Friday, February 26, 2010
I'm kind of worried about myself.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
The whole purpose of these toys is to keep your dog happily busy, and boy, do they ever. Those two Kong toys? See how they're hollow? Well, what you do is stuff that toy with either a meal or just a treat of some sort. You can close up the hole with a little peanut butter, or you can put the Kong in the freezer for about twenty minutes or so. When you give it to the dog, he/she will be happily engaged for a good while in figuring out how to get the treats out of the toy and into the tummy.
When you first give your dog a Kong, you can pack it very loosely until they figure out what they're supposed to be doing with it. As they become more adept at "unpacking," you can put the food in there even tighter so that it's a little more challenging. Hershey is pretty darn clever at getting all the food out, but Wimzie -- that girl was a WHIZ. Zuzu is still learning, but she's a very smart little thing, so it won't be too long before she can receive a tightly-packed Kong and spend many a happy half hour puzzling out how to make it work.
The challenge of the un-packing is one of the joys of the Kong. First of all, the Kongs can roll around on the floor, so the dog has to figure out how to immobilize it. Hershey generally puts one foot on his, but Zuzu cornered hers up against the base of the china cabinet today. Second of all, the holes in the bottom of the Kongs are big enough to stuff food into, but not really big enough to get a nose into. Third, if you buy a Kong properly sized for your dog (Zuzu and Wimzie used the smallest adult version and Hershey's is the middle-sized version), you'll have just the right size to provide them with absorbing entertainment and just enough food so that to toy is stuffed, but not the dog.
Here are some of the things we stuff Hershey and Zuzu's Kong toys with:
~~dry dog food (they eat the small-bite type)
~~high-value treats like Snaussages or Beggin' Strips (only purchased when on sale and doled out with a stingy hand)
~~bits of chipped beef, chicken or turkey, which are also high value
~~peanut butter (in small amounts, because you want the peanut butter in the dog, not on the carpet)
~~bits of shredded cheese
~~little pieces of cantaloupe (Hershey's passionate fondness)
~~yogurt to mix different ingredients together (see peanut butter, above)
Kong also retails all kinds of toy-stuffing yummies at grocery and pet stores nationwide.
The football-shaped toys aren't quite the same. You can't stuff them with food items, but you can stuff them with treats. They aren't quite as involved as the Kongs, if you see what I mean. Hershey's big red football will hold about four puppy-sized treats; there's a small half-circle above the bigger opening that you can see in the picture above, and that half-circle is the challenging hole and holds one treat. The bigger opening holds two or three treats, depending on how hard you jam them in there. Obviously, the more stuffed the treat-holes are, the harder the dog will have to work to get them out.
We love both of these styles of toy because, first and foremost, they make the Hershey and Zuzu very happy. They bounce around in delighted anticipation when they see me getting out the bee skeps or the footballs. Secondly, these toys are marvelous for getting yourself a little peace and quiet. Hershey and Zuzu spend a lot of time playing with each other, tugging on their rope, getting underfoot, barking at the mail carrier and when I have just HAD IT, I put together the big Kongs (if I want to keep them busy for around an hour) or the football toys (if I just want them happily occupied for half an hour) and let them enjoy. Everybody's pleased.
Both styles of toy are dishwasher safe and last and last and last. I think all four of those toys in the basket are about four or five years old. They also have the added benefit of calming down an overly-stimulated dog (nice for when you have company and your dog just can't decide which guest to love-bomb next) and helping keep his/her teeth clean.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
"You've ruined me," she said flatly. "Completely ruined me."
I was suffering yesterday with what I'll term a "stomach complaint" (I'll spare you the details), so I was feeling a little ruined myself. "What are you talking about?" I asked plaintively. "Can you get me a cup of ginger tea? And maybe one saltine cracker?"
"I mean it. You have ruined me. Every time I see a road sign or some internet posting or whatever that uses there, they're or their incorrectly, it just goes all over my nerves like vomit on a Ferris wheel."
"Nice image," I said approvingly. "Very descriptive and imaginative. Now, tell me....what about to, too and two?"
"Were and we're?"
"Its and it's?"
"You're and your?"
"Utterly demolished. I can no longer tolerate usage errors and want to beat people with a large and heavy grammar book when I read them."
Joy suffused my entire being and my stomach complaint quieted down as I clasped my hands beneath my chin and closed my eyes in delight. "My work here is done. Finished! I have climbed the mountain, braved the elements, struggled over stony paths and come to this place to claim my victory."
She looked at me, one eyebrow raised. "We're out of saltines."
"Okay. Just a cup of tea, then," I said, crestfallen.
At this news conference, which took place just minutes after Tiger wrapped up his bright, shiny apology and laid it at our feet, Gloria said, "Why no apology? Veronica had a three-year romantic relationship with Tiger Woods ... He led her to believe that she was the only woman in his life -- other than his wife."
Did she really manage to say this with a straight face? I picture the assembled members of the media all taking this in and shooting sidelong glances at one another, trying to stifle their mirth. Did she really just say that? Really? "He led her to believe that she was the only woman in his life -- other than his wife?" and these two women....They think?....No, they can't really think that, can they?
