Just a little blog about me and mine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 November 25, 2009

Filed under: family,food — Katie @ 11:51 pm

Today…I got off work at 1pm. It was a quiet and productive morning at work, but it’s always fun to leave early. I did get to read, rather re-read Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese as part of something I was doing. So beautiful. I just adore her, even though I’m not a huge poetry fan…just her and Rilke. Maybe I’ll be converted yet.

When I arrived home, my dad had already finished cutting down the huge bushes in the front of the house, and cut down the two dead dogwoods in the backyard. Together we picked up all of the small branches and and stacked the larger pieces usable for firewood. We also have another exciting yard project in the works, so stay tuned.

A highlight of the day, and this week, has been watching my Christmas cactus, er, Thanksgiving cactus, bloom. Shortly before she died, my grandmother gave me this cactus that she had at her house. It’s blooms are a beautiful coral color, which reminds me of her since it’s a color she really liked.

After a much less glamorous supper of sandwiches and chips and more fruitcake cookies, we removed the turkey from it’s brine and put it into the refrigerator until tomorrow. I made cranberry sauce, PL got the gravy mostly ready (or at least as ready as it can get without a turkey and its drippings), I assembled made from scratch, (not just from scratch but yuppie-like with a bechamel and gruyere and sharp white vermont cheddar), macaroni and cheese and got it oven-ready, and together we made a pumpkin ginger cheesecake.

While the cheesecake was baking, the oven did it’s really hot freaking out thing (c.f. Julia’s chocolate pecan pie from last Christmas Eve and my banana oatmeal bread from this summer). What happens is that it gets really hot all of a sudden, like lava hot, and turns itself off and won’t turn back on. PL thought she smelled something burning so we caught it early enough to scrape some black off the top of the still uncooked cheesecake, turn the circuit off and back on, and try again. We cooked it a bit more, and it’s cooling now so I think we saved it. I guess we’ll know tomorrow–the batter was very good, even though we added extra ginger to the recipe, so I hope the oven freakout didn’t ruin it (did I mention we have a $3500+ Jenn Air oven, not cool). We watched Glee while all this was happening, turning the tv off and back on a few times trying to find the right switch on circuit breaker for the oven, it’s the unlabeled one of course! Why then did we try the one that said “range” first, silly us for thinking things make sense in our house.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Filed under: family,food — Katie @ 11:28 am

Today…my parents arrived at our house for Thanksgiving. PL and I cooked a really nice dinner for them, Chicken in Mustard Sauce, Middle Eastern Carrot Salad, and Green beans with Almonds. My mom then washed all the dishes since she can’t let a dirty dish sit around for more than a few minutes after eating-it’s fantastic.

Then we brined our Thanksgiving turkey. My dad hinted several times that the best turkey he ever had was one his mom brined before she cooked it. We bought a free-range, never injected with junk, vegetarian fed bird at the farmer’s market and we are using this recipe for the brine and then the gravy. I always ate giblet gravy with boiled eggs in it growing up, and I’m not a huge fan, and by not a huge fan I mean that I think it’s disgusting. I make a good pan gravy now, but thought this would be nice to try.

Since the turkey has to brine 18-20 hours and then sit in the refrigerator overnight after that, we had to get started yesterday evening. Yes, I confess that I am generally that organized all the time, I even have a Thanksgiving 2009 Google Doc schedule, so fun.

The turkey had been hanging out staying nice and cold with ice water in our cooler outside since we had too much stuff in our refrigerator. We somehow made enough room in the refrigerator, and it’s now brining in a large bucket. We were also smart enough to snag some of the large plastic bags they use in the meat section at the DeKalb Farmer’s Market which are nice and strong and the perfect size. (Full Disclosure: PL bought a brand new bucket for turkey brining (our stockpot was too small) on Monday, but then was so happy to have a bucket she used it for Murphy’s oil soap and water to mop the floors, even though I said that was gross. I lost the argument, and she cleaned the bucket really well after mopping, then we lined the bucket with one plastic bag, and put the turkey inside of 2 more. She might not like me sharing that, but it’s funny to live in our house most of the time).


State Fair and Cotton Candy October 5, 2009

Filed under: family,fun — Katie @ 8:01 pm

This past Saturday we took my cousin Dee to the North Georgia State Fair. I haven’t been to a fair since I was a kid, and haven’t even been on any carnival type rides since going to Six Flags in college, but when I heard the fair was in town it sounded like fun. We always say we should go to one of the strange little fairs they have in parking lots sometime, but this was probably much more fun and safe.

