Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Herb Stuffing/Dressing

This is one of my dad's recipes.  He was famous for his "secret ingredient".  It was always something that put the recipe over the edge.  It would be good without it but GREAT with it. This recipe also has a  "secret ingredient".

1 lb pork sausage
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 can chicken stock
2 (8 oz) packages of herb seasoned stuffing mix
1 (8 oz) can of water chestnuts, drained
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1; Brown sausage, stirring to crumble, drain.
2: Add celery, mushrooms, and onion.  Cook over low heat until tender.
3: Add chicken stock -combine rest of ingredients - spoon into baking dish.
4: Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min.

Yield - 9 cups.

So what is the secret ingredient???  Can you find it?  Dad was nice enough to always include it in his recipes that he wrote down.  Thank goodness or we would never have been able to replicate his recipes.

This recipe starts out innocent enough until you get to the water chestnuts.  That is the secret ingredient.  It is a great item in stuffing because it gives you a little crunch.  Not a hard crunch like a nut, but an easy crunch.  The water chestnuts hold up to cooking and don't get soggy in the moistness of the stuffing.  It is there but you really can't quite place what it is.  That is what makes it the secret ingredient. See?

You can leave the water chestnuts out and the stuffing will be fine, but with them it is GREAT!

Monday, February 23, 2015

You hear it on the news but never think it will happen to you....right???

It has been cold here the past few weeks.  We have had some days that don't get out of the 20's.  Every night we are below freezing and most days it rises up to the high 30's or low 40's.  Last week schools were out all week because of 8 inches of snow that fell on President's Day.

I have heard several times on the news that a water main has broken.  They close streets to repair these breaks.  Sometimes some houses have no water for several hours.

Yesterday our church had a pipe burst in the ceiling of one of the Sunday School classrooms.  We heard about it right after it happened on Facebook.  Church wasn't cancelled though. They stopped the leak and repaired the pipe and all was well this morning.

This afternoon we heard heavy trucks come down our street and stop at the bottom of the hill.  They had taped off a section of the road and my husband walked down to see what was going on.  A water main broke.  They had turned off the water just up the hill above our house.  We had no water.

Then they brought in a big back hoe to tear up the road and find the water main break.  While digging up the road they accidentally hit our natural gas line. We went out to pick our kids up from youth group right after they hit the gas line. But at that time we didn't know for sure if they did or not.  We had just been speculating.  When we returned from picking up the kids we were met with a road block, a fire truck and a police officer.  They were evacuating our neighbors.  We were not allowed in to get anything from our home, not even our dog.  The nice fireman said it would be a couple hours before we could possibly return to our homes and at that time they would be able to tell us more and we might be able to get our dog then.  We may be evacuated for the night while they fixed the problem.

We went out to dinner (since we couldn't cook at home) and stayed out for a couple hours.  By the time we got home the fire engines were gone, the police were gone, but the repair people were still here.  They told us it was okay for all of us to return to our homes but we had no water or gas at this point. They also said that when the gas got turned back on they would go door to door and relight pilot lights, etc.  If no one was home they had locksmiths ready on call to come pick the locks and they would just go in and turn the pilot lights back on and leave.  We considered spending the night away but we realized we still had the dog to tend to.  We could leave her home alone but if they came in to our house there may be an issue. She has never bitten anyone before but we also haven't had a stranger come in our house without us here.  So we decided to stay home.

After an hour or so they turned on our gas again as we weren't on the same line as the busted gas line.  They helped us light our pilot lights again and we have heat and can cook again. No water yet.

This got me thinking. When we returned home from picking up our kids and were met with an evacuation notice, we had no clothes, no toiletries, no nothing with us.  Most of us didn't have winter coats either as it had been a rather warm (considering) day.  What if they hadn't let us back in the house after we returned from our dinner out?  What if we had to evacuate from our home?  What would we grab?

In our car I have our winter car bag.  It contained extra gloves, scarves and hats, blankets and a few bottles of water.  We have our first aid kit but that wouldn't really help us today.  What do I need for an emergency evacuation?  What do I need in the car if we drive up to an evacuated block again?

Here is my thoughts, off the top of my head tonight:

In the house: A back pack to grab and go if we have no time.  It will include a pair of underwear for each child, a stick of deodorant, a small tube of toothpaste, toothbrushes for each of us, a small bag of sanitary napkins and other feminine products we use, a puzzle book or deck of cards to keep us busy, and an extra charger cord for an iphone and one for an android phone.  Also copies of our important papers until we can get a safe deposit box.

