At a Loss…

On a recent trip to the glass factory outlet store, J tipped off my husband that I had been ogling this mini pedestal cake stand/dome for quite a while. It was not at all an expensive item, but I never could bring myself to buy it. Why?

Because what on earth would I do with it? It’s not very practical for storing food, because I would be lucky to squeeze two cupcakes into it. When have I ever made just two cupcakes? I was sure there is some creative, decorative use for these things, but also knew I am not cool enough to come up with any ideas.

Because he is the sweetest, my husband snatched up not one, but two of these things.

Which begs the question…

What the heck do I do with them now?

Irresistible

The computer in our house reminds me of something….

Something from my adolescent days of living in the middle of cotton fields, with no neighbors around, and wildlife constantly invading.

Yep, the family computer is my equivalent of the old bug-zapping florescent light that we used to keep by the back door. Instead of bee-lining it into our house, bugs were drawn to its’ florescent glow, only to meet their demise with a resounding “ZAP.”

While the computer may not zap them, it still draws these boys in with its’ mesmerizing light.

Maybe I should stick a joke-buzzer on the mouse just to see what would happen….

I Need a Shower, a Cocktail and a Bucket of Icy-Hot Please.

Wooooo boy.

I have been unintentionally MIA recently, mostly because my workload tripled this week. This means I have been not only sick, but stressed, snarly, coughy and not fit for public consumption. I’ve even gone so far as to take a couple of vacation days next week, because my house is starting to look dirtier than the Haunted Mansion.

And that’s WITH Granny coming by and secretly doing my laundry. Sad, I know.

Despite running fever and coughing up my left lung on occasion, I still slapped on my gardening gloves and spent the weekend catching up on our various projects. We had plants that needed planting, and waiting another week was probably not a good idea. After all, when a heathen has actually gone through the trouble of planting some seeds, the least we can do as parents is plant the seedlings before they outgrow their pots:

I continue on my quest to overcome my green-thumb-of-death, but admit that it’s too soon to tell if I’ve improved on my total stupidity on all things plant-like. We had a truckload of dirt delivered to fill the remainder of our raised beds, but the closest the load could be dropped was our driveway. My poor husband has been shoveling and pushing the wheelbarrow so much that he probably needs muscle transplants; meanwhile, our driveway is still piled high with more dirt than we could ever need. Poor planning on my part, I guess. We got most of our plants in the ground, including our tomatoes:

Peppers:

Eggplant:

And herbs:

I also planted zinnias around the tomato bed, because I think I heard somewhere that they are supposed to help…help do what I have no idea….or maybe it was marigolds….oh well.

I also planted another flat and a half of various flowers, but was too tired to get the camera and walk around the yard.

So, that’s what my weekend looked like…now I just have dinner to cook, dishes to do, sheets to wash…

Or I could just fix a drink and hide in the bathtub.

Decisions, decisions……

Having a Love/Hate Relationship

Spring is here! As you can see, my dogwood tree is blooming. So are the wisteria, which I love, and the dreaded oak trees, which I hate. My car and porch are coated in greenish-yellow pollen, and as a family afflicted by seasonal allergies, our home is not the happiest place on Earth right now. Given the high cost of even over-the-counter allergy medication, we may go broke trying to keep our entire family from sniffling to death. Kleenex and ear phones are our saving grace.

The weather is gorgeous, and we are trying to make the best of it despite the fact that we all sound like someone took a blow torch to our vocal cords. On a recent trip to our local home improvement store, our kids decided that they wanted to plant something…not just anything, mind you. Ohhhh, nooooo. They wanted to plant a marigold…and only a marigold. I kid you not, you would think those heathens were angling for a puppy with the way they hounded us through the store. Given that a $1.50 marigold is a heck of a lot cheaper than a puppy (and it doesn’t poop), that was an easy request to give in to, even if I was shaking my head at two boys who seemed inordinately attached to a potted plant.

Thank goodness Venus fly traps are not indigenous to our area. Otherwise, we’d be in big trouble.

 

Sneaky Mom Tricks Family, Overeats and Laments Margarita Shortage

In my supremely naïve effort to sneak ANY moderately healthy food into my family, I decided to try a new, yet bizarre recipe that I found on Southern Living’s website. This Hearty Tex-Mex casserole contains many ingredients that my husband actually likes, such as chicken, cheese, sour cream, salsa and tortillas. However, the recipe also sneaks in a substantial portion of squash and spinach, which I have to say, was pretty well concealed in the final product. While Mr. “I-have-X-Ray-Vision” spotted the healthy stuff right off, he eventually gave this casserole a fair try (after much melodramatic protest), and lo and behold, he liked it! The heathens ate a decent amount of this as well, and frankly, I thought it was dang tasty.

