Monday, January 31, 2011

Easy Beef Barley Slow Cooker Soup

I didn't think I would be so busy in retirement. That isn't a complaint though, as most of the busy-ness is a choice. Today was destined to be a day full of errands even with a clear weather forecast for the rest of the week. The huge winter storm that is predicted to deliver 10-15 inches of snow by Wednesday made completing errands today imperative.

I had purchased beef last week, cubed it and divided it into two freezer bags for soup or casseroles. When I realized yesterday how hectic today was going to be, I took one bag out of the freezer for today's dinner. I made soup in the slow cooker and it not only made the house smell wonderful when I got home late this afternoon, it warmed us up on a very cold day.

Many people are fancier cooks than I am. Many are purists who would never use short cuts such as canned items or seasoning packets. I applaud their creativity, their diligence, their whatever-drives-them-to-be-who-they-are BUT...I also applaud myself for getting something together for dinner on a day when time or interest in cooking is in short supply. 

I didn't think to take a photo of tonight's dinner, but most beef barley soups would look similar so I am using this photo found online.
The surprising (to me) flavoring in this recipe comes from a packet of meatloaf seasoning. I use low sodium beef broth to cut down the sodium that is undoubtedly in the seasoning packet. Click here to see the printable recipe.

If this is the type of recipe that you would consider making, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Martha Stewart advice to Rednecks

1. Never take a beer to a job interview.
2. Always identify people in your yard before shooting at them.
3. It's considered tacky to take a cooler to church.
4. If you have to vacuum the bed, it is time to change the sheets.
5. Even if you're certain that you are included in the will, it is still rude to drive the U-Haul to the funeral home.

1. When decanting wine, make sure that you tilt the paper cup and pour slowly so as not to "bruise" the fruit of the vine.
2. If drinking directly from the bottle, always hold it with your hands.

1. A centerpiece for the table should never be anything prepared by a taxidermist.
2. Do not allow the dog to eat at the table, no matter how good his manners are.

1. While ears need to be cleaned regularly, this is a job that should be done in private using one's OWN truck keys.
2. Even if you live alone, deodorant is not a waste of good money.
3. Use of proper toiletries can only delay bathing for a few days.
4. Dirt and grease under the fingernails is a social no-no, as they tend to detract from a woman's jewelry and alter the taste of finger foods.

DATING (Outside the Family):
1. Always offer to bait your date's hook, especially on the first date.
2. Be assertive. Let her know you're interested: "I've been wanting to go out with you since I read that stuff on the bathroom wall two years ago."
3. Establish with her parents what time she is expected back. Some will say 10:00 PM. Others might say "Monday." If the latter is the answer, it is the man's responsibility to get her to school on time.

1. Crying babies should be taken to the lobby and picked up immediately after the movie has ended.
2. Refrain from talking to characters on the screen. Tests have proven they can't hear you.

1. Livestock is usually a poor choice for a wedding gift.
2. Kissing the bride for more than 5 seconds may get you shot.
3. For the groom, at least, rent a tux. A leisure suit with a cummerbund and a clean bowling shirt can create a tacky appearance.
4. Though uncomfortable, say "yes" to socks and shoes for this special occasion.

1. Dim your headlights for approaching vehicles, even if the gun is loaded and the deer is in sight.
2. When approaching a four-way stop, the vehicle with the largest tires does not always have the right of way.
3. Never tow another car using panty hose and duct tape.
4. When sending your wife down the road with a gas can, it is impolite to ask her to bring back beer too.
5. Do not lay rubber while traveling in a funeral procession

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Seeing Red

I have always liked red but have not used it in home decor until now. For over a year I had been thinking about a red gingham shower curtain for our main bathroom. Gingham shower curtains aren't easy to find, and the rare one I did find was not red. I considered making one but just hadn't devoted time to the project.

