menu plan monday, easing into december edition

menu plan monday

Yesterday we finished our Thanksgiving leftovers, so unlike many people out there, I’m not scrambling for ideas to use up turkey. In fact, I ended up buying a little more! When I was grocery shopping yesterday, the supermarket must have divided up the rest of their fresh turkeys to sell. I bought a package of two turkey drumsticks for all of 57 cents! I’ll use those to make a little turkey soup during week. I wish I bought another package or two for the freezer, at that price.

All in all a very easy week cooking-wise. Don’t get too excited about the butter chicken. Really, I’m just throwing the meat and vegetables into my Crock Pot with some butter chicken simmer sauce I purchased. I won’t be making that totally from scratch. I hope it will be good. Here’s my plan:

Sunday: Fish sandwiches, french fries, salad
Monday: Slow cooker roast beef, potato salad, carrots, salad
Tuesday: Tacos, rice & beans
Wednesday: Slow cooker butter chicken with peas and cauliflower, rice
Thursday: Turkey soup and sandwiches or leftovers
Friday: Dinner out (hopefully!)
Saturday: not sure yet

For other great meal ideas, check out the Menu Plan Monday feature on Organizing Junkie.

it’s up!

DSC_0059Although our tree has technically been up for about a week, we didn’t decorate it until today. It’s such fun unwrapping all the ornaments, isn’t it? We don’t have a specific theme for our tree; we just have lots and lots of different ornaments that we’ve collected through the years, a few going back to the 1970s. (Drew’s mom gave him an ornament every year!) Whenever we go someplace on vacation or on any kind of special trip we like to purchase something to use as an ornament for the tree. Also, I admit to hitting the Hallmark Keepsake ornaments hard after Christmas every year when they go on clearance for 50% off!

This year we had popcorn garland, but we forgot to put it on until we were halfway-through decorating. So, it’ll just have to wait until next year. (Have you ever tried to put garland on a tree that’s already been decorated? If you can do it, then you are much more skilled than I am — of course I’m pretty klutzy all around so it’s probably that most people would have no trouble!)

Here’s a peek at the finished tree:


Yes, we do even have the train going around! A few years ago the boys received this Lionel train as a gift from Drew’s aunt. We’ll probably have to box it up for a year or two once this season is over, though. It’s quite fragile and once Laura is mobile, well… I’m not going to risk her damaging it. She’s already grabbing and going after things! Have you put up your tree yet? Be sure to post a photo when you do and let me know. I just love looking at everyone’s trees!

Our lights are also up outside. I will have to take a photo of the house later. Drew has these neat mounts that snap onto the gutters so he can put them up from the ground — no need to stand on a ladder. It makes it so much easier for him and I since he’s not 10 feet up, I don’t need to worry (or be outside spotting the ladder). I still have a little decorating I’d like to do, but it’s plenty early. I’m glad the big stuff is all set, though!

deck the malls

Like the crazy shopper I am, I went back to the mall today. Yesterday’s mail brought me a small windfall to use on myself and I could use some new clothes so… off I went. I scored a pair of purple cords at JC Penney’s, but I have to return the other items I bought, unfortunately. I was so excited with the two shirts, the sweater, and the scarf I found at Charlotte Russe, but one shirt (a size medium) was absolutely enormous, as was the sweater. The other shirt was skin tight. Ugh. Are they labeling clothes different so that people don’t feel bad about how big they are? Because there is no way I’m a size small. I also didn’t realize that the scarf was damaged until I went home so it will all go back. Same with the shirt I  bought at Old Navy. It, too, seems to be too big for its size. Well, money back in my pocket I guess. Maybe there is a better deal waiting for me somewhere 🙂

Noah was thrilled to get a peek at Santa Claus. He gave the big guy a shy little wave. We’ll bring the kids back another day when they’re dressed a little nicer and try to get a photo. This year they are using an empty storefront to accommodate Santa. It’s actually set up really nice. In previous years this mall’s Santa display has been… lacking. Next to Santa’s alcove is a set-up for a camping/RV store. There’s mannequins and various camping-related items. It kind of looks like Santa made his way to the Hudson Valley in a motorhome, though, rather than in a sleigh. Of course, I’m sure he’d have no problem getting rv financing — after all, he does own a toy factory, right?


Ah, Thanksgiving! Ours was very low-fi this year. Drew and I are feeling a bit under the weather and his aunt is still is recovery-mode from her heart surgery back in October, so we didn’t go crazy with anything this year. I didn’t contribute too much to the food, really. I made a pink grapefruit cheeseball (from a Tastefully Simple mix, so it wasn’t much effort, LOL!) and stuffed celery (because to me, celery slathered with cream cheese and green olives is as necessary as the turkey). Drew made the cornbread and we headed down to Westchester for a very traditional dinner of roast turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and cole slaw.