Hearty Tex-Mex Casserole

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Ingredients

  • 1  (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 3  medium-size yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • 1  large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1  yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons  peanut oil
  • 3  cups  shredded cooked chicken or turkey
  • 12  (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1  (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of celery soup, undiluted
  • 1  (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • 1  (8-ounce) jar picante sauce or salsa
  • 1  (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, undrained
  • 1  (1.4-ounce) envelope fajita seasoning
  • 2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Preparation

Drain chopped spinach well, pressing between paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Sauté squash, bell pepper, and onion in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 6 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach, chicken, next 6 ingredients, and 1 1/2 cups cheese. Spoon into a lightly greased 13- x9-inch baking dish. At this point, I worried I screwed it up, because the mixture was VERY thick. However, as it cooked, it loosened up and the consistency was right on.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, and bake 5 more minutes.

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While making this recipe, I also stumbled onto something awesome. I am not a fan of most store-bought salsas. They always seem to taste too sour, vinegary or overall weird. While at the Wally-world, I grabbed a jar of this stuff to use in my casserole prep:

Hands down, this was perhaps the best store-bought salsa I’ve ever had. I liked it so much, I ate the other half of the jar yesterday with a handful to tortilla chips…although I DID let my mom have a bite or two, so quit looking at me like that. All that was missing was a margarita, but I had enough wine to make up for it.

So, if you’re brave enough to sneak your own vegetables-of-doom into your family, give this recipe a try.

But if your husband has X-Ray vision too, you’re on your own, sister.

Project Completion!

In the chaos of last week, I finally completed a set of embroidered towels that I have been working on for longer than I am willing to admit.

These were a gift for my mother-in-law, and I had originally planned to finish them by Christmas…………..Riiiiiiiiigggghhhhttt.

Despite my embarrassingly long time-table, I am still pretty happy with the end result:

This one is my favorite:

Even though I am a total embroidery novice, these towels were far easier than I thought they would be. The actual needlework did not take very much time at all; I just wasn’t as consistent with working on them as I could have been. Chalk it up to project-ADD, I guess.

Or the heathens, because they make good scapegoats.

Regardless of the tardiness, I can bask in the glow of actually having at least one of my works-in-progress completed.

Woo-Hoo!

A little less imagination and a little more reality

Ooooh boy. It’s been a week.

After my house was felled by the stomach virus last week, both my youngest and my husband have developed some severe cold/allergy funk that has made sleep elusive for all of us.

When my youngest woke up with fever on Saturday, (and after I finished banging my head into a wall and lamenting the fact that we can’t seem to catch a break lately), my husband and I still managed to finish the raised vegetable beds we’ve been toiling with for weeks:

Yes, I realize those beds are obscenely high. In our neighborhood, the soil is hard-packed clay, and even if we will till the top layer, the ground remains inhospitable to healthy vegetables. We learned this the hard way last year, and decided to play it safe from here on out.

After my husband finished swearing at his decrepit electric drill, we planted our squash, which had quickly outgrown its’ seed-starting cups:

We had not wanted to plant any of our seedlings so soon; from the get-go, we realized that we would need a truck-load of dirt to fill all our vegetable beds, because buying bags of soil from Lowes was not economically sensible. However, I had just not gotten around to making those arrangements…I blame the stomach virus…work…solar flares…and/or wardrobe malfunctions. The squash seedlings had other plans, as well as a lack of compassion for the calamity of stomach viruses/solar flares/work/wardrobe malfunctions, so we compromised and filled one bed with too-expensive soil.

After lifting 40 bags of 40-pound soil, I am a sore, whiny wreck of a woman.

And all the sudden, my dreams of a picture-perfect garden have a nice dose of reality. I am not deterred, however.

I’ll save disillusionment for the 105 degree days of July.

Fridays, Lent and Dinner-time Anarchy

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, and while I made it to Mass, the rest of my family was far too sick to go. On the bright side for them, they were so sick they didn’t even have to worry about that whole “day of fasting and abstinence” thing. While I got out of cooking a meatless meal yesterday, I’ll still have plenty of opportunities for family-meal anarchy this Lent.

