Saturday, May 31, 2008

So long, Jaz....

You will be missed.

It's odd, in this online world, how people you've never met face to face become part of your vast network of "people you know", and very very sad when someone goes way, way before their time should have been.

Hopefully, Jaz, you're in a better place and are now privy to all those MV secrets and "behind the scenes" knowledge, and looking down at all the cute shoes and smiling.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't Smell the Fish Sauce

I've been trying to explore the "outside of China" Asian cooking recently, since my Thai food connection has been cut. A lot of the recipes call for fish sauce.

Around here, it's easy to find. It's cheap. And it tends to be kinda critical to making stuff taste authentic. But it can be a little scary.

People will warn you that it's gross, smelly, blah blah blah. But for some stuff, you need it. Won't be the same without it.

First couple times I used fish sauce, I was careful not to smell it on its own. I had no problems.

And then I decided to take a whiff. I wished I hadn't.

Since then, I've spilled it AND gotten on my clothes. If you spill it, apply a good smelling cleaner immediately. If you get it on your clothes, turn off all burners NOW and go change your clothes.

It's not that scary... it's just something that you don't want to smell on its own. It's not pleasant. But in a recipe, it makes all the difference.

Do not feat the fish sauce. Just don't sniff it directly.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pasta + Cheese + Garlic Bread = Goodness

Even when it comes from a freezer and a jar, it's still good.

I've been wanting to try the Dei Fratelli marinara sauce that That Word Guy gave me a few weeks back, and while looking for something else in the freezer over the weekend I saw some cheese ravioli in there. Then I saw them do Cheesy Garlic Bread on America's Test Kitchen (even though I know I've seen that episode before... I think I was too distracted at the garlic press and finding it online to buy it and I missed that part of the show) and the plan was set. Nice, easy Tuesday night dinner. Oh yeah.

And I managed to not light the sauce on fire or anything tragic tonight.

I cut the butter and cheese in half for the garlic bread recipe, and I still could have cut it more, in my opinion. (And of course it was good even with the extra butter and cheese, but I am trying to cook healthy over here. Really.) I even used a loaf of bread I pulled out of the freezer the last time they had small french loaves on sale, and you couldn't tell at all.

LOVED the pasta sauce. When I was trying to figure out if they carried it at any of my local stores (they do) I realized that they are also my favorite brand of diced, canned tomatoes for the same reason it was suggested I try the sauce.... not overly acidic. More tomato-y than my regular Prego, but no heartburn an hour after dinner. Too bad I have two jars of the Muir Glen sauce in the pantry, and at least three bottles of Prego....

Nice to not totally &#@&@#! up dinner after how I was feeling last night.

Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow. It's the last day for some hamburger I have in the fridge. Might do some burgers, since I have buns left from last night. Can't do anything pasta-ish since I did pasta tonight (yes, the hubbly-bubbly gets that picky sometimes) and did nachos yesterday, so anything Mexican is out. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How To Burn Already Cooked Food.

Sigh. I hate it when I have bad moments in the kitchen.

Sure... I've been rocking it all weekend, and yesterday I did some very yummy pulled pork in the crockpot to have for dinner tonight.

And, we got none of the expected RAIN!!!! they were calling for in the forecast. And we didn't have anyone come over after seeing Indiana Jones this afternoon (frankly, after already seeing them yesterday, we were kinda sick of family).

So, before we left for the theater, I dumped the pork in the crockpot, poured in a little of the cooking liquid and some BBQ sauce, thinking it would all reheat nicely on low while we were watching the movie.

That was the plan, at least.

Got home, to this....

Yep, it burned to the sides of the crockpot. I tried to save the stuff that didn't look burnt, but it all tasted kinda burned. Sigh.

We ended up having nachoes for dinner. Go, America!

At least Harrison Ford still looks good shirtless. I don't consider the day a total waste.

