Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Charm Quilt Top

I'm trying something new (with varying degrees of success!) now that I got the freezer stocked. My goal is to work from 4 or 5 AM until 4 PM. Period. During that time, I do all my chores, be it laundry, floors, typing, proofing, sending work out, answering phones, baking some bread to go with dinner, and dishes, dishes, dishes. At 4 PM, I am trying to get upstairs.

Yesterday, I got side tracked by a dirty bathroom and lost an hour cleaning it, and also cleaning out a small closet. But I did make it upstairs to sew a bit!

Tonight I did even better. I got side tracked again, by Major Important Discussions, about car repairs and cable service problems..... sigh..... but I still made it upstairs and managed a couple hours of sewing! Yay!

Borders are on Wiffie's lady bug quilt, and it is ready to be sandwiched and pinned tomorrow and then I will start quilting it!

Plus I have a block for Saturday Sampler to complete (half done) so I can get the next month's block this Saturday. I have two more evenings to get that done.

In a completely unrelated note, 26 years ago tonight, I was in labor. Tomorrow, my youngest will be 26 years old. As one of my friends recently said, in a tone of wonder.....

"How can this be? Why, I'm only 29!!"

Happy Birthday Laurie!!


Monday, September 22, 2008


We actually had not given much thought to the possible hazards of operating a dog sitting/walking and house sitting business. We are in the process of growing it.... when we actually have time to pass out our flyers, and advertise what we do. It's a natural for us, given how much experience we have with pets of all kinds... But, I never expected to be given a puppy that we took care of! That can't happen every time, that's for sure!

A neighbor asked Michael to care for his dogs while he was on a trip. We walked over together to feed them the first afternoon and I discovered that it was a mom and dad chihuahua and three adorable puppies. They were about six or eight weeks old, and just so much fun to watch. Two boys, one girl. The little girl really caught our eye. She was smaller, shy and timid.... just melted me. She was my favorite!

Later, we found out that our neighbor was going to have to get rid of the puppies. I would have thought that he wouldn't have any trouble, given that they were purebred puppies and so cute! (Then I looked at the web page for the county shelter and saw that of the dozens and dozens of dogs listed? better than half were short-haired chihuahuas! I don't understand that. They are kind of funny looking, but why are so many unwanted?)

Anyway, he mentioned to Mr. B. that he was trying to find homes for them, and asked if we would like to have the one we had fallen for, the little girl.

We talked it over and decided that if she fit in well with Tuffboy, we'd go for it. Tuffboy really wears Sadie out and this dog will be his size when grown, and closer in age to him. Plus, dogs are Michael's passion. He firmly believes that his dogs are the reason his blood pressure is so low. They make him happy; they make the house more of a home for him. Not that our daughters or I myself are not important to him....just that the dogs are usually rescues and he finds a lot of satisfaction in providing for them a "forever" home, and he enjoys their antics and company every day.

There are times when I'm positive that that's not how it works for me :) but I can understand the sentiment. When I get to sit upstairs and sew, creating something for someone I care about, it makes the rest of the day, the concerns, the battles, the stress, just melt away....

If having a pack of dogs can do that for him, and as long as they are small (I am really afraid of big dogs, even Max the Wuss scares me pretty often!)..... I guess it's doable!

We picked her up while our daughters were away. We thought with less excitement, we'd get a clear reading on how well everyone got along. Over the course of the first two hours, she went from whimpering and once yelping when I tried to pick her up to bring her inside, to tentatively batting Tuffboy across the nose, and wagging her little tail.

The naming was difficult. We just had no good ideas. Nothing I brought up with Michael was acceptable, in his opinion. I thought Pinky was a great name. Yes, from the Pinky and the Brain cartoon. (snicker!)

See what I mean? (no, Karen has no ambitions to take over the world....but for some reason the puppy reminds me of those two characters!) But Michael frowned at that one.

Then I offered my next brilliant suggestion...


Am I really the only one that sees the resemblance? Again.... I was voted down.

She's covered in freckles across her belly, and under her little arms.... But "Freckles" didn't fly as a name either...

