June 30, 2015

Jett rhymes with vet

I'm pretty sure Jett rhymes with vet for a reason.  I can't even remember the number of times I've had this dog to the vet or thought "Hey, I should take him to the vet...".

A few weeks ago, I noticed he was scratching a lot. But it's hot out and he is a dog after all.  Then I noticed his tear ducts were particularly active.  That happened last summer too, with the tear ducts, but it eventually went away.  Then, last week, I noticed he was scratching ALL THE TIME.  I gave him a bath in just water, thinking maybe I didn't wash the soap off well when he had a bath a few weeks ago.  Then I realized Scout wasn't scratching like crazy, so maybe there was something wrong with Jett.  Then I gave him an oatmeal bath and that did nothing. Then I noticed that he was chewing/scratching the fur off his arms and he was getting little red spots in his ears from scratching them.

Call me unobservant I guess, but this worsened over a period of a few weeks.  I just didn't pay attention to it at first. I also knew the dogs had a vaccine appointment this week, so I figured I'd wait it out.  When I saw the spots in the ears last Friday, I decided to just call the vet and I took him in Saturday morning (during office hours, thankfully).

I kind of figured it was allergies, and they said that's what it was, but it just seems to be one of those things you treat and manage like you would with humans.  I don't have allergies in Colorado (or Alaska), but I definitely did in Pennsylvania in the fall and I did in Missouri too.  And these dogs run through tall grass a lot too.  Scout has his own version of allergies; he does a little snuffling reverse-sneeze thing.

Anyway.  $122 later...Jett has steroids to take for a month (and maybe until the end of the allergy season, depending), a spray I'm supposed to put on his "wounds" (which he hates), and an antibiotic pill to clear up any possible infections from the scratching.  I'm also supposed to put antibiotic ointment on his ears and give him Benedryl if necessary.  And he has a cone.

He is not a fan of the cone.  He doesn't try to take it off.  He just stands perfectly still and stares at the floor and it's the saddest thing you ever did see.  He won't come to me for a treat or try to eat or drink.  He just stares at me or the floor and won't turn around because if/when he runs into something with it, he jumps in the air like he's being attacked.

I noticed that once he started the steroids the scratching kind of stopped so, as long as I'm watching him, he doesn't wear the cone.  He never stops to scratch if he's outside either, so he can still run around unencumbered.  I put his shock collar on him and just give him a little vibrate if I see him scratch and he really hates that (almost as much as the cone) so that works well and he can still be comfortable and run around.  He does have to wear the cone if I'm not home and I'm pretty sure he just stands in one spot the whole time. Poor little thing. If I try to make him wear it at night (i.e. while I'm sleeping), he just lets out a high-pitched never-ending whine...so I might just take my chances with that.

He did spend some time barking at himself in the mirror.

Edited: I had to put the cone in the closet because he would just stare at it and be sad.

This ties in nicely with the post Jen wrote this week.  If you have pets, you need to be able to take care of them, whether that be taking them to the vet, paying for medication, giving them medication, etc. They deserve to be healthy and comfortable too.

Also, they are a lot of work.  Time, energy, money. If you're not prepared to hand all that over, don't get a pet.

June 29, 2015

How to stock your freezer with ready-to-eat dinners

Black beans.  I hate buying canned goods.  They're heavy and they take up space.  Sure, they're not really expensive.  But I also hate opening cans.  So by making my own black beans, I'm eliminating a bulky grocery item.  You buy a bag of dried beans, you follow that recipe I'm linking to there, and you get 4 quart-size freezer bags of beans.  In each one, I put a little more than you'd get in a can.  Don't fill the bags the whole way.  Lay flat to freeze.

Pinto beans. See above.  Scott brought home a giant bag of pinto beans from a farmers' market last fall.  I finally got around to making some of them, and I ended up with about 8 bags to add to vegetable soups and chili.

Salsa Chicken.  I don't do these in lettuce wraps because lettuce wraps don't have carbs and I like tortillas and tortilla chips and stuff made with lots of carbs.  You could do just about anything with this chicken though.  Salads, quesadillas, nachos...it's my go-to recipe.