I could do without the sweet potatoes or turnips, and I always find the cornbread odd because it’s not something I grew up with, but it’s interesting how each family has its own traditions. Cole slaw is another dish that I feel is unique to my in-laws’ Thanksgiving table. My family always does a big tossed green salad with Italian dressing. The cole slaw does go well, though.

My mother-in-law makes the best stuffing in the world, in case you didn’t know. It’s her mother’s recipe and it is seriously the best with the sausage and the cranberries. So good. She makes a great turkey as well. I was so full from dinner that I really didn’t feel much like dessert, so I only had a couple cookies. Yes, we all ate well.

This morning we went out for  little Black Friday shopping. I don’t care, I always enjoy going out the day after Thanksgiving. It’s something I’ve done for years. The sales were a little underwhelming this year, but we had fun nonetheless. I think I just get excited about it because it’s the one day a year when I don’t have to sit around waiting for the stores to open up. Drew and I were up shortly after 5 (thanks to my little alarm clock, Laura) and once Noah woke up around 5:30 we were able to head out. (Jake is at his grandma’s until tomorrow.)

We’ll finish putting up our Christmas decorations this weekend. Drew put up the lights on the house today and our tree is up and ready to be decorated. Hard to believe that December is so close!



It’s deer season here in the Hudson Valley, so when I heard a “bang” slightly before 6 this morning, I just assumed some hunter shot his Thanksgiving dinner and rolled back over. When Laura woke up and I walked into the den, I looked out the window and realized that the noise wasn’t a shotgun after all. No, it was one of the woodpiles. Somehow it had fallen over. Poor Drew was not happy to know this, since he now has to restack it all.

In other news, I’m so pleased! Last night I put 328 photos from this year into photo albums. I’m caught up through Halloween. I have a couple years’ worth of photos in envelopes in my closet that need to be put in order and in albums, but I’m thinking that with all the deals going on right now on various photo processing sites, I just might limit it to 200 photos per year that I need to catch up (I use albums that hold 200 photos), order them a year at a time, and get them in albums just so I can have everything up to date. I can use the prints I already have as extras or let the kids use them for photo albums of their own.

One thing I wish I had a photo of is this ridiculous camper that’s on someone’s property en route to the library. It’s a complete piece of junk, but it’s “FREE!!!” (as the crudely spraypaint-on-plywood sign proclaims). It can’t be driveable. There’s no way you’d get motorhome insurance for it. I haven’t the foggiest idea what someone would do with it. I have to return some books on Saturday so I’ll be curious if it’s still there.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year? We’re having a very low-key dinner at Drew’s mom’s house. I’m bringing my Tastefully Simple grapefruit cheeseball (YUM!) and I’m also making stuffed celery because to me it just isn’t turkey day without it. We’re also in charge of wine (big surprise, right?). Originally I was going to make dessert, but my MIL had an apple pie in the freezer and someone brought her a tray of cookies, so there’s no sense in going crazy on the sweets since no one really feels like dessert anyway. I’ll save my cheesecake for another time.

noah’s idea of thanksgiving

Yesterday was the “Thanksgiving Feast” at Noah’s nursery school. The kids sang a song and then the teachers read how each child described what their Thanksgiving would be like. Noah’s going to be sorely disappointed, I’m afraid, LOL! See here:

noah's thanksgiving

When Jake was in nursery school at least he mentioned turkey in his description (as well as olives and tacos!). I wonder what kind of “grown-up stuff” Noah thinks we’ll buy? A natural acne treatment? Blank DVDs? Groceries? Shampoo? I can only imagine.

the chicken stock experiment

Asian chicken soupI read a lot of natural living-type blogs and over and over again I keep seeing the term “bone broth” come up. Bone broth this and bone broth that. What on earth is this magic bone broth? Well, come to find out it’s exactly how I make chicken stock. I think “bone broth” must be a buzzword or something because it’s certainly not new. In fact, I don’t even call it stock I just call it soup.

Soup is something I eat a lot of, and I prefer my own chicken soup (well, my mom’s is the best naturally, but I think I do okay). Since I’m still trying to meet my weight loss goal, and I’m still nursing, a cup of soup and a sandwich is my standard lunch — easy, healthy, and nourishing. The best diet pills can’t possibly taste as good!