After paying for admission, and parking, we bought a package of ride tickets. We had seen a schedule of some free shows, we we toured the grounds and decided to wait for the shows to start. We visited the petting zoo and saw baby ducks and baby chickens, along with some beautiful Japanese Silken Chickens. We fed goats and petted an emu, and PL told me I couldn’t have a baby chicken for my birthday, even though I begged and whined a little.


Then it was time for some of the shows to start. First we saw The Penguins of the Arctic High Dive Show. It was people dressed in penguin costumes performing diving and acrobatic tricks. I was a little embarrassed for the actors (ok a lot since they had to dance around a little and flap their penguin wings), but as the show went on was also impressed by their athleticism. I guess there isn’t a professional high diving circuit, or even a diving version of the ice capades for retired divers to join, so this was it. Next we saw a BMX bicycle stunt show–totally the kind of thing Dee loves, and we actually all enjoyed watching it too.

Next were some rides. I’m not scared of rides, but I tend to get a little motion sick, and PL tends to be scared of rides, and we were a little too overeager in selecting our first ride given these factors. It was called the Ion and had a bit too much spinning around–PL had to keep her eyes closed and I got a little queasy, but it still was fun. Dee didn’t want to ride this one with us. We then took Dee on a slightly less scary ride, and I got seated with an 8 year old girl while Dee and PL sat together. The little girl was really sweet though and didn’t throw up on me, which is even better. Dee then had some funnel cake, and we had a few bites but were still not brave enough to eat and then ride. Next up were the bumper cars, and we got some great photos of all of us:




We also went on a tall slide which seemed to for kids or for adults with kids on their lap, but it looked like fun we we went on it anyway. Next up was the Ferris wheel. Somehow PL had never ridden a Ferris wheel before and we all enjoyed it–especially since we could all go in one car together. It was actually a pretty cool Ferris wheel-it was designed by the same folks as the Seattle space needle for the world’s fair there in the 1960s. PL tends to be afraid of heights, but I really like to be on top of tall things for the view, so being able to see everything seemed to not make her too scared. (I still doubt that she’ll ever get on our roof to help me clean out the gutters.)



Last but not least, PL and I rode the Tilt-a-Whirl together, which was a ton of fun and really seems like one of those really “couple-y” things to do. Once we spent all of our ride tickets and were done for the day, I got some cotton candy, perhaps my favorite food ever.

We ended up spending a really long time there (not to mention having spent a lot of money!), but it was a great day. On the way back home, we even saw the famous Big Chicken. PL had never seen it before, so she made me take a picture. If you’re not from the Atlanta area, the Big Chicken is a local landmark–his beak opens and closes and his big beady eyes spin around.



Oliver’s Big Day October 1, 2009

Filed under: family,pets — Katie @ 1:50 pm

Today, October 1st, marks the 1 year anniversary of our dog Oliver coming home to live with us. When O’Malley had been with us a year, last March 1st, I made a little blog post in his honor. So to be fair, I should also commemorate in a small way Oliver’s time with us so far.

Here’s a photo I took of Oliver this morning making himself nice and warm in our bed:

Even though Oliver looks a lot like O’Malley, he has a very different personality, and in the last two months especially we’ve noticed he finally seems at ease and at home with us. Just this week he laid down in PL’s lap in bed, something we don’t think he’s done before. He’s a very timid soul, prone to being a little jumpy with noises or fast movement, but he’s also incredibly sweet. I can’t imagine how either or our dogs ever ended up as strays and can’t imagine them ever being in a place where they weren’t adored since they both want so much attention. Even as we brought Oliver home we weren’t sure if it was a smart decision to get a second dog, but we just went with our gut, so to speak, and got him anyway.

He’s such a great dog-so laid back, so lazy, and so sweet. He has sad eyes, so tends to get whatever he wants. He’s not as quick to learn as O’Malley but he’s also calmer so he doesn’t need to sit or do down quite as well since he’s so mellow. His new favorite thing to to (thanks Keira and Aggie!) is to pull the filling out of his soft toys. He doesn’t eat it at all, just sits there and pulls it out and spits it to the side and goes in for more. He’s also a surprisingly fast runner for a dog that’s so lazy most of the time, and loves to chase and be chased. And while he’s learned he does like to snuggle in bed and lounge on furniture, he’s definitely a country dog–jumping into lakes and rivers with no hesitation. Oliver definitely found a good place in our family, and we tell him all the time that we’re happy we found him.

And here’s Oliver lounging in a river, with his happy face:



End of Month Budget Update September 30, 2009

Filed under: family,finances — Katie @ 3:34 pm

Well we’re at the end of our first month sticking to our new budget. As I shared at the mid-month update, things were going well so far as I monitored our expenses. I was embarrassingly excited for the end of the month to be here so that I could tally up everything and look at some receipts and split expense categories. At the very least I knew we stuck to our restaurant/eating out budget thanks to the cash system.

