Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Me On A Soapbox; Newt On The Moon

I don't watch the news.  There's never anything good to report and I find that whole naysayer practice to be very disturbing.  I don't follow politics.  There's never anyone good to report on and I find that whole backbiting practice to be equally disturbing.  And it's not that I really have anything against the practice of politics, it's the politicians I can't stand.  I think they're pretentious idiots lacking the most basic amount of common sense, who have no real grasp of what life is like for the average person living in this country.  I don't even watch the weather.  It's still a hit and miss practice and besides there's an app for that. 

So last night when L decided to watch a little CNN before going to bed I inadvertently suffered from political news exposure.  This morning I'm still experiencing side effects; a sense of bewilderment and disbelief, a sadness from the realization that the leaders of our country have no real ability to prioritize, and  moments of rage from knowing that the hole being dug for us, our children, their children, and so on only continues to grow bigger.

The political news story which I suffered exposure from?  Newt Gingrich wants to colonize the moon!  Isn't that great?!?!  Now I do have to give him credit for the way he presented this.  What he said was: "By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.”  Translation?  Elect me for president twice; don't be disappointed when I don't accomplish this during the first four years of my presidency (after all that's not what he promised), re-elect me for a second term because that's when I'm going to get er' done.  And if he doesn't accomplish this by the year 2020?  So what?  After all, what are the American people going to do then, refuse to vote for him?  Oh!  Wait!  Right!  He's not going to care!!!

But now back to the real issue.  Why in the world (no pun intended) do we need a colony on the moon?!?!  This would be an example of that inability to prioritize I was talking about. 

Our government almost shut down twice last year due to budget issues.  Our country is currently, and by currently I mean at the time I was actually writing this blog, $15,297,016,297,843 in debt.  If you want to check the new current debt total, and by current I mean at the time you are actually reading this blog, click here.  That means this country can't afford to colonize the moon.  This country can't afford to spend $20 at another country's moon colony for a souvenir moon pie.  Our country's unemployment rate currently resides around 8.5%, that's approximately 13.1 million people without jobs.  That means 13.1 million people are also potentially without all of those frivolous things that come from having a job; health insurance, retirement, a home, food, heat, water, electricity, a vehicle, gas for a vehicle (because they don't make the Fred Flintstone model anymore), clothes/ shoes, medicine, and toilet paper.

For the record, had a government shutdown actually occurred our American soldiers, and I've been very clear on how I feel about our American soldiers click here if you don't remember,  would have still been required to report for duty but would have been paid retroactively.  As a civilian, if the company you worked for said sorry, we're out of money but you can come in and work anyway, we'll just pay you when we get it sorted out.  Okie dokie? chances are you'd take a pass on that offer.  That's not an option for military personnel.  In fact failure to report for duty is considered a dereliction of duty, can lead to a court martial, and if convicted is punishable by a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for 1 year. Unless it happens during times of war, then punishment can include the death penalty.  Our country has been at war for the last ten years!  Doesn't that just give you the warm fuzzies?

But wait!  There's more!  We, and by we I mean our country as a whole, also have problems with immigration control, health care (and the lack thereof) , homeless (some of these are our American soldiers/ veterans, you know the people that fought to protect our country?), children lost in government systems (and some just lost), environmental problems, human trafficking, drugs (another war we're not winning), alcohol (ditto), school shootings, teen pregnancy, a decline in morality, a breakdown of the traditional family, a blatant disrespect for God and religion as a whole, and an increasing disregard for human life in general.  And let's not forget that ever so often we as a country seem to piss someone else and their country off, there by leading to the risk of another war.  I have no doubt that I've left out some very important and critical issues.  This is just a list of the issues I've been unable to ignore even when I refuse to read a newspaper, watch a news report, or allow anyone who has done one or both of those things to enlighten me.

So as an American born, middle class, middle aged, church going, registered to vote but not registered to any political party, extremely practical, somewhat conservative, don't so much mind paying my taxes but do mind seeing my tax dollars wasted, no matter how hard I try even I'm not completely oblivious to our country's problems, mother of two, who likes candlelit dinners, and long walks on the beach I ask you.... WHY DO WE NEED TO COLONIZE THE MOON??  Do we not have enough challenges here on Earth in this country?  And it's not like the answers to our problems here are going to be found on the moon.

I do not vote based on whether someone is a Republican or a Democrat.  I vote for whichever pretentious idiot I think will do the least amount of damage for the time they're in office.  Gingrich's plan to "colonize the Moon" makes as much sense to me as Obama's plan for "a mission to Mars".  Mars, there's another place I don't think we're going to find any answers to our problems.  The truth is Obama wasn't my pretentious idiot of choice in 08' and I don't think Gingrich is going to be my pretentious idiot of choice in 12'.