But they do!
"I really feel that I deserve to look at him in person -- face to face, at his eyes," said Siwik-Daniels.
You mean, kind of like Elin did when he was promising to be a faithful husband to her on their wedding day?
I think Veronica may have missed that lesson in life where an older woman looks at her and says, "Honey, if he'll cheat for you, he'll cheat on you."
Other than that bit of incredulity, the whole thing just makes me sad. Imagine that girl honestly believing that he loved her. This man, world-famous, with a wife and two children, pregnant with those children at the time their affair was going on, and she believed he loved her. She says she still loves him. I mean, at least Elin had the moxie to grab up that nine iron and break the back window out of that SUV -- oh, wait, she didn't, heh heh -- but for this girl, who quit her career as a porn star because Woods "couldn't stand the idea of her being with other men," according to a quote from Allred from the article, my gosh.
While it's just appalling that she could be so blatant and shameless about having an affair with a married man while his wife was pregnant twice, I find that I can't help but feel sorry for her because of her ridiculous gullibility. Don't get me wrong -- I feel much sorrier for Elin Woods, and for different reasons. But this Veronica chippie, she's just pitiful. And in need of many lessons about the World of Men that she hasn't picked up from, well, you know.
So! Tiger! You are totally off our Christmas card list, and don't be expecting an acknowledgment of your birthday this year, either. I hope you make good on your promise to work out your issues of greed and entitlement and become an even better husband and father than you are a golfer. Because if you aren't?
Elin may have stashed nine irons all around the house to deal with any lapses.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
It was supposed to have a package re-delivered and placed upon its seat yesterday.
The package was not re-delivered yesterday. It was not delivered today.
When Aisling stepped out to get the mail, she asked our mail carrier about the package. The mail-carrier, a person who once fractiously accused our next-door neighbor of placing a piece of outdoor furniture on purpose so that she, the mail carrier, could trip over it and fall down and sue everyone on our street for our thoughtlessness, vaguely said, "I may have delivered that. I don't know. I can't recall. I think the post office lost it."
Lost it??!! Lost our package? As in, we're not ever going to get it and know who sent it and what was in it?
The package was delivered for the first time last Friday, one week ago. We weren't at home to receive it, so the mail carrier left us one of those little pink slips that asks you if you want to have the item re-delivered ("Fill out lines 1, 2, 3 and 4 and sign your name. Return the slip to your mailbox for your mail carrier to pick up") or if you want to go to the post office yourself and pick it up ("Go to the post office and pick it up.")
I wanted the item re-delivered because the post office is in a part of town where people sometimes get shot or stabbed or mauled by pit bulls, so I filled out the slip, requesting that the re-delivered package be left on the bench on my front porch. Aisling didn't put the slip in the mailbox as I asked her to do, so we had to wait until Tuesday to leave it for the mail carrier. Since Sunday was Sunday and Monday was President's Day and all that.
Yesterday, then was the day scheduled for the package to arrive, since the slip told us to allow two business days for re-delivery. And yet, no package, as I said above. No package today.
It was decided that I should call the post office.
Calling any government agency is something that requires you to be in the whole of your health before taking on their formidable phone systems. By the time I dialed the number and then sat there through the chirpy recorded voice saying, "...to find out about buying stamps online, press 4-3-6-5-8 or say 'BUY STAMPS ONLINE'. To inquire about the hours for your local post office, press 4-3-6-5-9 or say 'INQUIRE ABOUT THE HOURS.' To cast your vote in our non-scientific poll, Do you think this phone system is more or less efficient than the Pony Express, press 4-3-6-6-0 or say 'VOTE IN THE NON-SCIEN....'" I required antibiotics, a sedative and, I don't know, maybe some Viagra.
To escape from the hell of the endless menu, I pushed the zero button about six hundred times. A friend once told me that doing so will automatically throw you to some new realm where you might actually be able to speak with a human.
Pushing zero sent me to a customer service representative who was so utterly bored with me and my package, I fully expected to hear the thump of his head hitting the desk as he perished from terminal ennui, but he managed to hold it together long enough to assure me that he would try to find my package and have it re-delivered tomorrow.
We shall see.
Until then, I've nothing to do but fret about what it could be, and moreover, since we haven't ordered anything to be delivered by mail lately, if it is a box of...something?....that someone has sent us, someone who is currently thinking that we are the rudest and most ungracious people on the planet for not acknowledging whatever it was they sent.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
We don't often hang out in the driveway underneath the kitchen window, so we aren't concerned that one of those things will do us a mischief, but we are a little worried about their weight pulling the gutters right off the house. Not to mention that waterfall formation we've got going on there to the left. Could it pull the siding right off the house?
We fervently hope not.
Right underneath the kitchen window is a nice flower bed we made with those chunky bricks stacked up three high. It is to be planted with hostas and many colors of impatiens this summer, and I think it will be a very beautiful display on the shady side of the house; so lovely, in fact, that I'd like to set up a couple of comfy outdoor chairs and a table back there in the grassy part and sit there and drink some iced tea while reading something pleasant.
