Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Introducing Murray (You May All Begin Adoring Him Now)

Anyone that knows me knows about Murray.

As you might have noticed, he’s a cat – but please don’t tell him that. I’m not quite sure that he thinks that he is but it seems to wobble between a real boy (Pinocchio reference anyone?) to a dog that just so happens to jump really well. Either way, I’m not sure that cat is really in the running.

I have had Murray since the day he was born (almost 7 years ago) in the window box outside of my bedroom at my parents’ house. He’s an orange tabby and was named after Bill Murray before he even played Garfield. If you must know, I named him Murray because he had so many stripes and Bill Murray was in the movie Stripes. So it’s a little bit of a jump on the association, but I think that the name suits him.

Before Hubby and I got together, Murray was my roommate. He had been strictly an outdoor cat for the first several years of his life but one day, after getting home from a mission trip to Guatemala, I went to pet Mur as he sat on top of the refrigerator in the barn and pulled my hand away covered in that sticky plasma stuff that you get when you are really sunburned.

So off to the vet he went! Did you know that cats could sunburn? I sure didn’t, and the vet knew it but had never seen it. The plan to healing was simple – no direct sunlight and medicine day and night. And so the outdoor cat came to live inside. He pitched a fit and yowled and cried until he got moved into my room. And then he was quite and happy.

The big hurdle was the fact that he had never used a litter box. He started out in a large dog’s wire frame kennel with a little litter box and a little bed made out of a towel. Eventually he really had to “go” and went on his towel. As he was folding the towel over his “business”, he reached past it into the littler box and you could all but see the light bulb go on. Thank goodness!

As Murray healed, he became my constant little cuddle bug. He slept with me every night (right next to my pillow) and would hang out with me while I read or watched movies. He even got upset when Uma Thurman was in danger in the movie The Avengers. We can’t watch that one anymore because it upsets him.
And then Hubby and I got together. And got the Duplex. And while Hubby was at work one day Murray moved into the duplex too. And then things got interesting.

You see, Murray wasn’t interested in sharing me and Hubby wasn’t entirely interested in having an animal in the house (more on that – and his cat – later). There were some tense times, but things eventually evened out. Now there were growing pains in the situation – Murray had to adjust to a smaller place on the bed and Hubby had to learn to pick up clothes and towels from the floor because Murray strictly enforces the house rules! A few times of items being “tagged” goes a long way to things making their way into the hamper!

Animals can take a lot of effort and some figuring out, but I for one would say that they are what helps to make a house a home. Hubby might not agree with me on this one though, so take it as just my opinion. But hey, what dog can get this good of a spot for his own little neighborhood watch?


Meg (and the ever watching Murray)

Yesterday was Monday. By that I mean that it was every inch of a Monday and would have been a Monday even if it had fallen on a Tuesday. By the time that I got home from work, Hubby was already there and neither of us was up for doing much of anything for a while. Ah, the soothing presence of Netflix.

The downside to sitting with the cats and watching Netflix is that we were getting hungry. So to fix that, here’s what I made for dinner in about 15 minutes!

No Bake Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 package of Egg Noodles (12 oz)
1 small can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of peas (drained)
1 can of mixed vegetables (drained)
1 can of tuna (drained)
½ cup of milk
½ cup of grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

Start by putting the water on to boil for the Egg Noodles. While waiting for the water to boil, combine the other ingredients in another pot on medium heat. You want for them to meld but not boil so that they will not continue to cook the noodles when you combine those. When the water begins to boil, put in the Egg Noodles and cook to al dente (still slightly firm). Drain the water from the noodles and mix in the soup/veggie/seasoning mixture. At this point you can either plate the meal like I did and have a creamy, delicious, and fast meal or you can put it all in some bakeware, top with either more cheese (yum!), Panko Bread Crumbs, or cheese and then Corn Flakes tossed in melted butter and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

This was a quick meal that was very good and I will make it again. It’s always nice to have meals that are easy to throw together in a pinch. One note – if you like things spicy, I think that this would be wonderful with about ½ tablespoon of Sriracha mixed in with the soup/veggie/seasoning mixture. It would give it that little extra kick!

So that’s what we had for dinner last night!


Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Going to Get Worse Before It Get's Better

Do you have any parts of your house that you don’t even like to look in, let alone think that anyone else might take a peek? You know, the junk drawer, the closet, the cabinet that you always just shove junk in to make it go away. Then the whole “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon takes over (I’m going to pause here and tell you how impressed with myself I am for typing that word correctly on my first try – go me and insert happy dance here) and then you forget what you even have in there. I have vowed to banish these spaces from my home because I am tired of not wanting to look at them and actually I need the space for other more important things that you very much.

Now we all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that since all of the extra clutter that makes it way into our lives didn’t all get there in one day, it is going to take quite a bit more time to fully banish it. And then you will have the eternal battle to wage against it returning when you aren’t looking. Things like that have a way of sneaking their way back in.

This weekend Hubby and I started our epic battle against the clutter in the kitchen and laundry room. Ok, we started in the laundry room but since some of the stacked boxes (most of the stacked boxes) in the corner of the laundry room were “new” dishes, we had to spill out into the kitchen as well. Just to clarify “new” – these are dishes that I got for Christmas before Hubby and I started dating because they said that they were going to discontinue the pattern. These are the same dishes that my mom has, my uncle has, my grandmother has, my grandmother’s sister has (my great-aunt)…are you getting the picture yet? My family uses these dishes. They were still new in the box even though I had them for years – hence the “new”.

The dishes are a pattern called Blue Danube and are white with a blue pattern on them. If I had though ahead I would have taken a picture of them, but I didn’t so now you will just have to wait. Ooh – suspenseful. In stark contrast to my lovely dishes with place setting for 12 (even though there is no room in our house for a dinner party for 12) we had been using the dishes that were left behind by Hubby’s roommate from before we started dating. I know, really mature of us, right? I have a weird mental block against allowing myself to use my own good things – like my good pots and pans, knives, plates; the list could go on and on. And before you say anything, yes, I’m sure that I would benefit from therapy.

So in order to move the antique buffet in the laundry room from the short wall to the long wall next to the washer and dryer we had to unpack the dishes. In order to be able to put them away, we had to get rid of the old ones. Are you with me so far?

We boxed up the old dishes in the boxes that the new ones had been in and have set them aside to donate to the Salvation Army. We shop there a lot for all sorts of things because you truly never know what you are going to find there and wanted to take this opportunity to donate to this great organization. Another two bonuses of donation is the tax write off and that it is not going to a landfill.

So once the dishes were sorted our cabinet looked something like this:

Isn’t it great? Such pretty little stacks of dishes! I was seriously excited to see them there and kept grinning and exclaiming “our pretty plates!” How grown up of me. I know, I know, I should have done a before shot and I promise to get better at doing that.

While Hubby got cracking on our kitchen cabinet that housed the explosion of food storage containers, I tackled the cabinets in the laundry room and the newly aligned buffet. I pulled out things that we had apparently moved from the duplex to our new house in the buffet, along with things that had been shoved into the cabinets for lack of any other place to put them. And now, the after pictures of the laundry room: So much better, right? Now the goal is to keep things that are already in there this nice and add more storage and organization solutions as well to continue to improve it. Oh, and to decorate it. I’m pretty slow to pull the trigger on new decorating but there is a method to my madness.

Until next time!


Last Night’s Dinner: Potato Soup

So everyone is always asking me or Hubby what it is that we are eating and how they can make it themselves. I can’t quite understand why – I never think that it is anything complicated. So for those people that keep asking me for recipes that I never have, I am starting a new “feature” here on my blog – what we had for dinner and how I made it.

You’re welcome in advance (but really, I don’t know why anyone wants to know.)

Last night, I made Potato Soup. By last night, I mean we ate it last night but it took all day to make in the crock pot. We were cleaning (really cleaning – as in the house is more of a mess than when we started but it is getting better in all of those places that no one ever looks and out in the open too). Hubby likes thick soups and this was a velvety smooth type of thick by the time it was all said and done and I loved it. It made enough for dinner last night, lunch today, another dinner in the refrigerator, and one more for the freezer. Wow – that’s a lot of soup for such little effort!

