Friday, May 9, 2014

Frantic last minute dinner


It may not look like much now, but this is dinner. We were planning to drive up to Dallas tonight for Mother's Day weekend, but became unexpectedly delayed by thunderstorms all through Texas all afternoon and evening. 

We found ourselves with a free afternoon, and did what any normal, well-functioning modern family would do: we sat on the couch and played with our phones and tablets. Hey don't judge; at least we were all together. 

At one point someone (my son, who is usually the one who points these things out) realized it was 7:00, and hey, isn't that dinner time?

Well, in preparation for a weekend trip, I had been avoiding going to the grocery store because I don't know why. Maybe I'm afraid everything is going to go bad in two days via some form of black magic. 

Anyway, everyone was starving and I didn't have anything planned for dinner. We've gone out to eat...a lot. Seems like every day this week someone has eaten a meal at a restaurant instead of at home. And I didn't feel we needed to resort to that again. So I rummaged around to find something - anything! - that I could feed my family tonight. 

Inspired by some posts I've seen on Pinterest, I decided to try my hand at this Italian "wonder pot" everyone has been raving about. It ain't complicated. It ain't even pretty. But it should be serviceable:

Handmade Hell Italian Wonderpot

2 cans veggie broth
1 28-oz can crushed (or diced) tomatoes 
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2-5 minced garlic cloves (or whatever depending on how garlicky you like it)
1 bag penne pasta
Salt, pepper, various Italian herbs as desired

Put it all in a pot. Boil it. Keep boiling it, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes. Don't over stir or it'll get mushy. Throw something frozen in during the last ten minutes or so. Frozen meatballs, precooked sausage or beef, I used frozen broccoli. 

Done and done. End result:


Not too shabby for what was essentially less than 30 minutes in progress. Have fun with that. 


Thursday, May 8, 2014

To New Images and Remarkable Failures

I have a new header image! See that? Isn't it adorable?! My daughter drew chibi-me frantically making something. It's pretty much exactly what I look like when I'm crafting.

Like last night, for instance. I was up until 2:00 in the morning making the monstrosity you see below. Behold! Marvel in my utter failure!


Now before you stop me and tell me I must be joking and that this...thing...is actually kind of...um, pretty (what is it again?) let me first tell you that this was supposed to be a pleated drawstring bag. Obviously I didn't get to the drawstring part and that is because of one of the mistakes I made. 

The thing about mistakes, as we all know, is that they are nothing if not learning opportunities. Here are some of the particular lessons I learned last night:

1. Barkcloth is amazingly beautiful stuff. Its tight weave makes it durable as all hell, and also allows really beautiful designs to be printed on it. It's rough and scratchy; not right for a dress. But it's just perfect for a bag. So why did this bag fail so very hard? Because...

2. Barkcloth does not hold a pleat. Those tiny wrinkles at the bottom there are actually the result of a complicated mixed-pleat concept I spent more than an hour figuring out. As I folded and pinned (and folded and pinned and folded and pinned ad nauseum), it rippled in such a lovely way that I was vocally (out loud) praising myself for coming up with such a masterful idea. However, as soon as I sewed down the pleats, and subsequently sewed the edges of the bag together, I watched all that hard work and self-congratulation fade into oblivion. Turns out barkcloth is just sturdy enough to tease me ruthlessly, then laugh in the face of my delicate and finger-aching pleating efforts. What an asshole.

What else didn't work? Well...

3. Barkcloth is too sturdy to be persuaded by the gentle tug of a drawstring...especially when the top has been folded over twice. I'm telling you. All I have to do is graze my fingers over that top edge and I know damn well that thing isn't wrinkling up like a little bitch for ANYTHING! A person who had, for example, an interest in using this delightful little pouch as an ultra-feminine dice bag (ahem, someone like me perhaps) would find themselves engaged in an epic battle for closure as he or she struggled to tighten the strings.

In short, it's rubbish. But hey, it's a Thing I Made, so I posted it. 

