If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Competitive Charity Bake Sale

The last minute email came before 8 am. "We don't have enough homemade items for the school carnival bake sale."

Bake? Me? Sure, why not? Not a one of these is a Weight Watchers friendly recipe. Oh, yes, of course, you can eat ANYTHING on Weight Watchers, but we all know how that works out!!
Pictured above are my Chocolate Chip Muffins with Classic Cream Cheese Icing~Dessert for breakfast!

Winter Sunshine Cake
All butter pound cake made with fresh orange juice and garnished with candied tangerines

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
Homemade dark chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream frosting, sprinkled with Andes candies.

Confetti Kid Cakes

Homemade chocolate cup cakes topped with vanilla buttercream frosting and confetti gel icing.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Footprints to a Friends House

I just love these footprints running across our yard. Neighborhood friends are the best!

Storm of the Century

I'm posting this waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay after the storm. Forgot to hit publish. Enjoy!

You know how on the news the old saying, if it bleeds, it leads?
Well, we have another one here in Minnesota. If it's white, then fright.

We've been hearing that Armageddon is about to hit. The storm of the century. A blizzard of record breaking proportions.

People hit the grocery stores hard right before a storm. It's our own economic stimulus package--predict a storm, Minnesotans will buy a lot of toilet paper and milk. Because storms will scare the, well, you know out of people. And we like to eat a lot of cereal here in the land of General Mills.

Before the storm, there's an electric feeling in the air, I don't know how to explain it. The birds are all fluttering around, emptying my bird feeders, and puffed up like they know something we don't. Young One is glued to the news channel instead of Spongebob, reading every school delay and closure, pleading with the snow gods that his suburban school will close. We live so close to school that we could walk to it, in snowdrifts three feet high, up hill both ways, if we had to. It never closes. This, of course, will be a source of great pride when he's in his thirties.

Secretly, we all love the storms. At least I do, once all my loved ones are all home safely. Life slows down a bit. It's kind of like getting a surprise day off from work. I usually light a fire in the fireplace, we snuggle in and wait it out. It's really quite beautiful. The snow blankets all the ugly, brown, slushy snow. Everything looks clean and sparkly.

It usually has to be fairly warm to snow. Remember, in Minnesota, warmth is relative! I'm talking, a heatwave in the 30s. Yesterday, it was in the 40s and I could see the grass in my yard. This is typical of this time of year. It melts, it snows, it melts, it snows. It's perfect for snowmen and snow fort making, but can rattle the nerves a bit. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, Spring arrives. (And then it might snow again, just to taunt you.)

Such is life in Minnesota. I hope you enjoy the pictures. Give the hot chocolate a try too. It's a little late in the season to post such a large quantity recipe. Cut it down at will!

Decadent and Delicious Hot Sippin' Cocoa

There's nothing like hot chocolate on a wintry day. It's also a great, healthy treat if you need a chocolate fix. I find it a filling, rich, and decadent treat that's very low in calories. This is an old family recipe, tweaked to make it more Weight Watchers friendly. Makes a large batch. Store in a sealed container or zip bag. Makes 90 servings at 1 WW Point per serving.

1 3/4 cup(s) nondairy powdered creamer
10 cup(s) non-fat instant dry powdered milk
1 3/4 cup(s) unsweetened cocoa
4 3/4 cup(s) powdered sugar

Mix well and store in an airtight container. Add 1/3 cup to 6 ounces of hot water.




Shakin' My Maracas

Taco night. It's a night that strikes fear in my heart. See, I'm not a neat eater. And tacos, by their very definition, are not neat food.

I come from a long line of shirt stainers. My Grandma gets so into her work when she makes anything with flour that I tease her about her "flour pot(belly)". My mom and I laugh when we end up with blueberry pie on our white shirts. The first one to stain our clothing gets a high five. I've walked around more fairs and festivals with ketchup stains than I'd like to remember.

It's not so bad when you're kid is little. Mothers just look at each other, then look at our mutual stains, and then sigh and give a little salute to our mutual membership in the I-Can't-Stay-Clean-For-Anything Sorority. When Young One was little I wore my days, literally. Sometimes, I really miss those little yogurt hand prints that ended up on my back when he fell asleep eating in his high chair. I can still feel his little monkey arms clinging to me. Man, I miss being able to pick him up. My baby. My baby's growing up...

(Cue Barbara Streisands The Way We Were, sniff, reaching for Kleenex.)

Snap out of it.

I don't miss those little old ladies who, in their eyes, were helpfully telling me, "Honey, you got something on your back." Did they forget the good old days of their kid's sticky hugs? No, that's not it, they wouldn't dream of going out wearing their husbands old jeans and a maternity shirt covered in goo when their kid was ten months old. Back then, motherhood came with starched aprons, greeting your husband with a freshly powdered nose, and Valium every six hours.

I'm rambling again, sorry.

I'll call tonight a successful eating night. I gave up after one explosive bite that nearly scattered taco shrapnel all over my shirt. Thankfully, I was using the lean over your plate and pray method of eating. This is sometimes highly successful. The great thing about tacos is in a few rapid snaps of your fork, you can have an instant taco salad.

My food find, this week is featured in the recipe. Garden of Eatin' Blue Corn Taco Shells. I bought the dinner kit at our health food store, but I'm sure it's available everywhere. These shells were fantastic. And come in at just 3 WW Points for two.

Bet's Tacos

Another recipe that's so dang easy, I just can't put it in recipe format. You know how to make tacos, right? Either buy the dinner kit and read the box or go all the way and make your own seasoning, ground the corn for your tortillas, butcher a wild boar etc. If you do all that, you don't need me.