In the car: A backpack with similar stuff in it except our important documents. (I don't want them in the car all the time)

This list of things will become longer the more I think about it, but this will give me a start.

In our old house I did have a backpack filled with these things.  I had it in our closet ready to grab in a moment's notice.  I never had to pick up that bag.  When we moved into our trailer I had that bag in our car for a long time, until we needed extra space.  The backpack got tossed into the trailer, then unpacked and used for something else for a while.  At that point all the clothing items in it were way too small for the kids anyway.  Since we moved into this new house I haven't repacked this backpack.  It is now time.  Unfortunately, I had this little emergency to remind me that we needed this.

PS: because our water hasn't been turned back on, I asked the kids to go ahead and pack an overnight bag anyway just in case we need to bug out of here some time tonight.  They haven't found the water main break yet and they are still digging.  You never know if they will hit another gas line or need to evacuate us again.

On a good note: We do have plenty of water.  They turned the water back on for a few minutes and we filled both bathtubs with water so we can flush toilets now when they turn it back off again.  The water looks dirty and filled with granules of black.  We will not be drinking it for a while.  We will use bottled water for cooking, drinking, and brushing teeth.

I have rambled enough.....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Better Homes and Gardens Red Checkered Cookbook

I was flipping through my Better Homes And Gardens New Cook Book today, you know, the red checkered one that all our parents had.  I have one too.  I was so excited to get it when I did.  It was expensive but I bought it anyway.  I knew I needed it.

That was back in 1992.  It was copyright dated 1989.  Back then I could just imagine me cooking or baking all the recipes.  Back then the pages were crisp and new. It wasn't like my dad's copy which was slightly yellowed on the pages and had recipe clippings all stuffed in the front and back of the book.  There were pages that had a paper clip on it and some that were dog-eared. I thought to myself. I will keep this nice and new looking.  I will make sure I didn't spill anything on it.  I will not stuff clippings in it.  It was a prize possession.

When we moved last year I packed it up in a box, just stuck the whole thing in the box.  I knew we would be living in the trailer and I just couldn't take a cookbook with me when I had my computer to use if I needed a recipe.  I didn't really miss it.  I looked up recipes on the computer when I wanted something.  It was no big deal.

While we were unpacking in our house now, I found the box with my cookbook.  It was like finding an old friend again.  I took it out of the box, stuffed to the gills with recipe clippings (the cookbook that is) and placed it in a place of honor on the counter.  I can't tell you how many times I have used that book since I unpacked it. I have to be careful when opening it because there are slips of paper stuffed in the front and back and the pages are a bit dog-eared and some of the pages have crusty stuff on it from me turning the page with yucky hands while cooking.


Today I was flipping through my copy of this old friend looking for a recipe for pork and while reading it I found that it called for "fines herbs".  I don't know what that is.  So I had to go to my computer and look it up.  (If my dad was still alive I would have called him.)

 Fines herbes is a combination of herbs that forms a mainstay of French cuisine. The ingredients of fines herbes are fresh parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil.

Chervil is a parsley that has a bit of anise taste to it.  

This got me thinking, how old is this book?  It was copyrighted in 1989 and it was the 10th publishing of this fine cookbook.  As I read the introduction it said that the editors struggled with keeping the classic recipes we grew up with like pot roast and chicken and dumplings but added many new tastes like taco salad.  Ha ha ha.... those were new tastes and new dishes in 1989.  Now 25 years later, I think it might be time to update my copy......

Monday, February 16, 2015

Left Handed Crochet Tutorial

Want to learn to crochet?  Are you left handed like me and don't know where to start?  I have begun making a few video tutorials for my other blog.

Check them out here!


Have a great day!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

President's Day Snow Storm

A huge cold front is coming from the south west.  This is our best chance for snow.  The only time we get snow with accumulations is if the storm comes from the south/southwest and the cold comes from Canada at the same time.

Last night we had a huge wind storm and some snow which melted pretty much on impact. We had a little bit of it stay with us on mulchy areas but no real accumulation.  However, the wind made our electricity flicker so much that we got out our emergency lighting sources and prepared for a long night stoking the fire to keep us all warm. The lights didn't go out but according to our news this morning more than 23,000 people ARE without power.  The temps aren't supposed to rise above 26 today and the temps will be this way for most of the week coming up.