Then again maybe I'm wrong, and maybe the answers to all of America's problems can be found on the Moon or Mars.  I guess there's only one way to find out...strap the two of them to a rocket and shoot em' up there to check it out.  And thanks you two, thanks so much!  You'll probably never know just how much the American people preciatecha!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Rest Of The Bacon: Brown Sugar Smokies

Since I still had bacon left after making the Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin, you can read about that here, I decided to make Brown Sugar Smokies.  They're really more of an appetizer, but occasionally I'll make them for supper. 

You're going to need:
1 16 oz. pkg smokies (I prefer to use beef)
8-10 slices bacon, uncooked
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (I use light, but I see no reason why you couldn't use dark.)

I count the smokies in the package so I can cut the exact number of bacon pieces I will need, and yes I'm aware of how OCD that sounds.  Just in case you're wondering and don't feel like counting it's an average of 37-40 smokies per package.

Wrap each smokie in a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

Place wrapped smokies in a foil lined baking pan.  Trust me, you're going to want to use the foil.  Otherwise cleaning up is a nightmare.  Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top.

Bake them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Then place them in the broiler for 4-6 minutes to brown up the bacon.

Can you make out the cow pictured on the plate?  I own two sets of dishes, one covered with cows and the other covered with Winnie the Pooh cartoon characters, you can click here to see the willy, nilly silly, old bear plate.  Occasionally I think I should probably own a set of grown up dishes.  Then I think about the fact that my grandmother bought the cow dishes for me when I got married, and L bought the Winnie the Pooh dishes for me as a birthday present and I decide that grown up dishes are probably overrated.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin

A few years ago I ran across a recipe for Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin.  I've tweaked it a bit here and there but the recipe is supper simple and is always a big hit at my house.  I'm also a big fan of any recipe that requires very little effort past the point of assembly. 

You're going to need:
1 1/2 lb-2 lb pork loin, thawed
6-8 slices of bacon, uncooked
all purpose seasoning (I prefer Head Country All Purpose Championship Seasoning)

Season your pork loin.  I'm usually pretty liberal with the seasoning because that's the only flavoring I use for this recipe.  I don't even add salt, it's never seemed to need it.  I lay my strips off bacon about an inch apart on the cutting board, I then lay my pork loin on them and wrap the ends tight.  I don't bother to secure the bacon with toothpicks.  I just place the pork loin on the rack with the loose ends down and place the rack in a roasting pan.  I pour about an inch of water in the bottom of the roast pan to keep the grease from smoking while it's in the oven, you may find that you'll need to add a little more water before it's done.  Place it in a 425 degree over to cook.  Depending on the size of your pork loin it can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes.  I cook mine until the internal temperature reaches at least 170 degrees and the juices are clear.  Remove it from the oven and place it in the broiler for 6-8 minutes to crisp up the bacon.  After you remove it from the broiler allow it to rest 10 minutes before slicing.  This allows the juices to reabsorb and the meat to remain moist. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Running Hot And Cold

The teacher asked a little boy in Sunday school class, "Can you tell me where God lives?", and the little boy answered, "God lives in our bathroom."
This puzzled the teacher and she asked, "Why do you think God lives in your bathroom?", to which the little boy replied, "Because every morning my daddy stands outside the bathroom door and yells My Lord are you still in there?!?!"

If you spend any amount of time in my house you're going to hear me yell "that's not a campground, get out!".  That statement will be directed at whichever teen/tween is currently barricaded in the bathroom.  Notice the use of the word the instead of a?  That's because in this less than 1000 square foot home we live in there is only one bathroom, and that bathroom only has a 40 gallon hot water tank.  Therefore the bathroom strategy in our house has always been get in, do your business, and get out.  Don't dilly dally, don't piddle, don't primp, don't nap, and don't take any reading material you're not going to be in there that long.

Last night I didn't feel like yelling, and it's obviously not all that effective anyway since I have to keep doing it.  So 20 minutes into GG's 30 minute shower (which is still twice as long as it should take) I morphed into mean mommy

Trust me when I say mean mommy is feared.  She looks for the quickest and most effective way to accomplish a goal or prove a point and then executes the plan, and if there can be a little entertainment provided to the adults along the way that's just a bonus.  She is responsible for the creating of a time out chair in the yard, so that it wasn't necessary to listen to the whining and crying in the house.  During the ice storm of 2009 she was responsible for making the Girls sit in the hall, face one another, hold hands, and exchange "I love you's" because she was tired of the fighting.  When they stopped she was the one to prod them into action again with an "I don't hear the love!". 