My signature (signature was a word we used often in the food biz) taco filling? I add a can of drained black or pinto beans to the browned ground meat. Black are our favorites. This not only stretches the meat and makes them much more WW friendly, but they taste delicious. It's also a great cheapskate tactic.

I use the leftovers for taco salad topper or wrap up in soft tortillas and bake in the oven in enchilada sauce. Not really, I've never done the enchilada thing, I'm just thinking out loud here, but I'm pretty sure that would be good. It would be good on baked potatoes too. Again, never tried it, but I'm good with flavor combinations. (brag, brag, brag)

In the picture above I used ground venison (cause we like to get all Ted Nugent on animals--I'm kidding. More about our venison here.) You can use ground turkey breast, lean ground beef, or that veggie substitute stuff.

Wear a bib if you dare to eat with your fingers. Points value depends on your meat and the type of shells and beans you add.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vitamin Bluck

I've got the blucks today. As in take a load of vitamins on an empty stomach and you feel like BBBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKK (insert your own sound effects here).

Anyone else get that feeling? I'm trying to be healthier. You all know that. I've always taken a multivitamin, calcium supplement, and I've added D3 because I'm a North Country inhabitant and we Scandihooovians (and Scots and Germans, and Czech--sorry, I'm a mutt) well, we don't get much sunlight in the winter. And our fair hair (I'll go to my grave swearing it's natural, don't look at my roots) and fair skin (or pasty, depending on the light), doesn't help.

I take Oil of Evening Primrose and I'm supposed to be taking fish oil, but the big capsules frighten me. I take medication for the neurological disease I have. Sometimes my twice daily pill popping looks like it could give Ozzy Osbourne in his hey day a run for his money. Mostly it's supplements, but still, who knows what that handful of pills is doing to my stomach.

Hence, the blucks.

I'm trying to get inspired to do more than bluck around on the Internet. One, two, three, go.

I'm still here. Don't see me.

I'm invisible. I'm covering my eyes.... you can't see me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's in Your Bowl?

The Breakfast Edition

Oatmeal made with diced dates, 2 tsp of raw sugar, sliced almonds, cinnamon, and a cap full of real almond extract from Penzeys Spices.
Check out Penzeys for the best spices and extracts. Every catalog contains amazing recipes, so sign up!

The Five

Here's what my five senses have been up to:


I realized half way through this book that the reason I was having trouble following parts of it was because this isn't the first time Ms. Atkinson has written about some of these characters. Duh. Oh well, it was a great read nonetheless.

This book centers around several characters and how their lives intertwine. Joanna Mason is the only survivor of a brutal attack that leaves her mother and siblings dead. Thirty years later, Joanna is now married and is known now as Dr. Hunter. Reggie is Dr. Hunter's nanny. She's the only one that seems concerned when Dr. Hunter disappears. Jackson Brodie (the character that Atkinson has featured in two other novels), is almost killed in a train crash. Reggie saves him and in the process it's discovered that he now has the identification of the person who attacked Joanna's family thirty years before and who was just released. Brodie helps Reggie search for Dr. Hunter while at the same time, his former love, Louise Monroe begins to investigate as well. Amazingly, all these story lines intertwine and you're able to keep them straight thanks to the brilliant writing of the author. Just when you think you've got it all figured out, Atkinson surprises you.

Great read. I will definitely read more of her work, hopefully in the order with which they were written.


I Tunes Originals--Alanis Morissette
Alanis, oh how I love your angry lyrics. These tracks are interspersed with interview tracks explaining the songs and how they were written. Great insight into this artist. And the new recordings are fantastic. If you love Jagged Little Pill, you must get this one too.


Dr. Bronners Peppermint Castille Soap I love these products. I can't remember how long I've been using them. Either it's been a long time or I'm getting old. Or both. Dr. Bronners products are fantastic. Being a cheapskate, I love that a little goes a long way. I use a tablespoon plus water to fill foaming hand soap dispensers. I use a tiny dab to wash my hair or put on a body puff for my shower. The scents are natural and delightful. Peppermint is my favorite and I use it in the shower as much as I can. It really wakes me up! A 32 ounce bottle lasts forever at my house. Visiting their website, I see that their gallon jugs are a few cents cheaper per ounce than what I've been purchasing. I'll have to try that next.

I do like their bar soaps too. All in all, you can't go wrong with their products. There are so many uses.

Leftover Sausage and Peppers.
Really, this is another of my recipes that is not a recipe. Chop stoplight peppers (red, green, and/or yellow. I suppose you could use an orange one if you want, but then what would I call them? Hazard light peppers?) Chop a big onion. No precision needed here, the more rustically you chop them, the better (and the easier). Heat a big pan over medium high heat, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add veggies. Add Italian turkey sausage, hot or mild. And saute until veggies are tender and sausage is cooked through. 4 WW Points per serving. Put on light wheat buns if you wish, but be sure to add the Point value of the bun.
Sorry I don't have a picture of the final product, but we were too hungry and Young One refused to wait until I got all snappish with the camera.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Slowing Down When You Want to Just Get it Done

I can't even tell you how much this blogger's post meant to me. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all I needed to do. I had also just had a conversation with someone who made me feel like my work at home couldn't possibly be as rewarding as working outside the home. Funny that she seemed to forget that I used to be a Mompreneur, working 24/7 for my business. I've been on both sides of the Mommy Wars (working vs. working at home). Neither side is easier or harder (so stop fighting ladies).

Down to Earth is a blog that I just adore. It's author and her husband live in Australia and live a mindful, simple life. Her post The Secret Life of a Happy Homemaker was so wonderful. She talks about slowing down and being more present in your work.

