Sunday, December 31, 2023

Hoppy New Year 2024!


May your 2024 be blessed with love & health, happiness & prosperity!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Beef Stroganoff & Poppy Seed Noodles

So I chose another meal to try from The Cat Who... Cookbook: Beef Stroganoff & Poppy Seed Noodles.

This is a nice meal for when it's chilly out, as the meat simmers for an hour and a half. 

I think in the future, I'll add way more mushrooms to this dish, because I love mushrooms.

And I would probably let it cook down a little more, so there is less liquid.

The poppy seed noodles were a great side to serve with the stroganoff as an alternative to plain noodles.

 Be sure to see the TikTok for the completed dish:

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Next Level Cookies

Every once in a while, I like to bake. I used to cook & bake a lot - I was once even in the paper with my Buffalo Chicken Pizza recipe before it was a staple at most pizza places - but some where along the way, I lost confidence in my abilities and stopped. I couldn't point to one thing and say, Ah yes, that's why, but nonetheless, I always feel like I've accomplished a miracle when I make something in the kitchen and it's good.

Today, I decided to make these Dark Chocolate Pistachio Tahini Cookies. We had all the ingredients in the house, except the pistachios, which we picked up when we last got groceries. We had come close to having none of some of the ingredients, because THANKSGIVING happened after the last time I checked, and the vanilla, chocolate, and brown sugar were almost out or completely out, but we had some other substitutes ready to go: I used about 7/8 teaspoon vanilla + 1/8 teaspoon almond + 1 teaspoon rum extract to make up the 2 teaspoons of vanilla, the brown sugar was *just* enough, and there are three different kinds of chocolate in these: the bigger dark chocolate chips, mini-semisweet chips, and a bunch of 80% cacao chocolate bars rough-chopped. Also, I could not find plain pistachios, only roasted and salted, so I left out the sea salt.

UH MUH GUH! They are soooooo good! The tahini and browned butter add an incredible depth of flavor, and combined with the dark chocolate and pistachios take your basic chocolate chip cookies to the next level! I highly recommend trying them out for yourself!

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Putting the Garden to Bed

Yesterday was a yardwork day. I wish I had stayed home from work the day before to get it done when the sun was shining and the day was a wee bit warmer, but I did the dutiful thing, went to work on Friday, and did my yardwork in the cold, grey rain.

First up was the pond. With freezing weather coming, it was time to empty it of bricks and water and frogs, before it froze solid. I used the pump to siphon the water out, down the last few inches, removed the brick steps, then brought the pond into the woods, close to the stone wall, and slowly dumped the rest of the water, leaves, and my frog friend out. I was sorry to have to wake them on such a chilly day, but if we wait much longer, they won't be waking up!

Then it was time to move the paw paw seedlings to a more sheltered place in the yard (just under the south-facing side of the back porch), dig up the elephant ear for overwintering inside, and plant the dappled willow in the ground. (Many thanks to Jacqueline & Snow for digging the hole!) Erm, and play some Pokémon GO too of course...

There's not much left to do outside now. The green tomatoes were harvested a week or so ago and made into fried green tomatoes, and before everything is buried in snow, I will want to cut all the potted annual plants down and move the pots to a sheltered place. I also still need to cut the geraniums back, and move them to a cold dark place, so they can go dormant too. I never did move the daffodils from one side of the steps to the other, but there won't be a porch built over them yet. So maybe next summer. 

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Seasonal Soup: Bowl o' Bones

About a month or so ago on Facebook, I was advertised a soup recipe that turned out not to be what it looked like, which made me want to make the soup I thought it was. So I pinned a few recipes and fiddled about with ideas, but never really got it together to put the stuff on the grocery list or anything like that. 

But when we were shopping last night I saw these Cheetos Mac'n Cheese Bold & Cheesy Box of Bones. And I'm a sucker for these. Once a year I need my Cheetos Bag of Bones, and this year I was having them with these made into a cheesy sausage soup.

I started by shredding two carrots and then nearly died trying to chop this onion. Seriously, my eyes were burning so bad, I had to have Jacqueline take over. And not shown here was a little bit of leftover celery, about two short stalks' worth. I cooked them all up in some oil until tender (yes, a mirepoix), and while they were cooking, I cut up some kielbasa and browned it.

When the veggies were softened, I melted in half a stick of butter, then added two tablespoons of flour (to make a roux with the butter) and some herbs and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc.).

Then it was time to add liquids! Two cups of milk, added one at a time, and mixed into the veggies thoroughly. Then the cheese powder from the two boxes of mac'n cheese, as shown below. (This powder was WAY more intensely neon orange than my camera picked up.) 