That thought is the ONLY thing that got me through this day, the day on which I have just heard from the National Weather Service that we here in central Indiana can shortly be expecting a brand spankin' new winter storm.......
My pictures look a bit better, don't they? I've been forcing myself to stand across the room and using the zoom feature on the camera to get close up and feeling like I ought to be setting up those big things that look like inverted white umbrellas (what are those even for?) and murmuring to my food, "Work with me, babe! The camera loves you and you love the camera. SHOW ME SOME CRUST!!!"
EASY TUNA CASSEROLE
2 cans albacore tuna, drained
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
½ cup mayonnaise
1 small onion, diced
1 large can French-fried onions
In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta, tuna, soup, cheese, peas, mayonnaise and onions and stir. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle the French-fried onions on top, bake for five more minutes.
Makes 6 servings
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
But I like Lent. It's hard, I admit. But since it is all about Jesus and the hardships He suffered, the temptations He overcame, the voluntary sacrifices He made, it only makes sense to join Him in His sorrows. I mean, we're ALL ABOUT joining Him during the Christmas celebrations, right? The twinkly lights, the gaily-wrapped packages, the tree be-decked with ornaments and the table be-groaned with tempting foods. I've heard plenty of people say that they're sick of the commercialization of Christmas, and I've known folks who have decided to opt out of a Complicated Christmas in favor of a Simplified Christmas, but I've never heard anyone say (other than John Grisham's Luther Krank in Skipping Christmas), "No, thanks. I don't think I'll participate in any of the merriment this year."
But trying to get people to volunteer to make personal sacrifices? To go without, whether the going without means sweets, X-Boxes or the internet, well, that's a whole different deal.
That's where the Church comes in so handy, I guess because misery loves company? No, that's not it. It's more like standing together, being a family in good times and in bad. Like all families, the Catholic Church, counting their members in the billions worldwide, has its regular everyday folks, the crazies, the jerks, the posers and the ones who are so good, they give you hope that the name they pass on will be one that honors everyone. During this time of year in particular, we're all gathered around the same sparsely-laid table, hanging together and waiting for the feast of Easter. It's so much more than what some call a "community" and definitely more than what other Christians see as just a mystical body of believers, tied loosely together by a common belief in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but divided by so much more.
That's not to say that all Catholics are in agreement. As a family, there are feuding members and members who don't want to have anything to do with one another, and others who are crucially disappointed in how things are being done. There are others who decide to bail altogether and seek their own way. But in spite of all that, there's that excerpt from St. Paul's epistle to Timothy, the young bishop, that can be found in the first letter, third chapter, fifteenth verse:
"But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth."
The church -- the Church -- is the pillar and foundation of truth, the household of God, the home of all Christians with the sacraments as their birthright. At the time of this letter's writing, it was obviously very young, not to mention highly illegal. But it existed and was constantly gaining new members. The truth that the Church holds in sacred deposit is that same truth that Jesus mentioned when He said in John 16:13, "When He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on His own, but speak what He hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming."
That was an important verse to me as a convert, both spiritually and historically. Since God had led me to question what I believed and why I believed it, I wanted to make sure I was going to end up someplace that had ALL the truth, the whole thing, even the parts I didn't necessarily want to have to acknowledge as true (hello, birth control?) I wanted all of it, the exalted, holy and uplifting truth and the ones that made my soul exalt and the hard truths that made me feel as fretful as a four year old, even while I was bending my knee to them in acknowledgment of their validity and importance, despite my petulance in receiving them.
I wanted it all and I got it, along with the tuna casserole I'm serving for dinner on on this, our eighth Ash Wednesday as Catholics.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I'm always looking for good recipes for barbecue sauce. If I have to buy it at the store, I find that Sweet Baby Ray's original style delivers the flavor we prefer, but I did post this recipe for Pulled Pork Barbecue Sandwiches in June 2008 and it is pretty darned good. So is this one, though, and just enough different that I think it's worth posting a second barbecue recipe. Plus, these ribs are so easy and good, I'd definitely make them again.
Sweet and Savory Barbecued Country Ribs
3-4 pounds country-style pork ribs (whatever will fit in your slow-cooker)
1 large sweet onion, cut into rings
1 bottle honey barbecue sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dredge the ribs in a mixture of flour, seasoned salt and plenty of black pepper (I used about a cup of flour, 2 teaspoons of seasoned salt and a half-teaspoon of pepper for our tastes) Brown in a skillet on both sides; transfer to slow-cooker. Place onion on top.
In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, stir together the barbecue sauce, maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper. Heat until warm, however long your microwave takes to do this. Pour over the meat and the onion in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until the meat is tender.
Dredge the ribs
It is an established fact that I can't photograph a plate of food that doesn't look like it ought to be the dogs' dinner instead of a person's, but I think I did a pretty good job on this picture of a fat cardinal perched on a twig of the burning bush outside my dining room window. I was pleased with it, but oh, IF ONLY IT WERE A ROBIN.
