Sunday, February 28, 2010

Save your veggies...blanch 'em!

Last Saturday I scored a great deal on broccoli at the local produce market. Here it is, Sunday and we still hadn't eaten it yet. It still looked good, and was only starting to get a little soft. Our meals this week don't call for a hot vegetable until Wednesday, but if I waited til then, it would be inedible.

This is where blanching (and freezing) comes in super handy.

I usually always steam all fresh veggies, unless they are going into a recipe, so this is almost the same thing. I have a steamer basket that fits perfectly into one of my pots--they came together. All I do is heat up the water until boiling, add the veggies and let them cook til they're at the consistency that we like. Turtle likes his more on the softer side, I like mine with we try to aim for something in the middle...and usually the veggies on the bottom of the steamer are the softer ones.

Anyway, with blanching, you steam the veggies until they are almost done. Then you grab them out of the steamer (USE TONGS, don't be a moron and burn yourself!!) and plunge them into a bowl of cold water. The cold water will slow the cooking. Wait til the veggies have cooled, then toss into a zip top bag (as my pal Alton Brown would say) or a freezer-friendly container, throw 'em in the freezer, and voila! Frozen veggies JUST LIKE the ones at the grocery store. Granted, you probably paid more money for these guys (vs. frozen)...but if you can do a little more work by saving them before they go bad, you'll save money in the long run.

When you're ready to eat them, you can defrost them and cook them in the microwave.

Sunday Sunday Sunday!

Where has the weekend gone!? It's 2:52 PM as I'm typing this.

Turtle is feeling under the weather so he went back to bed for a nap around noon. We got up late and skipped church. That happens about once a month around here...we are SO good about going that we feel badly when we don't go (graaaah, Catholic guilt!) but he was not feeling well when he got up around 7, and I have a weird backache thing. I'm going to attribute that to other things going on (trying to keep this blog TMI free, or attempting to do so) and/or too much shoveling the snow that never ends.

So, I'm putzing around...did some laundry, dishes, cleaned up my Facebook profile/settings/etc a LOT, joined Twitter, checked in on some message boards. Oh! these social media obligations! *fake faints*

Now I need to finish organizing the office/library room. Ugh. All of those papers...what to do with them? I found this list from Suze Orman the other day at work.

No, I don't work in finance. I'm not even a huge fan of Suze (remember those SNL skits with Kristen Wiig? LOL "I've got my jacket...this great fake tan...") but a coworker had lent me a copy of O Magazine because one of our books was excerpted in it and I wanted to capture it for our media files. So I was doing a little extra-curricular perusing of the magazine and stumbled upon that list.

I'm hoping this list will help me to get organized. I used to be really really organized, but then I added another person to my files, and then we got a house, and everything kinda blew up. Maybe it will help you. How do you keep your financial files organized?

Also for the record, besides not being a huge Suze fan, I'm also not a huge Oprah fan. I have a love-hate relationship with her. I get the food/eating/weight thing...truly. I get her big heart and wanting to help people. What I don't like is how people follow EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. she says like she's a modern day prophet. Sheeple. I also have a little bit of an issue with her and the book industry. LOVED how she ripped James Frey apart during the Million Little Pieces scandal. I was working at a bookstore when that whole nightmare blossomed. Ugh, disaster. But I don't like how people just read things because she said to. Yes, encouraging reading is WONDERFUL. Suggesting books--great! It's a slippery slope for me, personally, when people are reading something ONLY because she said so. I encourage free thinking.

Wow, that was way off topic...I had a great weekend. Usually I spend a lot of time on my own, but on Saturday I had a special visitor. My roommate from college came to visit me (granted, I had a lot of different ones in the 4 yrs but this one lived directly WITH me for 3 of them) and we had a great visit, albeit too short. It's always too short, even when I've stayed at her house talking til midnight, then driving almost 3 hours home! LOL

Turtle and I went out for dinner later on that evening, which is rare for us, came home, and attempted a game of Scrabble...but the tiles and bag were MOLDY. Gross! Must have happened at our old place since it was mold-infestation city...soooo glad to be out of that place now. After we chucked the tiles and bag, and scrubbed our hands, we made tea/coffee and sat around and talked. It was super nice and super rare. He's been stressed a lot lately about work and since he works Saturdays we don't get a lot of time to hang out or have date nights. I hadn't said anything because I can't change his work schedule or stress, so why make him more upset, but it turns out, he'd been feeling in a rut too! So we're going to try and do this a little more often.

