Sunday, March 16, 2014

It May Be Winter Forever...

Do you remember the story of the lonely giant and how in his garden it was always winter? That is what it is like here... always winter!  I am starting to wonder of the snow will ever melt and if spring will ever come again.  I actually like snow and winter. A lot.  But it has been a little too much of a good thing.  Come mid-March I am ready to move on.  So, c'mon Old Man Winter!  Give it a rest.  Go back to bed.  Spring is ready to wake up and get the show on the road.

I have been spending most of my time working (always!), knitting, and cooking.  I haven't done as much reading as I would normally like to because my knitting obsession has been high.  I have already completed three knit cowls and a baby sweater since January 1, and I have another cowl on the needles and another baby sweater about 1/3 done.  Work has been really stressful, and knitting definitely helps me relax and unwind.  There is something incredibly soothing about the repetitive and tactile nature of knitting or crocheting.  I highly recommend it.

Here is a recipe that I have made twice now and it is sooooo good.  I had some ground turkey in the freezer and was looking for something yummy to do with it.  I came across this website which has really good recipes and great photos.  I decided to make Turkey Meatballs with Light Tomato Sauce.  (You can check out the site here.)

The meatballs.

The sauce.

The finished product (brace yourself - it does spatter a bit while cooking.)

I like to eat this just as is, my husband likes to sop up the sauce with lots of bread, or you could serve it over noodles.  It is so good!

The recipe:
Turkey Meatballs with Light Tomato Sauce

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 - 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
1 large basil sprig (with lots of leaves) plus more for garnish

1/2 cup Panko
1/2 cup milk (I use rice milk)
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan (I use Go Veggie)
2 T chopped parsley (I use more than this b/c I love parsley)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb ground turkey

In a large skillet with sides, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes then cook 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir in tomatoes and tomato paste then bring to a simmer. Season with salt, and then add basil spring. Allow sauce to simmer gently while preparing meatballs.

To make meatballs, combine panko breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl, and then let sit 5 minutes. Add egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, parsley, oregano and salt to bowl. Stir until combined. Next, add turkey then use a fork or fingers to mix everything together until barely combined. For tender meatballs, try not to over mix.

Wet your hands and form mixture into 1-inch meatballs. This should make about 24 meatballs.

Gently drop meatballs into tomato sauce. (It’s okay if some are not completely covered by the sauce). Cover skillet with a lid and cook 20 minutes then gently shimmy or shake the skillet to move the meatballs around a little. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes or until turkey is cooked through.

Before serving, scatter about 2 tablespoons of torn basil leaves over meatballs and sauce.

This is really yummy!  I use the rice milk and Go Veggie parm substitute because I am lactose-intolerant.  My family loves them!  The leftovers make great meatball subs.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Get it together

Seriously, people. This place is a wreck. There's stuff everywhere, and a hundred different things going on. I have half the Christmas decorations put away, I have a million essays to grade, and what I really wish I were doing is sitting and knitting and watching Downton Abbey. 

I also have home decorating ADD. I want to change something... I just can't decide what! And Pinterest is only adding to the problem. Haha. I need to make a list. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Countdown

So, I finally did it. I threw in the towel on the real Christmas tree. I just couldn't take the sneezing and itching and hives another year. We ordered a 7' Frasier fir from Ballard Designs, and we are very happy with it. Honestly, except for the skinny trunk that shows a teensy weensy bit at the bottom above the tree skirt, you can't tell it is a fake. 

The Darling Husband set it up for me on Sunday evening of Thanksgiving weekend and then I decorated it on the following weekend. I have to admit it was kinda nice to not have to worry about watering it!

I set up the Santa tree the dining room on Saturday. It is also artificial and is quite old (10+ years) and it still looks great!

The rest of the house got finished up on Sunday. More pics later. I love Christmas decorations! Except when I have to do it By. My. Self. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A little depressed, a little jealous, a little inspired...