In my last post about winter storms, I mentioned that we were pretty much set on supplies except for firewood (our only alternative heating source in this house).  Yesterday, right on time, my husband picked up a load of firewood for us.  We don't have a large storage space for firewood so we could only get a little bit, but if the power goes out we are good for a couple days, and that was our goal.

Predictions say that we will get anything from 1 inch to 10 inches of snow on Monday into Tuesday.  I will venture out and grab a gallon of milk and a couple loaves of bread (truly because we are running low and need it, and my kids LOVE French Toast.)

More importantly, besides milk, eggs, bread, cheese, hot chocolate, and toilet paper, here are a few things to think about when preparing for a winter storm.

1. Alternative Heating Source:  in this house for us it is our fireplace.  We have a fresh load of firewood.  We have plenty of blankets, socks, mittens, hats, sweaters. Our floors get cold so it is important that we keep our feet warm.

2.  Food that you can cook without power.  We are lucky in this house that our stove will still work (a gas stove) with a power outage.  We can't use our oven but we can use our stove top.

3.   Alternative Lighting Sources: Flashlights with a good supply of extra batteries, candles with safe ways to burn them, lanterns (battery or oil).

4.  Water: Bottles are great, otherwise fill many large cisterns with water prior to a storm so you have it. We need stored water in case the power goes out and you live on property with a well and electric pump. Also important in case the water source becomes contaminated somehow or you lose water pressure due to a water main break or frozen pipes.

5. Entertainment: If you have little kids or get bored easily, prepare for some light entertainment to keep everyone busy during the time you will be spending indoors.  Also prepare for entertainment that doesn't need electricity. This can include a deck of cards, board games, hobbies, movies (if you have electricity), etc.  When my kids were younger in preparing for winter storms I gathered together some activities and tucked them away for a snow day.  These activities included a craft, some games, new crayons and coloring books, a book to read together, and other small fun things.  I packed them in a bag and kept it in my closet until a snow day came.  This was often a day saver for us.  As soon as the kids began to get bored I pulled out new things they hadn't seen before.

Today I will be spending most of the day working on laundry (just in case) and straightening the house.  This will help us in case we lose power.  We don't want to trip over things on the floor in the dark.  Then I will venture out to get the last few things we need from the store.

Winter storms remind us to think about four things; warmth, food, lighting, water. Preparing for entertainment is a bonus and often a sanity saver.  Make sure you think about these things in preparing for a winter storm.

Have a great day!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Update on "no spend" month! - Harder than it seems.

I can't tell you how many times I think to myself, "oh, I need to get some __________". Then I remember, "oh yeah, I can't this month.  How many more days of this???" Ha!

The month started off rough.  The first couple days were hard.  I wanted to start new projects but didn't have what I needed.  So I had to remind myself that it would have to wait. Now thinking back on it, I can't remember what it was I wanted, which goes to show me that I probably didn't need it anyway.

I worked on my walker bags that I sell at a local pharmacy.  I used what I had to finish up 10 bags.  I took them up last Thursday and sold them.  They handed me $125 in cash.  Now the rules were that I couldn't spend any money in our household budget for any crafty stuff.  BUT if I sold crafty stuff then I could use that money to buy more.

Immediately I knew I had a workshop coming up which would take at least $30 out of my paycheck.  That left me with $95.  I spent $20 on a new sturdy desk for my craft room. While this is technically not a crafty item, it was purchased for my craft room so I will count it. Now I am left with $75.  Then I spent an additional $21.75 on scrapbook paper. Now I am left with $53.25.  Then I went to a consignment sale and found a bold of awesome fabric to make walker bags with for $7.90.  I bought that. It was 5 yards of upholstery fabric.  I couldn't pass that up. Now I am left with $45.35.  I put that in my pocket for later.  I made a donation to the local library of $5 but I am not counting that. Included in the donation was a bag of books that I could choose from an array of books.  I chose some great novels for myself and my family but also included some crafty books and magazines that were there too.  I am not counting this because I didn't buy the books. It was a donation and the books were a "gift" because of the donation.

I still need some thread and some lining.  I will wait on that for a bit because I don't need it right now.

What I have learned.....