I ended up going to bed early (not even 30 yet and in bed before 10 on a Sat night!) but we had a really good chat. Cornball time, but I love my husband. A lot. Even in the bad times, I'm still a pretty happy girl...

OK now on to the paperwork!!!! But I must show you this: It's Suze and "Suze." Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Random things about me

1. We have three bathrooms in our house and I just used one for the first time today. How long have I lived in my house? (answer at the bottom of the blog) Yeah.

2. I'm a renegade in the kitchen. I often use cake pans for cooking things instead of big cookie sheets. Like last night's fish. Two fillets in each cake pan. Why not? Cooks the same, plus the cookie sheets WERE dirty...but since I cook someone else does the dishes....and...yeah.

3. I check my checking account balance online daily. Sometimes multiple times. I think I'm hoping that some magical fairy will deposit money in there for me...

4. I've never taped a show with a VCR. I don't know how. Now that technology has moved on, and I'm still in the 90s, you can add DVR or TiVo to that list. Don't have them, don't want them. Also related, I'm really not into TV that I need to STOP. EVERYTHING. FOR. A. SHOW. There's much more to life than that.

5. I work in publishing and I never read. I think it's because I read all day at work and read about books. I know lots about books I've NEVER EVEN read. I think that's kinda cool. I do LOVE books.

Saving money

I promise I will talk more about this stuff here, too. I do want to talk about it. I have plans to talk about it.

I'm such a procrastinator.

Food is fun. Houses are fun. Other stuff...usually also fun.

Money is not always so fun. I will try and make it so...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lenten food update

Just a quick post since I'm preheating an oven and waiting for milk to boil. Here's what we've been eating this Lent, so far:

First Monday (I forgot the technical name): shrimp scampi, rice, asparagus

"Ash" Wednesday: tuna melts (it was quick for after work)

Friday: pizza (one pie had red sauce & mozz, one was white with spinach & ricotta--YUM)

Wednesday (today): frozen mahi mahi fillets (thank you Costco) with a panko breading, mashed potatoes, salad.

I would have loved to have made Alton Brown's Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi but we have no macadamias. (That recipe is GOOD, btw) I just used his directions for how much panko, how much flour, how much butter. I'll throw some lemon juice on the fish in lieu of the coconut milk. We do have THAT, but I'm not wasting an entire can for 2 TBS.

Friday will probably be shrimp scampi again. Turtle wanted shrimp Alfredo, but no dice. See previous post as to why. At least with this shrimp scampi I can use butter and Parmesan cheese!

I promise I will get more creative...we have fish sticks from Costco in the freezer too! Don't you just want to come to OUR house?! ;-)

No Groceries Challenge

Turtle and I decided on Sunday to try this. To go as long as we could without buying groceries. We spend a lot of money on food (I think), especially since we're just two people! I'm trying to save money...

The only items we are allowed to go to the store for are dairy (I eat a lot of Greek yogurt, but only when I'm down to my last one), bread, cold cuts, or if we're expecting company. My college roommate might be coming for a visit on Saturday, she has a 4.5 yr old and a 2 yr old, and I don't have exactly kid-friendly food.

We have a freezer in our basement, filled with meat, veggies, some bread products (mostly rolls) so it's not like we're going to be bare-bones in no time.

I think this will be fun! But of course, Turtle suggested that we have shrimp Alfredo on Friday night...and I was like, "nope, no cream, no store." Shrimp scampi it is! ;-)

I'll keep you posted.

Neighbor update

After making two loaves of banana bread, I decided to just sent a thank you note. I broke into one of the loaves and I thought it was fine, but Turtle thought it sucked. More for me then! The other loaf I gave to my brother as part of his birthday present--he loves banana bread in any shape or form.