Marinara.  My friend's recipe is the one I use. Not going to lie: I use this mostly as pizza sauce because we don't do a lot of pasta.  This just means I don't have to buy the bulky glass jars of Barilla Tomato Basil.  I appreciate that.

Chicken stock. Another recipe for those of you who hate putting cans in your shopping cart, putting cans on the conveyor belt, putting bags of cans in your car, carrying bags of cans into your house, and then putting them in the cupboard.  This, I'm pretty sure, is why I make my own stock.

Fajita meat.  I posted this recipe a few weeks ago with some quinoa.  You can put it in tortillas with fajita fixings, grill it up in quesadillas, or put it over some quinoa or rice Chipotle-style. Very versatile.

Tortilla Soup. We love this soup.  I make it when I want something really good to eat on the weekends and I freeze bags of it for later.  It might be one of the best recipes I've ever found online.

Mongolian Beef. This is also a go-to recipe of mine.  It's a people-pleaser. Perfect for potlucks (I've taken it to work before) or for freezing.

White Chicken Chili.  I really liked this.  I don't make it nearly often enough.  I'm not a fan of ground beef, so this is the chili I would opt to make.  I have the hardest time finding ground chicken for some reason.  They never have it at the commissary and sometimes I can't even find it at Safeway.

Vegetable Soup. I haven't posted a recipe for this yet.  Truthfully, I make it a bit differently every time, but I'm working on a batch this week.  It's perfect for when your husband wants something for dinner and you don't want to cook. Will share soon.

Do you have a favorite freezer meal?  Make anything in advance?

June 26, 2015

Blender Guacamole

Recipe challenge, week twenty-five.

I've been experimenting with the Vitamix lately.  I got this cookbook in the mail and I was intrigued by their guacamole recipe.  It's a really interesting take on guac, because I usually mash the avocado with a potato masher and then add in some pico de gallo because the more flavor the better.

Let it be known that the picture I took looks very little like the picture in the cookbook, which disappointed me.  I was looking forward to some blended guacamole that looked like this:

Oh well.  If I were going to make it again, I would add more lime juice and maybe just a hint of garlic.  It was a bit too garlicky for me. And maybe more juice would've helped it blend.  

That would make sense.

Blender Guacamole
from Vitamix Cookbook

2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 roma tomatos, diced (I used 6 grape tomatoes)
4 tablespoons finely diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Juice of half a lemon or lime
Sea salt to taste

Add all ingredients to your blend and start it on low, slowly increasing the speed to high.  Blend for about a minute, until desired consistency is reached. 

June 25, 2015

Stuff and Things 6/25

+Here is an article that Jana posted last week and I think all of us would agree with just about all of it.
27 Normal Things kids can't do in school anymore.  Some of the things are still allowed.  We still play dodgeball.  We just use soft foam balls that won't leave welts.  They're kind of hard to throw.  However, I think it needs to be mentioned that the reason why these things aren't allowed in school anymore is because parents have insisted, over the last 20 years, that these things not be allowed in school.  Some parent got upset because their kid got hit with a dodgeball (while playing dodgeball) and so now we use soft foam balls that can hardly be thrown because they weigh less than air.

+26 Signs You're a Teacher on Summer Break. I haven't been able to remember what day it is lately.  During the school year, I usually get up at 5am and lately I've been letting the dogs out around 6:30am and then getting up around 7-7:30am.  Usually with a headache and general feeling of being exhausted.  I go to bed any time between 9pm and midnight, depending. I am definitely out of a routine.
But I am already unpacking my new classroom and brainstorming ideas.  My goal is to have the heavy-lifting/time-consuming work done by mid-July.

+I think I love my dogs more and more every day.  Tell me I'm not the first one to come up with "Paw-ther's Day".