Seriously, I look outside these days and just want to go to Mother Nature's house and ding-dong-ditch her with a bag of burning dog poo on her porch. What is the DEAL with this weather? Al Gore has been boring me to sobs for years with this whole global warming thing and all I've got to say is that if this is global warming, I am a runway model. It is still snowing even as I type this; all the schools in the area are either closed or on a two-hour delay.
The skies are pewter gray again this morning, the mercury in the thermometer is shivering, huddled down in the high teens, and this summer? If I complain about how hot it is? Tell me I'm an idiot, okay?
Monday, February 15, 2010
Lent starts this week and I am really glad because I've been scouring the internet for some new seafood or meatless recipes for Ash Wednesday and for Fridays. I've scored a number of them that sound really delicious and fairly simple to prepare and one of them -- an old-fashioned, family-pleasin' tuna casserole -- is up to bat in just two days.
We've also got a special dessert for Fat Tuesday, as well as a yummy dinner that packs on the protein and carbs to cover us for our fast day on Wednesday.
Check out the menu planning over at Laura's place, I'm an Organizing Junkie. She's the originator of this fabulous idea and she has a really great blog.
Menu Plan for the week of Monday, February 15, 2010
Monday - Oven-fried chicken, big baked potatoes, mixed vegetables
Fat Tuesday - Baked Steak, whipped potatoes, green beans, Peanut Butter Cup Pie (recipe to come later, and although I've never made it before, it looks like a keeper)
Ash Wednesday - Easy Cheesy Tuna Casserole
Thursday - Tamale Pie (this one's a recipe from my internet friend, Beth)
Friday - Crunchy fish filets with homemade tartar sauce, oven-baked potato puffs, green beans
By the way, I grocery shop on Fridays or Saturdays, so I never list the foods we eat on the weekends, because then this whole layout wouldn't look like Menu Plan Monday. It would look more like Menu Plan Saturday, which doesn't roll off the tongue quite as smoothly, does it? And if I listed what we ate on the weekend after Friday's entry, that would be really weird because it would be food we'd eaten almost a week before, you dig?
Anyway, I do cook at home and feed my family on the weekends, for those of you who wrote to me and asked if Saturday and Sunday at our house are like a getaway to the Bastille. On Saturday, we had a new recipe called Amish Breakfast Casserole (a keeper) and barbecued country ribs in the slow-cooker on Sunday (also a keeper).
As you can tell from the title of this post, this is just one of the saddest days ever. We had to take Wimzie to the vet to have her put to sleep. We knew it was coming - her health has been deteriorating since last September - but recently she got to the point where we could see her faltering week by week.
The poor old thing got to the point where she didn't like to go for car rides anymore, car rides having previously been her main joy in life. Instead of standing on my lap and peering out the windshield or sticking her head out the window with her ears blowing straight back, she would huddle in my arms with her face hidden in the crook of my arm. She couldn't go on walks in the neighborhood; she had lost a lot of mobility and had episodes where her legs would drag behind her. She wasn't even barking at the mailman anymore.
So my husband, the girls and I started embarking on a series of exceedingly difficult conversations. Like, How do you know when it's time to say goodbye? and Could she possibly be in pain? But yesterday, there was an occurrence that let us know beyond the shadow of a doubt that something was wrong. Really wrong. So I called the vet this morning.
We had hoped to wait until Thursday, which is my husband's day off, but knew now that there was a really good chance that she was suffering. So the girls and I took her in and let me just say this unequivocally: That was one of the HARDEST and WORST things I've ever had to deal with. Which, I don't know, may mean that I have lived a very sheltered and even boring life, although I don't think so. I chalk it up to the fact that I'm an animal person and that Wimzie has been my constant companion for the past twelve and a half years. Those things considered, a strong bond is just a given, particularly since she acknowledged my position as alpha dog, something the rest of my family is often inclined to dispute.
Anyway, for those of you who have never had to euthanize a sick and/or elderly pet, let me just tell you that the whole experience will make you want to fall prostrate to the floor and just, like, STAY THERE. But I'll also tell you that it is a peaceful way for a pet to go, despite the fact that Wimzie summoned up enough of her old testy personality to try to bite the vet's hand off.
I just don't have the heart to describe her passing because I am already typing this through a crazy storm of tears and I'm just about BLIND from the mascara leaking off my eyelashes and into my eyes -- yes, even in times of crisis, I can be counted on to be wearing makeup -- but let me just say this: It wasn't such a bad way to go, you know? After a long lifetime of being treated like a member of the family, to come to the end of that happy life and to leave it peacefully, surrounded by people who loved her, well, who among us wouldn't want that for ourselves, let alone fourteen pounds of fur and grrr, a Jack Russell to win the heart and test the patience of a loving family.
Wimzie, darling girl, biter of plumbers, sworn foe of squirrels, you will never be forgotten.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
McKinney Family Top Twenty Love Songs
20. A Thousand Miles - Vanessa Carlton
19. Everything - Michael Bublé
18. Far Away - Nickelback
17. No Air - Jordin Sparks (Added under protest and only because Jordin is such a doll, but Chris Brown is a creep who beats up on girls and he shall not be forgiven.)