I think a thank you note will be just fine. But now there's more snow in the forecast. Maybe I better start perfecting my banana bread recipe...

I just flew in, and boy, are my arms sore.

Or however that lame-o speech starter goes.

I went for a physical on Monday afternoon. I got a tetanus shot. My arm is STILL sore. Why is this?!?! I'm not usually a wuss about any medical treatments--I get blood taken all of the time, going to the dentist is a walk in the park (ha, which reminds me to tell you all about what Turtle thinks of the dentist), etc. My mom's a nurse, we don't futz around with medical stuff. You do it and you're done.

But my arm is really sore! lol

I am glad I went for a physical, though. I hadn't been for one since probably around 2002/2003, when I graduated college and moved back to my hometown. (I can't tell you the last time I had a tetanus shot though, haha) I have been to the doctor since then, just not for a general health check up. My old doctor decided that she was retiring from private practice and is going to teach at the local medical school and, get this, GO TO AFRICA AND HELP OTHER PEOPLE. Seriously? How dare she!? My health is more important.... (I kid, I kid, I think it's cool she's doing something different)

So I have a new doctor and I think she'll be great. She came recommended from my endocrinologist who I LOVE.

I also have to have some bloodwork and "other tests" (I'll spare you the details) done because I'm having some GI upsets. So please, send good thoughts/prayers my way that it's something stupidly minor. Turtle is worried. I am not.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Inspired to make something

I like crafty stuff...and it's been awhile since I've been really inspired to make something. Now I know what I want to make...and I'm going to do it...

But I can't tell you what it is. Well, I could, but it would ruin the surprise!

My friend Katy (HI KATY!) is having a baby in July *squee* and, duh, this thing I want to make will be for the little Sprout. She reads this blog, so I can't even hint at what it is.

It's nothing huge, but it's simple enough that I can do it easily and quickly. With limited skills. It's also not something that I will start and not finish until the kid is graduating from high school, lol. Because at that point, the gift will be TOTALLY obsolete.

Speaking of the Sprout...Katy and her hubs, Chris, find out what Sprout will be on March 9. Which is 3 days before my birthday...I know they planned this JUST for me. LOL

I will make sure that I take pics while I am creating this thing, and I'll make a post about it after I give it to them. Now I wish other people were having babies so that I could make more of these things...

Friday, February 19, 2010

No one here but me...

I'm not just talking about in my house (Turtle works til 8 on Fridays and doesn't come home until almost 9).

I'm talking about the entire street. Granted, there are only 5 other houses on it besides ours, but when I pulled into our driveway at just after 6...all of the houses were DARK.

Where is everyone!? This is creeeeepyyyyyy.

Not really, just felt like saying that ;-)

OK I must go and reorganize all of the receipts and bills and paper crap that have accumulated in our library...and do something with them. Have some time to kill before Turtle gets home.

On the menu tonight: pizza. I will try to use one of the suggested recipes next week--so don't worry, someone will get a shout-out. Try not to be TOO excited!

It's gonna get stuck in your head again this year...

The Filet-O-Fish is back for Lent...complete with the oh-so catchy jingle!|aim|dl2|link4|

You KNOW you want one...mmmm, processed fish parts, compressed into an unnatural shape...

I've never had one, actually.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I need this for my garden!!!!!!

I started a draft post about gardening and what we needed to do, and figured I'd come back to it later. I'll finish writing and posting that later.

Then, just now, I was looking for a picture of a rabbit and turtle to go at the top of the blog banner...and what do I find...

It's me and the hubs! Although I think if I were to stand on his back, he'd be in trouble.

You can get it here:

Fans...we've got 'em.

Who are these people and why are they following me!?

Who are these people that I follow?

Some are people I know in real life. Some are people I met through the internet and then met in real life. Some are people who I met via other people's blogs. Others are people whose blogs I've stumbled upon.