+Speaking of Scott, I complained to him about how I need a desk because I know the second he gets back from his deployment/TDY thing, he will turn things into a construction zone again and my argument was that I need my own space.  Meaning, the kitchen table doesn't cut it anymore and I used to have a desk that I bought in college and we got rid of it when we moved here last year because it was only a $70 fake wood thing from Target and we never used it in Alaska but he used it in Missouri, but this house had a built-in desk in the bedroom in the basement, so now he uses that as his desk for his computer and whatnot and I STILL DON'T HAVE A DESK.

I ran all over town on Sunday looking for something cheap (yet sturdy and cute) at Homegoods, Target, and even Wal-Mart (because we have a Better Homes and Gardens bench from there that we love and I thought that brand might have a desk).  And then I realized that I don't have the functional capacity to to put a desk together because, hey, I'm no engineer and I could barely put together the filing racks for the filing cabinet in my classroom this week.  And I considered, for a brief second, a trip to Ikea in Denver and then I laughed about that for awhile and then I bit the bullet and looked at World Market's website and sent a link to Scott to show him what I was looking for...and then he bought me the desk.  Thank goodness I didn't have to make that decision on my own.  What do you think the chances are that it'll just arrive like this, already put together?

He also bought himself a wine rack.

June 23, 2015

Pinned. Did. Done. 6/23

I'm reserving the right to adopt a summer posting schedule because why not? There will still be a recipe every week, but it'll be posted...whenever.  I was actually too busy reading this weekend to write any blog posts, and I suppose that isn't a terrible problem to have.  

Well, I suppose these posts will be happening every 6 months now.

If you want to see past Pinterest posts, click on "Pinned It/Did It" on the sidebar cloud.

I go to that cloud when I'm looking for things on my own blog.  It's different from THE cloud, but it's a cloud nonetheless.

+Curried Chickpeas.  I wanted to like this but I didn't.  It was kind of sour.

+Perfect vegan pancakes.  I'm don't eat vegan and don't proclaim to want to try.  In fact, I un-veganed these.  I saw the recipe on a blog and thought it seemed simple enough, and I made them in my cast iron skillet, as pancakes do not cook well in our stainless steel pans.  They were AMAZING.  In fact, I can see myself easily making a batch every weekend so I can eat them for breakfast all week.  I used coconut milk for the non-dairy milk (you could use regular milk) and then one egg in place of the flax/water combination.

+Pumpkin PB Dog Treats.  One day I was on the way back from the store when I realized I'd forgotten to buy t-r-e-a-t-s.  I wasn't driving back and we were almost out, so I pulled up this recipe and put all that leftover pumpkin in the freezer to use.  This makes a ton, depending how small you cut them.  I used a pizza cutter to slice the dough into Cheeze-it-style squares.  The dogs love these treats and go nuts for them.  I'll keep making them.  A batch makes a giant Ziploc bagful and lasts about 3 weeks around here. Just store them in the fridge.

+Microwave Hummus.  I don't have much luck with homemade hummus.  I just don't like it I guess.  This wasn't overly impressive to me.  It's a shame.  I'd like to be able to enjoy homemade hummus the way I enjoy the preservative-laden store-bought kind.  Do you have any hummus secrets?  I'm working on a recipe for next week.

+Quinoa Enchilada Casserole.  Very tasty.  I think you should try this for a quick, healthy dinner. As long as you have quinoa on hand, it's a cheap meal.  You could add meat to bulk it up too.

+Quinoa Pizza Bites.  I made a recipe a few years ago and it was surprisingly good.  I thought, for some reason, that this was that recipe.  It was not.  This recipe wasn't very good.  Scott liked it, more or less, but he hadn't had the first one.  This was dry and flavorless.  Make this quinoa pizza-bite recipe instead.

I haven't been plowing through my Pinterest boards the way I used to, but I do intend on getting back on track soon.  I'm "freezer-cooking" these days, because I intend to fill up the deep-freeze with soups, crockpot meals, and sauces this summer.  It'd be really nice to go into August (and school) with food that's ready-to-eat.

June 21, 2015

Literary Ladies Book Club Challenge

I swear, I don't do book clubs and/or book challenges online because they just seem like a lot of work.

However, when I read this introductory post by Kristen at See You in a Porridge earlier this month, I thought it was interesting enough.  Then I was like, "No, you don't do this stuff, Kristin."