Okay, I know.  Super weird title to this blog post.  I am losing it a little bit this time of year. Too much work.  Lots of meetings and sporting events.  Very little sleep.  I have had to put the blog on hold due to being a wife, mother, and teacher.  Which has got me a little depressed.  Because I haven't had much time to be creative.  In fact, I have had precious little time to be creative.  I think I have knit one washcloth, knit 1/2 a cowl, knit 1/2 of a chunky cable hat (that is gonna be cute!), and ordered yarn to knit some completely cool fingerless mittens from the Purl Bee.  Oh, and I knit two pair of baby booties that I need to put little buttons on.  They are adorbs.

Here is the cowl I am knitting:

And here is a picture of the fingerless mittens I am going to make:
 I have been doing some good cooking.  But not enough, because I am NEVER home.  I have made several good things from Pinterest lately, including this:

 pinner says... Oven Tacos (love these. My husband's "favorite taco ever". Made them exactly as written, and will do so many times over in the future.)

I have read some good books.  Including The Dinner (super fast read, read in one sitting on a plane from Chicago to Denver), Broken Harbor (you know I am obsessed with Tana French!), and Gods of Gotham (Loved! Can't wait for her next book to come out).

The Gods of Gotham cover
At last count, I had graded more than 900 essays.  And that was in March.  I am sure I am well over 1,000 now.  Between my senior writing classes, my AP English classes, and my junior World Lit class, that's a lot of writing.  Most of the essays average 3 pages.  So that's a hell of a lot of reading and commenting.  My writing callous is ridiculous. I am the super hero of writing callouses.

I am a little depressed because of some of the above, but I am also proud and happy because I am a happy wife, a happy mom, and a happy teacher.  I am trying to do good in the world every day.  So there's something.

I am also a little jealous and a little inspired because I was on Pinterest (avoiding work...) and I saw a delicious recipe, which led me to a really great blog, which I started reading, and then I just read that the author of the blog is going to write a book, which she describes as a "family/food memoir with recipes," which is EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO DO.  In fact, she says that she was "discovered"on her blog.  WHICH IS WHY I STARTED BLOGGING.  But, she actually did it with some regularity.  And I did not.  Which is why I am only a little jealous.  Because I am also a realist.  And I am pretty sure that she has not graded over 1,000 essays this year, because I think that blogging is her full-time occupation (along with being a mom and a wife).  Sooooooo, I can't be too jealous.  So instead, I am going to be a little inspired...

I can't wait for summer!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Little Project

I have not been very crafty this Christmas Break.  I have done a lot of cooking, quite a bit of cleaning, a little organizing, and a lot of grading.  Sadly, I have only knit a tiny bit.  I have also read a little, but nothing too good.  (If you have a good book recommendation, I am all ears!  Hint, hint.)

My laptop died in late November (may she rest in peace) and so that also put a damper on any potential blogging.  Combine that with teaching two AP Lit classes, two senior writing courses, and one junior English class = big loser with no life.  Anyway, I got a great new computer for Christmas from the Darling Husband and I am back in business.  Thankfully, he backs up all of my files on my computer for me at least once a month, so I didn't lose anything.  (When I say my computer died, it really died.  Like, as in a computer repair shop said no hope for revival.)

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen table (my home office... just call me Harriet Beecher Stowe), dinking around on my computer (trying to avoid starting to grade - I am super good at it) and I found some pics of a project I did last summer that I never posted.  So hooray!  I have something to blog about, other than my lame life.

I was inspired by a fellow blogger, Nicole Davis, of MeOhMy! blog fame.  She hasn't been posting much lately, since she had a second baby and had to move in with her parents while her husband is finishing grad school.  It makes me feel better when these "professional" bloggers fall off the blog wagon so to speak.  It makes me feel less pathetic.  Anyway...

I always loved Nicole's chevron painting in her living room and decided to make one for myself.  Here is the inspiration:

J√°dore Nicole's old house.  She has a great sense of formal + casual, and is super stylish.  Here is another shot:


And still another at Christmas:

Yeah, I know.  Super cute.