Now at this point, if you have someone who doesn't want small chunks of veggies in their soup, you could put the whole thing in a blender or food processer, or use an immersion blender, to make the soup smooth, but I love chunky soup, so I did not. I did however add an additional cup of shredded cheddar to the soup because I also like my soup cheesy.

Because I know this type of pasta tends to not cook evenly, I cooked the pasta separately, while letting the soup simmer. After the pasta was done al dente (seven minutes-ish), I added it and the kielbasa to the soup. Then I decided it needed more liquid to be more like soup, so I also added about a cup or so of beef broth made from bouillon.

The last step was adding heavy cream. I don't know why they always say to add it last, but that's what I did. Then I let it simmer for another 10 minutes and served with more cheesy bones! \^o^/ (And other assorted cheesy snacks...)

Everyone had a bowl which I assume they enjoyed, because no one complained! Success!

Monday, October 09, 2023

Garden Harvest

 Time for another garden update! Is this a gardening blog now? Maybe...

I started by planting radishes on May 31st, and although they should have germinated in 7-10 days (June 7-10), they didn't actually start germinating until the 13th. First with one one sprout then more and more until the 17th. The packet said to thin them when 1-2 inches tall and on the 18th, I thinned some. And again, although the packet claimed they would mature in 29 days none were big enough to pick until my birthday, July 22nd. I got about 5 or 6 radishes and they were HOT. So while as beautiful as they are, I might not grow them again.

Watermelon radishes, July 22, 2023

The Roma tomatoes were planted by a co-worker as part of an educational program and were leftover. I was surprised to get any tomatoes from them at all, but did get quite a few, albeit small, hard, and not too flavorful. I did purchase a beefsteak tomato plant from a nursery, but got only one tomato from the whole plant. There are just a few of the Roma tomatoes left to ripen, and several green ones that we'll pick before the first frost to make fried green tomatoes from.

September 11, 2023 - tomatoes ripening in the back

After the radishes were all picked, we decided to fill the empty space with some lettuce. So on August 13th we planted seeds which said they would germinate in 10-14 days. By the 17th (FOUR DAYS) many had germinated, but after another three days they started to disappear, and we never saw them even get to an inch tall. No idea where they went.

October 7, 2023

Now, we've put up the Halloween décor, and are just waiting for those last few tomatoes. All said, I think the garden placement was successful enough that I'll try some other things next year.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

 How does your garden grow?

Raised bed garden and friends, September 24, 2023

It has been about a month since I last posted, and not much has changed in the garden, although she is dressed for Halloween now. Soon the hummingbird feeders will be brought in, and the elephants ear and pond will need to be prepared for winter storage. 

A collection of

But for now the fall flowers are blooming and a few friends still visit. Eventually, the winter birds will arrive, and the suet & seed feeders will go out. Until then, I intend to enjoy the rest of the season in my garden.

Friday, August 25, 2023

More Gardening

 Today was dirt day. I topped off the garden box (almost, it needs more, but next year), and covered some of the shallowly planted bulbs along the house and between the lilac and the garden box. I also replanted the chipmunk-planted nut tree (butternut, bitternut, hickory? Time will tell.) and staked up the bird(?) planted sunflower.

Raised Garden Box, August 25, 2023

And despite the sad outcome of the lettuce we planted (They should be growing in that bare spot to the left back of the pool, but they all vanished!), I am pretty pleased with the outcome of the watermelon radishes (even though we only got about five and it took over two months instead of 29 days). And just look at my tomatoes ripening! So excite!

Swimming Pool Veggie Garden, August 25, 2023

So I gave myself a pep talk, when I came back inside, dirty, sweaty, itchy. I can do hard things, physically hard things! I carried (dragged) those big bags of dirt to the garden box and scooped all that dirt in, carefully spreading it around as to not squash the already growing grape hyacinths (I guess I didn't get them all, that's ok). I moved those heavy containers around. I can get all hot & sweaty & dirty, and all beat up by the mosquitoes (bit up), and it's OK! I did it and didn't die. And now I have a pretty place to look at! Proud of me.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Adventures in Gardening

My parents weren't much into gardening, but my grandparents on my mother's side were very into gardening. They built a greenhouse onto their house and would start seeds inside, 100s if not 1000s of them. They would start marigolds for the garden that ran down the length of their driveway, and tomatoes and other veggies for the big garden in the backyard.

May 28, 2023 - Marigolds

They were also into canning and preserving, even going to pick-your-own farms, gathering bushels of tomatoes, and spending days processing them into canned tomatoes to use throughout the year. My grandfather would make pickles and they both would can the tomatoes, and other veggies like beets. They also froze a lot of fruits and veggies.

