May 26, 2015

Easy Pumpkin Pupcakes

Preface:
I need like a week to take a step away from the internet.  Just a week or so to get my thoughts together.  I have too much going on right now.  Too much stress.  Too much stuff.  I actually have so much to do right now that I'm starting to feel the anxiety I felt 3 years ago (me stuck in Alaska for a year while he was deployed) starting to cycle back again.  This life that we have in Colorado (this house, the dogs, my job, etc) was not designed for one person to do. There was nothing I even missed writing about over the last several days and that's probably a sign I need to slow down with everything.  I'm so tired of doing 18 things at once all the time.  I'm exhausted. I'm stressing myself out in many ways. Stuff and Things will be running on Thursday, of course, but really...I need like a week.  

Recipe challenge, week twenty-one.




I'm posting this on Tuesday because yesterday was Memorial Day and:
A. Pupcakes have nothing to do with Memorial Day
B. I figured no one would be around to read on Memorial Day

Scout had his 2nd birthday this weekend and while I can never *quite* remember what day it is (May 23rd or 24th), it was this past weekend.  I could dig out his registration I suppose but I'm not *quite* sure where that is.  Regardless, I made pupcakes last weekend and froze them because I knew this past week would be hellaciously busy.

Jett and Scout love these pumpkin dog treats that I found on Pinterest.  The problem with them is that they are labor intensive and the recipe makes so many that they last forever.  While having a 3-week-supply of dog treats isn't a bad thing, I could always halve the recipe. But I figure if I'm going to the trouble, I might as well make a lot of them.  I usually keep the bagful of them in the fridge because one time I didn't, and they got kind of moldy.  Also, we generally like to give our dogs non-flour-based treats, so I wasn't sure how I felt about giving them several of these a day when they had no health benefits.  For example, the Milkbones they get once a day help clean their teeth, the pupperonis are protein-based, etc.

I took the pumpkin/peanut butter flavor combination the dogs love and put it into the easiest pupcake I've ever whipped up.  Then I topped them with a dollop of peanut butter before "serving".

These are Scout-and-Jett-approved. As is this salmon that I may have made them for dinner on Saturday night.

Pumpkin Pupcakes
makes 1 dozen mini-muffins

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
1 T. honey
1 egg
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 cup flour
1/2 t. baking soda
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Mix everything together in a large bowl.  I used an electric mixer just to get all of the lumps out.
Spoon the batter into a greased mini-muffin tin and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Store extras in the refrigerator for up to a week.

May 21, 2015

Stuff and Things 5/21


+Someone was complaining about the moths on social media and someone else commented saying they "killed two" the day before.  Two?  That must be nice.  I smash them with my fist when I see them on the wall.  Sometimes I leave the moth guts there because there's just going to be another moth I kill in the same spot...why not just clean it all up once?...I'm not going to make more work for myself. And they don't smell or anything.  They're just big balls of dust.

+Why I didn't go to work on Tuesday.


I couldn't leave my property because the road was flooded.

That just meant I had a million and one things to do on Wednesday instead of just a million things.

+Here are my thoughts on Mad Men.  If you're not interested in this spoiler, scroll past the blue.  However, if you've been watching all along, you probably have already seen the finale.  If you haven't been watching, you won't understand my comments.  This is what I sent to a friend via email.

I am happy for Pete (though I kind of expected that plane to crash) and SO happy for Peggy and Stan.  
Sally's going to turn out all right.  I wanted Joan and Roger to end up together.  I wanted to see Megan again.  I can't believe they wasted part of the finale on Stephanie the hippie but I suppose they needed that to wrap up Don's story.  Though, I don't know how they could've ever wrapped up Don's story well.  Someone said once in an article that they'd have to kill him off for him to have closure.
Thoughts on Betty?  I miss the romance and sweetness of the first season, when she was a nice housewife.
I also wanted to know who ended up with Bobby and Gene.  
And what happened to Henry? He always seemed like a good guy who was just a victim of Betty.  
Also, after watching Entertainment Tonight, apparently it was inferred that Don is the one who came up with the idea of that Coke commercial based off of his experience at the hippie/yoga retreat.  I totally didn't put that together.  Does that mean he went back to advertising?  I took it to mean that he gave up that life and found peace elsewhere.  

May 19, 2015

Why my dogs are treated (too) well

Disclaimer: I typed this up in March and never got around to sharing it.  

Jett turned one year old on March 10th.

