but I'm actually terribly excited. If Scott's contract really does get extended to the end of the calendar year that's 3 more months of financial solvency for us, which is always nice, and then a full-time job after New Year's would be even better. (Scott LOVES his job, so no worries about trying to find a better one, at least for now.)

(For those of you just tuning in: Scott does computery stuff. Databases and automation and blah blah blah.)

4. Yesterday my mom happened to be on Craigslist and found a dining room table and four chairs for $50 in the next village over from my hometown. (My hometown is a city, technically, but almost everything else in the county is a village.) She offered to go pick it up for me so of course I said yes.

So now I have a table and chairs. (My mom is driving all the way down here tomorrow to drop them off.) I'm sure my in-laws will be very happy to have their card table back. And I'm happy that I was able to bend reality to my will by saying "I won't spend more than $50 on a table and chairs" and then waiting until a set that met my specifications magically appeared.

5. I spent most of the afternoon reading this post and the associated comments and laughing hysterically. It makes me nostalgic for the days when my older sister and I used to run around doing violent things to each other. (My mother has been frequently heard to lament that she had ONLY GIRLS and yet we were ridiculously physically aggressive. Meanwhile, my husband has five brothers and somehow does NOT have fond memories of all of them beating each other up. Or really any memories of that at all. Apparently they just yelled at each other a lot. So much for that boys-are-violent theory.)

The post also makes me want to teach Teresa some of the less violent games, like The Upside-Down Game. (That game involves hanging off the living room furniture with your head on the carpet commenting to the family members who aren't playing the game, "Why are you upside-down? Why are you walking around on the ceiling?" until the blood rushing to your head makes you woozy and you have to slither off the furniture and roll around on the floor laughing. Good times.)

6. I am trying to think of interesting things I did this week. I think I'm having some kind of allergy flare-up/sinus infection/bubonic plague, because I have been moving SOOO SLOOOWLY the last few days. It makes it hard to get anything interesting done.

7. I did cook some stuff, which is really an accomplishment when you can't wash dishes because your sink is backed up and the piles of dirty ones threaten to eat you whenever you walk into the kitchen.

Here are some pretty pictures to distract you from my blogging ineptitude.

Fried pork chops. They taste at least as good as they look.

Banana bread (because the muffin tin was dirty), which came out of the loaf pan ALL IN ONE PIECE!

See? I am AWESOME.

Garlic-parmesan breadsticks that I made on a whim yesterday because we had leftover spaghetti sauce but no spaghetti or meatballs. Scott and I sat on the couch dipping breadsticks in spaghetti sauce and watching The King's Speech. It made the evening go from terrible to kind of nice.

Tomorrow I'm making chocolate cake. Just because I can.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fried Pork Chops

The actual recipe is here. I figure a link can't hurt in case I ever want to find it when I'm not in a position to access my frequently-visited sites on Firefox.

Some actual content, just to make this post worth reading: Even though this recipe is so delicious you might just die, I kind of dreaded making it for a while because it just took FOREVER to turn a pork roast into delicious pork chops. Obviously, one solution would be to go up to the meat counter and have them chop your roast for you, but if you have social anxiety that trumps your aversion to handling raw meat, that might not work for you.

So, two tips for turning a pork roast into raw pork chops:

1. Make sure your pork is the right temperature. I have found that half-frozen is the best. If your pork is fridge temperature, it will be too squishy to handle. If your pork is frozen, it will be too hard to cut. So you have two choices: A) Put the pork roast in the freezer for approximately 2 hours after you get home from the store and then take it back out and cut it. B) Take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge approximately 24 hours before you need to cut it up. (So, at least 25 hours before you want to eat dinner.)

2. If your pork has a layer of fat along one side, use scissors. I have a knife block that I got for $30 at Wal-Mart and most of the knives are only slightly better than useless but I would have happily paid $30 for the kitchen shears alone. I use a knife to cut through the fleshy part of the pork and then it's an easy matter to use the scissors to cut through the layer of fat that's holding the chops together along the bottom.

(I'm guessing you could also somehow shave off the fat, but why would you want to do that? Fatty pork is delicious pork.)

I'm making these for dinner tonight. Yum.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

July grocery shopping parts 3 and 4

I don't feel like doing a comprehensive rundown here, so you just get a quick summary. Maybe I'll start fresh with the more comprehensive posts in August, or maybe this has run its course as far as keeping my interest. This is my blog; writing should not be boring for me. (Reading can be boring for you, though. :))

The first three pictures are from Thursday, July 19:

Bonus: You get to see the cutting board that I almost set on fire. (It has since been thrown out. RIP pretty floral cutting board that matched our dishes!) Did I tell that story? I don't remember and I am too lazy to look through the last month of posts.

The only out of the ordinary thing this week was the Triscuits, which I bought because they are the perfect eating-in-the-car food. (I figured out recently that I think I get mild motion sickness while in the car, which is why I always want to eat nonstop during road trips. My brain says, "Bad feeling in stomach! Must be hunger!" I channel that urge with salty crackers, which actually seem to help, though that could be psychosomatic.) I know I mentioned that we went out of state for a friend's wedding on July 21.