Along came December and the writing of Christmas gift suggestions to my sons and one daughter-in-law. I was looking for something at Target online and found a red shower curtain with white dots. Ooooh! Cuuute! My daughter-in-law ordered it for me. I had planned to leave my snowman themed curtain and towels up through mid to late February but I am tired of snow...the real stuff that is the cold that I am very tired of experiencing!

This post shows a bit of the blue that was in that bathroom along with the new round mirrors that I bought at Target. I do seem to spend a lot of time at that store, don't I?

I hung the new curtain, put new towels on the rack and added red dotted ribbons to the mirrors a few days ago.

The following day I went to Target to return child safety latches that would have prevented me from ever cooking again. Those dang things may warrant a post of their own one day but for now, I'll just say that my intent was to only return them and buy a package of disposable diapers. How I wound up in the bathroom towel and rug aisle is a mystery to me.  Photobucket But in my defense, just look how great my surprise find, the round rug, looks in the bathroom!
I've had calm curtains and decor in the past as well as cute (the snowmen who are out for a few months) but I don't think I've ever had anything this cheery. It makes me happy. I almost forget how dreary it is outside when I look at this bathroom.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A new navigation bar

I am still tweaking away here. I haven't done anything that will rock your world, but I am enjoying learning a bit more of what goes on behind the scenes and makes a blog appear and function as it does.

So far I've managed to add the horizontal navigation bar above (under my header) that will show posts with labels that match those tabs. I didn't label all of my posts as I went along so this only shows some  posts that might actually fit those descriptions. 

Why did I decide to do this? To avoid cooking and cleaning of course! Photobucket   Ok, I'm not that much of a slacker (hush up family! I hear you laughing!) I worked on this because I liked the idea of "pages" that Blogger offers, but didn't like that a page is static. A Blogger page is good for contact information but not for updating posts about knitting, etc.

My main source of information was nitecruzr at The Real Blogger Status and I am going to admit that while some of his info contained words that I am becoming familiar with, a lot is still intimidating to me. Before I did anything here I tried things on a test blog that nobody else ever sees. It is my dirty little secret.

Now when I publish post about the cake I'll be making for a 6 year old's birthday at the end of this week and use the label "Food fun", the post will not only show here, it will appear with related posts under the Food Fun tab.

I won't be going back through all my unlabeled posts, but I will go back through recent ones and add labels to some of them. Over time I've deleted some photos in my Photobucket account and realize that has left error messages in some of my old posts. I'll try to clean those up as I find them, deleting the error message but I won't be reinserting photos.

I probably sound a little geeky in my excitement over this, but it is because I truly love to learn. Photobucket

About that is 6:00 and I am re-heating leftovers for dinner. Care to guess how many hours I've been in this chair? Photobucket

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blog housekeeping and revamping

I am trying to learn something new to me so new posts may remain intermittent for a while, photos may disappear and the layout may change a few times before I settle in again.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stepping away can be a good thing

Have you ever found yourself reading a blog, messages on a forum or on Facebook and talking back to the person/people in anger or disgust? I've found myself doing that lately which is a signal it is time to step away from those posts. I'm positive no one who reads here is guilty of that, so please exhale that worried breath.
Years ago I was in a weekly activity with a woman who spent most of our time together complaining about her husband and kids. We all vent about some things like the socks that he never gets in the hamper or kids bickering about whether blue or red is a better color. I'm not talking about off hand comments nor am I talking about the very real concerns that some of us have from time to time and share with a trusted friend. This woman would complain that her husband never bought her anything, then suspect he did something wrong if he gave her flowers unexpectedly. A gift from him was never the right color, brand, or you name it. Same thing with her kids. If her son got an A on a spelling test, that lead to berating him for not getting a better grade on his math test. Nothing was every right or enough. It got very tiring and worse, I was coming home with a bad attitude. Once Bill pointed it out to me, I realized he was right and how tired I was of this person. Summer brought an end to that activity and I did not resume it the following autumn.

I came to blogs after years on message boards. There are a few small ones that I still belong to, and anything said there among friends is read with interest and taken seriously. If one person complains a little long and hard about something that would normally be trivial, I think there is probably an underlying cause and wait to see if the mood passes or if something bigger is going to be revealed before commenting.