This time mean mommy marched into the bathroom, yanked open the shower door, turned off the hot water, turned on the cold water, and told GG this is how she would be finishing her shower.  The rest of her shower took less than 2 minutes.  NG had the privilege of learning from GG's experience, her shower only took 8 minutes.  And yes, you did read that correctly, I did invade my daughter's privacy while she was in the shower because it's my house.

This morning mean mommy is once again dormant for the moment.  And I dare say GG's cheeks are just a little bit brighter, because cold showers are good for your complexion.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Today Changes Everything

Over the Christmas break I took GG to take the written portion of the driving test.  I don't know what the laws are anywhere else, but in the state of Arkansas you must have received your driving permit six months prior to your 16th birthday to be legal to drive without an adult on your birthday.  I took GG to take her test 6 months to the day before her 16th birthday.  It's not that we planned it that way, that's just the way it happened.  Unfortunately she failed to pass the test by one question.  So we made plans to go back the next time she had an orthodontist appointment, because you know how I love to multi-task.

Today was that day.  I left work early, drove to the town where they attend school, checked both GG and NG out, and headed right back to the town I had just left.  That's life in a rural community.  The total miles driven from the time I left home this morning until I pulled back into the driveway tonight?  Approximately 145, this is why I multi-task!  It's not just OCD, it's a necessity.

When we got there GG checked in, a state trooper gave her another lesson in "the skip button is your friend", and she began her test.  NG and I took a seat in the waiting room to read while we waited. 

It wasn't until the woman standing in the middle of the room began to pace in circles and utter phrases such as, "there he is, I might have know they called someone", "all I wanted was an ID card, I didn't know they'd check for warrants", it's just one warrant but I bet he's still going to arrest me" that I began to realize something was amiss. 

That's right folks!!  It turns out that if you march yourself into a state agency under the authority of state troopers and request any kind of service that requires them to run your name through the system while you have an outstanding warrant they will call a city officer to march you back out while sporting a shiny matching pair of metal bracelets. 

On the way to our next appointment we had the following conversation:

NG: If she knew they were going to arrest her why didn't she just leave?

Me: Because one of the eight state troopers she would've had to walk past would have stopped her.

NG: They were all police?

GG: Yes, with guns.

NG: Would they have used them?

Me: No, they would have just physically restrained her.  At the very most they might have tased her.

NG: That would've been cool to see!

Goodness!  One would almost think she had her mother's morbid sense of curiosity.  Now back to the story...

GG passed and got her permit!!  We were all really excited, and then two things occurred to me.  First , this means L and I must now begin the process of teaching GG to drive a real vehicle on real roads among what every parent refers to as all the other idiots out there. Secondly, today changes everything.  This is the beginning of an independence that will transition GG into adulthood and I find myself thinking that it won't be long before my little girl is a grown woman.  Then I find myself yelling "stop the arguing" across the house because the Girls are fighting about the elbow bone and what it looks like (??) and I know I still have a little time left.

Monday, January 9, 2012

We Need A Hero!

Go get the cat!

I guess it's not so much a who but a what lives in the wood pile.

We have a small gas heater in our kitchen but our main source of heat comes from the wood stove in our living room.  We store the wood we cut for the season in our barn and move it to the porch as we need it.  Since our porch supply was low and the weather was decent we decided to move more this weekend.

Earlier this fall while we were stacking wood in the barn we had found a packrat's nest.  But this weekend? Well...we found the packrat.  GG chose to acknowledge this find with an extremely high pitched squeal, while NG chose a quieter notification of performing an impressive stomp dance across her end of the barn.  L immediately grabbed a stick of firewood and commenced to smacking at the packrat while I stood close by and cheered him on with an enthusiastic chant of "get 'em, get 'em, get 'em, get 'em".  He did not get 'em.

Our next course of action was to bring in Smudge, our killer cat.  We've had Smudge since he was approximately 8 days old.  L dug him out from beneath my brother's house after his mother was hit by a car.  We brought him home and raised him on a bottle, that was almost 5 years ago.  He is the biggest tomcattin' untomcatted cat I have ever seen, he chases everything.  So we brought him in to help us flush out the freeloader.

L started moving wood while I stood by armed with Smudge.  My plan was to fling Smudge on the packrat, sort of like a hand held cat grenade, and watch him explode on that rodent's nasty little butt.  And that's sort of how it went. 