Phoebe, Chloe, Katie and Bonny..... X'd off the list.

Bunny? No, and not Kitty either! (despite a strongly feline appearance at times!) Sigh!

We kept coming back to the name that Karen had suggested, based on the very first time she saw her, six weeks ago. She had said we needed a name...

With. Meaning.

And she felt that the puppy was an old soul. That she looked like a beautiful spirit that had been here for a long time, shining out of a wiggly puppy body. I know, it's silly. But really, look at this face.

Click on pix to "embiggen!"

I think that Kimiko (kim-ee-koe) meaning "beautiful history child", is fitting. She is Kimi for short. Tuffboy has a girlfriend. Kimi has a forever home.

And she has something she'd like to say.....

"Yo quiero Taco Bell!"


And once again, there are five....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More OAMC pix- a bit confusing, cos this week, it is a bear.

Here's a picture I forgot to include from my composting class! When they explained about how to "cook" a hot composting pile.....they showed us the Mother of Big Thermometers! Teehee! I found one for about 16.00 online - but they range up to five times that much, so when I am ready to purchase, I will be careful!

I had the best time after the class, wandering around the arboretum with Karen, seeing her favorite "quiet" place, the ducks and the beauty.... A highpoint of my weekend!

I'm posting in bits and pieces because this week is a bit challenging. One of my busiest transcriptionists is on vacation (the nerve of some people's transcriptionists! just kidding Vicki! I honestly hope you are having a WONDERFUL TIME!!) and the rest of us are trying to fill her shoes.

For a size 2 perky little lady...... they are awfully big shoes!

Anyway, I have a few moments here and wanted to put up a few pix from over the weekend. I made a bunch more entres over the weekend, and I should be rolling in sewing time, any day now!

Well, when that pesky staircase I'm wallpapering doesn't call my name as I walk by.....

First, where's the beef?

The little tidbits left on the slicing board above? Happy DogFood Additives!

I defatted the broth from the Roast Beef To Die For (which was very good, but maybe not quite worthy of the title....but still, VERY good) and I made rich brown gravy, sliced the beef and packaged beef/gravy together.

I have a recipe for mashed potatos that can be frozen, and Michael says they are GREAT. So I will make up a batch of them to freeze in three pans, and the combination of beef/gravy/potatos will keep that member of the Peanut Gallery happy when it is available. Michael likes meat, meat, and more meat. Potatos are his second favorite food group. And nothing truly green is found on his food pyramid. (Pale green iceberg lettuce occasionally, but anything else tends to make him run for the hills.)

I, on the other hand, have a slightly green tinge to my skin....I love green vegetables, spinach salads, plates of green beans with almonds, any green veggie is my friend.

Anyway, Mr. B also LOVES enchiladas. So I decided to bite the bullet (not fond of making them) and make a large quantity for the freezer. Mr. B's enthusiasm for this undertaking extended to being on the assembly line. I softened the shells in hot oil. He stuffed some of them with the shredded beef I had made earlier overnight in the crock pot, and some of them with a blend of three cheeses. Each package got 3 beef and 2 cheese, or vice versa.

Seven meals (plus he will have leftovers for a lunch/snack in each package) in all!

Here, Mr. B gives one of the enchiladas a strict Quality Assurance Test. It passed, if the moans of delight are any indication of quality.

Moving on, I had partially frozen (makes it easier to slice) a hunk of London broil that was on sale.... nice and lean.... and I thin-sliced it into slivers for beef stroganoff.

It was packaged without noodles, and all I will need to do when he has a craving for stroganoff is reheat it while fresh cooking some noodles. 15 minutes later - stir in the requisite sour cream and voila! Dinner is served.

I was pooped last night - it was an easy night on the grill for me! I had put these kabobs down (the meat at least) with a really really good sauce!

Kabob sauce

Roughly 1/2 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 packets of Splenda)
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup salad oil
1 tbsp prepared mustard
salt and peper to taste
1/2 cup water

Simmer for 15 minutes and soak beef in it, in ziplock bag for at least a few hours. I left mine in the sauce overnight. It was a success, even with Karen (an only occasional meat-eater).