There are a few large message boards that I visit infrequently, mainly to occasionally touch base with a few friends who are still there and not active elsewhere. I can't tell by a post title what mood is going to be prevalent among those who reply to that thread. Sometimes reading is like watching a train wreck.
When you aren't personally involved, your reaction might merely be "He said what?" or " I can't believe she'd say such a thing!" Lately I haven't been amused from a distance, I've been agitated. Bigotry over big issues and small. They're like the little children still arguing over red and blue, and God help you if you don't like their choice.

I don't know why so many people have short fuses or why they feel they can say any darn thing they please behind the anonymity of words typed and attached to a screen name. I can't control those situations, I can only remove myself from them. It already feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

The older I get, the more I appreciate some of my father's favorite pieces of advice. The first speaks more to throwing the first punch, the second is about retaliation.
If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all
Just because other people are nasty, you don't have to be nasty too.

I hope you all have a warm, safe, happy, peaceful weekend.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I found it!

For all of you who thought the place didn't exist, here is proof that you can be prepared for that infamous scenario!

I hope you are prepared to have a good day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another scarf finished!

A husband may wonder how many scarves a wife needs. A wife's answer may be always one more than her current number, especially if she is a knitter.

This scarf is super easy. It is all garter stitches with a few buttonholes thrown in so that you can weave a silk, chiffon, or in this case polyester scarf through those holes. I couldn't figure out a way to wear the scarf and take pictures at the same time so all photos were taken on the floor. Given what I was wearing while taking the photos, this is a good thing.

I knitted the scarf to be just a bit shorter than most of the silky scarves that I will use. The first example shows the silky scarf running in and out of the holes like a running stitch. This looks better on a person than on the floor (imagine that!) and is good if you are going to leave the scarf hanging straight down.
Another way of lacing the silky scarf is through a hole and over one edge of the scarf. I'm sure there is a technical term for this but I don't know what it is.
Place this around your neck, scrunch the knitted scarf loosely or tightly and tie the silky scarf into a knot or bow. I like a looser look, but scrunching it up tightly is a cute look for some too, reminding me of a queen's ruff in olden times.

I wore to my knitting group today and got many compliments. Too bad I didn't think to take my camera with me there. Time to get back to sock knitting as I have a lonely orphan in my knitting bag at the moment.  I also have more decluttering to tackle this week along with the usual stuff. Not the glamorous life of the rich and famous, but family, hobbies and the antics of the little Cheerio-eater over there in my sidebar keep me happy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free Medical Tests!

How to tell if your feet stink:
Because I want you to get checked out to make sure you're healthy and will be around longer I would like to perform the following medical test….

Stare into the cat's eyes for 10 seconds ... 

Now stare into the dog's eyes for 10 seconds...

Your CAT SCAN and LAB TESTS are now complete!



I couldn't resist!

Do you feel like working today?


The day after?

Next week?

Next Month?


Me neither!

I just want to party!

 Have a good one!


Monday, January 10, 2011

January....time to purge!

I'm taking a different approach this year. I haven't set a goal date for getting specific jobs done but I plan to work on the whole house over the entire year. That doesn't mean any one room will be completely done before I move on to something else. While this may not be the most efficient way to handle things for some, it allows me the freedom to fit jobs to the time available or to procrastinate on something that needs a little more think time.

Today I tackled the cabinet and drawer in a room divider that has held mainly candles and candle holders. What a mess! Even if I had taken a before picture, I wouldn't show you. Photobucket

We don't often burn candles here. My husband dislikes them unless you are staying right with them, keeping an eye on them. We don't exactly live like that, plus I've grown fond of battery operated candles with timers from Candle Impressions. I can use those in places that I would never safely use a real candle.