I did just that yesterday and it made my day so much happier and productive. I couldn't believe it. Just focusing on the present and not worrying or thinking about all the things that I have to get done was wonderful. I think I worked better and I know I worked happier. I also took a lot more pleasure in the reward of seeing a job well done.

I've talked a lot about the relentlessness of the work of homemaking. When it gets down to it, I'm making a home: the place that my little family feels the happiest and most content. What better job could there be? I'm going to pay less attention to the relentlessness and more to the happy making.

Please check out Down to Earth. I think you'll really enjoy exploring her world. I am eternally grateful to her for giving me a new look at my life.

In her honor, I offer a recipe featuring a fruit that not only is she able to grow in her climate, BUT she took 2 years doing so!

Broiled Pineapple
One of my favorite fruits, pineapple tastes fantastic broiled or grilled. It caramelizes it's natural sugars and is delicious served right out of the oven. Serves 6 at 1 WW Point per serving. If you're like me and enjoy eating fresh pineapple often, you must invest in a Pineapple Corer and Slicer. You can have a pineapple ready to serve in just a few seconds!

1 large pineapple
2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Lime wedges

Peel pineapple. With a sharp knife, cut it crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Brush the slices lightly with 1 teaspoon oil and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Turn slices over, brush with remaining teaspoon oil and broil for 5 to 7 minutes longer. Immediately sprinkle pineapple with brown sugar. Cut into chunks and serve with lime wedges.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 68 calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 1 g fiber; 1 mg sodium.; 90 mg potassium

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Leaving You for Another Man, Sorta

Just drop me off at the door. I'll be just fine. Go do your man stuff. I'm happy to wander his aisles in your absence.

I'm having an affair with Williams Sonoma.

My Dear Williams Sonoma,

My Darling. My Pet. I would be with you always, if only I weren't married.

Your kitchen gadgets, they tempt me. Your linens, they call to me. Your sauces, seasonings, and recipe collections make my mouth water. Would I like a sample? Of course. Would I like to watch a demonstration? Get to it. Would I like a cup of Fair Trade French Roast Espresso. Um, yes, please.

Copper pots and espresso machines that resemble little modern sculptures. I want them all. I wander your aisles and I'm instantly a capable chef.

I'm the Barefoot Contessa. I'm Bobby Flay. I'm not quite as annoying as Rachel Ray, but make food really simple and delicious just like her. I use a mandolin. I slice and dice with perfectly balanced chef knives. I can flip crepes in the air and flame my sautes.

You make me want a tureen. Your Italian tomato press tempts me. Yes, please I will take a Molcajete, cause I need to molca my jete.

Damn you for being so out of my reach. So distant. Your prices, they mock me. The cheapskate in me just can't do it.

And yet, I return, again, and again.

With much love,

The table runner pictured above is one of my love's linens. Of course I didn't pay full price. In fact I didn't pay 90% off. I got it for $1.40 at a thrift store. Score! They don't make it anymore, so I guess I can claim it's vintage.

My entire house has a little red in every room. It's my favorite color. This fits right in.
If you love thrifting or if you're very new to this full contact sport of shopping, then you must skitter on over to the Thrifty Chicks. They're trying to rouse the crowds and get a National Thrifting Month started. I think they're right, if we can have a National Noodle Month then we can certainly get this going. Be thrifty and nifty and wise, sign the petition. They explain it much better than I do and they're giving away some great stuff. What are you waiting for? Skeedaddle!

Anyone Else Want to Choke the Next Person that Talks about Being Green?

Or I'm Not a Wheat Grass Shootin' Hippie,Honest

It used to be Not Easy Being Green, to reference the ever wise Kermit. Now, every Tom, Dick, and Fozzy (or Gonzo) is attempting to out-Green every one else.

Green didn't start to be cool until just recently. Talking to my Grandma about it, I had to laugh because she had no idea what being Green was. "What's all this Green stuff they're always talking about?" She's in her eighties. Wise and kind and cool in only a Grandma that taught me how to fish and camp and how to attract men (long story short: I was spending time with Grandma and Grandpa. We got a flat tire on the camper. Grandpa unhitched the camper and went in search of a spare tire. We thought we saw Grandpa coming around the corner in his truck, so Grandma pulled up her jeans leg to flash him and gave a neighboring farmer an eye full. Very shocking in the 70s, I'm sure.)

When I explained to Grandma what being Green meant, she just said, "Well that just makes sense. That's what we've always done." Use it up, reuse it, use it up again if you can. Compost in the garden? They did that, just because that's what you do if you want rutabagas the size of your head. Save your bread bags and reuse them? Grandma used her bags until the print from the Wonderbread was all rubbed off. Paper napkins? Why use them when you could use a kitchen towel or cloth ones? Paper towels? Forget about 'em. Grandma always used rags.

When we put the back splash up in the kitchen, we took down the paper towel holder. That was last Spring and I haven't used a paper towel since. I don't know why I didn't do this sooner. Paper towels are expensive, they're environmentally horrific (picture razed rain forest, huge carbon footprints tracked to your door, and Armageddon--OK, not that bad, but you get the point.) Before Al Gore named his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, he called it Paper Towels are the Root of All Evil. Honest to God, he did.

Ditching paper towels was not hard. I still have the half roll that was hanging on the kitchen wall. It hasn't been touched. I bought a cute basket and keep it filled with kitchen rags. I use cut up bath towels and washcloths. I bleach them after use. And I use them as I would paper towels.

It takes some getting used to, but I'll tell you what. I don't miss those mongo packs of paper towels that take up way too much real estate in my shopping cart and in my house and in my budget. I feel like these little things are so simple, yet often overlooked.