Tiger was a constant presence while they cooked and she scored a bite for her efforts!

More Later..... I forgot some pix on my memory stick!

And one QUILTY item of interest! I got an email from All People Quilt this morning and I loved this quilt!

You can download the instructions (not sure if you must be a member, but membership is free). It is SEW cute! And surprise! No set in seams!


Composting Class and Karen's Special Place at Arboretum

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yay! Head Start on the OAMC!!

Our biggest transcription account cut us a break today and did not have anything to send to us..... Troops Dis-Missed!!! Mr. B. and I took advantage of the opportunity to get the shopping accomplished before the weekend crowds and took off for Costco and Ralphs... I was so fired up by the time I got home, I started some of the meals I am going to be freezing for use later in the month.

"Once A Month Cooking" is a really helpful technique for me. I don't manage to do it well enough that I only have to cook once a month. But I do use the basic principles to help me get a number of entres into the freezer. I use 8" or 9" disposable aluminum pans, and I have glass or metal baking pans the same size in my cabinets. When a dish is removed from the freezer, I pop it out of the disposable pan and into the glass or metal baking pan, to thaw. The disposable pan is washed and saved to use again. They don't really become disposable until I've used them four or five times and managed to stick a hole in them!

Once thawed in a glass baking pan, the dish can be microwaved, if its a simple reheat of an already cooked meal. And if thawed in a metal pan, it can be baked in the oven, especially if its something like a lasagne, etc, that has been prepped and frozen before actually being baked.

Tonight I got five meals prepped and they are now cooking (4), or marinating (1). I found a turkey on sale at Ralph's for just over half price! Instead of $16.60, it was $9.68! And it was a fresh one, which meant I could zip home and immediately make it into two main dishes. (I had looked at a frozen breast alone for $15.00, and this was way less, plus I had the rest of the bird to cook for broth, soup, and "dog food"!! All four dogs love a tablespoon of the turkey bits mixed with their dry kibble....

Since I only have two crock pots, I made two recipes in baking dishes and will bake in a low temp oven tonight and get up early in the morning to package the finished dishes for the freezer.

First I made Southwestern Turkey.

1 Tbsp oil
1-1/2 pounds turkey breast (cut into 1 inch chunks)
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained (14 oz can)
1 small green bell pepper, thinly sliced
(I used mini red, orange and yellow peppers I had on hand)
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tsp sugar
1/2 Tsp salt.

I heated the turkey chunks in the oil until browned. Then I put the turkey in the baking dish, mixed the rest of the ingredients and poured them over the turkey. Its baking at 225 overnight. (Could go in crockpot for 6-8 hours on low setting).

This is one of Michael's favorites!

With the other breast from that turkey, I made Lemon Herb Turkey

1 turkey breast
juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary (or 1 Tsp dried and crumbled)
1 Tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp spicy or Dijon mustard
1/2 Cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

First, Michael and I went out in the pitch black backyard, and I held a flashlight for him while he climbed up on the slope and got fresh lemons off our lemon tree. :)

I put the turkey breast in a shallow dish. I zested the lemons, and put that over the breast. The remaining ingredients, I mixed and carefully placed over the breast in the pan. It smelled SO good. I covered it tightly with foil and it's baking in the oven with the other turkey dish!

Into one crock pot, I made "Roast Beef To Die For"

1 large roast (can use pork loin, also)
1 envelope of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 envelope of Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
1 envelope of brown gravy mix
1 cup of water

I put a layer of onions on the bottom of the crock pot, just 'cos we like them! I put the roasts on top of that, and then mixed the remaining ingredients and poured them over the top of the roast. This is such a simple recipe, but it's soooo good. Michael will smell it on his way out the door for work tomorrow. He hates working Saturdays, but maybe knowing that roast is waiting will make the day more tolerable!

In the other crock pot, I made "Steak Soup". Michael loves beef soups and stews, so I thought this would be great to put up in 2-3 serving sized containers in the freezer. Someday when I retire, I'll get back into canning. One of the things I will can will be soups and stews! If the power ever goes out, we won't starve and what is canned won't go bad!