I think it's so interesting how we can connect through the internet, finding people with common interests or shared views. A friend of mine once told me that she felt safer talking about certain things regarding parenting philosophies online than seeking out like-minded parents in real life.

I'm wondering if that's because you know on a message board for topic X, you know that you'll find support and things in common with the other posters. Whereas if you reveal something about yourself or your beliefs to your neighbor, you are setting yourself up for possible rejection. It's understandable, but at the same time, sort of sad. We are not giving people in real life the benefit of the doubt, ie, how do we know that they will find our views/beliefs on topic X weird?" How do we not know that they might do the exact same thing or believe something very similarly? Have we become intimidated into not expressing our true selves to real life people? Were we never that confident in the first place?

It's hard to say. But here I am, blogging about topics instead of chatting up MY next-door neighbor. It's easier to just post an editorial like this, and let people comment. It's passive. Who knows if my neighbor or my friend has time to listen to me if I needed to be listened to? Would s/he care? Would s/he think I'm crazy or odd? Most people don't think as deeply as I do, and don't need to discuss and reflect on various topics. I know that this sets me apart from a lot of people. Because of this, I have become intimidated into not sharing or saying too much to other people. This is another sad thing, but I don't want to stick out. Although, who knows? Maybe me sticking out would make THEM think more...and there's NOTHING wrong with THINKING.

As that sticker/magnet says "It's not illegal yet."

Hey hey, check out my to-do list!

I love lists.

Really really really love them. I try to be organized, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I've always got some kind of list going.

Have I mentioned that I love lists?

Anyway, I just added one here (see right hand side of screen) because there are a lot of things to do around the house and I'll probably be writing about them here & there. Those of you who've purchased homes are probably nodding their heads in solidarity ("I remember those days...." or "Oh yeah, welcome to home-ownership.") while those who don't own are like "whoa, that's a lot of stuff."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh yeah, it's Lent...

One of the things I do want to blog about here is our adventures in cooking, since it's something that we love to do, and we do in our house (especially now that we have a HUGE kitchen)...and on occasion, I will blog about faith/religion, since that's also an important part of our lives.

So here's a topic that combines the two--Lent. If you're Catholic, most of you started today. We started Monday, because Turtle is Byzantine Catholic and I am now Byzantine by proxy. I was raised Roman Catholic, but for a lot of reasons, we go "East." Another topic for another day.

Anywhoo, ByzCaths abstain from all animal products, except fish/seafood (yeah, I don't get it either) on the first Monday of Lent and on Good Friday. No meat, no dairy, no poultry. I can eat vegetarian just fine, but vegan is tough. Especially when you don't eat that way 363 days out of the year! Also during Lent, ByzCaths abstain from meat/poultry on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent. You Romans know the Friday deal--we go "harder core" and do it twice a week. At least we can have eggs and dairy!

What throws us for a loop is what to eat...

On Monday, we had peanut butter and banana sandwiches on RYE BREAD for breakfast because that was the only bread in the house without dairy or eggs. It didn't taste too bad. No lunch for me, only because I wasn't hungry, but I did snack on some Tostitos. Again, no animal products, so who cares if it's junk food, right? I had bought some frozen shrimp at the store on Saturday in preparation for Monday's dinner, and figured I could make shrimp scampi but leave out the butter (just use olive oil), with rice and a veggie. Awesomely, asparagus was on sale.

That went off without a hitch and the scampi was pretty good although we both missed the little bit of butter that is usually added to the olive oil. Oh and the cheese! We definitely missed the Parmesan sprinkled on top of our food! But we survived and all was well.

But what sucks is remembering that we can't always have leftovers. I see where the sacrifice comes in to play ;-)

Sunday I had made pulled pork, but we couldn't eat it on Monday. So we ate it again last night, and it was fine, but it wouldn't have lasted til Thursday. We had to throw it out. I hate wasting food, mostly because it's a huge waste of MONEY. (You will soon learn that I try to be pretty frugal and I really enjoy meal planning.) On Thursday, we can eat meat again, but it has to be something that either we'll eat in one night, or if there are leftovers, will be OK until Saturday.