And I learned some stuff, which ain't bad at all. I was finally able to sleep, despite my depressing lack of success, only after designing two more Things I Want to Make, so at least I have something to look forward to. 

As for the barkcloth (which is really so beautiful), it has defeated me this time. But perhaps next time we can come to some sort of compromise, and the next time you see it, it will be something really special. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Getting organized. Well, getting my kids organized.

As a mom I find it's important to teach your kids certain lessons, like how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, how to vacuum, how to manage money, and how to listen to the little voice in your head that says "don't say what you're thinking out loud."

We can't teach our kids everything, of course. Some things they need to work out for themselves. Take my son for instance. No matter how many times I tell him, he probably isn't going to learn not to stand on his chair for laughs at school until he falls off of it one day. Just the facts. 

One of the things I really want to teach my kids is how to take care of daily responsibilities. Chores suck. They suck even worse when I'm the only one doing them. No amount of training or fun music or games will make chores less not-fun. So we just buck up and do them right? Plus, if we all work together for a shorter amount of time, we can all have more time for My Little Pony marathons and cake. 

(Image by lazcreations.deviantart.com)

I swear I never watch it by myself. Never. 

Another thing I want to teach my kids is how to handle their money. It's not that my kids spend all their money right away...it's that they never spend it at all. And that's great! Except I'm worried that when it comes time to start spending money they won't know how to do it. It's a huge fear. I didn't know how to spend money myself until I was at least 30. 

Finally these kids need to learn some time management. I swear it's like they think they have hours to complete every task, whether it be watering their gardens in Harvest Moon or eating breakfast before the bus arrives. Come on guys! Contrary to popular belief, you don't actually get clones later in life to help you be on two places at once!

(Image from roundstable.com)

I definitely don't have a particular love for Pinkie Pie either. Not like I identify with her in any way. Nope. Nuh-uh. 

So I think I've found a way to solve all three of these problems in one slightly complicated but nonetheless fell swoop. 


This is our weekly chore chart. TAH-DAAHHHH!!!!

On the left you'll see our daily chores; stuff that has to get done on the regular no matter what, without pay, because I am cheap. I mean poor. I mean frugal!

Middle column is the juicy stuff: paid chores! Each is assigned a dollar amount (typically $1) to be paid at the end of the week. Once a task is finished, whoever did it puts their initials in the last column to claim it. On Friday, everyone gets paid. 

But there's a twist!!

(Image courtesy of www.iambrony.com)

Okay I'll stop now. 

The twist is, anybody in the house can claim a chore. The kids can of course. But so can I. So can my parents. So can my friends. So can the kids' friends. Anybody who wants a buck can pick a chore. Hopefully this will motivate my kids to do it, since they don't put much importance on money to begin with. Which, in truth, I really like about them. It speaks to a sort of anarchistic innocence, a statement against the greedy and oppressive nature of a near-tyrannical capitalist economy. But that's beside the point. 

Another thing I think might motivate them is the fact that I'm also putting harsh limits on their time with video games and non-school-related computer time. Like, way harsh. They will now have the ability, however, to purchase more time. 30 minutes of extra time playing video games or computer games, or staying up later to read, will now cost them...$1!

Now every time they want more time, they can look at their dollar bill and think about the blood, sweat, and tears that went into earning it (no there hasn't been any blood yet), before they decide whether it's REALLY worth it to play just one more day of Animal Crossing. 

The kids are mighty suspicious of this new set of rules. They're not really used to mom having rules. I'm not a big fan of them myself. But dammit, I will raise RESPECTABLE, contributing anarchist members of society! Er. I mean. Well you know what I mean. 

(Image from www.bobthelurker.deviantart.com)

Go away Pinkie. Geez. Somepony doesn't like to listen. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

After a fun evening of wine and fried things from the local Chinese delivery place, I ended up going to bed super early. As a result, I woke up at 6:00 fully refreshed and ready to start my day. My first thought upon awakening was "what is that amazing smell??" As it turned out, my houseguest had also arisen particularly early and had, while I still slumbered, browned a beef brisket and put it in the crockpot, where it is currently still making me crazy as it cooks. 