Over the years I went to more Party Lite home parties than I can count. Never wanting to leave without buying something, I resorted to buying boxes of candles, candles that rarely were used. Throw in the occasional single votive or tealights bought because I wanted a holiday scent or liked the color in a table arrangement when entertaining plus the candles received as gifts and party favors and yikes! Candles were multiplying behind closed doors!

This is what I pulled out of the cabinet, minus a few warped tapers and a few half used and past their prime.
Scary, eh?

Does Lennox still make candles? I think these pink ones are over 30 years old! And birthday candles? If I combine them all, I can have a party for a 113 year old!
After donating many items and trashing a few, I was able to restock the cabinet and look...there is room to spare!
Our living spaces are not messy so what goes wrong with the closets and cabinets? Hanging on to items for sentimental reasons eventually becomes old. If something is too good to toss but you know deep down you are never going to use it, it is time to find someone who will use it.

I plan to share other successes with you throughout the year. I know many of us are in the same situation, knowing we have too much stuff and needing inspiration to start the sorting process. Maybe we can influence each other and have roomier closets and cabinets by the end of the year. Photobucket

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Men lacking female supervision

Oh my, the things boys of all ages will do without a woman around to supervise!



But not all incidents involve the holidays. Some occur around the home...




Some involve their vehicles




And the scariest of all combine their vehicles and their homes!




Thankfully my husband and sons haven't done any of these things. That I know of. 

Thank you to my husband with a good sense of humor who shared this email with me.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A bracelet , a hat and an update

Have I cleaned any closets yet? No.

Have I started the Miracle Diet that will drop 10 pounds each week while raising my IQ by 10 points weekly? No.

Have I done anything productive?  Sort of.

Good for the economy and very good for me, I bought a bangle bracelet. It was made from an old, aluminum knitting needle (Hey! This means I helped recycle too!) and came from Sassafras Creations at Etsy. I love it!
Yesterday I felt lousy all day. Headache, chills and feeling sleepy made me think I was coming down with a doozey of a cold, but it appears to have been sinus crud with post holiday funk thrown in. While watching TV I made this hat. More yarn used up! The hat looks like nothing off a head. It sort of collapses into an odd pancake.
I have a few other knitting projects going, but the next one that intrigues me is a pair of gloves that will be made with this same yarn.

And now the update on my son's shoulder: His shoulder may have slipped out of place and back in on its own. He will begin physical therapy this coming week and will be re-evaluated at the end of the prescribed run of treatments.

Thank goodness I didn't make resolutions for New Year's. They'd all be broken already!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Same old stuff, just a different year

It may be a new year, but the days still aren't going as planned. Honey, that ain't new.

Days not going as planned isn't necessarily a bad thing, just not what I expected in retirement. No more alarm clocks (except when Bill has a golf date or the grandson is coming early); meals would be carefully planned, shopped for without stress and lovingly prepared; and a time warp would exist every morning while I sat here for 3 hours catching up on the world through the internet and doing puzzles but miraculously, when I was done, only 15 minutes would have passed. Maybe 20 if the Sudoku puzzle had a 5 star rating.

Yesterday got away from both of us. We were busy, busy, busy. Some of Monday's to-do list moved to today. The alarm went off at 6:00, we left for breakfast at 7:00 and were at our oldest son's at 8:00. Hubby was building a wall in the basement while I watched our grandson. Our son works nights so his part of this project didn't kick in until around noon, but that was fine.

Skipping over afternoon details that wouldn't be interesting to read about, Bill offered to take me to dinner tonight but I had to say no. You can't imagine how that hurt! I had meat that had to be cooked tonight as Sunday's plans and yesterday's also were waylaid. The carry over to-do list from yesterday included a trip to Penney's and to Sears to return some items. Since I wasn't going to make it this afternoon, I had hoped Bill could take me tonight.

Are you guessing what happened? We didn't go, but Bill is out of the house. He is at the hospital with our son who has a dislocated shoulder! It has been bothering him but he didn't expect it to be dislocated! The clinic told him to get someone to drive him to the hospital so that it can put back into place.