Hopefully, the bad cooking won't continue to haunt me for the rest of the week. I guess we'll see if I manage to burn something as easy as frozen ravioli and jarred sauce tomorrow night....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How To Plan For a Party When You're Not Sure You're Having One

So, our Memorial Day plans include going to an afternoon show of Indiana Jones with the hubby's side of the family.

Being the one responsible for getting a meal on the table at the end of the day, I know that I've got to have something ready come dinnertime, and Memorial Day is not a day you want to rely on take out since a lot of places are going to be closed.

So, I'm doing some pulled pork in the crockpot. It's easy, it can be ready and waiting for me whenever I need it. And, if the rest of the family doesn't have a clue what they're doing for dinner, it can feed a lot of people. Also a good choice since it looks like daytime tomorrow is gonna be nuttin' but thunderstorms.

Shopping on Saturday, bought some extra sour cream. Came home and mixed up ranch dip and french onion dip using packets, and put those in the fridge. Bought extra chips at the grocery store and veggies that are dip-friendly that can also be cooked later in the week if they are uneaten. Also picked up some of the salsa the produce mart makes, and some tortilla chips. There were also some great specials on strawberries and blackberries, so I made a little fruit salad tonight.

So, if people want to come over and hang out and nosh tomorrow, there will be chips and dip, veggies and dip, I also have some cheese and crackers I can pull out, pulled pork for sandwiches and some slaw (bought the "all in one bag" stuff for that, I'll mix it up tomorrow morning), a fruit salad and some store bought chocolate chip cookies. And if no one shows, we're set for the week, and I don't have to do anything but pull some stuff out for dinner time.

Need to figure out what I'm making for a little "girls gathering" on Saturday night at my sis in law's. I already plan on the tiramisu brownies I made for Easter, toying with the idea of some shrimp spring rolls, but I know rice paper is usually not happy for long periods of time. Hmmm.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Grab the Lysol....

... and spray your computer screen liberally so you can keep the germs away.

I understand that working in an office, and really most workplaces, there are office colds. But, our office is seriously overcrowded in the first place, and our cubicles are really jokes. You can't have a person in your cube without them being all over your personal space. So, when someone gets sick, it travels thru the office like a lit match on a trail of gas (or at least how the movies has told me that happens).

Yesterday, there were some coughs from others in the office, and by the end of the day I knew I was coming down with it. Got home from work, made some nice sauteed chicken breasts in a little butter/garlic sauce with some capers for me (and even the chicken-hating hubby liked it in the end) with some baked potatoes and steamed broccoli. Worked out, did some work for Old Company, and knew I was crashing.

Woke up this morning with full-on fever. Thought about it for about two seconds, and called in to work. I don't have anything critical going on, and I sure as shit am NOT going to be sick for the holiday weekend. So, went back to bed and slept thru as much of the hot/cold spells as best I could. One of the more interesting fever dreams involved my serious panic about Cheetos being pulled from store shelves in the area. Woke up from that one, decided to heat up some onion soup for lunch, and munched on the last "lunch-sized" bag of Cheetos that I had. Hey, sometimes you have to listen to your body!

The outdoor noises were picking up (it was garbage day and the crazy lady two doors down is having work done on her house and it sounded like a zillion trucks coming and going and beeping all morning) so I planted myself on the couch, popped in DVD one of the old BBC version of Pride & Prejudice, and crashed for the afternoon. Woke up to switch the DVD off to regular TV, then work again when the hubby called at 4:30 to see how I was doing. Took a shower, and crashed back on the couch.

Hubby made some grilled peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for dinner. Always yummy

And now, the fever has finally dropped and I think I'm getting back to normal. Should be back to the office craziness tomorrow. I'm guessing at least one coworker will be down with what I was out with today.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

When you're a Hausfrau, the weekend is never relaxing.

So, after last weekend with places to go all weekend, I was looking forward to this weekend.