I decided I wanted to get in on the productive early morning cooking from scratch train and realized I had all the right ingredients to make muffins. 

I used a recipe I found online but tweaked it so I'll put what I did here:

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
(Mix these ingredients together and set aside)

In a separate bowl:

Beat 1 large egg
Add 1 cup of milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
Add 1/4 cup oil or melted butter (I used melted coconut oil)
1 tsp lemon extract
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Whisk all together

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Fold all ingredients together carefully with a rubber spatula. Add about half a pint of fresh blueberries. Don't over mix or they will be tough!

Spoon batter into muffin tin or silicon or foil cups until about 3/4 full. Bake 25 minutes in a 400F oven. 

These muffins turned out beautifully...light and chewy on the inside, sweet and slightly crunchy on the top. The lemon is a little strong, so I might not use the lemon juice next time. And they're not too sweet, like store bought muffins can be.

I imagine they smell great. But I can't smell them over the scent of that brisket...oh my. We're going to have the best French dips for lunch!



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Vegetarian Chili Mac

Time for another non-wearable post (unless you're my 7-year-old son, who is currently wearing this particular handmade on his shirt)!

I like macaroni and cheese. I really, really like macaroni and cheese. I would venture so far as to say that it is my favorite food. Even the stuff in the blue box. And my kids, being kids and all, absolutely love it. That being said, I have kids now, which means I am saddled with the sometimes depressing and often challenging task of providing them with mostly healthy meals most of the time. Macaroni and cheese doesn't typically fall into that category.

But oh! The convenience! The frugality! How can I possibly turn down a 50-cent box of creamy delicious mac and cheese?

So I use it, but I add to it. Sometimes it's just peas, sometimes it's something more elaborate. Take a healthy thing, stir it into some mac and cheese, and generally kids will eat it. It's a time-honored tradition among busy moms to do just this kind of thing.

Today, whilst tooling around the city with a good friend in tow, I mused, "What should I make my kids for dinner tonight?" His immediate response: "Chili mac."

Now, my kids are vegetarians, so at first the idea of chili mac didn't make a lot of sense. Until I remembered, of course, that vegetarian chili is not only possible, but delicious. And I happened to have a variety of delicious potential chili ingredients in my house. It couldn't have been more perfect. I made the chili (TONS of leftovers - TONS!), made the mac, and stirred them together to make...oh my dayum. Just look:

Hummuna hummuna nom nom nom nom...

And now, the recipe:

Vegetarian Chili Mac
(serves 4)

Ingredients:
Olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium cucumber, diced
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup hot water
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can black beans
1 20-oz can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 Tsp chili powder (or to taste - I made mine mild for the kids)
1 Tbsp chili sauce
salt and pepper
1 box macaroni and cheese
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter

Instructions:
1. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large sauce pot.
2. Add chopped garlic, onion, bell pepper, carrots, and cucumber, and saute until onion is translucent.
3. Add lentils and saute for 1 minute.
4. Add hot water, vegetable broth, black beans, and tomatoes.
5. Bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
6. Add entire can of tomato paste and seasonings.
7. Simmer for 45 minutes, covered with lid tilted for ventilation.
8. During last 10 minutes of chili cooktime, cook mac and cheese according to package directions.
9. Once chili and mac and cheese are done, add chili to mac and cheese a spoonful at a time, stirring constantly to mix thoroughly. Stop when the mixture appears to be 50-50, or whenever you want really.

My kids gobbled this up, and I had a second helping. The creaminess of the macaroni and cheese really mellows out the intensity of the chili, making this a highly accessible, remarkably edible, pretty darn healthy version of a classic favorite. I THINK SO ANYWAY SO THERE.

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