I know this isn't the worst thing that could happen but I am his mom. I am stressed. I have eaten more M&Ms than I care to admit. Do you think any of those M&Ms helped him any? I sure hope so.

I don't think I'll plan anything for tomorrow. Maybe the day will go swimmingly that way.

**Update 4 hours later**

The hospital said it is NOT a dislocated shoulder, probably a muscle strain and they recommend he see an orthopedist. The doctor that saw my son is someone who played high school basketball with him, 3 years his senior.

This is really offensive. I can overlook my sons' ages because I still see the little boy in each of them. They simply can't have peers old enough to be doctors!  Boy, I need that time warp more than ever now!!!

Monday, January 3, 2011

There is nothing uglier than a bigot

Today's post is a serious one, unusual for me, but this has been bothering me for a while.

Saturday afternoon, January 1st, I was waiting my turn at the checkout in my neighborhood Walgreen's. I don't know what prompted the man (maybe 45-55 in age) in front of me to begin talking to the female cashier (late 60s?) about a subject that gave him an excuse to use a derogatory term for people of a certain family of nationalities. She didn't understand the term so he explained it to her. She looked over at me and I rolled my eyes. I couldn't believe he was spouting off like this in public. I thought the cashier may have been upset but no, she agreed with him! That caused him to use another term, even more degrading. He turned, smiling, to look at me as if he has said something profound and wonderful.

If my eyes had been lasers, he would have been incinerated on the spot. He did not misinterpret my disgust but rather than becoming quiet ( I knew he was too boorish to consider apologizing), he launched into a diatribe about being sick of being "politically correct" and how those people are trying to take away our God and gave his version of American history as proof of his righteousness.

He made me sick.

Arguing with someone like that is futile. I just wanted him to pay, leave, and let me do the same. The cashier kept him engaged in conversation and there were no other cashiers available. Finally that transaction ended and it was my turn. Normally I greet cashiers cheerfully but I was annoyed with her for going along with this jerk so I remained quiet until she asked if I was sober after last night (referring to New Year's Eve). She probably thought she was being pleasant and funny, but following the jerk's dialog, it offended me. I told her that question was as offensive as the previous conversation.

The cashier was not responsible for the man's opinions. Perhaps the adage of the customer being right made her agree with him, but it was a poor choice to encourage him. I would like to think these two people would not have been so insensitive in front of someone who was obviously (by appearance) from the group they were ridiculing but one cannot always tell by appearance what lineage is in your blood. Physical appearance certainly doesn't show who you love, have given birth to, been adopted by or have adopted.

I do not know what ethnicity the customer was, nor what religion he practiced, but I bet at one time that heritage was ridiculed somewhere in this country. We no longer live in isolated neighborhoods of Irish Catholics, Russian Jews, or any other narrowly defined combination of backgrounds. To say that you are tired of "political correctness" to justify your bigotry is wrong. The term "politically correct" refers to minimizing possible offenses regarding race, religion, sexuality, age and gender. To call a woman a "chick" because you've always used that term and mean no offense by it is completely different than using a racial slur said with a sneer. Use of language can evolve and terms that aren't meant to be offensive can be dropped. Attitudes like this customer's aren't as likely to evolve in his time on earth.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A problem solved

The year is off to a good start and I am doing the happy dance!
I bought a set of 7 circular mirrors at Target to hang in my downstairs bathroom. The problem was how to hang them? The room is small and if something on the wall sticks out too much, it could easily be knocked off. This is what the hanger on the back of the mirror looked like:
The typical hanger made the mirror stick out too far and just using a nail was too precarious. What to do? Use a needle, thread, ribbon and plastic rings!
Feel free to imagine that these are snowballs while my snowflake and snowmen shower curtain is in place. At the end of January my new curtain will go up. It is red with white polka dots. I think I'll add small red ribbons, maybe bows, to the white rings to bring a bit more red into a very white bathroom. Ribbons are an easy addition that doesn't cause hubby angst the way red paint does!