Woke up early on Saturday and it was Mission Clean! for the day. Cleaned, organized, put things in order. I swear, my husband sheds hair like a bleepin' dog. I dared to tackle the carpeted stairs... which were covered with SO much of my hubby's hair it was ridiculous. He's been talking about wanting to get a dog, and he's not on the same wavelength as me with getting a non-shedding dog like a poodle, so he was informed that there was no WAY we'd be getting a dog without getting a maid service for me. I couldn't do his hair and dog hair.

Our cruddy vacuum is not good on the stairs and the hubby busted the little broom vac I'd been using, so it was a struggle with the vacuum falling in to me several times to get the stairs done. But it got done. As did the rest of the cleaning & straightening up.

We ordered a pizza for dinner, watched Cops, and I feel asleep on the couch for a few minutes. Woo! What a Saturday night.

Today was grocery shopping and other fun errands, which also involved going to find another tomato cage. Went to one nursery, and they only had these huge tomato plant structure things that were much more than I needed. Walked around, and what do I find?

Chocolate mint. Two different bleepin' kinds.

Yeah. I bought it. And also had to get a pot to put it in. Sigh.

Went to another garden place and found my tomato cage. Got home, got that around my plant, did a salmon filet for me and a strip steak for the hubby for dinner, and did a few hours of work for Old Company. Woo.

And right now I am so dead tired, I'll be lucky if I wake up at all tomorrow.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Funny how timelines cross.....

Today, the hubby was asking about the DJ we had at our wedding reception. My lasting memories were that the guy came cheap and did exactly what we asked. No clowing, no showboating, just play the tunes we asked for and if you play anything on our "DO NOT PLAY" list, you may be taken outside and stomped by the bride.

We're picky about our music, but much more picky about the music we hate.

The hubby was looking for the info because a dude at his work is getting married, and we were actually very happy with our DJ service. The owner of the company was actually the one who did our reception, and we couldn't have been happier with him. So, hubby was trying to find the guy's info to pass on to work dude.

I was trying to recall... at our reception (which happened 4 months after we were married in Vegas) I remembered that someone I knew, closely, showed up to hear the DJ in action. I could NOT remember who. My old best friend? Nope, she was already married by then. One gal I knew that I was friendly with? No, it wouldn't have been awkward. And I recall it being oh so very much so.

Three beers in to the night, and my memory kicks in. It was the sister of my first teenage boyfriend. The guy who was my introduction to psychopathic stalkers. Fun times.

Oh.... and.... my sister in law (bro's wife) actually dated him right after I kicked his sorry, lying, psychopathic (gee... wow.... that was a trend for the guys I dated in my teenage years....) ass to the curb. And the stalking started. When my bro started dating my now sis in law, we actually had a conversation where she said she was scared to meet me since the Ex had been telling her - constantly - that I was jealous and I wanted to beat her up. I had no idea who she even WAS. The Ex was all about trying to rock the "jealousy"... which didn't work for me since I was not threatened.... literally, seriously, honestly.... by a "girlfriend from Canada" (rock it... Breakfast Club!). But it was kinda neat to find out I had such a rep as a bad ass that my now sis in law was scared of me at some point in time.

Back to the point......

Yeah. It was awkward. Even though I was friendly with his sister for several years after the Ex was dumped to the curb. I think it was most disturbing when I was talking to the Ex's sister and my now sis in law came up to me.... although she really seemed to think her bro was a paranoid nutjob, we might have accidentally and given some credence to his whacked-out ideas at that point.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The things I get humor from......

Tonight, on CSI: NY there was a line I am still giggling about.

"I'll build a GUI using Visual Basic!!!"

To yer average, non-huge-geeky-engineery-type-person, this is just about the modern equal to "reverse the polarity" or "it's just like letting air out of a ballon".

Man, I am a geek sometimes.