Happy first birthday to the dog who steals my pillow and worms his way onto my lap whenever he feels like it.  We're convinced you are the alpha-male and first-born of your litter and, while you insist on being recognized by jumping and scratching and clawing, you never leave our sides.  We appreciate that.


I don't know why people get so up in arms about pet owners who treat their animals well.  I know our dogs are spoiled.  They get grain-free dog food.  They get homemade treats.  They get to sleep in a bed.

The dogs were the reason I finally had to give in to Scott's request for "land" in Colorado. They need the space. We researched these dogs and picked them out pretty carefully, so we figure we might as well give them the best we can if we're willing to invest in hunting dogs.  I remember saying something to Scott, when we first got Scout, along the lines of "Eh, we probably don't need that whatever-it-was".  He said, "How much did we pay for him? What was the point of that if we can't spend $8 on whatever-it-was?"  (I clearly don't remember what it was.)

That made perfect sense and that's the route I've taken ever since.



Scout wasn't all that interested in participating.

Anyway, they are much loved and well-cared for because we think they're worth it.  We don't have kids.  We put our energies into these animals.  And I think that's okay.  And to the people who put the dog or cat (or any animal) at the v.e.r.y. bottom of the list when a baby comes along, shame on you. I would have no qualms telling you what I think.  I understand perfectly well that circumstances can be extenuating.  I've accommodated to a lot of lifestyle changes myself in the last few years.  I get it.



But I do know that I would never, ever, ever be able to forget the unconditional love these guys give when I have nothing else around to love.


Jett will wake me up at 3am, most nights, and pretend he has to go outside.  As soon as I get out of bed, he will hop up onto my spot and get comfortable with his head on my pillow.  Even though I've figured this system out, sometimes he really does want to go outside and he won't stop making making noises until he sees that I'm out of bed and then I suppose he decides which route he's going to take: trot to the door or hop up onto the bed.

So, even though he had that run-in with the four-wheeler, this dog does not lack for comfort, so let's not feel too bad for him.


May 18, 2015

Maple Donut Muffins

I'm writing this post at 5:47am, as I finish the series finale of Mad Men.  I can't watch stuff like this on Sunday night before I go to bed.  I need time to process.

Thoughts can be discussed via email...no spoilers from me!  (at least until Thursday-ish)

Recipe challenge, week twenty.


It's a teeny bit lopsided there.

In May 2011, we took a trip to Fairbanks for our anniversary.  We stopped in Talkeetna, Alaska to spend the night.  For coffee in the morning, we went to the Flying Squirrel Bakery and had some donut muffins. They were huge and I'm pretty sure there is still cinnamon sugar in the cupholders of that Hyundai Sonata (wherever it may be).

I will say that I would not classify myself as a pastry person. I don't eat a lot of donuts because I just don't see the point.  Like, if I want dessert, I'll have dessert.  If I want breakfast, I'll have breakfast.  I don't really see the need to combine the two.  A semi-responsible breakfast is a license to eat dessert anyway.  You start the day off right...and it all goes downhill from there.

However, I will always remember that fluffy, sweet donut muffin.  When a dear blog friend (who no longer blogs...ahem) suggested I try out one of those donut recipes she'd been making lately, I decided to adapt one of them and change them into muffins.  Per usual, I felt the need to make things a little healthier...because it is breakfast after all.  Or Saturday night dinner in my case.  Oh well.

If you're a hypochondriac like I am*, and feel the need to limit dairy intake, this is the recipe for you. It's dairy-free and can probably be tweaked to vegan with a flax-egg

*Or a person with a legitimate dairy allergy.  I do not believe I have a serious intolerance and I understand that many people do.  End of disclaimer.  

Maple Donut Muffins
makes 6 muffins or 12 mini-muffins
loosely adapted from this recipe

1 cup flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. salt

1/2 cup milk + 1 t. apple cider vinegar (I used unsweetened coconut milk)
1 egg
1 T. oil
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. maple extract
1/4 cup sugar

Melted butter spread (or just butter) for brushing
Cinnamon/sugar for sprinkling

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and toss together lightly.  Add in the milk, egg, oil, extracts, and sugar.  With a hand mixer, blend well to get out all the lumps.

Spoon into a greased muffin pan and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  When a toothpick comes out clean, they are done.  Before removing from the pan, brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar.  Let cool.

These taste best right away, when the tops are nice and crispy.  The flavor is still there the next day, but the crispiness isn't there.  But this is probably because I stored them in a container with a cover.

May 15, 2015

A fun deployment craft

"Fun" shouldn't be in the same sentence with "deployment".  But "craft" shouldn't be in any post title on this blog anyway, so it's just a sentence (err...fragment) of things that don't belong together.