Here’s the full report:

$108 over budget, but still $683 under our income for the month. I wish we had come in under the budget but certainly happy with how we did. The budget still might need some adjusting (and our spending might too), but I think we’re on the right track. It is a nice sense of accomplishment to know we spent less than we earned (what a novel and shocking idea!). The cash system for restaurants has been the best part for me–I know we would stick to the budgeted amount and that made our eating out adventures even more fun–they were planned for and intentional rather than just the spontaneous, ‘oh crap we forgot to figure out something to eat tonight.’

We were over budget in some categories but that was mostly balanced by being under in others. I also know exactly where most of our extra spending came from–$20 for a tarp to sit on at a very wet concert, $60 in emergency new raincoats thanks to Atlanta’s torrential rain to keep us dry at the concert, and $20 of extra groceries(over and above what we normally buy and nicer stuff too) for fun picnic at the wet concert. We had a really hard time finding raincoats at the last minute and couldn’t shop around, but we actually found nice ones that will last. So even though that $60 was a lot to spend on 2 new coats, to me it’s better to spend more money for good things rather than having wasted $10 or so on cheap plastic ponchos that we would throw away.

Sadly, we were over our budget in a few categories:

Groceries-$43 (fancy picnic food plus buying some large packages of meat on sale this weekend probably put us over, the real test is if we manage to be under next month thanks to some of our bulk shopping)
Gas-$25 (but remember we drove 12 hours on a weekend trip)
Personal Care/Health-$44 (that $44 deficit came from buying a large package of toothpaste at Sam’s plus 2 large bottles of Fish Oil tablets that will last a long time)
Pet Food-$26 (we technically had to buy dog food 3 times this month, but will probably need it just once next month since when we buy it is usually lasts 2 weeks–hopefully it evens out.)
Clothes-$33 (including $60 for above mentioned emergency but nice raincoats)
Gifts-$51 (a birthday present plus a wedding/wedding shower present put us over the category for the month–most of our gift buying for the whole year is located September-December each year so I’ll watch this budget category but I’m not concerned for now)

We did succeed in coming in under budget in several categories:

Electricity +$15 (that’s based on this month last year, so that’s very exciting)
Prescription Medicine + $15 (this is a relief since we were worried about PL’s new insurance, but her new doctor has done a good job shifting to cheaper alternatives and even changing dosage size of the same drugs to make the same amount she takes cheaper to buy)
Entertainment +$25 (we’re cheap dates, what can I say)
Car Maintenance/Emissions +$15 (I had to get an oil change and emissions done, but PL seems to have taken my car for me when they were running a special and to a place that offers cheaper emissions that most-nice job! I’d much rather have that $15 to spend on something more exciting.)


Recipes and Notes September 29, 2009

Filed under: family,food — Katie @ 3:48 pm

If you happen to be one of the 8 people who have looked at my recipe blog recently, you might have noticed that I just added a ton of stuff. We haven’t been eating that much, I promise. While I hadn’t really gotten behind on posting new recipes to What’s for Dinner, I did have a large stack of recipes that I had yet to make and then post to the blog. You see, I had a large stack of Cooking Light and a few other magazines with some recipes in them I wanted to try. Then I decided I needed to clean out the magazines (I can’t remember if this was before or after I watched my first episode of Hoarders ever and then had to organize everything I own that night and the next day), so I tore out the recipes I wanted to try. A stack of paper is less clutter than a stack of magazines, right? Then, they sat in a stack on our kitchen island for a few weeks. Finally, this past weekend while it was raining, again, I sat down and entered all of these new recipes into the blog, even though we hadn’t tried them yet. While I had used the blog to enter recipes we tried, I created it just to organize and store our recipes, and spent a lot of time thinking about how I could search by tags and categories. So for instance, I can type in dijon mustard or black beans and it pulls up several recipes with that as a main ingredient, or I could scan by categories like soup or dessert. Clever I know.

Getting the recipe blog updated was a labor intensive process, but was helped mightily by GT football winning their game in the background. It was also helped by the fact that since most of the recipes I had to enter were from Cooking Light, all of their recipes are online (mostly at so you can search for the dish name and cooking light and pull it up), so I had to do the post naming, categorizing and tagging, but I could copy and paste the recipe into the blog and then just clean it up a little. I probably spent 2-3 hours entering all of the recipes though. You’re welcome.

So far we can’t guarantee that all of these recipes are good, but looking through all of those recipes in order to post them made me eager to try some new things this week so I can already give a few comments.

