Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Every Thing Old is New Again: Leftovers and Such

Just this week, Baby Girl made a rather revealing statement to me.  She says, 'Mom, you are the Queen of Leftovers! '  While this appears to be a dubious distinction, I did take it for what is was worth and have reflected on it since.

It appears that raising a family of six with one income and an agoraphobic wife/mother, has made me somewhat of a Meal Designer Extraordinaire by default.  I never really thought of it as special, but in these days of frugality and using what you have, perhaps my day has come.

For instance, this is what I prepared for the past week for my visitors:

  • Enchiladas - leftover meat turned into chili days later
  • Thanksgiving Dinner:  Stuffed Turkey Breast - turned into eggrolls; Root Vegetable Gratinata- turned into a chicken casserole; steamed broccoli - turned into broccoli/cheddar soup; Sweet potatoes/squash -turned into creamy sweet potato soup; homemade crescent rolls- added to almost every meal throughout the weekend
  • Devon's Birthday Spaghetti -( nuthin leftover (sorry Dev)
  • Chicago Style Pizza a la America's Test Kitchen
  • Roast Beef Wraps to serve with the Broccoli/Cheddar Soup, thanks to deli RB
Baby Girl and I agreed that if your larder has been adequately supplied with the basics, you can put together a meal quickly utilizing what you have on hand.  So you ask, 'What is an adequately supplied larder? '  Well, I'm glad you asked.  I would get a bit twitchy if I did not have the following in my pantry.

  • boullions of all kind; vegetable, beef, chicken
  • assorted condiments: ketchup, mustards, soy sauce, worcestshire
  • oils (olive, canola, Crisco)
  • flours and sugars
  • vinegars
  • frozen rolls (okay, technically not in my pantry)
  • assorted spices of all kinds
  • pasta of all varieties (including egg noodles)
  • assorted canned vegetables and fruits
  • Nutella.  seriously.  Drop in guests can be treated with Nutella on apples or grahams.
  • Oatmeal 
  • assorted rices (brown, long grain and instant kinds)
  • beans of all kinds: kidney, canellini, chick peas, butter etc. etc.
  • dried milk (I know. Would not drink the stuff straight but comes in handy for sauces when the last drop of milk has just been used)
  • cheeses (in the fridge, BTW)
  • all canned tomato products
  • canned mushrooms
  • potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips
  • canned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts
And this is just the dry portion of the larder.

Keep in mind, that most leftovers can be divided into several categories: 

  1. savory  (cream sauces and soups)
  2. mexican (adobo sauce, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, paprika, chili powder)
  3. italian (basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic, parmesan)
  4. asian (soy sauce, paprika, garlic, red pepper flakes)
  5. other ethnic
If  you possess one of these in one form, with a little help, it can become something else almost without anyone notice.  Few noticed that my chili meat had previously been known as the yummy enchiladas we all enjoyed a few days before.  Many a leftover spaghetti dinner has been magically turned into a baked pasta before you can say freezer burn.  And the most magical of all, when leftover any meat becomes....TA DA!  Authentic Eggrolls!! 
Add your larder with a fresh supply of veggies and fruits each week and you are set.

  Back in my young mama days, Hubby did ALLLLLLL the shopping (see above mentioned agoraphobia).  Back then, he was known as Frugal Fred and he would give all the coupon clippers a run for their money.  That man could squeeze a grocery budget dollar dry.  He knew how to shop and pack at Aldi's like a pro.  He was aware of end cap scams.  He knew that it was senseless to use coupons for things you don't need/use just to 'save money'.  He knew that the things you really could use, rarely had coupons and you just shopped sales.  Hubby did all the grocery shopping on one trip.  Once a week.  We DID NOT go to the store other than the appointed day/night.  If we did not have it , we made do or did with out.  We did have an extra freezer so it is safe to say that we were not deprived.  And I have to say that it made me the creative cook I am today.  I cooked what was brought to me and that was it.  Every now and then, after perusing a magazine and finding an exceptional recipe, I would jot the needed items on my list, and wait for grocery day.  If it wasn't on the list, it was not purchased.  No spontaneous purchases only the really good deals that might not have been advertised.  Before you think that Hubby was trained by the Gestapo, let me just say that with all my grumbling and complaining, in hindsight, I think that it was a brilliant way to do things.  Like I said, Single Income Family.  It could not have happened if I was in charge of groceries.  Oh, the things that I would have drug home.  Thank you Lord for agoraphobia.  It reigned me in properly.