At any rate, a lot of the blogs suggested making the stock, bone broth, whatever you call it in a slow cooker. Now, I’ve always made mine on the stove in a pot. There’s no rhyme or reason, really. I basically take a stock pot and fill it with a chicken carcass (from either a chicken I roasted myself or a rotisserie chicken when I’ve been short on time), celery tops, a couple carrots, a large onion (skin and all, quartered), some peppercorns, and a couple garlic cloves if I think of it. Sometimes I’ll add some dried dill as well. I cover it with water and I allow it to almost reach a boil, then turn it way down to simmer for a couple hours. I’m left with a very rich stock that turns gelatinous when I put it in the fridge. That’s exactly how you want it.

Well, the slow cooker method is supposed to work very well. Many recipes call for the addition of apple cider vinegar — something I forgot to add. Now, I’m not sure if maybe that’s where I went wrong but after cooking on low for about 14 hours, the stock had achieved a deep color, but the depth of flavor wasn’t there. And it didn’t have the gelatinous quality even after it spent the night in the fridge. So I won’t be making it this way again. Have you ever made stock in the Crock Pot? How does it come out for you and what do you do differently?

i got picked!

Have you ever heard of the site House Party? I’ve been aware of it for quite a while and I’ve applied to host several parties, but was never picked. Until now. And, oh did I get chosen to host a great party (that, ironically I forgot I applied for). On December 5th I’ll be hosting a Rowenta iron & steamer party. And yes, the most amazing part of the whole thing is that I am actually getting a Rowenta iron & steamer sent to me. Talk about a fantastic early Christmas gift! The party premise is a clothing swap, but I’m not sure if I’ll go with that or do something slightly different. I might just ask people to bring a piece of clothing that would be a challenge — corduroy pants, tuxedo shirts, pashmina shawls, etc.

Currently I use an iron that belonged to either me or Drew in college and cost all of $10. Don’t get me wrong, it works fine but it will be so nice to have a good iron, especially for my sewing projects. I must sound crazy, getting all excited over this. But the truth is I do love to iron. There is something very soothing about smoothing out wrinkles. Love. It. I guess if I had to iron my husband’s shirts every day for work it might be a different story, but since I don’t have to do that, I can just be happy with what I do need to iron 🙂

Anyway, I just had to share my excitement!

feeling hooky

Ah, yesterday I mailed out the last pumpkin hat I’d promised to a friend. While they were fun, I am so done with pumpkins for a while, LOL! I’m still on hats, though. Last winter I’d promised both my dad and my husband winter hats. I’m not fooled by this weekend’s warmer temperatures; I know winter is well on the way (in fact it should be in the 40s later this week — eek!). So my plan is to crank through hats and hand warmers and then hopefully, hopefully start on a new project. I still would like to knit Colonnade or some other shawl, or a scarf with an interesting pattern. I’ve not yet decided.

Last week I requested several crochet books from the library for inspiration and they all arrived on Saturday. Mom and I had lots of fun looking through them and getting ideas. Here are a few projects that I just love. The first two are from Special Techniques & Stiches in Crochet, edited by Judy Crow.

I am thinking that this might be the pattern for my next ripple blanket. I’m not sure about colors yet, but I just love how this looks:


And this sweater! It’s so simple, but so classic, I think. In college I had a silk sweater that was very similar so maybe that’s why I like this so much:


Then there’s this beautiful lacy scarf. This scarf and the following shawl are from the book Wrapped in Crochet: Scarves, Wraps & Shawls by Kristin Omdahl. I think that right now this gorgeous scarf is out of my skill set, but that’s OK. It’s still pretty to look at:


Last, there’s this shawl. It doesn’t seem very useful. I mean, how warm can it keep your shoulders? But I just think it looks so cool. It reminds me of spiderwebs. Maybe I can finish it in time for next Halloween? 🙂


Too many projects, and too little time! Isn’t that always the way?

i ::heart:: swagbucks

Search & Win When I signed up for Swagbacks several months ago, I wasn’t totally sure it would be worth it. But I’ve discovered that it is totally worth it. I’ve earned nearly $50 worth of Amazon gift certificates just by searching the Web (and yes, thanks to referrals as well). I’ve been using these codes for treats for myself, but you could use them toward Christmas gifts, too.

Since I have a notebook computer, I’m online pretty much anytime Laura nurses during the day. Plus, as a freelance writer I do a lot of Web searches so for me it’s pretty easy to grab at least one Swagbuck during the day. They do add up quickly. It’s effortless, in my opinion. And if you sign up through my referral link, I’ll earn a Swagbuck whenever you do (and I will love you for-evah!). Anyway, with the holidays fast approaching I just thought I’d mention this again. I think it’s great and I’ve gotten my Amazon e-certificates within 7 days of “cashing in” my Swagbucks.