  • I am an impulse shopper. (when I see a great sale or a great deal I buy it)
  • I am an impulse creator.  I have a terrible habit of seeing a new project on line and want to try it out.  I start the project to see what the pattern looks like, feels like, etc. Then I put it down partly done and go on to the next one.
  • I thrive on creativity and I really do need a budget.  I lucked out this month because I could sell some of my items to get a budget for the month. But the reality of it is that I don't sell my walker bags each month.  I sell them once every couple months.  So I can't rely on an $125 monthly budget.  I need to figure something else out. 
Plans for the rest of the month:
  • I want to create some things for Easter.
  • I want to finish up the knitted blanket that I started. 
  • I want to reorganize my yarn stash.  Currently it is in piles and in plastic bins all over my room.
I will post again in a week or so and let you know how I continue to fair.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A No Spend Month

For a few years I have been seeing this trend and I have been trying to wrap my head around how it would work for us. People will choose a month and then declare it a "no spend" month.  They do it for many reasons; save money, learn lessons about their spending, clean out the pantry, test their food/supply storage, or desire to spend more time with family.

The basic premise:
A no spend month is a month where you do not spend any money. It can be as drastic as not spending any money on anything including food, clothing, necessities, and even on gas.  It can be a month where there is no spending money that is not accounted for.  So budgetary items like food and gas can be budgeted and spent during the month, but there has to be a plan.

I have read where families will gather and buy all the items including food that they need for the month prior to the month beginning and then not spending anything during that month.  To me, this just doesn't make any sense.  If I am spending a ton of money before the month begins then how am I accomplishing my goal?

Speaking of which......what IS the goal here?

  • saving money?
  • figuring out where our money goes?
  • looking at impulse buying?
  • learning to appreciate what we have?
  • stop wanting everything we see?
  • learning to have patience?

If we are saving money then how is spending a ton of money prior to the month saving it?  If we are saving money and then using up what we have during the no spend month and then buying a ton of stuff the next month saving it?

Currently, we don't shop much. We don't eat out much. Our food budget is pretty low. We are slowly building up a food storage so we don't need to test that yet.  We have a monthly budget.  Food, gas, bills, etc.  This stays the same most months.  We budget for upcoming things like kids activities, birthdays, holidays, etc.

For our family, we have settled on a happy medium. Part of this decision comes from that fact that we have already been not spending for the past several months anyway. Part of this decision comes from necessity. Most of this decision comes from looking at our spending the past month.  We have spent nickels and dimes in two specific areas that we could take a vacation from this month.

This month (February) we are having a No Spend month for crafty stuff, home decor, and bikes.  Yes, bikes.  My son and husband have a small bike hobby.  Right now they have about 40 bikes that they are working on fixing up and selling them.  It is the middle of winter.  We don't need any more bikes. So this month there is no money for bikes in our budget.  There is also no money in the budget for my hobbies either. A quick look at our checking account shows approximately $260 in spending in these two areas. This does not include when we used cash to pay for items.  My goal is to save approximately $250 this month.

Of course there are rules!
1. No spending any money from our budget on these items.
2. If you sell one of your items you may use that money on purchasing other items from the list.  For example, if my son and husband sell a bike then they can use that money they earned from the sale to purchase another bike.  If I sell something "crafty" then I can use that money to purchase other crafty stuff.

Already two days into this month we have a bit of "jockeying" money to get what we want/need.

I have a scrapbooking workshop that I attend once every other month. When we imposed this spending ban I didn't think about my workshop.  It is next week.  It will cost me a minimum of $30. Luckily, I have a solution.  I make walker bags (tote bags that attach to walkers).  I sell them to a local, neighborhood pharmacy.  They are in need of some more now and I will take up 8 or 10 of them and they will write me a check.  I will use this money to go to my workshop and pay for my supplies.

My son and husband also have a bit of a problem.  They need to fix a bike.  They need an inner tube for it.  They will need to sell a bike to purchase this inner tube to fix this bike.

Did you know that I work at a national chain craft store?  Yes, I do.  This morning I was working and one of my jobs was to price all the clearance items.  Some of them were strings of beads.  They were on clearance for only $0.49! I was dying because it was a great price and I couldn't buy them, because we are on this no spend month. Sigh......I have to look on the bright side.  I saved some money today, right?

This month might be harder than we expect!Off to go make some more walker bags! :)