Speaking of lists: Do you have a Grocery List Location?  Secret to successful shopping.  You need to keep an ongoing, running tab of all the things that you just used the last of.  Three more teabags?  On the list.  Somedays, I might be off on one of my benevolent visits and Hubby gets a hankerin to do groceries.  No need to wonder what the little lady needs; it's there on The List where it always is.  I return home and voila!  Needed groceries are in their proper place!   Install the habit of ongoing grocery list making.

Since the chickies have all flown, the Hubby and I are a bit looser on the grocery visits.  I have been known to now run into the local for Just One Thing.  Hubby still gets a bit nuts about that, but since our abode is in a small town now with the grocery just a bit away, he can't pull the 'Save Gas' line of the past.  However, we still buy up the deals as they happen, meat wise.  He has been known to buy round steak or rump roasts by the half dozens or more.  Boneless skinless chicken breast on sale, reminds us on to buy more freezer bags for dividing the deals, usually in 10 pound packages, into Empty Nester proportions.

Now that I have pridefully boasted about the amazing skills in the kitchen that I possess, I suppose I should invite you to drop in on me sometime and have me show you my culinary stuff. 
And that's just what I'll do.....

Drop on in anytime for a meal.....
Or Nutella on graham crackers.....

Monday, November 28, 2011

Full Heart *sigh*

 Not many words today.
Heart is imploding and lots of sighs are expending but words just fall short.
 Having a house full of my favorite people just does a number on this very very very very thankful Mimi.
 Making food for my sweeties always takes me over the top.  Listening to their conversations while I saute and bake keeps a smile on my face for days.
 Taking part in my grands first holidays darn near takes me over the edge, emotionally.  Observing that I do indeed have the most adorable in laws ever, seals the deal.
 The transformation of the quiet little house to crazy, hectic party home tickles me like nothing else.
 Running the dish washer three times a day makes me laugh at what it must be thinking.  Wondering how four dozen eggs, innumerable loaves of bread, gallons of tea and juice and never mind the pounds of butter that were ingested and enjoyed, could have disappeared,  makes me giggle.
 Pretty sure my muscles groups that seldom carry little ones, are thinking that I've lost my mind.  Pretty sure I have.  And my heart. Many times over.
 Remembering the joy of pretend play as Papa, Unca Joco and Pretend Cousin Sara played Daddy, Mommy and baby horsies with Miss Viv for hours......

We even had two courageous men head out to Black Friday to score some deals....

In keeping of the competitive and wacky spirit of gaming in this household, a trophy was awarded the high points of some video game that involved unicorns and rainbows.  I think.  All we know that Miss Viv's Mommy horse was sacrificed for the honor of becoming the trophy. I told you; things get strange around here.

On Sunday afternoon, after four days of wonderful camaraderie, lots of food and laughter and baby holding, my adorable guests searched the house for their belongings and added some things as well and packed their cars well as they headed off to their real lives, far away from this Mimi....... The silence was deafening as the house sighed in contemplation as to just what went on.

So as we head off to the Merry Month of December, let us carry in our hearts the warmth of our relationships and the priorities of family and friends.
And may we be kind - as if at the end of the Christmas Season, we shall receive a trophy as dandy as the one that was fashioned out of my sewing room this past weekend by Baby Girl's Hubby....

My dear children: I love you more than my luggage.....

Monday, November 21, 2011

When the Chickies Come Home to Roost

Most times, I have accepted that having the privilege of having my grown up babies nearby, close or neighborly, is just a dream.  But every now and then, we all get the moment, the day, the, dare I say it: A Span of Days, where we all get to breathe the same air, be under the same roof, share a table.
This type of gift is a rare blessing and is fodder of a multitude of pre event texts, regaling the wonders of all of us being able to Be Together.

I Homeschooled my children for eleven+ years.  They were with me day and night, in season and out of season for most of their time in our home.  I clucked and supervised and nosed around their lives, welcomed or not, for as long as they lived under our roof.  Not quite a Hovering Mom, but certainly 'involved'.
Once they flew the coop, that was it.  I let them fly and roam and pursue their lives, loves and interest with barely a phone call.  Honest.  Ask them.  Barely call, usually text, email or Facebook.  We visit when we can but normally, we wait to be invited, wait for them to call when it is convenient and thoroughly enjoy our time with them when it all lines up.  I rationalized that if I was vigilant when they were under my care, then once they left, I would have little to say about the goings on in their Adult Lives.
I make no opinions unless called upon and even then, I make it short and sweet.
They are, after all, adults. Always my babies, but also their own selves with their very own lives and I shall not butt in.

When they come home, I rejoice.  I plan and plot and dream of what to feed them, what to entertain them with, how can I squeeze out the time we have together to its maximum potential, so that when they leave to their individual lives, I have the memories and the grand satisfaction of dropping in on their lives for a fragment of time.