Total this week: $29.47

Month-to-date: $178.41

The next two pictures are from Thursday, July 26.

The eggs were 99 cents a dozen, which is why I got so many.

The peaches were 99 cents a pound, because I can't justify buying fruit for more than that. Sometimes I get bored of apples and carrots so I buy something fun and eat it all. (Seriously, Scott didn't get any peaches. I think he doesn't like peaches? Let's go with that.)


Total this week: $18.23

Total for July: 196.64

Apparently I really can't force my grocery budget much below $200 without giving up stuff like ice cream and bacon. And I don't need my grocery budget to be below $200 that much.

As far as I know, I'm not going to have to do anything special food-wise until my own birthday in November (and possibly not even then; Matthew's birthday is the day before mine and I'm hoping we can go up to my parents' and do a double birthday party/mooch-fest). I should start accumulating things for Thanksgiving and Christmas, though. (I already have a can of pumpkin puree; my mom got a bunch of cans on sale last year and gave me one.)

Edited to add: We literally didn't spend any money for food during the weekend away except for that box of crackers and ingredients for some muffins that I would have made anyway. Other than that we had my parents' food, wedding food, and hotel continental breakfast.We also went out for lunch with some friends on Sunday but our friend Peter insisted on picking up the bill. (I must admit I didn't argue too much, even though he's at least as poor as we are.) My budget would seriously be shot without free food provided by other people.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Seven Quick Takes: Free-Range Wifing Edition

--- 1 ---

First off, please pray for some acquaintances of mine who are going through a very difficult time. That's as specific as I want to get here on the interwebs, but God will know who you mean.

--- 2 ---

I told Scott this morning that I'm getting good practice being a free-range parent* just by being married to him. For example, I take him to the bus stop every morning and LEAVE HIM THERE. ALONE. (This is a new development; the first 2 months I sat in the car and waited for the bus to pick him up before driving home.)

I have no idea how people do this with their actual offspring, though. I am only able to console myself with the idea that Scott was getting on and off buses for a long time before I was married to him and can totally handle himself.

*Please note that I will probably never be an actual free-range parent; I have to pretend to embrace the free-range philosophy just to balance out my extreme neuroticism, so that when I actually have children I will be just mildly overprotective.

--- 3 ---

Scott is actually honing my parenting skills in other ways. For example, we had this conversation last Saturday when we were making a quick stop by his parents' house in between other errands (just before we got out of the car to go inside).

Me: "So, when we go in, what are we going to do?"

Scott: "Get the mail."

Me: "What are we NOT going to do?"

Scott: "Socialize."

(And it was EXACTLY the tone a small child would use, too.)

So we went in, got our mail, said a quick hello just so we wouldn't be rude, and were out again within 5 minutes. It was awesome, but am I the most condescending wife ever or what? The problem is that it WORKS. Making expectations clear beforehand and giving 10-minute warnings and all those things you do with 5-year-olds are the only thing that keeps me from bursting into tears every other day because Scott has this kind of impressionistic idea of how time works. (I'm INTJ, he's INTP. Literally all of our arguments are over J/P differences.)

On the plus side, I am going to be a total expert by the time we have an actual pokey 5-year-old.

--- 4 ---

I spent the last 4 months sewing a tote bag for my sister out of some leftover fabric I happened to have lying around. I wanted to finish it by her birthday, July 25, but I did not. As I mentioned recently, she had a doctor's appointment in the Big City yesterday, so I was determined to finish it by then. And I did. Behold:

I have quite the sense of accomplishment after finishing the tote bag. My next project will be assembling my nightstand, which has been sitting in that box you see under the tote bag for, oh, 3 or 4 months at least.

--- 5 ---

My friend Mari is moving to a new apartment this month and was trying to draw me a picture of the layout. I was therefore inspired to draw a picture of the layout of my apartment. Since I don't think I've ever described the apartment to you all, I thought I'd post it here. Therefore:

I left out almost all of the clutter we have lying on just about every available surface. We are not very tidy people over here. But that gives you a general idea. I actually really like our apartment; its minimalist layout speaks to my sense of efficiency. And I can't even keep 600 square feet clean, so I'd be totally incompetent in a larger space.

--- 6 ---

When my mom and sisters came by yesterday, they brought a box full of random junk that belongs to me. (They have enough boxes of random junk of their own and aren't interested in storing mine.) I have been enjoying looking at various drawings from when I was about 10 years old. If I suddenly find myself with copious blogging time, I might photograph some of them and post them here. (A printer/scanner is something WAY down our list of financial priorities, sadly.)

--- 7 ---

Time for a picture of Matthew! Isn't he getting SO BIG? (Wah.) 

Those Duplos have been around since I was his age, pretty much. Also, Mom points out that he has dark circles under his eyes because he has an ear infection and hasn't been sleeping. Poor baby.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!