I don't know about you, but with one good behavior comes others. It's like with weight loss. One good behavior (eating right) leads to others (working out). To me, so many of these things go hand in hand. Living a better life doesn't just mean taking care of your physical self.

And please, listen to Kermit, below. You'll hum along to that tune all day long.

Peace, love, granola, and all that crunch stuff.

The Five

Here's what my five senses have been experiencing!


The Lace Reader: A Novel by Brunonia Barry

The Whitney women read the future by gazing intently through pieces of lace that they make themselves. Each is gifted with this second sight and each has their own story. Towner Whitney is the central character of this novel. There's something not quite right about her. She's just had surgery and is going home to Salem, Massachusetts to recover. Her Aunt Eva, whom she's been extremely close with and who she plans to stay with, drowns under mysterious circumstances. Towner begins to investigate her death with the help of police officer John Rafferty, and a romantic relationship develops . The story is woven just like lace, with twists and turns raveling and unraveling until the whole pattern is finally seen.

I adored this book. It was one of those that I clutched to my chest and wished for more once I was finished. In fact, I had a hard time letting these characters go and was thrilled to find out that Barry has written another book, Bone Lace, with the same characters, due out sometime this year. I've already requested that my library purchase it and can't wait to read it.


Elton John - Greatest Hits 1970-2002 by Elton John

It's Elton John. Nuff said.

(I could scrub tile off my shower listening to good music and Elton helps me get it done.)


French pressed coffee. Really, this is the best way to make coffee. It's so strong it's thick!


Homemade raisins.

Now don't freak out. I'm not completely weird. Notice I said completely.

I can never buy the right amount of grapes at my house. Either they get gobbled up or they sit untouched. I don't like to be wasteful and we had a big bowl full of grapes that weren't looking their best anymore. So, I decided I would pop them in the dehydrator and see what happened. They're delicious. And they used up the sad, wrinkly grapes that I would have thrown out otherwise.

One of my favorite (and very filling) breakfasts is oatmeal, raisins, pecans, and cinnamon. I usually stir a little raw sugar in before I top it. Yummy.


Fabric to recover our dining room chairs with. I've been looking at this fabric for a few years (yes, I'm funny that way), but I could never justify $34 a yard for it. The chairs are antique (so is the table). I paid $20 for all six chairs at a garage sale. I love them, but they came with pretty ugly fabric on the cushions. We've lived with them because I was hoping to find antique, needlepoint cushion covers, but I've never found them in a price that I can afford. The fabric matches our living room furniture and I was thrilled to find it in the remnant bin at the fabric store. I paid $14 for 2 yards!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pleather Should be Outlawed

First of all, unless your Rhianna or Madonna or going on Jerry Springer's show, you should never, NEVER wear leather pants. Leather pants take a level of confidence (and small thighs) that most people do not have.

Today, I followed a lady through the grocery store, listening to the crackles and screeches of her obviously not leather, really tight pants. Her outfit was complimented by a muffin top the size of Manhattan and a knit winter hat with a large multicolored pom-pom. A daring ensemble, yes, I will give her kudos for that. I like people that march to their own drummer, but this poor soul was sadly out of step.

I'm no fashion model. I wear thrift store clothes, which means sometimes I'm really put together, but other times, it's Levis and a long sleeved t-shirt (the suburban mom uniform). I feel guilty for judging this woman. Perhaps she is soon to appear on What Not to Wear. I hope so. Maybe I was on one of Jon Quiniones hidden camera, what would you do, would you step in and help the baby trapped in the car kind of stories. Would you inform this woman that she's making a fool of herself in too tight pleather pants?

Apparently, in this case, I wouldn't step in.

At some point, when you're overweight, you have to decide whether to venture into the big gals section of the store. This woman was obviously in need of taking this trip. Here's the deal girls. No one can see the size on the tag of your clothing unless they know you really well or are somewhere they shouldn't be (or their doing your laundry, and in that case, I say, look all you want). If you need to rip the tag out to feel better, go for it, but BUY THE RIGHT SIZE. Honestly, ladies, you will look thinner in the right size than you will in the size you want to be, but should not be stuffing yourself into.

In her honor, I made some fruit leather, the only leather you should have in your house that isn't furniture or shoes. Fruit leather is a great way to use up ripe fruit. This time around, I made Apple Mango. Pear, berry, and just plain apple are other favorites at our house. You can buy individually packaged fruit leather in the health food section of your store (NOT FRUIT ROLL UPS. THOSE ARE NOT FRUIT. THEY'RE CANDY OR GREAT FOR FIXING LEAKY PIPES). Purchased fruit leather runs about seventy cents for a one by four inch piece. Why not make it yourself?

It's not Pleather it's Fruit Leather

Chewy, sweet, and packed with good for you stuff like vitamins and minerals and all that junk. Points depends on what fruit you use.

I'm not even going to put this into recipe format. It's really so easy. Take some fruit, peel it or don't. Take out pits and seeds and cores and all that stuff that you don't eat. Roughly chop and place in a pan. Cook with a little water until soft. Puree in a food processor. Most of the time I just stick my hand mixer in and blend it up, leaving it a bit chunky. I guess you can make it without cooking the fruit, but I always cook it. Then put it on low heat in your oven or in your food dehydrator (I use a dehydrator that we got for our wedding that we surprisingly use quite often.) until dry, but still flexible. Cut in pieces and wrap individually if you must, or just cut it and put in a zip bag.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Needin' a Little Green

It's 23 degrees here today. We got about four inches of snow last night. This is the time of year that winter gets really long.