Beef Stroganoff


This is one of my favorite recipes. Well, my highly modified version of it is. ;) Especially for a week like this... no grocery store trip. I usually keep a sirloin steak in the freezer just for this recipe. And to make it to my liking, you don't even need to thaw the steak. Just thwap the frozen steak in a hot pan, brown for 3 minutes on each side. While that is browing, slice your onions and mushrooms, and add those to the pan with a pinch of salt after you pull the steak out. Cook those, then add the flour and cook, then add beef broth, a dash of Worcestershire and a lot of pepper. I usually skip the tomato paste (since I'm too lazy and cheap to bother opening a can of it just to use a little bit) and the balsamic since the hubby can tell if I even opened the bottle of balsamic and waved it past the food as it cooks. Slice the steak, and after the sauce is all bubbly, kill the heat and add the sour cream and steak strips, stir to combine, and serve over noodles (although I usually use some spaetzel noodles). Yum.

I've even done a veggie version of it using slices of portobello and a veggie "beef" stock, and even my non-veggie self found it pretty tasty.

Nuttin' much else happening around here. Work is actually getting mildly busy (I am still sooooo not used to this slow, "actual time to spend on projects" pace and that disturbs me) so the days are going fast this week. Always a good thing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Falling Apart

Friday, when I got to work, sat down at my desk, and it felt like there was a bruise on my arm. Noticed a couple little scratches, but it felt like a bruise. By the end of the day, oh my, it was a bruise. And I'd have had to remember whacking my arm in to something that would cause a bruise like this one.

I've always woken up in the morning with scratches, bruises, cuts and other things. For a very long time, I was puzzled. My college roommate came up with the theory (this was back when the whole world was deep in to the X-Files and aliens and all that stuff) that I was abducted my aliens - just very, very sloppy aliens. On all the shows, people talk about being abducted and returning without any marks or anything. Obviously, I was taken by aliens that did not subscribe to that attention to detail.

I figured out several years later, apparently I'm a sleepwalker. Usually, I'll just wake up around 5am or so on the the couch, but apparently sometimes I manage to make it back to bed. Or I was just abducted by the sloppy aliens again.

After the party on Saturday, I came home and took a little nap. Must have slept funny, because my neck hurt after that. I tried to fluff and reposition my pillows before I went nite nite, but I must not have done it right, since Sunday my neck was in terrible pain. Any moment that was spent driving in the car or at home, I had my travel pillow around my neck because it at least stopped me from turning my neck in the ways that made it hurt most.

Woke up on Monday, and my left eyelid was swollen. Seriously, WTH? I know my allergies have been particularly brutal this year, but this is an odd one. It has happened to me in the past, but it's still got me annoyed.

I thought I had another ten or so years before my body started to fall apart like this. Sigh.

Cooking has not been anything to talk about this week. Didn't make it to the grocery store over the weekend with all the goings-on, so I'm working outta the freezer and fridge. Also, the hubby has been pulling major (unpaid.. I hate being a salaried employee sometimes) overtime over the past week and a half while his boss is out, so trying to aim for a time to have dinner ready has been difficult. Ok, I admit, I just haven't even tried. Sue me.

Forgot what we had Monday... oh yeah, Polish sausage and cabbage & onions. Slice an onion, slice a head of cabbage, saute it for a couple minutes, then add a cup of chicken stock and a heaping tablespoon of dijon mustard, cover, and let it simmer away. I'll usually just dump the sausage on top to reheat. I love cabbage, and something about the mustard really keeps the house from smelling like gym socks, so that is my usual method for cabbage. Tonight was just chicken salad sandwiches... I bought a chicken at Costco last week and was really at the "use it or loose it" time. Tomorrow is my favorite beef stroganoff using a steak outta the freezer, but at least for Thursday the plan is to make French toast (had some leftover Italian bread from tonight). That should be nice.

Yeah.... my blueberry bush is totally dead. I might do a pepper in that pot. But otherwise, the garden is looking good right now. Raided my herbs last week for a fish dish for me, and tonight for some tarragon (YAY!) for my chicken salad. I am a happy Hausfrau.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!!!

A Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and mother figures out there in the world!!

And of course, with Mother's Day looming, the Friday news was all over all the reports of what it would cost to hire professionals to do the job of a stay at home mom.

I have nothing against stay at home moms. Everyone makes their own choices in life. It would not be a choice for me, but I know not everyone thinks the same as me.

But these reports bug me every year. I don't doubt that a stay at home mom or housewife provides services to her family that would cost around $170k if they were farmed out to professionals. But what about the middle-class working mom or housewife that puts in 40 (or more) hours a week who doesn't have a personal chef, daily cleaning service or any luxury?

Where is the news report that gives me something so I can turn to my husband and say "See? See how lucky you are I pick up your dirty tee shirts??"

Ah well.

Busy weekend around here, my aunt's boyfriend's 80th birthday party was today, which was fun. My cousin drove down from Michigan, and it's always fun to see her. The hubby had to skip it, his boss is out for two weeks and he's swamped at work doing her stuff and his. The funny points - my nephew when I walking in, asking me right away where my hubby was, the same nephew being told he had some carrot on his face and promptly picking it off and putting it on the top of his head. Youngest nephew babbling away (there was some suspicion that he might be deaf or part def with his lack of talking.... right now the suspicion might just be ear infection combined with allergies combined for a temporary lack of hearing... we'll see what happens).

Tomorrow is Mother's Day... early brunch with my mom, over to the in-laws for what I assume will be an afternoon of car washing and some takeout. I'm sure it will be fun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Happy Siete de Mayo!!!

(Yeah... I missed the 5th. Ooops.)

That was the base for dinner on Monday... when I asked the hubby what kind of Mexican food he wanted, he said "Seafood enchiladas". Couldn't find a good recipe, so I roasted a poblano, a jalapeno, and a red pepper, chopped up some green onions and garlic, diced the chilies, added a little bit of milk, cream cheese, and chihuahua and cheddar cheese (I don't subscribe to the Italian belief that you don't mix seafood and cheese) and dumped in some boiled shrimp and some beautiful lump crab I had (the original plan was to make crab cakes until the hubby admitted he loves crab but is not too fond of crab cakes - and frankly, the stuff was so lump I'd have destroyed it trying to make crab cakes). That went in to tortillas, top with more cheese, and a good meal was had by all. Yay!

I was a productive Hausfrau today... it was a Pulled Pork Day... pork shoulder in the crockpot with some sliced onions, garlic, a little water and some spices, just pulled it apart when I got home and we had it as BBQ sandwiches. Also made some coleslaw - mix some mayo, cider vinegar and sugar to taste, dump in cabbage. At least dinner was easy.

And because dinner was so easy, I was productive in other ways. Four loads of laundry done, kitchen cleaned, and two shirts and one pair of pants got some repair work. What the heck is up with clothes lately? When clothes naturally get worn or torn, fine. But this was all new stuff. The hem in one leg of the pants just totally gave out, and the two shirts busted at the seam the first time I wore them. I also really like both shirts. Stinkin' clothes. Making me do sewing. By hand.

Not entirely sure what is for dinner tomorrow. I do have some fish that I took out of the freezer because I was out of room... might actually just do a fish dish for me and some frozen chicken cordon bleu for the hubby. I was originally planning on stroganoff, but I already did salisbury steaks this week, and I also have to plan for next week. We've got the 80th B-day party of my aunt's significant other on Saturday, and Mother's Day on Sunday... so no grocery shopping for me. Might try to hit Costco on the way home from work on Friday since I am also running low on "bulk store" supplies.

Weee... got the newest room mailer for Harrahs Vegas stuff today... seriously... way more free dates than I have ever seen. Usually we're damned cheap and a little restricted by the free dates we can get... not so much this time. As usual, I will leave it up to the hubby to figure out details for the next trip.... I gotta do enough thinking around here.