So here is our week:
Sunday--pulled pork
Monday--shrimp scampi
Tuesday--leftover pulled pork
Wednesday--tuna melts
Thursday--pork tenderloin (usually we try not to have too much of one animal at a time, but it just worked out this way, this week)
Friday--I don't know!
Saturday--also don't know, but we can have meat, so not a big deal

Like most of my stories, I'm getting to the "meat" (hahaha, I made a pun!) of the story 5 minutes after I started. The point of this post: I need help figuring out what to eat on our meatless days! I also want to keep costs down but be as healthy as possible. We could do pizza, sure, but that's a bit pricey and not so healthy. Not that tuna melts are tons better...

I already warned Turtle that there might be "eggs and toast" nights...he was cool with that. (And I'm pumped since I got a free dozen eggs at the grocery store recently!) But even that gets old.

PEOPLE: GIVE ME YOUR RECIPES FOR MEATLESS DISHES! If I make them, I will give you a shout out and what could be better than a random interwebz shout out?

What to make!?

A few people have suggested that I need to make/bake my neighbor something for plowing me out. Sure thing--that's not a problem in our house. We love to cook...and I do enjoy baking, although I don't do it often. I did want to do something nice for him, anyway.

I think a cake is a little over the top, plus, I don't do cakes from scratch. I can do cookies, but the thing cookies don't always come out so great. They are DELICIOUS, but not very pleasing to the eye. Either too flat or too puffy.

I'm thinking banana bread...without nuts though, since I don't know if anyone has allergies.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010


(Whoa, three posts from me in one day, what a record!)

When Turtle and I were looking for a house, one of the things we really wanted was a neighborhood with people who were nice, cared about each other, etc. Obviously, you can't tell the Realtor to scope those things our for you, but we definitely wanted a "neighborhood" feel. In our minds that was not living on a yellow-lined street (yes we are THOSE people, haha), or having the houses SO close together that you are embarrassed to look at your neighbor when you leave the house (did Mr Smith hear Turtle and I argue last night? Did old Mrs Jones hear us DO IT two nights ago?), but we didn't want to be so far apart from our neighbors that we didn't interact.

A few reasons for wanting a neighborhood feel:
1. I grew up without any real neighbors--my parents' house is set so far back off the road and is in the woods. The closest neighbors are far away. I didn't have a close relationship with the kids around me.

2. When Turtle was a young lad, he lived in a cool neighborhood, where people were FRIENDS. He missed that a lot when his family outgrew that house and moved to a different neighborhood.

3. We don't have a lot of friends who live in the area, and while you might not LOVE everyone you live near, if they are nice, that certainly opens up your options.

4. We do plan on having kids someday and we'd like them to have people to (hopefully) play with.

5. I've always been searching for some kind of community, for belonging. I even wrote my senior thesis in college about neighborhoods and community involvement/interaction. Yes, I am a HUGE dork.

We think we've got the neighbor thing down pretty well. When we first moved in, people came over to say hello and welcome. A few weeks later (probably right after the real estate transaction hit the paper), two couples brought over some Edible Arrangements. During one of the first snowstorms we had this winter, someone plowed us out. Another time, someone else snowblowed our driveway. (We now have a snowblower, thank you Turtle's Grandma!)

Tonight, something happened that reaffirmed my belief and faith in neighbors and community. We had a bad snowstorm--kind of unexpected--and I got home around my normal time. Turtle works til 8 on Tuesdays, and usually doesn't get home until close to 9. When I got home, we had about 6 inches of snow in our driveway, and I could NOT get into our garage. I actually got stuck at the bottom of our driveway. I tried and tried, but couldn't get in. I called Turtle to see what I should do, and he advised me to shovel out the car, and try again. I changed clothes, bundled up, and went back outside with my trusty yellow shovel.

I started shoveling, half crying, half cursing my luck. I was also a wee bit upset about Turtle's work schedule, but I bit my tongue since we are so blessed that he HAS a job after being unemployed for 16 months. Then my neighbor from across the street pulled out of his driveway in his BIG pickup. He also has a plow. He asked me what was wrong, and I told him that I'd gotten stuck.