Sunday morning I made these pumpkin ginger waffles as a surprise for PL. While she was getting ready for bed Saturday night I was sneaky and went back to the front of the house and pulled our pureed pumpkin out of the freezer so it would be ready for waffle batter Sunday morning. I thought I had ground ginger, but didn’t so I added pumpkin pie spice instead. We still remember some gingerbread pancakes we had a few years ago, so this recipe was appealing since it seemed to pick up some of those flavors that were so good. The waffles were awesome! I bought some ginger later that day at the Farmer’s market so these will be even better next time.

Yesterday after a really hectic day at work, I came home and made Dijon Mustard Chicken Fricassee and Lemon Chive Roasted Vegetables (I used purple fingerling potatoes, red new potatoes, carrots, parsnip and onion). I had to spend 5-10 minutes in the morning getting the chicken marinating in the mustard-herb sauce, but it was worth the time. This dinner was incredibly good, and not terribly hard for how fancy looking it was. The carrots were especially good with the lemon and chives–who knew? PL washed all of the dishes and even swept the kitchen, so it must have been good.


Harmony September 18, 2009

Filed under: family,finances,fitness — Katie @ 10:54 am

I’m not a very new-agey person, but I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that I find a certain harmony and wholeness in focusing on going to the gym, eating healthy, and managing my money wisely–all at the same time. I’ve always read that you should never try to break or start more than one habit at a time if you want to succeed, but I’ve noticed that the opposite is true for me. Each good habit fuels the others in a circular way. Lack of time and money (created by going to the gym and simultaneously cutting back on expenses) foster good habits and keep me away from bad habits.

Here are a few further thoughts on why this works for me:

  • When I go the gym I feel so good that afterward I want to eat healthy, light foods that will refuel my body. I also drink a lot more water during the day because when I don’t I can feel that my body doesn’t perform as well when I work out. So while it’s hard to get home late from the gym and then have to cook dinner, I don’t actually have the desire to just grab something quick and unhealthy on the way home.
  • Since I’m also trying to watch our finances more closely, we plan our meals a week at a time and have all needed groceries on hand. When I do get home late from the gym late and need to cook, I know what we’re cooking that night and know that everything we need is thawed out and ready to go. I have also been trying to plan easier meals on nights I’ll get home late, and even cook larger amounts on other nights and have leftovers.
  • Since we tightened our budget, I have less available funds to spend on going out to eat, going to movies or other entertainment, so I actually have more time to go to the gym even though it’s time consuming. I’ve been going Tuesdays and Thursdays when I get off of work, and don’t get home until close to 8pm.
  • When I eat better, I feel better and have more energy, so it’s easier to generate the energy and motivation to go to the gym–which makes me feel even better. When I eat poorly, I feel sluggish and even sort of sickly so I certainly won’t go to the gym even if it would make me feel better–instead I’ll get home, crash, snack, and sit around on the couch all night.
  • This new routine also affects how much alcohol I buy and drink. I really don’t drink very often, but when I do drink, it’s usually social and it’s not just usually one drink. But wine and beer is expensive, and full of calories, so by not wanting to spend an extra $10-$15 on a bottle of wine at the grocery store, and not wanting to consume an extra 500 calories or so when I’m trying to eat better, I don’t really buy or drink much alcohol.

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve started this new routine of being all around healthy and awesome, so I can easily back slide (to use the lingo of my southern religious roots), but I keep reminding myself how good I feel when I go to the gym, how much better I will feel about myself if I get in better shape and lose weight, and now nice it will be to increase our savings and have more money for the future.

I’ll close with a somewhat embarrassing and self-effacing story from last Friday. I had my gym back packed and in the car but felt tired and cranky and worn out after work–I even ended up staying almost an hour late to finish up some things. When I left I really didn’t want to go to the gym. I called PL and said, “I either need you to talk me into going to the gym or tell me it’s ok to come home. I want to go home and drink and eat pizza and sit on the couch.” She knew I was in a classic foul mood, and would be even worse all evening. While I was whining about going to the gym I still drove that way instead of towards home, I turned onto the road and even pulled into the parking deck while still on the phone with her being in a bad mood. I was so grouchy I even pulled back out of the parking lot and decided to head home instead–I didn’t want her to be right that I’d be in a better mood if I went to the gym, so I’ll go home and be a pill all evening–that will show her! But I didn’t want to be in a bad mood, and I didn’t want to be cranky with her all evening when she did nothing wrong. I also had just told a co-worker that I was going to the gym after work, so I exited the parking deck, drove back around the block, pulled back into the parking deck and walked to the gym. I didn’t have a great workout, I hadn’t had enough water that day so I felt sluggish, but I went and then felt a 100% better and less grumpy and managed to have a good Friday night instead of starting a fight.