Potato Soup

5 pounds of potatoes – diced with skins still on
1 onion – diced
4 stalks of celery – split and diced
5 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of Seasoned Salt
8 cups of chicken broth or stock
2 bricks of cream cheese (for right before serving)

Wash and dice the potatoes, onion, and celery and place them in the crock pot. Add the garlic and Seasoned Salt. Cover with the chicken stock (I used stock left over from a whole chicken that I also cooked in the crock pot – it was almost a jelly, so I put in 4 cups of chicken jelly and 4 cups of water – perfection) and place on low for 8-10 hours. Go on with your day and when you are ready to eat, chunk up the cream cheese, put it in the crock pot and break out the immersion blender. Blend the entire pot (or reserve some to add back if you like chunks in your soup) and top with anything that you like – grated cheese, green onions, bacon…just go wild with it!

So that’s what was for dinner!



Friday, January 27, 2012

Life is What Happens When You Make Plans

Last night Hubby worked late, so I had planned to go home, do some cleaning and laundry, and time everything with dinner to be hot and ready when he walked in the door. Sounds good right? Responsible even. What an awesome wife I am.

So I got off of work, stopped in to his work to see him, got him something to drink (I’m nice like that, what can I say?) and then headed on home to get started. Everything is going according to plan so far. I walk in the door and…due to the rain that we totally need but not quite all at once the plumbing in our 1981 vintage home was making that lovely “gurgle” noise that means that the only water getting used is what is necessary – so there went a load of dishes and laundry. So I can still straighten up the living areas! That will go so much nicer with something playing on the TV in the background, don’t you agree? But then a movie looked interesting on Netflix that I have never seen before. And then my orange cat, Murray (named after the great Bill Murray in case you were wondering), decided that he was going to hold me down.

So between Murray and Netflix, cleaning slowly made its way off of the agenda for the evening. But that was still ok, because dinner was totally going to make up for it. Just as I was about to get started on dinner, Hubby’s phone rang.

Now before anyone has anything to say about me looking at his phone while he’s gone – it’s totally fine. It is at his request so I’m not being nosy. So there. I looked at the caller ID – Mom. I answered and my mother-in-law was having well timed car troubles. I say well timed because I didn’t have dinner in the works yet so I was able to mobilize, Hubby was about to get off of work, and her hubby (my father-in-law) was also off work and on his way. It is also well timed because the new part had already come in and was scheduled for Hubby’s Auto Repair today

To make a long (and cold) story a little bit shorter, we all converged on the side of the road and eventually got her car towed to their house. I will also mention that Hubby and I are absolute beasts at towing cars. We rock, and I am being modest when I say that. The fact that we have enough practice to be this good is a whole other issue, but think of all the money that we have saved people and ourselves by towing cars instead of calling a tow truck! It is enough to make you run out and buy your own tow line.

By the time we got all of this done, it was after 11:00 p.m. and Hubby was understandably starving. Going home and waiting for me to cook was out so we made a different type of economic decision and headed through the drive-though of Del Taco. This type of economics figures in more than just the money we were spending. It includes the time, effort, and discomfort of waiting to cook versus the cost of the meal. Totally worth it no matter how you look at it.

So that is how my great plan to make a delicious dinner ended up in the Del Taco drive-through in almost the middle of the night. Oh well – that’s life.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Mission (or What the Heck am I Doing Here?)

There are many reasons that people start blogs. Some people have a pathological need to over share. Some people just want a place to vent. Some people just want something to do to kill some time. But I’m not “some people” – I’m just me and I’m starting this blog after thinking long and hard about a comment that my Nana made when I first got married.

Nana said that I should start a journal for myself to look back on later of the things I have done since being married and all of the good times that I have had with my new husband, home, and life. Coming from a woman that has been married for over 50 years, that is pretty powerful advice. My grandmother was 17 years old and my grandfather was 19 years old when they got married on Christmas Day and she had just found a menu plan for a week that she had written for her home economics class. How cute is it that she still has it?

When Hubby and I first got married, we lived in one side of a tiny duplex. We had one bathroom, no dishwasher, no counter space in the kitchen, and more places to sit than walk inside. It was not perfect, but it had both of our names on the lease, so we were pretty happy. I was also really happy to look for houses that I thought were in our price range (more on that later – there really is an art to it). And after looking at some real rotten apples, we finally found our new home.

Now just a preface: we are not rich. We both work hard for the money that we have and since I am the one that is better at finances, I work just as hard to spend it wisely. And that is the real mission of this blog – for me to share how I stretch what we have into what we want and a little bit of what we dream of. The best way to do that is to make what you can yourself, save on supplies, and know when you are out of your league and save up to hire a pro.

So that’s my introduction. Let the home making (literally) begin!