So, my house doesn't exactly look like this yet, but I am trying.  I decided to start with the chevron painting.  (I am eyeing that reindeer painting for next year...)

First, I went to Michael's and bought a canvas, acrylic paint, and a brush.

Then, I sketched out the design on graph paper.

Then, I measured and drew the lines on the canvas.

This part was kind of tedious and boring.  I wanted to get to the painting!

 I painted the white stripes first, then the grey.

 Here it is, almost done!

And here it is, in my very plain looking dining room last summer:

I am working on this room.  I started painting the chairs last summer, but didn't get very far.  I worked on them a little this break, but still have only one done, and one 2/3 done.  I can't decide what I am going to do to the table.  (But a new one???)  But, I am working on it...

Here is the room at Christmas:

(add pic)

Here is what I am thinking about doing with the chairs, once they are all painted shiny black.  I also wish my dining room had wood floors like the rest of the kitchen/hallway and not this super-generic khaki carpet.  Sigh.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Long Time No Blog

Happy Black Friday, all!  (Ha ha - I am sitting at home, about to get dressed to take my doggie to the vet for some shots, nowhere near any Black Friday shopping.)  Anyway, are you a Black Friday shopper?  Tiny Dancer, who is still tiny, but now a sophomore in high school with friends who can drive, headed off to Macy's at midnight with three other girls.  She arrived back at her friend's house at 3:15 am.  (I know this because I asked her to text me when she was home safely.)  I have no idea if they found any deals or not, but I just saw on the morning news that the police had to use pepper spray on people in the mall where she was... yikes!  No thank you.

What is new with all of you?  I continued to do lots of canning at the end of the summer, did some reading, and got ready for school to start.  Since school has started, I haven't done much of anything else.  I am teaching two sections of AP Literature, two sections of an advanced senior writing class, and one section of 11th grade world literature.  The grading of all of the essays is kicking my butt.  I calculated that if I graded 28 essays each day of break (Weds, Thurs, Fri, Sat), with 29 on Sunday, I would be caught up.  NO WAY!  It is Friday morning of break and the essay grading count is at 0.  I think I will try to tackle one set of 28 today.  Maybe.  Later.  Or not.

So, I have been trying to finish things around here.  I just finished a pretty good book.  

Product Details

It is a mystery/crime novel, the first in a series, by Norwegian crime writer, Kjell Eriksson.  I thought it was decent.  I am also listening to the first in the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo, who is hailed as Norway's best crime novelist.  It seems pretty good so far.

Product Details

Apparently, I am not alone in my love of European crime novels since reading the Milleneum trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, etc.)  There is even a book published about it called  The Dragon Tattoo and its Long Tail: The New Wave of European Crime Fiction in America.  

I just started reading a book by a newer author, Harry Dolan.  I LOVED his first book, Bad Things Happen, and his second (also a series crime novel) just came out in paperback, Very Bad Men.  I am so excited to read it.  He is from Ann Arbor, and his books are set in Ann Arbor, so it is fun to read about streets, places, and landmarks I am familiar with.  There was a scene in his first novel that still makes me nervous when we park in the parking structure in downtown Ann Arbor near Main Street!  

Product DetailsProduct Details

I am almost finished with a project that I am embarrassed to say I started LAST WINTER and was supposed to be a "quick" project.  Haha.  It will be done today and I will post a picture.  So excited to wear it.

I hope you are all enjoying this lovely, wintry, blustery, day after Thanksgiving.  I think I need to go nibble some more leftover creamed spinach.  Yum.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Things to do with basil...

It has been a weird year for growing.  My vegetable garden is completely wacko.  The tomato plants are gargantuan, yet the tomatoes are not ripening very quickly.  The Sweet 100s are awesome, the Juliets are doing well, but the larger tomatoes - the Rutgers, Better Boys, and Cherokee Purples are slow going.  The peppers are doing well, the summer squash is delicious, but no zucchini.  Someone at my yoga class who also has a veggie garden is having the same trouble.  This makes me feel better, as I am feeling a bit like a failure in the veggie growing arena this season.  She also suggested that I throw some bee balm around the garden to pollinate my zucchini. I nodded.  Bee balm, yes.  Later, I thought where do I get that?  Does anyone know?  I will have to ask her next time I see her at class.  When she said it, I was still sort of in the yoga-relaxed zone and it did not occur to me that although I have heard of bee balm before, I have absolutely no idea what form it comes in and where to obtain said product.  Argh!