I used a large sirloin steak, cut into bite sized pieces, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, a package of onion soup mix, 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped celery ribs, 4 cups of water, some frozen peas, and some corn. This dish is Simplicity itself, but he loves a bowl of soup with a bit of cheese grated on top, and fresh baked bread. Can't get much more frugal than that!

And the fifth meal is Sticky Chicken. I got this recipe from a friend a long time ago and have seen variations of it online on different sites.

First, two nice chickens (bought on sale at half price - yay!)

After they were cleaned and dried, they were rubbed all over, inside and out, with a mixture of spices:

1/2 Tsp black pepper
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1 Tsp white pepper
1 Tsp thyme
1 Tsp onion powder
1 Tsp cayenne pepper (I omitted this time, the other peppers are enough for us)
2 Tsp paprika
4 Tsp salt

After they were covered with the spices, they were put in bags and they are waiting in the fridge for tomorrow morning.

Right before I leave for my composting class, I'll stuff each one with 1/2 cup of chopped onion, and pop them in the oven. They get roasted, uncovered, at 250 for five hours. By the time I get back from class, they should have started forming pan juices and these will caramelize and can be brushed over the chicken during the last two hours or so of baking. They become a really nice golden cover and the flavor is fantastic. It's a great main dish, and I particularly enjoy the leftovers on top of a Ceasar or Cobb salad, later! The carcasses will be cooked to get a broth base for a future soup. Another frugal winner!

Anybody got any good freezer-friendly recipes to share? I'm always looking for new ones!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gardens and Ladybugs

Last week was a pretty horr-ee-blay week. By Friday, my office looked like this.

My brain looked just about that good, too. I was a chaotic mess. But I shovelled out over the weekend and I feel much better now that order is restored (sort of)!!

And with my usual smooth subject changes...

My garden is winding down. My zucchinis are almost done.... my watermelons are ripening... my cherry tomatoes are getting scarce... It's going to be time soon to replant the whole thing with cooler weather crops.

I'm attending a free composting clinic this weekend and hope to score my own composter at a really good discount. Hopefully by composting and enriching my soil (which is predominantly clay at this point), my garden will produce more and insect control and water requirements will be positively impacted. I am going to try a variation of square foot gardening in some of my borders, and in those raised beds, I hope to try various lettuces, etc.

I gathered a lot of Japanese eggplant yesterday. This is just a few.

I was craving soup and curry....

so the eggplant became the key ingredient in a vegetable curry soup.

Must have done something right, because we inhaled it and I had to make another pot of the exact same soup today, by popular request from the Peanut Gallery!

It is especially good with a spoonful of sour cream stirred in! Yum!

Warning: Another abrupt subject change!

Progress, row by row, on the LadyBug quilt for Le Niece continues. I am deliberately setting the squares so that they form diagonal rows in a sort of rainbow effect. It's not as noticable as I had thought it would be, but anyway, here is a picture of the first couple of rows.

And, last subject change:

I forced myself to begin the Stairway to Hell Project Home Improvement Project #86. The wallpapering commenced today and already, I am not having fun. Whine, whine, whine. Me hates going around those pesky stair edges.


But I will perservere. Because I want the entire downstairs to get FINISHED so that I only have to worry about five things in life: eating, sleeping, exercising, chores/work, and getting into my sewing room. Yay!

Okay, I lied. One more subject change. Tomorrow, in an effort to help with the goal of getting the downstairs done and being able to sew more, I'm stocking up on food to cook up some of my OAMC recipes and reload the freezer with conveniently prepared entres. Hopefully, the days I wallpaper or sew, the Peanut Gallery won't starve.

That's my plan, anyway! :)

Old News

This past weekend, I was invited to a meeting of Pig and Pepper. It's a group of women who get together every month or so and just have fun. Daughter Karen's BFF TiJae conceived the idea and named it. I would love to know how she came up with the name!

One month they got together at Color Me Mine, a paint-your-own pottery studio.

One month they went to a spa for a day.... It was a special day at the spa with a low rate for that day, and they enjoyed the facilities, robes, tea and the overall relaxation opportunity and then went out for a meal together. The younger generation of this group is my daughter Karen's age, roughly. And the moms of some of these young women come from time to time also.