This past month, I have squirreled away recipes, reviewed old favorites, cleaned like the Queen is coming for a visit, made sleeping arrangements to suit all our New Members (ie. grandgirls!) and in general, bask in the wonder of who my children are.
So as I make my yeast rolls and freeze them for the day, as I cook the cushaw for the pie that I so enjoy, as I procure a boneless turkey breast for the amazing Stuffed Turkey Breast recipe that was such a hit last year, as I stump the cashier at the amount of rutabagas purchased for the Root Vegetable Gratinata with Cream and Fontina, as I search for the hidden frozen gooseberries purchased at the Farmer's Market just for this week, as I finish sewing projects to gift them, my heart is indeed full.

And quite honestly, with Guests like these two lovely girlies, wouldn't you be.....?

Whether  your home hosts one or the thirteen or fourteen that shall be upon us, enjoy them, tell them you are proud of them and always rejoice......

The Happiest of Thanksgiving to you...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

 As you know, I celebrate by birthday all month long.  Why not?
  I embrace my years, thankful for all the mistakes I've made in my life and the lessons learned from them.  Thankful, indeed, and quite celebratory that I managed to survive in spite of myself.  So, it was off to do what I do in November- Have Fun.
 I started off the rather long weekend by seeing to it that I had time with Faithful Friend.  We go to Salem Indiana to share a dinner at 'our' favorite restaurant: christiesonthesquare.com  They let us stay there for hours, enjoying their atmosphere and not charging us rent for the lengthy amount of time that we park ourselves.  Their Cobb Salad was huge enough for next nights dinner, (as well as the Tiramusu dessert. Yum).  Good time. 

The photo on top shows that I include work in the mix.  My work is an amazing blessing and thrill for me so it can barely be counted as 'work'.  This past weekend, by friendship with Rabbit Rita ritabunny.com took me to Louisville, Kentucky, in the wee hours of the morning, to help RR with a private showing preview for the holidays.  Early, early up and helping set up in the darkness of Saturday morning, fuels my adrenalin, not drain it.  I borrow off her abundant energy and learn through her long years of creating and sharing with the masses.  It was a jolly good exhaustion when the Rabbitmobile dropped me off at my residence a good twelve hours later.
 Sunday morning found me packing for my next Birthday Event: visiting Sweet Sharon in Jasper Indiana.  SS used to live down the street from me and she is missed.  Her birthday is in early December so we make it a point to share some time somewhere between the two dates to celebrate the wonders of us and our own quirky sense of humor.
 This visit was particularly memorable because I got to help her nearly thirteen year old granddaughter with the wonderful joy of sewing.  Sewing Stephanie asked for a sewing machine for Christmas last year and she has been want for some direction since then.  It was a joy to witness this young lady  view the wonder of piecing two squares of material together to make something that you can declare that you made!  SS was a natural!  She took charge of her machine like a pro and the more instruction I've gave, the more she embraced it and ran with it.  I love to kindle the spark.  I believe we have not heard the last from this budding creator....
 Sweet Sharon pursued on in our quest for a swell visit....We shopped at a country fabric store in a huge pole barn yet with fabric for all types of sewing. fabrichideaway.com.  We played games (ones that SS made up and  changed rules as we went along).  We watched a movie and DVR'd shows. I knitted and quilted.  SS made wonderful meals and I slept like the dead.
A wonderful respite for this crazed woman of much busyness.  Sweet Sharon's lovely home and generous hospitality, fueled my creative juices for new work in the weeks to come.  I got the chance to slow down my movement so that I could plan and prepare in a neutral territory with no obligations, for nearly 48 hours.  Pure balm for a busy mind and body.

Sweet Sharon is one of the most humorous people I know.  She's one of those ladies that can get you in much trouble because no one expects the silliness that she exudes to come from such a lovely woman.  From me, yes, but not my most wonderful of friends.  Her proper exterior belies her crazy sense of humor.  We Get each other.  And I am ever so thankful for her friendship and laughter in my life.

Thank you dear friend.....

Please; be a respite for someone today.......

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Old Blazer; New Hip Bag!

 I look at all cloth as a potential something than what it is.  I walk through Goodwill and see fabric,not clothing.  I see tablecloths or place mats or curtains and think, 'what else can I make this?'

Same goes with my closet.  Today, I asked Hubby, 'Do you have any corduroy that you're not using?'  He does not think this is strange.  He has been answering obtuse questions like this for nearly 40 years.  He just goes to his closet and looks around.