16. The Way You Look Tonight - Frank Sinatra
15. You and Me - Lifehouse
14. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers
13. Someone to Watch Over Me - Sarah Vaughan (This video is by Ella Fitzgerald)
12. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic - The Police
11. Head Over Feet - Alanis Morissette
10. Can't Help Falling in Love With You - Elvis Presley
9. Can You Feel the Love Tonight - Elton John (from The Lion King)
8. And I Love Her - The Beatles
7. When I Fall in Love - Nat King Cole
8. Our Song - Taylor Swift
7. Chances Are - Johnny Mathis
6. The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson (Absolutely hate this video, so no posting)
5. Daydream Believer - The Monkees
4. Close to You - The Carpenters
3. Your Song - Elton John
2. Vision of Love - Mariah Carey
1. Miss You - Aerosmith
What's your favorite love song?
Well, we all know by now that I am definitely not a talented food photographer -- I think I'm standing too close -- but honestly, it's hard to stay away from this meatloaf. (Nice segue, wasn't it?) I found this recipe online, did the usual tinkering that we all do to make it suit our family's particular taste, and served it last Wednesday with mashed sweet potatoes and green beans.
My husband very kindly allowed me to photograph his plate before he dug in.
Meatloaf is a very cost-effective main dish to serve the family because the "filler" in it stretches out the actual meat and allows for a multi-meal allotment that any busy family cook can appreciate. One of my favorite ways to use leftover meatloaf -- other than that way called LUNCH -- is to cut it in chunks and put it in baked spaghetti as meatballs. Er, meatcubes. You know what I mean. It's very good that way.
We enjoyed this a lot and it is a much easier recipe to prepare than the other meatloaf recipe I have posted here at InsomniMom, which is titled Comforting Meatloaf and can be found by clicking this link. True, the Comforting Meatloaf recipe is one that ingeniously hides a number of nutritious vegetables from the prying eyes of your picky children. And also true, it is a variation of Martha Stewart's mother's recipe and I have to say that the late Mrs. Kostyra -- God rest her soul -- really knew her way around a meatloaf.
But this recipe? It is much easier. It doesn't require lugging out the food processor to grate all those veggies, yet it is still really, really good. I don't know -- throw in an eighth of a cup of wheat germ for some extra nutritive value if you want to. But the main point is that this is an easy recipe, one that you can slap together in a matter of minutes when you need to serve the fam a meal that has nothing to do with On-Cor Salisbury Steaks, a frozen entrée that Kayte once scolded me soundly for dishing up chez McKinney.
Mom's Best Easy Meatloaf
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground sausage
3/4 cup oatmeal (either old-fashioned or quick)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix lightly but thoroughly. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick spray and put meatloaf into the dish, shaping into a loaf. Bake in oven for forty minutes. (I recommend not baking the meatloaf in an actual loaf pan because there won't be room for all the juices and they will spill out into your oven, creating a dreadful smoky mess and the smoke detectors will all go off and the dogs will bark and you'll have to gallop around the kitchen waving a magazine in the air to dissipate the smoke
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Because without the sauce, this may be somebody's meatloaf, but it can't be Mom's. Or even Dad's. The sauce makes the meatloaf and probably adds a serving of vegetables, so go ahead and pour it on.
Mom's Best Easy Meatloaf Sauce
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
When the timer goes off for the first forty minutes at meatloaf cookage, drain off the fat and then apply the sauce liberally over the top of the meatloaf. Bake another twenty minutes or until the inner temp of the meatloaf reaches 160 degrees.
Allow to stand for about ten minutes before slicing. Makes the best leftovers, like, ever.
Father [reading from his notes]: Just as a reminder, Lent is coming up this week [looks up and shoots a glance at entire congregation]. Ash Wednesday will be on Wednesday and you can come to pray the Stations of the Cross on Friday at seven o'clock p.m. right after weekday Mass. We'll also be praying the rosary in the half hour before Mass.
Congregation [thought bubbles appearing the above heads of those who are listening]: Ash Wednesday will be on Wednesday? Isn't it always? Hahahahahahaaaa!!!
Congregation [thought bubbles appearing above heads of those who had tuned out] What's for dinner? What's so funny?
An unspecified teenager, murmuring to herself: "How many states are there? Fifty? No, that doesn't sound right. Fifty-TWO! Fifty-two states. No, wait, that doesn't sound right either. Oh, hang on, I'm thinking of playing cards. There are fifty-two playing cards and fifty states. Okay. I'm good."
Me [dropping head into hands]: Aaarrrrrrrrgghhhhh!!!!!
Unspecified teenager: Do you have a headache?
Me [darkly]: I do now.
And to think that we spent an entire school year with a rather demanding course in social studies/geography on the United States.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
What I didn't know is that in between my setting the DVR and the view dates for Emma, our local PBS affiliate, WFYI-Indianapolis, CHANGED THEIR PROGRAMMING. So that two-hour first episode? Well, the FIRST hour was some dumb wildlife program about bald eagles, about whom I could not possibly care less. I mean, yeah, pretty birds. Yeah, majestic. God's creation. National symbol. Blablabla. But Emma! EMMA!