Although, I have to tell you, I'm not sure I could live where the weather was the same day in and day out. I love the change of seasons.

These pictures are from our trip to Florida. I've been taking pictures of the snow, but its just so cold. I wanted to warm up a bit!

If anyone could tell me what the purple berries are, I'd be forever grateful.

You're so Deer to Me

My husband is a deer hunter and now, Young One has joined him. I look forward to hunting season every year, mostly because it gives me a weekend or two completely on my own, which is delightful.

This is the first year that we've really enjoyed eating the venison. Most years, I would store it for a year, cook a bunch of it to send with them on their hunting trip and then throw the rest of last year's away to make room for this year's. Terribly wasteful, I know. I'm very ashamed of that, especially knowing that people go hungry. I grew up eating a lot of venison and I didn't like it. The deer that we ate as kids was not good--it tasted like the woods, acorns and branches. It was wild and you definitely knew that you were eating something that was not beef. The area where my dad hunted was wilder. Our current hunting cabin is on many acres of woods, but it's surrounded by corn fields. The deer are smart. They eat corn. When they eat corn, they taste really good.

Now, please don't get all PETA on me. I have canine teeth for a reason and I love meat. Can't help it. I also strongly believe in population control. If you've ever seen deer starve to death in areas of overpopulation, then you would support the practice of hunting.

Stepping off my soap box now.

Venison is very lean. It's a very healthy meat and very Weight Watchers friendly. So, we've been using it and enjoying it this year. The tenderloin, a delicacy served at very expensive restaurants is highly sought after. We saved it for a night when Young One was at a sleep over. It's very small, usually comes in two pieces, and serves two. I made this recipe and it was divine. You could sub beef or pork or other wild game. Turkey tenderloins would be divine.

(As I'm writing this, I have visions of people thinking that I'm like Sarah Palin, with my gun totin' man. Eating wild game is probably the ONLY thing that Palin and I have in common and I don't think I do it nearly as much as she does.)

Bacon Wrapped Brown Sugar Venison Tenderloin
Absolutely delicious! I'm having trouble figuring out the Points on this one because you discard most of the marinade, I would say, weigh your meat, and figure based on the type of meat, add the amount of bacon you had, and add a Point for the marinade that the meat soaked up. That's very ball park, but it's the best I can do!

2 lbs venison tenderloins (a single deer loin or Moose or Elk or Pork or Beef)
a few slices of
bacon (Plain, thin-sliced Bacon is best)
1 cup
dark brown sugar
2/3 cup
soy sauce (Regular NOT low-sodium. You'll want the saltiness)

Mix brown Sugar and Soy sauce together in a zip bag. Add loin, check zip bag seal (a very important step!), and shake gently to combine.
Let meat marinate in mixture at least 3 hours or overnight in fridge. Remove loin from bag, and place on a slotted bake sheet with a drip pan or aluminum foil below to catch dripping. Discard marinade.
I bunched the two tenderloins together. I wouldn't bunch together more than two. Wrap a piece of bacon around the very end of the tenderloins, securing the bacon strip with a toothpick.
Repeat this process until the entire loin is wrapped. The Place on center rack in oven and bake at 350°F for 30-40 minutes. This should cook the meat to about Medium.

Friday, February 20, 2009

La La La La Lateness

I'm an On Timer. I can't help it. I come from a long line of people who are required to be early for events. I mean, as in, arrive 15 minutes early and sit in your car until you can go in, kind of people. I detest being late. I was taught it's rude and it isn't nice to people to waste their time with your lateness.

I married a Later. He's a fly by the seat of your pants, scrambling around looking for keys, don't get in the shower until it's five minutes before you have to go, kind of guy.

Needless to say, we don't mesh well sometimes. Because I have to go with him to places (it's required when you're married, or so I've heard), by default, I'm late too. And I hate it.

It's the only thing in our marriage that drives me crazy and I'm helpless to change it. Well, it's not the only thing in our marriage that drives me crazy, but I'm really not going to go into all THAT here! (And I really don't complain about him to people, so this is a rare mood you've caught me in.)

Living with someone is hard. Meshing your styles is even harder. You see, when I'm late, it completely throws me off. I feel rushed and harried and frantic and I get anxious. Young One gets like this too, so he must be an On Timer.

Want a good example? (Even if you say no, I'm going to give it to you.) A couple of years back we flew to Wyoming to visit Yellowstone National Park. Overall it was a great trip. I remember hiking the trails, watching Old Faithful, and boarding the airplane without my husband. You see, he needed a caffeine fix and so, just minutes before boarding, he walked a few miles from our gate (you know how airports are) to get a mocha. The lovely airport people started calling the boarding procedure and no husband. Our row was called. No husband. Young One was crying, I was frantically calling D's cell phone. Nothing. At last call, I grabbed Young One and we got on the plane. I figured we'd leave anyway, too bad for him. Just before we got to the gate door, he arrived, coffee in hand and a sheepish grin on his face. It took me most of the first hour of the flight to get back to I'm on vacation relaxation phase.

That sort of thing doesn't bother him. "I made it, didn't I?" he said. Yep you did, but you gave me a heart attack and your son was in tears. Doesn't bother him.

We used to have a family like that in my hometown church. For you to completely understand the story, you have to understand that Lutherans don't sit in the front rows of the sanctuary. It's not in us to be out there like that. Ten minutes into our Sunday service, without fail, our notorious family would make their entrance. I lost count how many children they had, but let's just say it was around a dozen, all with Biblical names. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, I don't think they had an Acts, but there was Elizabeth and Mary for sure, Leviticus and Genesis may have surfaced after I left town. There they were, all in their Sunday best, but somehow smelling like the barn that they had just finished their chores in. We were a farming community, this was commonplace. They marched in, interrupting whatever was taking place at that time, and headed for the only empty seats in the house, the front rows. As time went on, those rows were just theirs by default. Even if, by some miracle, they were on time, they still sat there.