Anyway.

Best candle ever

I like to mark time.  I like to make progress.  It's something I require myself to do.  You saw how I highlight my Pilates calendar.  I've done that with many other gym calendars too.  Currently, in my planner, I'm counting down the days left of school and the days of the deployment, simultaneously.  In fact, I have so many numbers on the pages of my Simplified Planner that I have to color-code them.  This might be my only OCD-like tendency.  If you look in my closet, you'll know I am not plagued by OCD.

When I countdown the time of deployments, I count up.  To me, this makes a huge difference.  Sure, I could count down.  But then I'm left with nothing.  If I count up, I can see this giant reminder of just how far I've come.

For deployment #1, I just crossed days off a calendar.  Meh.


For deployment #2, I did a giant construction paper chain and I numbered the days.  

This time, I bought a bunch of ribbon.


The downside is that I can't write on it as easily, so I didn't bother.  But the upside is that I can save it and stuff it into a mason jar or something and display it as a reminder of how far we've come (and our pain and suffering and all).

TGIF.  (That's becoming my new motto.)

May 14, 2015

Stuff and Things 5/14



+Listening to Nick Offerman's book prompted me to finally start Parks and Rec on Netflix.  I'd tried it once or twice before and it never quite got off the ground for me.  This time, I'm enjoying it.  It literally only took 5 1/2 years.

+We had a bit of a mix-up for Mother's Day.  I emailed Scott asking if we should send his mom flowers (because I'm sick of mailing boxes basically).  That was Monday.  By Tuesday night, I was like, "Well, better just order them" because I hadn't heard anything back from him.  Then, I find out he did, indeed, send flowers and I had, indeed, sent flowers and so she got two flower deliveries.

+Before you go off thinking I'm a horrible person, I got my mom a gift instead of flowers and it'll be here for her to pick up when she visits next week.

+I just, a week ago, mailed the boxes I had to send out for March birthdays.  In May.  One was a gift I was supposed to send out for VALENTINE'S DAY.  That's how much I hate the post office.  A double order of flowers, in this case, was a very small price to pay.  Totally worth it.

Speaking of Mother's Day...



Scott sent me flowers from the dogs.

+And I can't believe I didn't realize before that this pretty much sums up my feelings on camping and being outdoors in general:




+Since I'm an indoor person, I spent Sunday afternoon organizing the pantry.  



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May 13, 2015

A tumultuous weekend

I'm full of bitterness at this particular juncture though there are many good things on the horizon: the end of school, summertime, my parents' visit next week, Scott's impending redeployment (return home), etc.  However, if I don't survive the next tornado, I won't get that far.




Near as I can figure, the tornado that was spotted on the ground was somewhere in a 5 mile radius.

The dogs and I spent a significant amount of time sitting in the basement.  It reminded me of all those days/nights in Missouri, except we were expecting it there and we had supplies and a tornado room.  This time, I had my phone and a flashlight.  I should probably pack a bag to store down there.  My friend was watching the radar for me on the news and updated me on where this elusive tornado was.  The whole county was under a warning but everyone knows tornados only hit mobile homes in rural areas and my neighbor has a mobile home so...I wasn't feeling too positive. (Did I go too far? I told you I was bitter.)

I eventually ventured out to take pictures. 




The roof of the truck is damaged. Sigh.


Broken window.


(That's just a dirty streak on the window, not a crack.)

That tarp had been pulled tight.  It was shredded by hail and that roof was also, of course, damaged.

All the leaves that fell off the trees. 

And that was Saturday.  Sunday was spent cleaning up the mess.

May 12, 2015

April Books



#21 The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult A
I did not want to like this book as much as I did.  But by the end, I loved it.  I kind of hated that I loved it for some reason.  It was certainly a story within a story within a story...within a story, I think.  I won't post much because just about anything would be a spoiler.  I admit though that, by the end of the story, my biggest concern was Eva the dog.  (I'm completely serious.)
I do admit that there seemed to be a lot of minor characters that never really developed and I wasn't sure of their purpose.
We can discuss if you have an opinion on it!

#22 The Janitor's Boy by Andrew Clements B-
Consider this your children's book for the quarter.  I read it with one of my small groups at school and they enjoyed it and I enjoyed it.  It actually deals with some adult themes and would be FANTASTIC if you are a military family with school-age children.  It goes into PTSD.  My favorite of Clements' will always be Frindle, but I liked this one.