If this were the nineteenth century, I would challenge WFYI to a duel. I mean it. With either swords or pistols. Either that or I would totally snub them at the next ball and when they asked me to dance, I'd smile in a frosty manner and turn away to talk to someone else, feigning deafness.
Some things cannot be forgiven and this? This is one of them.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
But my family immediately liked this easy recipe. They were so enthusiastic, they wanted pancakes every day for breakfast for about a week, a task I was disinclined to undertake. But I do bust it out on the weekends, or on days like today when the girls are grumpy because every public and private school in all the surrounding counties is closed due to the arrival of an inordinate amount of snow last night. Pancakes sweeten their tempers and remind them how lucky they are to be receiving an education that
For your pancakes, visit your local ALDI, if you are fortunate enough to have one, and for an amazingly small amount of money:
Carlini canola oil
Baker's Corner baking mix
Friendly Farms evaporated milk
Spice Club pure vanilla extract
Goldhen large eggs
Aunt Maple's lite pancake syrup (we forgot to take Aunt Maple's picture)
Baker's Corner's Old Fashioned Pancakes
2 cups Baker's Corner Baking Mix
1 large Goldhen egg
1 1/3 cups Friendly Farms evaporated milk (the conversion for evaporated milk is half milk/half water)
2 tablespoons sugar (this comes from ALDI too, but it is in my canister and not in the original packaging, so I don't know the name of the "brand")
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat griddle or electric skillet to 400 degrees. If using a frying pan over top of range, set to medium-high temperature. Pour a small amount of canola oil over whatever cooking surface you're using, turning the skillet or griddle to lightly coat. Cooking surface is ready when a few drops of water dance and disappear when sprinkled on the surface.
Stir all ingredients together until smooth. Pour slightly less than 1/4 cup of batter onto the cooking surface. Cook until bubbles form on the surface (about one minute). Turn and cook until bottom color matches top (about one minute).
Serve with Aunt Maple syrup! Yummm....
I sat and thought for a moment. "I have no idea," I finally admitted.
She gave me a bleak look. "I thought you were, like, the QUEEN of grammar."
"No, I replied with dignity. "I am the QUEEN of literature. I am merely the lady-in-waiting of grammar."
As soon as I start the washer, I have to pee. Even if I just went, like, ten minutes previously. My bladder acts just like one of Pavlov's little dogs -- I hear water gushing into the washer's tub and *WHAM* -- it is TIME to GO.
I can't tell you the number of times I have hastily exited the laundry room to go to our downstairs bathroom, only to forget that I started the washer. And I'd like to point out that it doesn't take very long to pee: what does this say about my attention span? Or my short-term memory? I'll wander out to the laundry room a little later and see the bundle of sheets or the tangle of clothing still sitting in the basket, the washer completely filled and waiting patiently for my return. Oops. I blame it on the fact that I am a very busy person. Who washes each pillowcase individually. And....measures the powdered detergent grain by grain into the machine? No? Okay.
Does this happen to any of you? Or do I have, as that television commercial for the prostate-shrinking drug Flomax so delicately puts it, "a going problem"? I know I definitely don't have a prostate, so maybe I'm just too suggestible and/or easily influenced by the swishy sound of flowing water.
Okay, that's it. I'm blaming the camera.
At any rate, here's what remains of the Delicious Hot Crab Dip I made for our Super Bowl fête and I can attest that it does indeed live up to its name. I put it together from a recipe at Allrecipes.com and one I found in an old church cookbook, casting out chili sauce and adding a little mayonnaise, doubling up the lemon juice and throwing in four dashes of hot pepper sauce.
Also, the original name of the recipe? Fantastic Hot Crab Dip. I took the liberty of inserting a different adjective. To, you know...make it all my own. You can use whatever adjective you'd like, but I hope it will be a complimentary one.
This recipe is particularly nice because it should be made the day before you plan to serve it, which means when you're expecting company, all you have to do is pull it out of the fridge, let it rest on the counter for a few minutes and then put it in the oven to warm. The overnight fridging allows the flavors to really develop -- and it's worth it -- but if you're pressed for time and need a really simple hors d'oeuvre, it can be made right before serving.
DELICIOUS HOT CRAB DIP
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, well softened
4 tablespoons butter, well softened
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt (or to taste...I used just a bit more)
2 pinches ground black pepper
4 dashes hot pepper sauce
6 green onions, finely chopped
12 ounces fresh crabmeat or "imitation" crab meat (which is actually half crab meat/half whitefish), chopped or flaked into small pieces
In a medium mixing bowl, mix cream cheese, butter and mayonnaise until smooth. Blend in the Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce. Add the green onion and crab meat and stir thoroughly.
Spray a small casserole dish with non-stick spray. Scoop the dip into it and pat down; cover with plastic film and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove casserole dish from fridge and take off plastic wrap. Allow dish to sit on counter to warm up a bit before plunking in the oven -- I had a bad experience with this once that just marked me, oh my goodness it was a horrific mess and broke one of my favorite casserole dishes, too -- maybe for about twenty minutes or so. Place dip in oven and warm for about 20-30 minutes. This thick mixture won't get bubbly, but it will get nice and soft.