When we located the packrat I pitched Smudge in his direction.  Being the well trained exterminating machine that he is he immediately gave chase, and the packrat ran... straight for the four of us.  We immediately scattered while most of us yelled encouragement (someone, I probably shouldn't mention names, it was GG, was just yelling in general) at Smudge.  I really think Smudge would have caught him if he hadn't had to dodge four overexcited onlookers.  For now the packrat has escaped, but we aren't giving up.  And by we I mean Smudge because apparently our hero would rather work alone.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Pinterest Pin: Rainbow Cupcakes

I won't say the vote goes to failure, but there's some definite room for improvement.

While looking for baby shower ideas I ran across directions for making rainbow cupcakes on Pinterest.  The original blog posting intends for this to be a "fun with your toddler" project.  To be honest I can't imagine making these cupcakes with a toddler, they're quite a bit of work.

L decided it was a good time to go to the shop and do mannish things.

We started with a plain white cake mix and added a large spoonful of sour cream to make them more moist.  We mixed up five colors of batter: purple, orange, blue, green, and pink. 

Then we placed a spoonful of each color into the liners, trying to keep them as even as possible.

They came out of the oven looking pretty good, and most of them were close to the same size.

We decided if we were going to have rainbow cupcakes then we might as well have rainbow frosting too.  So I pulled out the Wilson coloring gel and we made five colors of frosting. 

They didn't turn out quite as pretty as I had hoped, but they taste just fine.  Now what are we going to do with two dozen cupcakes?  Well you know me, I'm going to let the Girls eat cake for breakfast.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hello? Is Anyone Home?

Guess who lives here?  Click here to see how we upset his day.

A Pinterest Pin: Pizza Dip

The vote goes to fantastic!

Last night I tried a recipe I found on Pinterest for Pizza Dip.  Scroll to the bottom or click here to get the recipe.  Yes, I have overcome my Pinterest fears and become a frequent pinner.  When I saw it had a cream cheese base I knew it had to be good.  Have you ever eaten anything with cream cheese in it that wasn't good?  I love cream cheese, it's as important to me as butter is to Paula Deen.

I bought the large pepperoni from the deli and cut it into smaller pieces rather than the small pizza pepperoni... in the bag... on the shelf... that doesn't require refrigeration...because it's been preserved.  Am I the only one that cringes at the thought of how many preservatives are necessary to make that possible?

The only other adjustment I made to the recipe was to use onion flakes rather than chopped onion.  No one in my house really cares much for onion, and to be honest I hate cutting them up, so I'm a big fan of onion flakes.  They add some flavor with just the shake of a hand.

On a side note, isn't this pie plate cute?  I was so excited to find this on a flea marketing trip with my friend M.  Flea markets are one of our three favorite past times, the other two being yard sales and auctions.  That's one of the telling signs of a frugal person, that's frugal not cheap (click here to read the difference). The more junk inventory there is to dig sort through the happier we are.

The original blog says to serve this dip with a French baguette.  I served it with a loaf of Garlic Parmesan French bread that I sliced thin and toasted in the oven while the dip was cooking. 

Everyone loved it!  Pizza Dip is definitely a keeper.

Pizza Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup pizza sauce
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion, or onion flakes to taste
2 oz sliced pepperoni
2 tbsp sliced black olives

Combine cream cheese and spices in a medium bowl.  Spread cream cheese mixture in a 9 inch pie plate, top with 1/2 cup mozzerella and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Top with pizza sauce and then sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Add bell pepper, onion, pepperoni, and olives.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until cheeses are fully melted and bubbly.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reality TV Makes Me Thankful

There was a time when most of the shows on television were make believe stories that allowed you a brief escape into a pretend world. Most problems could be resolved in a 30 minute comedy that left you feeling happy with a touch of wistful, or in a 60 minute drama that left you feeling vindicated with a touch of self righteousness.  Now is not that time.  With over 200 channels to choose from at our house, most usually, there's still not much to choose from.  "Reality" television has taken hold of the entertainment industry and it looks like it won't be letting go anytime soon.

For those people that did their television watching during the day there were "the stories", otherwise known as soaps operas.  This past year ABC cancelled two of the longest running soap operas in television history.  And why shouldn't they?  Who needs Erica Cain when there's Kim Kardashian?  Really you needn't worry that your favorite soaps won't be airing because television still offers "the stories", they just have different names.

Please don't misunderstand, I'm not saying I don't watch any of these shows (who doesn't watch a train wreck?) because I do.  However, I imagine I watch these shows with much of the same interest and mindset that the Romans had while watching gladiatorial games or a hanging audience had while surrounding the gallows. I imagine I also have about the same thoughts as well, "thank goodness that's not me", "why would someone do that?", "is there any potential for this to end good?", "nope, this is going to end badly, very badly", "I wonder where I can buy those shoes?".  Oh wait, that last one is probably just me.