And then I kept scrolling and reading and I saw that she gave ME a shout-out as someone who would be competent of recommending a book if you're not sure what to read.


Now I have to do the challenge.

Notice I wrote in pencil because I've begun quite a few books lately that have been too dull for me to finish, so I don't want to punish myself.  It's summer vacation after all.  

The hardest one for me was #9 Book About Summer.  I just took one of Kristen's suggestions because I did some googling and found nothing interesting.  

The asterisks mean I would prefer to get those books in audio form.  I listened to an excerpt of Rob Lowe's memoir last year and loved it and have been meaning to read the rest ever since.  Also, any audiobook by Liane Moriarity, I'm sure, trumps the paper form.  #1 and #5 are books that I can never find at the library, so they've been on my list forever.  I've been trying to read #4 since 2011-ish and I'm hoping to find it on audiobook too.

Note: I've already changed some of this.  Here is the updated list.  I didn't feel like taking another picture.
YA book: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Non-US Author: Three Wishes by Liane Moriarity OR One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (depending on which one I can get my hands on first...likely I'll read both this summer)

Book Recommended by a Blogger: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (I can't find this anywhere...might have to buy it via Kindle)

Book on TBR list for a year: Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris (has been in my nightstand for 2 years...so has Dead Ever After) I'll likely read The Graveyard Book too, if I can find it.

Book with a kick-ass female character: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin (YA book, can't find it anywhere...)

Book to movie: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Memoir: Stories I Tell Only My Friends by Rob Lowe

Book with One-Word Title: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Book about Summer: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Suspenseful Book: My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith

I'll be including these reviews in my monthly book round-ups and adding in others too.

Time to go to the library.

What do you think?  Are you willing to join in?

June 19, 2015

I tried Chick-fil-a

Yesterday, I had Chick-fil-a for the first time.

You might ask how this is possible but I grew up in the northeast and, in my area at least, we didn't have Chick-fil-a.  Then I moved to Alaska and there's no Chick-fil-a there.  I became painfully aware of that because all of the southerners reminded each other woefully every time the conversation turned to restaurants.  Lots of chain restaurants are mourned when you live in Alaska.  I remember the 3 hour waits for lunch at the Olive Garden when it opened in 2012.

Then we moved to Missouri and the nearest Chick-fil-a was 90 minutes away.  By the time I'd made the trek to Springfield, I had other things on my mind.  Target! The mall! Homegoods! Sushi!

Then we got to Colorado Springs and there are a few Chick-fil-a locations but once you've done without for so long, it just wasn't on my radar.

Finally, yesterday, a new location opened on my end of town.  People had been camping out there all week because the first 100 in line get free food, once a week, for a year (or something like that).  That would still not be worth camping, for the record.

This is the side of town next to a military base and, with that population, I predict that business will be booming for the next 8 million years.  Chick-fil-a is more prominent in the south and, usually, servicemembers tend to be from the south.  It's a statistic I've seen somewhere.

So, I went to the splash pad yesterday with my friend (and her kid, obviously) and I stopped at the drive-thru on the way home.  It was fast, efficient, and, whoa, were they nice and polite at that drive-thru window.  When I mentioned this, my friend said, "Yeah, it's ALWAYS like that. I've never had a bad experience."  Even on opening day, there were a billion people and cars everywhere, but I still made it through the line, paid, and had my food within 15 minutes.  The grilled chicken sandwich was really tasty too.  I'll definitely go back.

Sometime, when I'm on the other side of town, I suppose I can go to Chick-fil-a, walk next door to the Hobby Lobby, and just make a day of it.  I really don't think it's a coincidence that they are right next to each other.  

June 18, 2015

TV Stuff and Things

I like how Amazon doesn't even pretend that people don't lose full days of productivity by watching Prime Instant Video.  I've worn out Netflix at this point, so I'm onto Amazon.