Their lateness, although just fine in the eyes of God, didn't sit well in the eyes of the congregation. Looking back on it, it didn't bother me as much as the old ladies who worked in the kitchen and clucked their tongues at anything that they could. They weren't hurting anybody, but their lateness, well, it was an imposition. It interrupted our pastor, it interrupted our settling in to worship. As time went on, though, it was just expected, so the interruption was less jarring.

Maybe that's where I am now. The lateness has become such a part of D's character that I'm not surprised or as reactionary towards it. It still grates on me, but I've found ways around it. Like setting the clocks ahead. That works well unless he checks his computer or iPhone. I've taken to just walking out of the house and sitting in the car. That works fine, but usually results in him running back and forth from the house to the car because he's forgotten everything that he's supposed to bring along (Watch, keys, wallet, phone? All scattered throughout the house, another thing that drives me crazy. Set it down in one place always and you'll save yourself a heck of a lot of time and panic. Duh.)

I'm not perfect, I know. My On Timeness is annoying in it's own right, I'm very sure. So, what are you, an On Timer or a Later?

Late for Dinner Meatloaf
Meatloaf is very forgiving, even if you're not. It will hold in the oven until everyone is at the table. Serve with baked potatoes and sweet baby peas. The baking potatoes and meatloaf smell fantastic, be prepared for lots of, "Is dinner ready yet?" Serves 8 at 6 WW Points per serving.

1 tbsp Heinz Spicy Brown Mustard
3 tbsp Del Monte Ketchup
1/2 cup(s) Kraft Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
3/4 cup(s) part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup(s) onion(s)
1/2 cup(s) dried bread crumbs
1 1/2 pound(s) cooked extra lean ground beef, 17% fat
1 tsp dried oregano
1 item(s) egg
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350. Mix first two ingredients and set aside. Mix all remaining ingredients. Press into a loaf pan and glaze with ketchup and mustard mixture. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until it reaches a temperature of 170 degrees in the center.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Life Happens When You're Making Other Plans

This housewife job can be relentless. Every week, I can do the laundry and clean the house only to find that they somehow get dirty again. Some weeks feel like make a meal, clean up from a meal, make a phone call, do a load of laundry, clean a bathroom and then repeat as necessary. Repeat as necessary. Repeat. Repeat.

Then there are the days when God throws you a curve ball. I'm not sure if it's a good thing. I mean, it's a new challenge and the relentlessness IS interrupted, I suppose one could figure, but usually it's a surprise that you wish would have never happened. I woke to a full dishwasher load of dishes that didn't wash over night. I had a full to do list that day and none of it involved being home to wait for a repair person.

My day also didn't include time in it for hand washing an entire dishwasher load of dishes. I was pissed off and huffed around making Young One's lunch and unloading the dirty dishes while calling the repair man.

Then, it dawned on me. This day was a gift. I'm trying to flip my negativity when things like this happen to acceptance and turning lemons into lemonade, if you will. So what that I wouldn't run the long list of errands that I had to do. They could all wait. I'd been asking for a chance to breathe a bit, so here was my opportunity.

Delightful Dave the Dishwasher Man (and that is his title) arrived long after I had completed washing the dishes. I had just finished stirring up a bucket of my Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent, while watching Martha Stewart's show on my teeny tiny kitchen TV. You can see her peering approvingly into the undiluted bucket of suds in the picture below. I'd never watched her show before and, surprisingly, she only made me feel minutely inadequate, although the entire show was devoted to chefs preparing amazing food, so she wasn't in the spotlight much. At one point, she was corrected by one of the chefs and she didn't seem to like that one bit. I however, would have missed this precious moment if the dishwasher hadn't broken. It was worth it just to see Martha bristle at the correction. I'm rambling again, sorry.

Dishwasher Dave, like most people who hear about my homemade cleaning supplies, was both amazed and skeptical that something so simple to make would work. "They worked for our ancestors," I said with a smile. He left with the recipe.

Delightful Dave and I got into a conversation about small businesses. I always go for a Mom and Pop business if I can. Restaurant chains rarely see my shadow. Small stores and little entrepreneurs get most of our precious dollars. They also get my respect and awe. Having been a small business owner myself, I know what they're up against and the unbelievable amount of work you must put into each day (usually 24/7). This economy hasn't been good to the big guys. My hope is that they little ones will survive it as the biggies fall because of their greed.

We chatted back and forth about how great small businesses are. He speaks fast, working as we talk. He's got a long list of repairs to see today, mostly repeat customers he proudly states. That speaks highly of his integrity, abilities, and fair prices. He, of course, is able to make the dishwasher work with the push of a button. He checks it out thoroughly does an entire diagnostic and charges me a small fee. He wants my repeat business and assured me that if the dishwasher acts up again, that I won't have to repay the service call fee I paid then.

My experience with a nationwide store with a huge service department didn't go this smoothly nor did it cost so little. All it did was line the pockets of the big business machine. I won't ever do it again.

The day didn't go as I planned it, but I had an opportunity to meet someone who is proud of his work and good at his craft. I got a chance to take a breather and visited with a friend and baked cookies. It was a good day. I accomplished what was meant to be done that day. If the dishwasher hadn't broken, I would have never taken this time.