I believe next month involves a French restaurant. The dress code, last I heard, was all black, with a pink boa. (Darn! I have a purple one from my encounter with Eleanor Burns, but not a pink one! Come to think of it, I don't really have a black outfit either, but perhaps I'll come up with something!) I'm not real big on eating out, but I really enjoyed my time with these women.

I had a ball with them last Saturday! We went to see Bodyworld in Los Angeles, at the California Sciencecenter . It was the last day of the exhibit and there were lines... but it was well worth it. You could not take pictures inside the exhibits, but I found a few online from write-ups about it.

You can use this link about to read about the process by which the actual human bodies are preserved with a method called "plastination". The whole concept may seem off-putting to some, but I can vouch for how absolutely fascinating the displays were.

This is "just" a foot.... but wow....

This is why a facial injury bleeds so profusely - look at the blood supply of the head!

Many of the figures were in dance positions, or sports positions, such as gymnastic feats. They had various layers of skin removed, revealing internal organs or nerve branches or blood vessels. Again, I know some would say "Ewwwwwwwww", but I was just in awe of some of the things I was able to see.

I find this one particularly graceful.

And my public service announcement for today:

This is a normal pair of lungs.

This is a smoker's lungs. Enuf said.

After viewing the exhibits, we took off for Little Tokyo and after a brief adventure trying to find the freeway we really needed, we ended up at one of the group's favorite Asian restaurants. The food was plentiful and SO good! All in all, it was a really nice day! I enjoyed being with everyone (had not seen Janet, TiJae's mom, in way too long!) and I look forward to the next Pig 'n Pepper!

P.S. More pix of the day when TiJae posts the ones she took!! :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

We spent the first half of the day laboring.... Seemed appropriate, though not much fun! I got a lot of stuff cleared up downstairs, and stashed appropriately, or better yet, in "the freighter" to be carted off to Salvation Army tomorrow. The last thing we'll load tomorrow is a big old TV. The van will be full at that point. And still, we have too much "stuff". The decluttering continues.

Since the Kitchen Kabinet Adventure of 2008 is over now, we can start picking out counter tops and appliances. Everything in the kitchen is in need of repair or replacement. The sink pipe leaks. (I wrapped the pipe with seran wrap and duct tape to hold us over - and I'll have you know, that solution has worked for several years!) The stove top ignition broke and we light it with a lighter. No biggie - it works!! The oven is variable in temperature. And the microwave which works.....

(most of the time.......)

Oopsie! The handle came off in my hand a few days ago, and I rigged a pull with duct tape. I think I could get through just about anything, if I had duct tape and WD40. :)

This afternoon, Michael decided the day deserved a dessert!

He mixed up a cheesecake and did the dishes too! Yay! (It is yummy!)

I spent the late afternoon in my sewing room. I worked on another block for the Saturday Sampler.....

And, yes. I changed one of the colors... on purpose! "Quilter's choice" is a phrase I hear often, so this is what I will call it. I felt this combination showed the actual pattern of this block a bit more clearly.... in retrospect, I might have even changed it more, going with a gold substitution, but this is fine!

And then, since I've been working on a lot of the Saturday Sampler, which is rather challenging, I decided to give my brain a rest. I finished putting together the simple squares for the charm quilt for my niece. It was supposed to be a high school graduation gift.....

She starts her second year of college any day now! Sigh! It was supposed to be a surprise too, but maybe she can look forward to it if she happens to see it here. I'm headed for M&L's tomorrow to pick up some white-on-white for general use, but I think I will get some black for the ladybug quilt sashing, some yellow for a narrow first border (if you click the picture, the center of each daisy is yellow), and some red for the next border (picking up the red from the ladybugs), and more black for a binding.... How does that sound? Suggestions anyone?

Anyway, it may be late, but I am making progress on my UFOs, so that counts for something! :)

We finished the day with quick grilled chicken breasts and grilled squash from our garden, and fresh sliced tomatoes from the garden too! Yummy and easy!!

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day!