I am enthralled with Under the Dome.  I mean, I stayed up until 1:34am one day last week.  I can't even tell you the last time I was up past 11pm.  But I couldn't stop.  Amazing.  And now I never, ever want to read the book because then you get into the book vs. show/movie argument.  All I know is that Stephen King is the producer of the show, so any creative changes must be okay.

Speaking of dark, I finished season 2 of The Fall.  I have a feeling that if you are a fan of Dexter, you will like The Fall.

I watched the cutest show on Netflix.  Young and Hungry is on ABC Family and I usually avoid these kinds of shows like the plague.  But I needed something for the dogs to listen to while I was in the shower one day (yes) and I put this on.  Then I watched all 10 episodes in one night.

I watched the entirety of Parks and Rec within about 2-3 weeks.  Oh sweet heavens, I've been missing out all these years.  I generally don't gravitate toward comedies and the only comedy I ever watched regularly was The Office.  Where can I find season 7 of Parks and Rec?

I started watching Freaks and Geeks.  I liked the first episode (love the cast) and then lost interest.  Maybe another time.

I watched season one of Girls.  I never got into the show when it first came out and I really don't like Lena Dunham very much, but I think the reason why I never watched is because I literally couldn't tell the characters apart and, to be honest, it's a depressing show.  Seasons 2-4 need to be bought on Amazon and I'm not that dedicated.  Season 5 starts in January so maybe I'll be able to catch up before then.

True Detective starts this weekend on HBO.  I have the record button set.

I am 10 episodes behind on Game of Thrones.

I never did finish out the season of Once Upon a Time.  They really started to lose me with that Frozen stuff.

I never finished Revenge either.  They started to lose me in this last season.

I started Grimm this week. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.

I started Bosch too, and finished it in a day and a half. Very good.

I am approximately 3 seasons behind in Justified.  Someday.  I like Natalie Zea too much.  When she stopped being a regular, I started losing interest.

Speaking of, I'm about 10 episodes behind on The Following too.  I disappoint myself. And it ends here with season 3.

I figured out that The Leftovers comes back in the fall, not this summer.  Though the event of the fall will be Homeland, so the The Leftovers will probably take a backseat to that.

To be honest, it doesn't feel like June without a True Blood premiere.  I just feel so...lost.

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June 16, 2015

Hey, at least I try to finish things

I learned from Better Than Before that I'm a finisher.  I get a sense of glee from completing a task, whether it's finishing a book or ending a unit that I'm teaching. I run a highlighter through tasks in my lesson plan binder, in my planner, and on my to-do lists.  I like the act of shutting something down and saying DONE.  I do this with leftover food too.  If I can come up with a purpose for the leftovers in the fridge, I feel a real sense of achievement.  Housewives have been doing this for centuries out of necessity but, in this day and age, it seems to be a rarity.

So where am I on all that stuff I've tried to do this year?  Oh, right.  

Well, in January, I did my Yoga Challenge and was pretty successful at it.  I did yoga *almost* every day for the entire month.  Yay for checkmarks.  

In February, I said I was going to read the Bible every day and finish it in a year.  I wrote a whole separate piece about this in a non-blogging word document that I have going, so I'll just give you the highlights.  I want to be the type who reads her Bible every day.  I really do.  I want to have finished it (see, finish) and I want to see if there's something in there I've missed.  Maybe in all my Bible studies and all my years in church, there's a whole book I've somehow skimmed over and it holds the most pertinent information for me.  Maybe I'm not dedicated enough, because I didn't make it very far.  I think to 2 Samuel.  However, this just goes to show that wanting to be the person who Instagrams some Bible reading at 5am isn't enough to be that person.  The best strategy for me is to read for 20 minutes before bed, but I'm much more likely to do that when Scott's around.  Left to my own devices, I'm reading blogs or something while watching reruns on Netflix before bed. 

In March, I set out on the mission of formulating a cleaning schedule.  I followed it for exactly one month.  And then I stopped.  But I tried.  That's what mattered to me.  Effort is better than nothing.  

In April, I readied the garden.  Or, if you're from Pennsylvania, I read up the garden.  And then it was snowing.  And then it was raining.  And then it was hailing.  And then there were constant frost advisories and, as I write this the first week in June, we just had another hail storm.  I'm glad I never got around to planting things.  Nothing bothers a finisher more than wasted effort.