Today, life happened and for once, I wasn't busy making other plans.
In Gratitude:
  • For having a dishwasher. Heck, for having dishes to put in the dishwasher and food to make them dirty. So many are without. I should always be mindful of that.
  • For having a husband that works so hard to make sure we are well provided for. For his wonderful company (that is making money and has no debt, thank you Jesus!)
  • For the chance to step back from life just for a bit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Green Dreams

The seed catalogs are arriving in stacks. I've got the planning bug that comes every year at this time. I know that God intended this season of planning as a last ditch effort to get cabin fevered gardeners like me through the last weeks of winter.

Planning a garden is like planning a trip; it's half the fun. Every year, I pour over seed catalogs, draw my garden plan. Re-draw and re-plan and re-read and re-justabouteverything. At this time of year, one doesn't think of weeds or that aching back that comes only from the destruction of said weeds. One thinks of the abundant harvest that the pictures in the catalog promises. (And we all know that those pictures are a lie, especially the world's biggest pumpkin seeds that I ordered with my meager allowance when I was nine and which resulted in one tiny green pumpkin that never grew past the softball size stage.)

I dream of heirloom tomatoes, fresh from the vine, this time of year. Their ridged, imperfect, ugliness is a thing of beauty to me. Marbled tones of green and red promise a unique flavor that only a rescued seed can fruit. It tastes of sunshine and bears the history of all the gardeners who worked so hard to save these precious plants.

In the last couple of years, I've tried a few things with my garden. Last year, I tried to plant the cheapest garden possible. I bought seeds at ten for a buck. I got seedlings at garage sales and at the close out sales at the garden centers. I wasn't fussy and I had great yields. Several years back, I started ordering from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I heard about them from Farmgirl (a fantastic blog about life on the farm in Missouri written by a foodie and photographic genius). My garden two years ago was entirely from Baker Creek. Sadly, I was in a kind of dark place in my life then. Having just sold my business, I was exhausted and a bit heartbroken, so I didn't put my all into the garden. My zucchini wouldn't even produce, which is a sure sign of sadness, cause who the heck can't grow zucchini? Warning, the following statement is rated R: My zucchini weren't getting pollinated, so I determinedly "molested" them with a Q-tip and even THAT didn't produce little zucchini babies. My garden guru up the street informed me that I probably had plants of the same sex. Um, great. My poor gay plants, like their human counterparts, couldn't reproduce. Fortunately, like their human counterparts, my gay zucchini plants were able to foster and eventually adopt offspring, so I still enjoyed an abundant harvest. (Moral of this story, never tell anyone you want zucchini. They will show up by the bushel on your front porch, dropped off in the cover of night by masked gardeners.)

Anyway, long story short, in the nine years that I've planted my little 10x20 foot urban vegetable garden, I've always experimented a little. This year, I'm planning to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) again. I was introduced to CSAs by a friend and I enjoyed a summer of beautiful produce of which I had no part of except to write the check that helped purchase the seeds. If you're not familiar with CSAs, this is the time of year to hurry and get your name on a list!

Let me tell you a little bit about them. Community Supported Agriculture is a relationship between grower and consumer. You, as the consumer, provide, pun intended, seed money. You gamble, with the grower, that you're investment is going to turn into a bountiful harvest. Each week, you'll receive a goodie box of fresh produce that's in season. Most CSAs are organic. Many offer organic meats, flowers, eggs, and bakery items. Now, remember, you're gambling against Mother Nature, and more times than not, you will have made a great investment. We all know, though, that Mother can be unpredictable, so if she sends hail, late frosts, tornadoes, drought or flood, you may not get as much for your money.
I had a wonderful experience with Community Homestead, which was the first CSA that I had experience with, so I'm signing up with them again. Please take a moment to read about their work. Community Homestead provides a wonderful life and rewarding vocation for adults with mental disabilities, so I feel like this is a good place for my money to go. I researched several other CSAs and this one was also the cheapest, which, for this cheapskate, is a good fit. They also deliver directly to my neighborhood, which is another great fit for me. As well, they offer meats, eggs, bakery items, flowers, and crafts that can be added to my delivery box, if I wish.

One CSA that I wanted to plug is owned by one of my dad's former clients. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Farm. Not only do I think their farm name is absolutely brilliant, but they offer lamb for sale and I know I've just got to get me some of that! Robin and her partner (whom I don't know, but hope to) do not deliver to my neighborhood yet and are a little more expensive. Someday I may join up with them. If you live in my area and they still have room, I know you'll get garden goodness from Robin (her time with Melon Vine Farm provided our family with tons of delicious produce growing up).

Why am I joining a CSA again? Mostly because my 10x20 plot is more than enough for me to take care of and I've decided that I'd like to put things in my garden this year that take up more space. I'm thinking pumpkins, potatoes and maybe filling half of it with raspberries, which is a permanent leap that I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for. Also, I looked back over my spending last summer and I spent at least $40 a week at our neighborhood farmers' market. The CSA will cost me approximately $20 a week and I'll get a wider variety of produce. I will still hit the farmers' market occasionally and I know that I will still want large quantities of veggies for freezing and canning. The one thing that I'm completely sold on is the delivery to my neighborhood. It just doesn't get any easier than this!

When I participated last time, each week was like getting a box of surprises. The veggies were gorgeous and I tried a few things that I never would have before. I tried fresh fennel for the first time and grilled it on our outdoor grill. I roasted beets and gobbled them up with fresh bleu cheese from Southern Minnesota. (I come from a long line of Scandinavians. We didn't roast beets, but pickled them in sugary syrup spiked with cloves.) I'm thinking that this summer, I will take a picture of my box and then detail what I did with all the goodies contained within. (Now, don't hold me to this, I'm sure this summer will be just as busy as all the others, but again, this is the time of year for planning, so I can dream big!)