Youngest Son wouldn't think of throwing out used clothes.  He brings too small sweaters and well used pants into my sewing room, knowing for a fact that he will see them again, transmogrified into something else.

 So when this old blazer at St Vincent de Paul's Thrift Shop hopped into my hands, no one with me thought, 'Hmm Deb.  A bit dated huh?  A bit too big?'  Nope.  They knew that I would bring it home, cannibalize it by removing buttons, pockets and yes, even labels (I collect them too) pop it into a steamy hot washer and equally hot dryer and wait for it to become an extremely felted wool, just waiting to be a crossover/hip bag for some lovely person.

The breast pocket was just dandy and I knew that I had to utilize it's handiness.  I cut long strips out of the back panels for the extra long straps.  Searched my stash for the right vintage button. Even used some old blouse material for the lining.  A true repurposing manifesto. 

Always donate your cast offs to charity.  However, if there is a piece that you just have trouble parting with, consider transforming it into something else useful to elongate your loving relationship with that particular item.     You will be quite pleased with yourself.   

Friday, November 4, 2011

Birthday Bliss

 The day dawned clear and deeply blue, setting off the last of the autumn color.

Wait a minute.  No it didn't.  Rainy and cold, it was a perfect day for me.  I love rainy days.  No dog walking first thing or urgency to go anywhere other than a different spot on my mattress.  Hubby agreed.

 Once I did join the conscious, I skipped downstairs to find a brightly colored gift on my front door knob.  This was the second time this week this has happened.  It could become a habit for me.  I like it.  Editor Friend left a most jolly gift yesterday and Sweet Sharon completed her yearly habit of leaving my gift first thing in the morning.  The tradition started many years ago when as an elementary teacher, she would be off to work before the crack of dawn.  Like a small child, I would sometimes smile to myself as I, half asleep, would hear her car pull away from my curb after accomplishing her delivery.  For some lonely birthdays, this was such a blessing to me.  This year, since she lives miles away from me now rather than the convenience of down the block, she had Birthday Fairies deliver the yearly surprise.

Monday morning, Pretend Daughter Emily came for her regular breakfast visit.  This time, we shared lunch rather than breakfast and she blessed me with a lovely fall bouquet.  She is a November Gal as well and we shall do her birthday next week.  November People stick together.

As you can see, the flowers went well with some of my other gifts: Chocolate Iced Chocolate Brownies, Extremely cool vase from Sweet Sharon and more chocolate from Crazy Dee.  My friends know me.

 Crazy Dee had called earlier this week to reserve me for The Actual Day.  She did not allow Hubby to come with.  She is crazy that way.  CD did take me to my favorite spot for lunch and brought a BIG bag of wonderful, me-like gifts to celebrate.  She knew she better.  When I am by myself in her kitchen, I tend to place 'reminders' on her planning calendar.  I conveniently let her know how many shopping days are left till the Big Day.  Nice of me, yes?  Do not worry.  She is worse about her birthday than I am about mine.  We have a good time out doing each other.

 On the way home from lunch, in the midst of pouring rain, a lone garage sale was taking place in a wee little town.  Lots of fabric and the most wonderful milk pitcher and matching tea pot.  These type of kismetian opportunities are special little kudos from God.  Only God could have arranged that sale on this day in that community.  In the rain.  And cold.  And I do believe I might have been the only one that went to it.  I did wake up the 'proprietor' in her van as I knocked on the door of the rented space that was the garage sale door.  I have the most fun.

After I was home for awhile, the doorbell rang.  Huzzah!  Another gift!  Neighbor Natalie brought by her Little Neighbor Meisa, to give me a vintage Coca Cola sign!  I was very touched by her acknowledging My Day.  And this year, I didn't even have a sign in the yard!  Extraordinary!

I had a bit of time before Youngest Son escorted me to our local Mexican Restaurant for supper.  The rain was turning colder and I turned to one of birthday presents for a little warmth.  Earl Grey Lavender Tea sounded just right.

After festive feasting with YS, I came home to wrap my mind around my new dining room curtain material.  A day off of other people's work, I indulged myself by measuring, cutting and making the curtain and cutting out more for cushions.

The hours of the evening ticked on while I wrapped up the day reading my Facebook wishes and counting myself well blessed by the incredible people in my life.

So here's to year Fifty Eight!
May I do it justice!!

[Postscript: Next Day: One beautiful sculpted angel for my creche crafted and created by Rabbit Rita!  A post unto itself!  Birthday Brownies received in the mail from the consistently amazing Most Loving Friend.  I receive brownies for most life occasions from her: birth, bereavement, birthday, bed and breakfast jaunts etc etc.  She is swell.  Sigh.]

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