Lenten Fridays are always a challenge for me, because I have two heathens who are not really fans of seafood (unless it’s the oh-so-not-healthy fish sticks), and a husband who acts like he is suffering the tortures of the dammed if his meal isn’t a protein-fest. Every once in a while, I throw my hands up and force them to eat grilled shrimp or salmon croquettes, but I usually try to keep the peace by making dishes that will not result in theatrical dinner-time protests, or suspicious food-autopsies in search of green onions.

French toast and cheese tortellini Alfredo are most often my Lenten Friday go-to’s, but I’ve also tried to find recipes that actually contain some semblance of nutritional value…or at least more nutritional value than French Toast. I found this recipe in Southern Living, and not only is it pretty tasty, but it also sneaks a sizeable spinach portion into my husband and kids. Even better, the spinach is well-hidden, so with careful presentation, the boogers have ingested some before they wise up to it.


Spinach-Ravioli Lasagna

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Ingredients

  • 1  (6-oz.) package fresh baby spinach, thoroughly washed
  • 1/3  cup  pesto sauce
  • 1  (15-oz.) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1/4  cup  vegetable broth (or white wine, if you’re a lush like me)
  • 1  (25-oz.) package frozen cheese-filled ravioli (do not thaw)
  • 1  cup  (4 oz.) shredded Italian six-cheese blend

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Chop spinach, and toss with pesto in a medium bowl.

2. Combine Alfredo sauce and vegetable broth. Spoon one-third of Alfredo sauce mixture (about 1/2 cup) into a lightly greased 2.2-qt. or 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Top with half of spinach mixture. Arrange half of ravioli in a single layer over spinach mixture. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining Alfredo sauce.

3. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with paprika and fresh basil, if desired.

I serve it with garlic bread and some other vegetable on the side if I am feeling particularly ambitious.

So, if you need a meatless option that has a chance of satisfying picky eaters, give this recipe a try.

Or, you could always stick with the French toast.

How a Carbon Monoxide Detector Drove Me Insane

Yesterday, I posted about how my smoke detectors started the “low battery beep” about 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. I still maintain that they were beeping just to tick me off, but my husband keeps reminding me that smoke detectors are machines, and not sentient. Riiiiggghttt. I’ve seen enough of the Matrix to know that I don’t trust anything that still works even when its’ batteries are removed.

We have four built-in smoke detectors throughout the house. Two are obviously in bedrooms, one is in a front room that could be labeled as a bedroom, but we use the room as a billiard/guy room, and another detector is about 4 feet away from the billiard/guy room in a hallway.

When the beeping first started, we assumed it was coming from the guy room, so my husband changed that battery. Later that night, the once-every-thirty-seconds beep started again, and sounded like it was coming from the same location. We assumed we were mistaken, and that the beep was probably coming from the nearby hallway smoke detector. We went back and forth between the two, trying to determine which detector was beeping. At the time, I kept thinking that the beeping sounded very close, but it just did not seem to be coming from either of the smoke detectors. In fact, I would have sworn that the beeping sounded like it was coming from inside the guest bathroom, but we don’t have a smoke detector in there.

Annoyed as can be, my husband decided to kick this problem in the pants, and changed all the batteries in all the smoke detectors. Problem solved…or so we thought.

Right about the time I came dragging home after working severe overtime last night, that bleepity-bleep-bleep beeping started again. I won’t tell ya the litany of swear words that followed, but I finally invoked Google, and we tried every solution I could find: cleaning the detectors with canned air, resetting them all, and removing and reinstalling the batteries. I became convinced that we had a defective smoke detector somewhere in the house, and were going to have to replace and re-wire them all.

As I went into the bathroom, the dang beep sounded again, and I told my husband that I swore I could hear it in the bathroom.

On a side note, the guest bath has a built-in shower that has stone walls about 8 feet high (and we have 10 or 12 foot ceilings), thus creating about 3 feet of super-high ledge that I am too lazy to dust.

Well, my husband walks in the bathroom, stands on the toilet, and pulls down an old carbon monoxide detector that the previous owners left sitting back on the top of the 8 foot-high shower wall.

We looked at each other and all I could say was, “well, sh*t.”

Needless to say, that carbon monoxide detector is now in shattered pieces across my dresser.

Let’s see that booger try to beep now!