#23 Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin A+
There are few words that explain how much I love this book.  I love trying to figure what kind of person I am and why I do the things I do.  According to this book, I am an upholding, questioning lark. A marathoning underbuyer who prefers simplicity and a finisher who likes novelty.  Scott is an obliging, questioning owl. A sprinting overbuyer who prefers abundance and an opener who likes novelty. (In other words, Scott and I are almost complete opposites in our habits...which might be why this marriage seems to work.)

On of my favorite things about Gretchen's books on happiness is that she includes lots of real examples and anecdotes.  Very reader-friendly.
I would consider this a must-read for just about anyone.

#24 The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman A
This story was fascinating.  I grabbed the audiobook at the library and it's narrated by Neil Gaiman himself in a light English accent, and that made the biggest difference.
This is actually a really dark story told from the point of view of a seven year-old boy.  I had assumed it was a murder mystery of sorts, but it's actually more science fiction.  It reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time.
It was a short "read" (5.5 hours to listen to) and I think it's one of those completely original stories everyone should try.  No matter your interests, you'll get something out of this book.
Gaiman won the Newbery medal in 2011 with The Graveyard Book, so I might try that next in audio form if I can find it. I attempted to read it a few years ago and couldn't get into it.
By the end of The Ocean, you'll realize that none of the characters (except 4, I believe) are given names.  That's part of what makes it so fascinating.

#25 Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman C+
I do admit that I haven't, until recently, watched Parks and Rec.  It was always that-show-that's-on-after-The-Office and sometimes I would catch a bit here or there.  However, I adore Ron Swanson.   This autobiography of Nick Offerman was interesting to me because, while Ron Swanson is just a character, Ron's kind of an extreme version of Nick himself. This is an autobiography and at times it's really funny and poignant.  At other times, it kind of drags on.  I really think Scott would like it because Nick talks about building things and wearing work clothes and all that.  Plus, Nick is from a small-town in the middle of nowhere Illinois and I can identify with that.
The theater talk wasn't my favorite, but I am fascinated by his relationship with Megan Mullally.  I love that they are so low-profile.
I do agree with the many reviewers on Goodreads who said it was overwritten.  And his constant jumping from one time period to the next kind of bugged me.  He barely followed a sequence of events and that kind of bothered me.

#26 The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant B-
It's really weird because I listened to this back in March but forgot to add it to the list.
I liked this book.  I kind of couldn't decide how I felt about it.  One minute I liked it, the next I was bored, the next I was interested, the next I was wondering why she kept talking about all these random people I didn't know. Like, she went on and on about this person and that person because the point of the "memoir" is that she's telling the story to her granddaughter. But I, for example, wouldn't have known the first names of my grandmother's friends from when she was 17.  Sometimes it confused me.  She jumped topics/scenes a lot.
It's a fictional memoir (which may have been the odd part) but I felt like it was a real memoir.  It could've been. I wanted it to be.
The second half was better than the first half.
It reminded me of Dreams in the Golden Country, a Dear America book.  Also, I felt like I connected a lot of it to The Storyteller, which I read a few weeks later.

#27 If I Stay by Gayle Forman C
*eye roll*
A kid was reading this book one day and she asked if I'd ever read it.  I said no but "isn't it a movie?"  She didn't know.  I thought it was.  So I borrowed the book from her, read it in a day, suffered much second-hand embarrassment because it's about a 17 year old, watched the movie online, suffered even more second-hand embarrassment because it was suspiciously like Twilight. If you are a teenager, the movie is probably okay.  If you have anyone under the age of 16 in your house who wants to read the book, I wouldn't recommend it.  It's pretty graphic with an accident scene and some language.  The movie leaves that stuff out though.  Maybe we can call this one 2014's The Fault in Our Stars?  Only not as bad.

I attempted:
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  I didn't really like it.  I probably could've finished reading it but it was due back at the library and I didn't really care, so I stopped about a quarter of the way through.

Recommend a book!  Summer vacation is so close I can taste it and many books will be read.

Linking up with Jana and Steph!

May 11, 2015

Sausage Breakfast Bake

Recipe challenge, week nineteen.


Let me tell you: Mondays come around awfully quickly when you solemnly swear and promise to post a new recipe each Monday.  I do believe that I may start re-doing and highlighting my tried and true recipes at some point.  Because, honestly, we don't need 258 recipes in our repertoire.  We need just a few good recipes that we can make again and again and they never disappoint.

So, we'll see.