Before my dad died, we took a trip to visit Community Homestead to see where our food was coming from. It was a very hot day, but we wandered the fields with glee. Which row of corn would be ours? We took a wagon ride and enjoyed a pig roast. We visited with the residents, some disabled, some just filled with the love and peace that comes from living in a place filled with happiness. They all worked very hard and their dedication and love were the secret ingredients of such deliciousness.
They had a small pond filled with tadpoles that Young One was absolutely fascinated with. We wondered why they would have them. Were the frogs a natural pest eaters? Did they also eat frog legs? (I know, that one is pretty funny.) We asked someone on the farm why and they answered simply that it was for the fun of it. They were there for the people that lived there to watch that magical metamorphosis from swimming little black squiggle to bright green frog and wonder at the miracle of creation. Now, that's cool.

Stay tuned. I'm sending in my registration and payment now. I'm still happily planning.

Now, it's your turn. What are your garden plans? Have you checked out CSAs in your area? Don't miss out on this fantastic way to get inexpensive organic produce!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Snickerdoodles! Fun to say and fun to eat.

I knew when I found the blog Snickerdoodles, that I had met a kindred spirit. You simply must visit. She's a talented writer, wonderful mom, and amazing artist.

I just won a give away on her blog and I'm thrilled. So thrilled, that I just had to bake some cookies in her honor. (We Weight Watchers gals are great at rationalizations.)

Here's my favorite Snickerdoodles recipe. Have these fresh out of the oven when your kids get home and you'll get some big smiles!

Cinnamon and sugar dusted, chewy vanilla cookies. They won't last long. 2 WW Points per cookie.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Let the Pentagon Have Bake Sales!

Remember that great bumper sticker, Let the Pentagon Have Bake Sales? I'm about ready to make my own. Let the Pentagon Cut Out Box Tops.

Let them save boxtops, bundle them, and send them in for a pittance.

You know those Box Tops for Education? The ones that are on food boxes and bags and schools collect them as fundraisers? I've spent every spare moment of the last week trimming and bundling them for our school. I've done this once before, but I had more help that time. This time around it's been me trimming, me alone, bundling. I don't want to see another box top, bread bag, or crescent roll tube wrapper.

This experience has taught me a lot. First, that patience is a virtue that I have very little of. Second, people are feeding their children a lot of expensive crap (we hardly ever have a box top to give to this program). Third, companies will really make you jump through hoops to earn money when in reality these programs are just marketing and marketing analysis for them and we're saving them a ton by doing it.

Isn't it a little sad that while we spend billions on war and the red tape of government and our schools and health care get pushed to the back burner?

Dear President Obama,

I know you're very busy. I'll keep my note short and to the point.

I have an economic stimulus package for you. Could you require that the Pentagon cut box tops and send them in? You could ask the bank CEOs and anyone else involved in the fall of our economy to join in too.

In exchange, I ask that you use their salaries and any bail out money to fund our schools and fix our health care plan.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Hate to Say I Gave you that Idea (But, I Did)

I'm always surprised at human nature. Nope, that's not right. It doesn't surprise me with certain folks. You know how there is that certain personality that has to discover things for themselves and could never consider something new if it's presented to them? Well, I know several people like that.

I come from a long line of people that have to be right. I'll admit it. I'm one of them. D has learned just to agree, listen to me vent, wait for the storm to pass and I'll guiltily apologize and move on. Mom always said it's the Scottish side of me, but she's not Scottish, that was Dad. And she's got the Right Gene too.

I mention the Right Gene because this little blurb has nothing to do with me possessing that characteristic. In fact, I don't even know why I mentioned it, except that it's something I haven't before. This Right Gene is battled daily and I think I'm winning. (!)

I'm a longtime fan of www.etsy.com. I purchased something from an artist listed there when it was just an itty bitty website that no one had ever heard of. I use etsy for gifts and to find things for my home or myself that are one of a kind. I use it for inspiration. I tell everyone I know to visit that site.

I know someone that handcrafts things beautifully and so, of course, I mentioned etsy to her. She was struggling with sales having lost space in a local gift store when they went out of business. Why wouldn't you want to join up? It's a great community and it puts your work out there to an international audience and it's just plain cool. Well, she hemmed and hawed and her answer was, "I've already tried the online thing. It didn't work."

Now to find out from another friend that she's listing there. Ugh. No, I didn't gossip with the other friend, I just said, "that's great!" (And I truly mean that from the bottom of my heart.) The next time I see my artsy friend I will congratulate her and I will wholeheartedly wish her success.

I'm writing this to get rid of the "I hate to say I gave you the idea, but I did" feeling. It's worth nothing for me to say it (kind of like "I told you so" is). And I really do feel better having hit the keyboard. It really does have to do with the Right Gene. I know. I know.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I love a man, with a hammer by his side...

I can't help it. A man that does home remodeling and repairs--well, it's a turn on. He's blurry because he's working so fast and hard and so very manly. Too bad I didn't get a shot with his tool belt on. "That's a big hammer you have there."

We've been remodeling our kitchen. For about 9 years. Next project, a mud room, for all our extra mud and storage of mud type things. And then, stay tuned for the soon to be replacement of the world's ugliest kitchen floors. No really. Mine are the ugliest.

Almost an after picture: You'll have to imagine the sound of harps playing or big game show win type music in the background. Sorry I don't have a before. The ceiling was one giant plastic fluorescent fixture. Super ugly, super horrible lighting. So ugly that it couldn't be photographed.

Happy Valentine's Day! We He's working on projects this weekend again. Now that's romance. Really.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!