The truth is reality TV makes me thankful because...

  • Wife Swap: ...I don't have to leave my husband and children for two weeks, they love and appreciate me now. (although I have tried to convince L on more than one occasion to let me sign us up.  I want to be the crazy one so they can send the neat freak to my house.  And if her house happened to be beach front, even better.) 
  • The Real Housewives (pick a city, they're all the same): ...my friends (and my boobs, lips, eyelashes, fingernails, hair,...) are real.  They don't talk about me behind my back (or in front of a camera), they keep my confidences (and I keep theirs), they come when I need them and call when they need me, we do not feel the need to compete with one another.
  • Keeping Up With The Kardashians: ...now I'm not so disappointed that I never had sisters. Sheesh...
  • Super Nanny: ...I don't need someone to help me gain back control of my children, I never lost it in the first place. (Yea, there's a little judgement there. But it's not like I'm one of those people without children saying, "if that were my child...", it's like I'm one of those people with children saying,"that isn't going to be my child...".)
  • The Bachelor/ The Bachelorette: ...this provides me with an example for my daughters on how NOT to look for a husband.  Twenty five women/ men competing for one man/ woman who couldn't win the heart of one person last season but will somehow manage to capture the hearts of all the dating hopefuls this season.  I can't imagine why that dating plan has only yielded a 1/24 ratio of success, I mean it seemed so sensible. (Yea, there's a little sarcasm there.)
  • What Not To Wear: ...I could never afford to shop at the stores featured in this show.  Which is fine because after watching this show I realize I would have done it wrong anyway.
  • Jon & Kate Plus 8/ Kate Plus 8: ...it doesn't matter how bad of a day I'm having, compare me to her and I still get to be the nice one.  But in her defense I'm also thankful I'm not married to Jon.
  • Sister Wives: ...I was raised to know better.  I'm also thankful I'm not married to Kody (too).
  • Jersey Shore: ...I have never actually watched this show.  Some shows are so stupid I would rather do laundry.

So when I need a good dose of unreality I flip on the television, pick out a good reality show, and say a little prayer of thanks that it can be turned off with the flick of a button.  When I need some entertainment I watch a rerun.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Don't Worry, I Can Fix This

See?  Problem solved!

Last night we had friends over for New Year's Eve, and at the last minute I decided to bake a batch of brownies.  The moment our friends arrived I started talking and promptly forgot all about the brownies still in the oven.  I'm sure that doesn't come as any shock to anyone that I was too busy running my mouth to pay attention to what I was doing.  Fortunately L remembered them before they had been baked into an 8x8 chocolate bricket. 

Since they spent about 8 minutes too long in the oven they were kind of dry.  I figured they wouldn't be eaten like that so I decided to fix them.  I grabbed a box of cookies and creme pudding at the grocery store and set a tub of cool whip out to thaw.

I crumbled the brownies into bite size pieces.  I then prepared the pudding according the directions on the box and added 2/3 of the cool whip to the pudding.  I layered the brownie pieces and pudding mixture in a bowl to make three layers.  I topped the layers with the remaining cool whip and set it in the fridge to chill four hours.

And then we ate it for supper.  After all today's a holiday, right? 

In A forward Motion

This is really great advice.  So I'm going to do a quick recap and then it's forward ho!!!

2011 is.... well it's gone, as a matter of fact.  Like ever year before it, since I became an adult, it went by much quicker than I would have liked (and often faster than I realized).  And like every year before it, since I became old enough to grasp the concept of reflection, it had it's highs and it's lows.  I won't say it was a great year, but we've had worse and we have much to be thankful for. 

Here are a few of the highlights this year brought:

weddings (four of them to be exact)

a nephew (only one of those, but quality over quantity, and he's high quality)

a new job (same company different position, and I'm loving it)

our first family vacation in seven years (we will not be waiting that long for the next one)

new friendships (the really good kind, where you don't have to try you just realize one day that it's happened)

the promise of a niece in the spring (only one of those as well, but she too will be high quality)

good reports for NG's eyes (for that we are forever thankful)

various adventures with our Girls (if you click on the caption you can read the post)

That's not to say the year didn't include a fair share of loss and disappointment, but no good comes from dwelling on that which cannot be changed.  So as we move into this new year I wish you and yours good health and happiness, may great things come your way.

PS: Assuming the Mayans got it wrong we'll recap this year the same time and same place next year!