Remove from oven and serve immediately with celery sticks, crackers, buttery crostini, pretzel twists, bagel chips...whatever sounds good to you.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Here she is modeling a Hello Kitty sweater in a nice, warm red. We also have plans to put a frilly tutu on her and maybe a little pair of jeans and a t-shirt with penguins on it.
You have to believe me when I say that I never thought I would be the kind of person who would dress dogs up in clothing. So far, this madness has been confined to sewing fleece jackets for Wimzie, because she's terribly, terribly old and gets chilled. But oh, now that we know that that box full of BABW clothes will fit the puppy, new vistas have been opened up to me.
I have totally lost it. I mean LOST. IT.
Here's the link to Laura's site, I'm an Organizing Junkie. Here's her excellent menu-planning template, which I print out and put on a clipboard for easy access. And I have my own chart that follows my favorite grocery store's aisles, but Laura's printable grocery list template might prove to be useful to you as well.
Menu Plan for the week of February 8, 2010
Monday: Spicy Beef Quesadillas and corn casserole
Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner! Scrambled eggs, sausage and potato puffs
Wednesday: meat loaf, mashed sweet potatoes and green beans
Thursday: Baked pork chops and stuffing
Friday: Grade School Chili with crackers and peanut butter sandwiches, vanilla sheet cake
So while it was a little sad to see Patr--...I mean, PEYTON and the rest of the Colts leaving the field without the victory they'd hoped for, it was still a pretty positive time. It was nice seeing Drew Brees in front of the cameras, a smile lighting up his entire face as he warmly and humbly thanked the fans for sticking with them. And seeing him hold his baby son? Awwww.....you gotta love the sight of a man holding his baby.
Half-time, though? Wow. Did I ever call that one right. Someone needs to set an age limit on who can perform at the Super Bowl. The Rock Gods of Ages Past just need to get some nachos and a beer and enjoy the show from their lift-recliners. My husband, who appeared to be traumatized by the show, was, "Someone needs to make them stop. Now. Faster than now." And I got an email from a younger friend today that seemed to sum it all up:
"The Who. As in 'Who were those geezers?' right?"
I usually pay attention to the commercials, but this year, I seemed to be up and doing something at just about every single break. Heisman trophy-winner Tim Teabow's "celebrate life" commercial was one I did see and it was so tame, I wondered what on earth had made those pro-abortion groups and "women's" groups so angry. Because if I hadn't known beforehand what it was about, I wouldn't have known what it was about. It was nice, but hardly the strident anti-abortion message I was expecting to hear.
E-trade, the online investments and securities firm, tried to score again with yet another baby-as-a-financial-wizard commercial and that was really, really cute a couple of years ago -- I still can't even think the word 'shankopotamus' without smiling -- but isn't it maybe time to get a new idea? I saw a Bud Lite commercial about a husband butting in on his wife's book group so that he could snag a beer and it was silly. And I saw one Doritos commercial that made no sense whatsoever, but I could never eat Doritos again and still live a happy and fulfilled life with no dragon breath, so I'm probably not the best person to judge.
There's kind of a weird after-the-holidays feel to this cold Monday morning. Yesterday was a fun day, staying at home out of the snow and the wind, eating lots of festive snacks. The merriment seems to have dissipated completely, concurrent with the alarm going off at 6:30. Ugh.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Anyway, so it is Super Bowl night. I am really proud that the Colts are there, but I have to admit that I am usually completely unaware of sporting events of any kind. Basketball, football, competitive hair-brushing, skiing...it all just leaves me cold. And baseball, which is my husband's favorite sport? Baseball seriously makes me want to poke my own eyes out.
But it's always nice when the hometown team does well, isn't it? That Patrick Manning is such a nice boy. Ooops, coin toss! The official emblem came up heads and the Saints have the ball. I just asked my husband if this favors the Colts or the Saints and he said a mouthful of football jargon that I did not understand and then finished up by saying that he doesn't think it really matters. Although he'd prefer that the Colts have the ball at the beginning of the second half, which I assume is what's going to happen since the Saints won the toss? Whatever.
It's an absolutely beautiful evening in Miami. All kinds of camera flashing going off in the stadium. Some of the players look grimly determined, others look like they need a quick trip to the bathroom.
For this Super Bowl, I have to say that I'd be happy if the Colts won, but I'd also be happy if the Saints won. New Orleans has been through so much in these years since Hurricane Katrina and it seems to me that this would be a nice boost in morale for the whole city.
Whoa. My husband just told me that the Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, went to Purdue. I've been informed that we are diehard loyal I.U. fans here. Don't know if I can support the Saints in any way if I want to keep living here.
The Who is going to play at half time, which is just kind of sad. I mean, Roger and Pete are my parents' age, which seems.....weird. I do hope they're not going to sing "Teenage Wasteland," unless they dedicate it to their grandkids: their children are my age or slightly younger. Sadly, John and Keith are no longer with us, so I'm assuming they've hired new help for the bass guitar and the drums.