The basil, on the other hand, is prolific as heck.  It must like this weather we have had. (Africa hot)  I am planning on making and freezing pesto, of course, but I also want to use this basil when it is oh-so-fresh-and-deliciously-basily-good.

Here are two recipes I have tried using fresh basil that are AH-MAH-ZING!

First, a recipe that my mom turned me on to that completely deserves its name:

The Best Steak Marinade in Existence
(yes, that is really the name of the recipe.  and it is.)  I tried another braggishly-titled recipe this summer called The Best Chicken in the World, and it was NOT.  It wasn't even so-so.  I threw the recipe away.  Seriously.  But I promise this one lives up to its name.

First, start with some soy sauce, some olive oil, some lemon juice, some Worcestershire sauce. 

Then add some garlic powder, white pepper, hot pepper sauce, chopped parsley, chopped garlic, and chopped basil.

The recipe calls for dried parsley, dried basil, and dried minced garlic, and I have made it that way.  (Probs not the dried garlic, as I always have fresh, but the dried herbs, yes.)  However, in season, fresh is always best.

Whisk it up and marinate your steak for up to 8 hours.

The Darling Hub has been into charcoal grilling, an endeavor I completely endorse.  This spring we invested in this chimney charcoal starter thing (a small investment - I think it cost less than $20, and it has completely revolutionalized our charcoal grilling).  This contraption is awesome.  The coals are ready so quickly, and it is foolproof.  Charcoal makes grilled food taste so much better!

Here is the link to the orignal recipe from
The Best Steak Marinade in Existence

Next, I tried a chicken salad with basil.  It was quite good, but a little too garlicky.  I did not take any photos... it has been that kind of a summer. Sigh.

A few days ago, I tried another basil recipe.  Winner-winner-chicken-dinner!  It is called Thai Chicken with Basil Stir Fry and it is dee-lish (if you are into Thai food, which we are).

Start by heating water to make some yummy jasmine rice.

Then, stir fry up some onions, ginger, and garlic.  Add some cut up chicken breasts.

This smells super good, btw.  The garlic and ginger.  Swoon.

Then mix up some sauce with coconut milk, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes.  One word of advice:  the recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes.  I would rate this as pretty spicy.  It made my lips burn a little.  It was a tad hot for me, quite hot for Tiny Dancer, and perfect for the Darling Husband.  I think I would notch it back to 1/2 teaspoon for general consumption and 1/4 teaspoon if you want mild.

Pour the sauce over the chicken, etc. in the pan and simmer.  (Yeah, I forgot to take a picture of this part.)

Then, add some sliced shitake mushrooms.

Shitake mushrooms are fun for two reasons.  One, they are fun to slice.  Two, you can yell "Oh Shitake!" while you are cooking with them.

Last, throw in 1 and 1/2 cups of sliced fresh basil.  (The recipe also calls for sliced green onions, but the Darling Hub no like so I left out.  It was still delicious!)

That's alotta basil, and I love it!  Stir it up a bit until the mushrooms and basil are wilted and warm and then serve over rice.

Okay - I have no idea why this picture is coming up sideways on my blog.  I saved it rightwise in my folder.  Weird.  But you get the idea.  It was SOOOOO good!  I can't wait to make it again. 

Here is the link to the recipe, also from 
Thai Chicken with Basil Stir Fry

YUMMA!  (This is the new saying in my family.  It comes from a hilarious YouTube video. If you would like to laugh your head off at something totally G-rated that you can show your kids, check this out.  It will make anyone laugh, from two to seventy-two.  I know, because we have tested it.)

Happy eating and laughing today!