Oh, and another one of my ornamental grasses got dug up. I believe it is one I had constant problems with last year and already had problems with this year (although it doesn't explain other plant damage) so I believe that one might be due to a critter problem, since it really looks like it was dug up by a critter rather than yanked out by a inept landscaping dude. I think I'm done with planting for this year... might lay back and see what "takes" in the front bed before I put anything else in. On my drive to work, I actually see a lot of daffodils (in some REALLY odd places... don't know why they seem to grow so wild the next county over) and they've been looking nice to me. If I have dead spots to fill, I might look to plant some of those.

But for now, I am more than happy to veg out for the rest of the night.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Is today over yet?

I hate it when weekends are so busy.

Yesterday morning, I was cleaning off the kitchen table (aka, The Dumping Spot). Going thru the pile of "Not a Bill, But Mail You Hold On To" stuff and looking at invites for the next couple of weeks, I ran across the invite for the hubby's cousin's communion. I recalled it was this weekend, and reminded the hubby.

Um, yeah. It was yesterday.

At that time, the church ceremony was already happening, so we just planned to get ready and go to the party. We got there around 2:30. And were the first people there since the uncle's family "went to get a bite to eat", nevermind the fact there was a TON of food at the aunt's place. Whatever.

By 6:30, they still hadn't brought out the cake, and we were pretty much done, so we headed home, relaxed for a little while, and then decided to catch the 8:30 showing of Iron Man. Headed over to the theater that is only 5 minutes away, and we couldn't find a parking space. I ran in, and the 8:30 show was sold out anyway. So was the 9:00 show. But they had tickets for the 9:30, so I got those.

Putzed around Barnes and Nobel for a few minutes, then we just headed back home for a half hour before going back to the theater.

Turned out to be a really good movie. I feel like it's the 80s again and I'm all kinds of crushing on Robert Downey Jr. Wowsa. Good acting, good special effects, wonderful translation of comic book themes to make a great modern movie.

We didn't get home until about 11:30, and were all hyped from the movie, so sleep was still a few hours away, even with the help of a shot of Jack and a couple of brews. Finally got to be at 3am, and it was hard to drag myself outta bed this morning to get started on the day.

Hit the produce mart, hit the regulary grocery store, did a quick run thru a couple places looking for some little thing to get my Mom for her b-day/Mother's Day (on the same day this year) next week, but found nothing. Took a look at the plants at Wal-Mart, unimpressive.

At the regular grocery store, I was participating in my favorite game while waiting in line, See What Other People Are Buying. Lady in the next checkout isle, that I'd seen around the store while doing my shopping, looked to be in her late 30s, but had the sun-damage of an 80 year old. Skinny. And had a cart full of microwave popcorn, containers of egg whites, and TEN (I knew, only because I'd watched her and counted with a sense of wonder/fear as she loaded her cart) containers of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray. TEN. What the hell??

Came home, unloaded the truck, put stuff away, had a little lunch, and headed off on a mission to get all the herbs I'd need to fill out the garden.

Hit two local nurseries and did a walk thru of Home Depot's plants, and did get everything I'd need. Again, a year where chocolate mint is not to be found in the area. Thankfully I've used up all my containers, so I don't even have anywhere to put it so I must stop looking for it.

But... the planting is done!!! This year...

Chives (regular)
Garlic Chives
Purple Basil
Tarragon (2 plants, yes, I use it that much)
Creeping Rosemary
Lemon Thyme

Sweet Basil
Flat Leaf Parsley

Heirloom Tomato plant (forgot the exact variety)
Big Boy Tomato plant
Cherry Tomato plant

Didn't photograph the already near-dead blueberry bush. Don't know if I'm going to try and replant something else in that pot.

Dinner is just going to be bratwurst on the grill... I'm pooped and don't have much in me at this point. I'm almost looking forward to work tomorrow so I can relax.