He told me to get out of the way and he'd try to get the snow that was behind my car and in the driveway, out of the way. He did. He then told me to back my car into the street and he'd "clear it out." I had NO idea that meant he was going TO PLOW MY ENTIRE DRIVEWAY!!!!

I'm not really a crier, but at that moment, I teared up. Here's this guy, who has two young kids (boy-girl twins who were actually riding shotgun with their dad), who could be in his warm home, with his wife and kids, but he's helping me. It took him less than 5 minutes (we don't have a big driveway) and he was on his way. I didn't get a chance to really thank him, besides a quick "oh! thank you so much!" when he offered to help get me unstuck, but I stood in the doorway of the garage after I FINALLY pulled my car in and gave a big wave.

At our closing, the seller told us that we were moving into a great neighborhood with really nice people. We'd figured he was right, and we were already pretty impressed with the way people welcomed us when we first moved in. But now? This is completely different. How refreshing to see selflessness, especially on a cold, snowy night.

Ups and Downs

A friend who is not a homeowner asked me the other day about the ups and downs of being a homeowner.

That was a tough one.

I don't want to be all "OMG!!!!! EVERYONE SHOULD BUY!!!! BEST. THING. EVER." It's NOT for everyone. Sometimes I wonder what did we get ourselves into--that soon passes. It's a lot of work and can be a lot of money. But it can also be a lot of fun and really satisfying.

I also don't want to come off as a braggart or that people who don't buy suck or are throwing their money away. Again, buying is not for everyone. It wasn't for us for a long time either, and we really crunched the numbers.

Plus, one can afford a house, but can they afford the taxes? Our new town has fairly high taxes, but it all worked out in the end for us, since our mortgage payments are pretty low. Not everyone has that happen.

Here's what I told my friend, via email:
I never thought of myself saying this, but I do enjoy having MY own home. I don't know if that's a "greedy American" way of looking at things, but it's just great. I do NOT feel any more grown up, like how a lot of people feel that they have to own to feel like they've "made it" or are "grown up." Another "up" is that while yes, a large chunk of money goes to the bank each month, it's more like they are holding it for us, in an account we can't touch. Knowing that it could be an awesome investment. At least that's how I "trick" myself, haha. Knowing that we can do whatever we want to it, within reason, of course--can't just rip out walls with out making sure they aren't the right ones to rip. Knowing that this is our little "project" that we can improve on, take care of, watch it flourish. I've always been more of a homebody than not, and very domestic, so it's like I have a canvas to express myself.

The downs...having to fix/take care of everything yourself. No landlord to call. Figuring out which things are a priority to fix/replace and what can wait. Having to budget for upgrades. For example, we really want to put in a wood stove, but they are expensive. So we need to save slowly for that, even though it would drastically reduce the money we spend on oil. Even something as "simple" as thermal curtains--to keep out the cold now and the heat in a few months--for 4 windows, it could run me like $200 or more. But then I have to look at it as how much will I save in oil for heat/electricity for AC?? It's a balancing game...

For us, most days, we're in the UP column ;-)

I'm back!

I was really hoping to get more time to blog and I'm sad that I've either been busy, or sick, or helping other people out...

So we've been in our house for almost 4 months (will be 4 months on 2/26) and we're still loving it. It feels like we've been there longer, which (I think) is a good thing! I need to write more about this blog--we wanted to keep people up to date with what's going on in our home, but also, we are trying to save money, be responsible about the home improvements we're doing, trying to be green/eco-friendly when possible...although it can be hard.

What have we done so far...

1. Bought a new dryer

2. Bought an upright freezer for our basement

3. Painted the TV room

4. Added shelving in the basement

5. ALMOST finished unpacking/setting up

6. Bought thermal curtains for the slider window in the kitchen

7. Hosted Christmas dinner for our families

8. Added a heavy-duty door to our basement. We have a Bilco door/hatch thingy, but this will help to keep more drafts OUT!