Edited to add...my brother helped me planted some of the necessities: tomatoes, herbs, and a watermelon.  We'll see.  

In May, I attempted #OutfitaDayinMay again.  Last year, though I considered it to be an utter failure at the time, looked successful in comparison to what happened this year.  The first problem I encountered was that it was so cold and rainy all month.  I couldn't wear the fun warm weather clothes I'd planned on adding into the rotation.  Disappointing.  
Secondly, I was doing well and then, on May 19th, I couldn't go to work because my road was flooded and washed out.  So I turned around, went inside, put my pajamas back on, and I wore the exact same outfit the next day because no one saw it on May 19th.  This screwed everything up and, after that, I didn't see the point any longer.  I threw in the towel because my chances at finishing this challenge successfully had been foiled.  Yes, I gave up.

For June, I'm attempting the #bloggersgetsocial #JunePhotoADay on Instagram.  So far, so good.

In the realm of fitness and what I'm doing these days, I'm still sticking to my Pilates calendar. Very solidly, I may add.  And I'm seeing results too so this is proof that you don't need intense cardio or expensive yoga classes to be toned and limber.  I am prouder of sticking to this calendar (though some days have been shifted here and there!) than I am of completing any other self-appointed challenge this year.

So, what do you do?  Are you a finisher?  Are you a starter?  Do you feel guilty if you take something on and give up?

June 15, 2015

Pineapple-Ginger Smoothie + Recipe Recap

Recipe challenge, week twenty-four.

I may be really reaching with this one.  I've said that I don't like smoothie recipes because I don't want to meet the person who needs to follow an exact recipe to make a smoothie.  It's just something you do.  You can't measure out a smoothie. Smoothies are about ingredients, not measurements.  Like, do you measure out ingredients for a milkshake?  Not really.  You just keep adding ice cream and milk until it blends up nicely.  Same with a smoothie.

So, this smoothie has our current favorite ingredients: pineapple, ginger, and coconut milk.  I put in spinach because it's necessary to eat green food and I use half of a banana instead of a whole banana.  It's really just that the banana gives it a good consistency and helps it blend together.  This smoothie is really all about the pineapple.  Sometimes I throw in some mango too.  I buy frozen fruit in bulk so then I always have ingredients on hand.

Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and we really like the health benefits and flavor.  Once I started putting it into smoothies (I usually split a giant smoothie with Scott...when he's around), Scott requested it again and again.  Now, it's just habit.  I buy fresh ginger root and keep it in a Ziploc bag in the freezer (Rachael Ray taught me that) and just shave some off for smoothies, stir-fries, or even desserts.

Sorry this post is boring.  Let's recap what I've made so far this year!

1. Baked Crab Dip
2. Mint Oreo Ice Cream Cake
3. 30 Minute Leek and Potato Soup
4. Company Chili
5. Cookie Dough Ice Cream
6. Scott's Salmon
7. Homemade Marinara Sauce
8. Homemade Naan Pizza
9. Crockpot Chicken Curry
10.  Steak Fries
11. Sort of Homemade Chicken Stock
12. Carrot Cake Blondies
13. Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork
14. Mint Oreo Rice Krispy Treats
15. Basil-Oregano Pesto
16. Italian Couscous
17. Limeaide Margaritas
18. Burrito Bowls
19. Sausage Breakfast Bake
20. Maple Donut Muffins
21. Pumpkin Pupcakes
22. Maple Scones
23. Fajita Quinoa

So for this smoothie...you will need:

Pineapple-Ginger Smoothie

Pineapple chunks
Mango chunks
Half a banana (or a whole one)
1 t. to 1 T. shaved ginger (depending on how much you like the flavor)
3-4 strawberries
1 cup baby spinach (or thereabouts)
Coconut milk (or almond milk or regular milk or...you get it)

Mix it all together in a blender until you get the consistency you like.  I use frozen fruit, but if you're using fresh fruit, I'd throw in a few ice cubes.