June 26, 2023 - Watermelon radishes & tomatoes

I doubt I will ever get into it that much, it's far cheaper now to go and buy canned tomatoes, pickles, beets... at the store. Seeds are cheap yes, but the canning supplies are not, and there is so much work involved. Also, I've never had much luck growing my own vegetables or flowers from seed. From rained out gardens to gardens plagued with pests, or gardens that just don't produce more than a few tomatoes or squash, that's been my luck.

July 20, 2023 - Still nothing ready for harvest

This year I tried again though. I bought a kids' swimming pool and some bags of dirt -- we are blessed with gravelly loamy sand for our soil type, which isn't good for growing -- and planted a ring of marigolds for protection, and scattered some watermelon radish seeds. They took much longer than the packet said they would to come to maturity, and they were SO HOT. Also of the whole packet, I only got 5 actual radishes. I was also given some tomato seedlings from work (Ag in the Classroom started tomatoes this year) and bought a beefsteak too.

August 18, 2023 - The start of some lettuce...

Only one beefsteak has deigned to grow, but have several Romas from the seedlings. And with most of the radishes gone, Jacqueline & I thought we'd try some leaf lettuce. So we've sprinkled a packet of those seeds across the empty space. They sprouted, but now seem to be disappearing. The tomatoes, though, are finally ripening! I hope they finish before the first frost!

August 20, 2023 - Ripening Romas!

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Heading Out

Monday, August 7, 2023, 6:38 AM

My photos don't upload here as easily as they used to. I think I mentioned that a few weeks ago. Google doesn't really seem to be doing anything to fix the issue; there are many complaints going back months.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023, 6:39 AM

So I'm considering posting these to Instagram as a daily project, instead of posting here weekly, since it's become such a hassle. I don't seem to get much interaction here anyway.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023, 6:39 AM
Photo by Jacqueline, enhanced by me

In other news... This summer has been a roller coaster of drought and rain, sun and clouds.

Thursday, August 10, 2023, 6:40 AM

I haven't had to water the garden much lately because of all the rain, but it also hasn't been warm enough to get the really good growth of my plants.

Friday, August 11, 2023, 6:40 AM

Of course when it was supposed to be cooler, and I had just planted my radishes, the days were hot hot hot, leading to hot hot hot radishes that didn't grow fast enough.

Saturday, August 12, 2023, 7:36 AM

So, yeah... I htink I'll be posting these on Instagram daily from now on. Follow along if you'd like!

Sunday, August 13, 2023, 7:07 AM

Sunday, August 06, 2023


Monday, July 31, 2023, 6:41 AM

I'm starting to realize my exhaustion is never-ending. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2023, 6:41 AM

The only way to have any kind of a life outside of work is just to push through.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023, 6:40 AM

So that's what I did this week. Saturday errands run after work over the course of a few days. 

Thursday, August 3, 2023, 6:37 AM

A fun after-work walk on Wednesday at the park, something I haven't done since last fall.

Friday, August 4, 2023, 7:55 AM

And Friday off of work to adventure! We went to see Fall Out Boy and were up SO late (3 a.m.!!!), and although I *did* wake up at 7 a.m. and take a walk, it was because I had an ankle cramp (which I always get sleeping on those soft soft mattresses), and I only walked around the giant hotel room we were given. I did open the blinds all the way to let the sun in while I did, but I didn't take a photo, and then I crashed for another hour before getting up for the day. We visited a friend vending at the Lockport Farmers' Market, had Lake Effect ice cream for lunch, Arthur Treacher's fish & chips for an early dinner, and made it home without crashing.

Sunday, August 6, 2023, 7:08 AM

This morning the sky gave a big (silent) cheer for all I did.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Birthday Week

This week was the birthday week for three of our five kids. Boom boom boom, all in a row. Yes, just a few days after my own. It makes for a week filled with lots of fun & treats.

Monday, July 24, 2023, 6:37 AM

Because of the event I worked over the weekend, I had to flex some time and so I took Wednesday off.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023, 6:42 AM

And I slept late late late for me!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023, 8:11 AM

I also took Thursday off to attend a fun art event, but sadly both it and my morning walk were cancelled due to rain. :(

Friday, July 28, 2023, 6:41 AM

The mornings may look lovely, but often I am fighting off hoards of mosquitoes and deer flies while attempting to take my photo(s).

Saturday, July 29, 2023, 6:52 AM

They've been so bad this year. If I keep walking, they can't catch up, but the moment I stop...

Sunday, July 30, 2023, 7:22 AM