Friday, November 14, 2008

A Good Cause and Leeks

      Much has happened since my last update that's been keeping me pretty busy both in and out of the kitchen. My brother-in-law recently retired from the Air Force and I had family in St. Louis for that, I've been testing out soup recipes with the cooler temperatures, lots of knitting and a little bit of stress thrown in to the mix for spice.

      As you can see in the left column of the screen, I do some knitting in my spare time and have started a charity donation event to last indefinitely for purchases through my Etsy shop. For each sale of a cat toy, I will donate one in the purchaser's name to Austin Pets Alive! here in Austin, Texas. They are a no-kill animal rescue that is working to make Austin a no-kill city for companion animals. Great organization. I contacted the coordinator of the program and I've gotten set up to donate the toys at the local adoption shows they have. I've got a couple to drop off and I'll post pics when I get them done. They are in desperate need of people to house both cats and dogs for definite periods of time (one or two weeks, three days, etc.), so if you are in the Austin area and can help, please do. These people rock.

      Okay, so on to what I've been up to in the kitchen...

      The goat and I went to the grocery store without the list last week (this happens a lot around here) and came home with a couple new things to try.


      Not knowing much other than they're awesome in potato soup, I bought some while on that wild grocery trip last week. I was pretty surprised at how easy they were to cook and use for how intimidating of a vegetable they've been for me. Sort of how risotto is intimidating, but that's a differ
ent post... I did a bit of research on the vegetable because I was interested in the fact that it almost stunk like spinach when i cooked it, but has a serious onion/garlicy flavor and smell. It's an odd vegeable. They grow and bloom like wild garlic does, only with beefier stalks and leaves.

      I did a basic potato soup with leeks in with the onions at the begining and blended the whole thing at the end. I like the texture of blended soups, but the extra pot involved to separate the already blended from the rest is a pain.

      This weekend I plan on making some potato soup and shopping for some Thanksgiving stuff - other than that I have no plans and I like it! I think I might even get some alone time this weekend if I'm lucky!
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Ten Down, Two To Go

      The goat and I were talking the other day about how there really isn't too much to be excited about in November. There is the obvious Thanksgiving that we all know and love, but what else? There are the common festivities following Halloween; All Saints Day, The Day of the Dead, Samhain and a few others. There are the general disease awareness that last all month, but other than that....?

      I like to think of November as an organizational month. It's right on the heels of the smallest major holiday, Halloween, has it's own holiday, Thanksgiving, and is followed by December, the grand daddy of all holiday months. November is a great time to get the house ready to go for the holiday festivities and family that you will be sure to have this holiday season.

      Along with the house guests, present wrapping, shopping, baking, cooking, running errands and decorating that we will all be busy with there is the extra stress that can pop up this time of year. Tight budgets all around are the list topper for stress this holiday season.

      So how can we reduce our stress levels and stay on budget? I've compiled a list of great holiday tips to help keep you organized, stress free and on budget!

Grocery Shopping
      You know you need to buy a jillion things at the store for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, so why not just do it already? Get your meal planned out ahead of time and think of what can be bought now like canned goods, flours, frozen items and drinks, and what needs to be bought close to the dinner like fruits, vegetables, fresh spices and herbs and fresh baked goods. Keep an eye out for two-for-one and buy-one-get-one deals at the grocery stores.
      Before you head to the store make a list of things you have at home and a list of the dishes you'll be having and the ingredients you will need. Do not double buy things that you have at home already! This is a major source of extra pumpkin pie cans sitting until February.

Kitchen Organization
      Go through your pantry and icebox and get rid of anything beyond it's expiration date. If you cannot find an expiration date or do not remember when you bought an item, toss it if you haven't used it in the last three weeks. You do not want a house full of sick guests trying to compete for the bathroom.
      Once all the old stuff is gone, organize the remaining goods. This is helpful for when your Aunt just insists on making something; she'll be able to find most everything she needs. This is good for your sanity too – keeping everything on hand and knowing where things are will reduce your running around and time inside the kitchen.
      Another great piece of advice is to make sure things are clean. Wipe out your icebox and freezer from the previous year, make sure all your pie pans aren't covered in dust from sitting on top of your cabinets the whole year, get things shiny in the kitchen before the guests arrive and the cooking starts and you'll have a million less things to do!
      Putting together a charity bag out of your unused and unlikely to be used groceries you have on hand is a great way to help out with those less fortunate this season. This is a good time of the year for toy donations as well. Any unused or gently used toys that your children have lost interest in or out grown would be a great addition to the charity bag!

Quick House Keeping
      I strongly suggest that the floors of closets be cleared out (or at least shoved to the top of the closet) for when guests arrive. It is much easier to have them shove their bags into the closet and out of the way than to leave them out in the middle of everything. Less stuff lying around will feel less stressful to deal with. Make sure extra bedding is available to guests if they need it in the middle of the night. Sleeping on a hard floor is bad enough, but not being able to get an extra blanket because it's locked in the master bedroom is a bigger hassle.

      Most importantly, don't forget to set aside a little time for yourself in this whole process. Schedule a time out just for you – tell everyone you're shopping for last minute gifts or running an errand – just get away for a while. Even if it's only to your bubble bath, it will make things go much easier for you.
      Remember that you do not have to schedule every minute of the day for your family. Make time for just getting together and having fun. Watching old movies, board games, hiking, ice skating and camping are some great things to do this time of year.

      November isn't so bad after all. Family visits, good food, great memories and time off from work are all things to look forward to this month. October saw me reach a few goals I had laid out for myself and I'm happy about that. What am I looking forward to personally this November? Learning to make chutney, my first gluten-free Thanksgiving, finishing a knitting project for a Christmas gift, my new job and charity work. What are you looking forward to this November?
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