Am I being ageist? Not sure on that. I do know that back when I was in high school and taking guitar lessons every week, I had that famous poster of Pete Townshend on my bedroom wall with his fingers bloody from playing his guitar and the thought of him up there on stage, grey and balding, makes me feel a little ishy. And Roger Daltrey? He looks less like a rock god, with his undone shirt and his mop of long hair and more like our dearly loved Rupert Giles on Buffy, played with such perfection by Anthony Stewart Head. Maybe it's time to quit when you could be mistaken for a staid, tea-drinking member of the Watchers Council.
Commercials, commercials....the Tim Teabow commercial that pro-abortion advocates were throwing such a conniption fit about was just on and I'm, like, dudes. What was the problem with that? Then there was a really funny Doritos commercial that made Meelyn and my husband laugh, but I missed it. Hyundai seems to be trying to corner Toyota's market.
"Third and six," some announcer just said. Crowd cheering like crazy. I have no idea what "third and six" means and find myself unable to care much. Maybe it means I should get my third piece of chocolate sheet cake and eat it in six seconds flat?
Anything to support the team. Because I'm like that: Caring. Encouraging. Loyal. Willing to eat chocolate cake until it hurts.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
This is an easy sauce to make, makes the house smell wonderful and homey, and makes enough for two meals plus a couple of lunch portions for our family of four. It goes over any kind of pasta, although our pasta of choice is always thin whole-wheat spaghetti. You can also use half of the recipe in lasagna, and the other half in baked spaghetti or even maybe the Red Sauce and Rice casserole I've been working on (recipe coming, you lucky things!)
In Italy, "ragù" describes a red sauce made with meat, which is just what this is. I've also added the word "Americana" to the title because this is a sweet sauce; Americans tend to like a hit of sugar in their tomato-based sauces. Think of things like barbecue sauce and ketchup and you'll understand what I mean. If you want a sauce that is more authentically Italiano, just don't put the sugar in, although I'd still recommend a teaspoon or so to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.
This sauce is a super-sneaky way to add some vegetables into your kids' dinner. Process them a bunch to make them invisible, or just grate them if your peeps don't mind seeing carrots.
1 pound ground beef
1 pound sausage (we use spicy sausage, but Italian sausage is also very good)
2 cloves garlic, diced (or one teaspoon of garlic powder)
1 large onion, diced
1 large can tomato juice
2 small cans tomato sauce
2 small cans tomato paste
2 carrots, grated or puréed
2 celery stalks, ditto
1 cup spinach leaves, cut chiffonade or puréed
about ten fresh mushrooms, thinly slice or puréed
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 cup of hot water
1/4 cup red wine (optional)
Brown the beef and the sausage in a large Dutch oven with the garlic and onion; drain and return to the stove. Over a medium heat, add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a slow simmer, stirring every twenty minutes or so. Allow to cook on stove for about two hours. Serve immediately over pasta. If there is sauce left over, allow to cool and then put in a refrigerator container. Store for up to one week.
If you'd like to prepare this in your slow-cooker, simply omit the cup of hot water. Brown the meat ahead of time and put everything in the cooker all at once; stir to combine and cook for four hours on low heat.
One thing I like to do is make up small snack-sized plastic bags of the herbs and other dry ingredients ahead of time. That way, when I'm preparing the sauce, all I have to do is empty out a pre-measured bag into my Dutch oven, even though I've made this so many times, I just measure everything out in my palm anyway.
If you don't want to add the fresh vegetables, you don't have to. The sauce is much richer and more complex in flavor if you do add them, though. I made this for years and no one knew that all those vegetables were in it. It was my little veggie secret.
This sauce freezes very well. If I intend to freeze it, I pour it carefully into gallon-sized freezer bags, remove as much of the air as possible from the bag, and then freeze it flat on a baking sheet. If you divide the sauce in half, it will fill two gallon-sized freezer bags about half full.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
This is pure, sentimental, 1950s, back-of-the-mayonnaise jar kitschy comfort food, first baked back in the days when Mom wore an apron over her dress while she cooked; I can't eat this without thinking about June Cleaver and Marian Cunningham. I don't want to think about the calories and fat content; all I know is that is tastes good, feeds everybody and makes enough for multiple meals, so here goes:
Chicken & Broccoli Casserole (oven version)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
8 oz Cheez-Whiz (or half a large jar, whichever is easiest)
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 soup can of hot water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Minute Rice, uncooked (either white or brown will work)
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 can water chestnuts, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 bags frozen broccoli cuts, thawed (or fresh, if you'd like that better)
2 cups cooked and cubed chicken
2 cups crumbled Cheezit crackers or similar, stirred with 2 tablespoons melted butter (for topping)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray. In the baking dish, stir together the mushroom soup, Cheez-Whiz, mayonnaise, water and lemon juice. Add the rice, onion, celery, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add in the broccoli and chicken; stir to coat.
Place casserole dish in oven and bake for forty-five minutes or until bubbly. Top with crushed crackers and bake for ten more minutes. Remove from oven and serve immediately.