I have, as of right now, three recipes to make just so I can take pictures of them, but I don't feel like cooking big meals for myself.  My dinner rotation usually goes: sweet potatoes/black beans, pizza, Annie's Mac and Cheese, cereal, repeat.  Usually preceded by a spinach smoothie and some tortilla chips as an after-school snack. Leftovers are lunch the next day.  Breakfast is usually fancy, expensive peanut butter that I can't buy when Scott's around (because he'll eat it all) and toast (on fancy, expensive bread).  I usually have oatmeal or fruit at school for snacks.  Pre-popped popcorn also my number guilty pleasure.  I go through a bag a week.

Now that you know all of that unnecessary information, you can see that my current arrangement isn't conducive to cooking.

However...

This is a the perfect, easy brunch or lazy-day breakfast casserole.  We had it a few months ago, and I would make this for overnight guests or for a holiday breakfast.  I used chicken jalapeno sausage from TJ's and it was delicious.  Feel free to add bacon too (I've been watching Parks and Rec and bacon just seems like it would go with everything now).

You could alway split it up into muffin cups too and portion it out for a week of breakfasts.

Egg and Sausage Breakfast Bake
Makes a 9 inch pie plate (double for a 9x13 pan)

5 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 sausage links, diced (for a 9x13 pan, used a whole package…I used Trader Joe’s Chicken Jalapeno)
2 cups shredded hashbrowns (I used frozen ones, but you could go with fresh potatoes or sweet potatoes)
½ cup diced green or red pepper (I didn’t have these on hand, but would use them in the future.)
½ cup diced onion
½ t. pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the frozen hashbrowns in the bottom of your pie plate.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, shredded cheese, and pepper. 
In a frying pan, lightly brown the onion, pepper, and sausage in a bit of olive oil.  You can skip this step if the sausage is precooked, but I like the crispy flavor.
Spread onto the top of the hashbrowns.  Pour the egg mixture over the top.
Bake for 40 minutes, but start checking it at 30 minutes (just in case) to see if the center is set.  Mine took about 45 minutes, but I’m never sure how much elevation is playing into things here and I also used convection.  

May 8, 2015

How much caffeine do you drink?

I should preface with the fact that I initially wanted to give up caffeine this week.  I didn't.  I'm already giving up ice cream and maybe that's enough sacrifice for an entire lifetime.  


Take a minute and think about your caffeine consumption. I'm genuinely curious about where I fall on the scale.  Do you drink a lot of caffeine?

Mine is specifically in the form of coffee.  I usually only drink decaf green teas and I'm not a soda drinker. I try to get at least 100 oz. of water a day, so I tell myself that balances out the caffeine. Coffee is a tricky little addiction though. 

A few weeks ago, I had a job interview first thing in the morning and I was a nervous wreck for 3 days leading up to it.  I decided coffee was the last thing I needed, even though I had gotten up at 5am, so I could get ready with time to spare.  I haven't skipped coffee in the morning in a very long time.  Like probably since the beginning of January. I usually have one 6-8 oz. cup and maybe half of a another one and then I sip green tea on my way to school.  

On this day of no coffee, the gross feeling hit me around 10am.  Kind of just like fatigue.  By the afternoon I was ready to fall asleep but I'm usually ready to fall asleep by 2:00pm anyway.  I don't get any fresh air during the day, so I could probably have taken a walk or something and been fine.  But then, by the time I got home, my head was pounding.  However, I knew caffeine would likely keep me up that night.  So I drank some more water, took a Tylenol, and did a Pilates workout.  I went to bed around 9:30 and woke up at 5am again to get ready for school and I felt fabulous.  I actually contemplated giving up caffeine for a week to see what it does to me...but coffee is such a comfort when I have to get up so early in the morning. Once or twice a week (okay, sometimes more) I stop at Starbucks.  I happened to try a flat white from Starbucks (a recommendation from Scott) and it was okay.  I mean, I didn't notice a huge difference between that and an Americano, except that it costs $2 more. Coffeeshop coffee is also a major guilty pleasure for me, as you know. 

Speaking of, I've decided to stop using my reusable K-Cup for awhile and just buy K-Cups.  I made a Dunkin Donuts run and stocked up.  This is the dumbest reason ever for my decision: I'm lazy.  K-cups are easier.  I'm tired of driving the miles to TJ's to buy good coffee every couple of weeks (and remembering to do so because you don't want to run out of coffee) and then grinding it and cleaning the reusable filters.  Again, I'm lazy.  But in a world where I have to manage and take care of everything around me, it's the little things that make the days more pleasant.

So, how much caffeine do you consume?  
I might try the caffeine fast this summer.  Maybe.