Friday, March 30, 2012

You Don't Get Anything For Nothing (Not Even The Free Stuff)

A few months ago, while I was at the bank, the teller that waited on me asked if I was using their UChoose Rewards Program because she had noticed we had several points banked.  That's what happens when you bank at the same place for 10 years and don't realize you belong to a rewards program.  I told her no and asked for details.  After all, I like rewards, I like choices, and most importantly I have points (which to my frugal ear sounded like a form of currency). 


The program works like this:
  • when using your debit card simply click credit instead of debit and earn reward points
  • you earn 1 point for every 5 dollars spent
  • you can only earn a maximum of 25 points per transaction (which is $125 worth of points, so any money spent above that amount in the same transaction isn't counted at all)
  • accrue 2500 points and you will become eligible to start redeeming your points for the reward(s) of your choice
Since we're going to need a hotel room when we go to Kansas City for the Warrior Dash I decided to see if I could use our points to secure one.  Turns out I can.  That's right!!  For the low low price of 9,994 points I reserved us a hotel room just 15 minutes from where we'll be racing.  Frugal Me was ecstatic (and feeling the slightest bit smug about the whole thing) until Practical Me pointed out that our free hotel room actually cost (9,994 x $5) $49,970.  Now if you'll excuse me...due to disappointment, Frugal Me needs a cookie.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Giggle: Bear Warning!

Here's another funny e-mail from the folder.  After all of our "bear excitement" yesterday I thought this was particularly entertaining.

But first...

Last week while I was home I happened to look out and see a wild turkey in our yard.  I immediately grabbed the camera and then called L to tell him.  We then had the following conversation:

Me: there's a turkey in our yard.
L: is it a hen or a tom?
Me: it's a turkey. It's brown and has a head and a tail.

When he got home and looked at the pictures he declared it to be a jake.  Yep, that's just what I was going to say!




Bear Warning

California State Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen, and golfers to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in the Yosemite and Mammoth areas.

They advise people to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert but not startle the bear unexpectedly.  They also advise carrying pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear.

It is also a good idea to watch for fresh signs of bear activity and know the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings.  Black bear droppings are smaller and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur.  Grizzly bear droppings have little bells in them and smell like pepper spray.



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Baa Baa Black Bear??

Want to know what caused this?


I was late getting home this evening, but as soon as I cleared the door I had the following conversation.

NG: I think something is wrong with Daddy.
Me: Why?
NG: Because we went back to look for mushrooms tonight and all of a sudden he said we had to go back to the house and he kept looking back over his shoulder the whole time. 
Me: Where is he now?
NG: In the shop.
Me: OK, I'll go check it out.

That was about the same time that L walked through the door, and sure enough I could tell from the look on his face something was up.

Me: What's wrong?
L: From now on we need to take a gun when we're going to the back side of the place.
Me: Why?
L: I'm pretty certain we have a bear.

Oh!  Is that all?  Now don't misunderstand me.  It's not that I don't take the possibility of bear habitation so close to our house seriously, but we do live in Madison County.  He could have just as easily told me he had stumble across someone's cash crop.  Personally I will take the four legged vermin over the two legged vermin any day.

I immediately went to exchange my skirt and sandals for a pair of pants and tennis shoes because if there's evidence of a bear back there I want to see it!  For the record, I would have had the same reaction if he had told me it was a cash crop back there.  Yea, that would be evidence of that morbid curiosity I've spoken of.  L grabbed his pistol and prepared to humor me.


Yes, I know I'm making a fashion statement.  Don't be jealous!

We actually passed this tree this weekend during our dry land fishing trip and it didn't look like this.  L couldn't quite reach the top of the claw marks.



L also told me he had found bear scat on Sunday, and offered to take me to the top of the hill to get a picture.  I declined, not because I didn't want to take a picture of bear poop but because I was too lazy to walk to the top of the hill to take a picture of bear poop.  However, I didn't want to cheat any of you out of the chance to see a picture of poop so here you are.


If you're wondering...these are deer droppings, not to be confused with rabbit droppings like I did this weekend, because then L will laugh at you.  For a while I was beginning to think we had some kind of mutant sumo rabbit or something.

On our way back to the house L suddenly grabs my arm, gives it a yank, and says, "Look there!!!".  I glanced down and screamed...like a girl!  In my defense, from the way L acted I thought he had spotted a snake, and so when I glanced down and saw something brownish sticking up from the ground I saw a snake.  That's why I screamed...like a girl.  And let me tell you, I've got a pretty good scream, even if I do say so myself.  Just so you know, L will also laugh at you if you do this.  Especially when the thing he is pointing out to you is a morel, that elusive dry land fish we've been hunting for days.

Can you see it?


There it is folks! The morel that just about scared the scat out of me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cooking With Emeril (Sort Of): Grilled Barbecue Ribs

A few years ago L and I were watching Emeril Live and he was making Baby Back Ribs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce and Smashed Potato Salad.  We decided it looked good and we should give it a try.

The first time I made this recipe I followed it exactly, and it was great.  However, that was way more work than it needed to be, so I decided to yank out a little of the Martha and throw in a little Maxine

First...grocery stores have barbecue sauce already made and in a bottle, use that.  Second...grocery stores also sell Emeril's Essence already premixed, use that.  If your grocery store doesn't sell Emeril's brand check out their selection of all purpose seasonings.  I personally prefer to use Head Country All Purpose Championship Seasoning.   This is also the same seasoning I use when I make Bacon Wrapped Pork Loin.  Third...ribs are ribs.  I have used this recipe with both pork and beef, and with both baby back and spare ribs.  They've all turned out wonderfully.  Fourth...the recipe calls for a dark brown ale and recommends using Abita Turbo Dog.  The last time I made this recipe I couldn't find Abita Turbo Dog Dark Ale so I tried Lilja's Hell Hound Brown Ale and it worked just fine.  So apparently any dark doggie beer will do.



Grilled Barbecue Ribs

2 racks ribs (pork or beef), each cut in half
Emeril's Essence or All Purpose Seasoning
3 bottles dark brown ale
1 bottle barbecue sauce

Sprinkle ribs liberally with seasoning on both sides.  Place in large roasting pan and cover ribs with beer.  Cover roasting pan with aluminum foil and all to marinate in the refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight.
Remove ribs from the beer and bring to room temperature.  Line a large deep baking pan with aluminum foil, lay the ribs on top, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for 2 hours.  Transfer to hot grill, cover, and cook over indirect heat for 30 minutes.  Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce.  Baste and turn every 8 minutes, repeat this process twice.  Remove from grill and serve immediately.

I trim off any excess fat before I season and marinate the ribs.


I'm pretty liberal with the seasoning because some of it will wash off with the beer.

I use kitchen shears to cut the ribs.


Try not to pour the beer directly on the meat since this will wash the seasoning off the meat.


I use a deep metal baking pan for cooking the ribs in the oven.


Ready for the grill.


This part is L's job.  He does the grilling (I supervise).


He does a great job too.  You'll want to keep a close eye on the ribs after you add the barbecue sauce.



And since the oven was already hot I decided to make a pan of cornbread.

This recipe comes from the same extension homemakers cookbook that the Strawberry Bread recipe came from.

Cornbread

1 cup self-rising cornmeal (I use white but yellow works just fine)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased square pan (I use a greased cast iron skillet).  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's A New Look!

Last week I asked for some constructive criticism of my blog on bloggeries.com.

This is what I was told...
  • watermark your pictures
  • the right side is somewhat messy
  • the red background is hard on the eyes
  • where is your "about" page?
So after some consideration I made some changes. 

This was the old design and color.



I've also added a new page, Have You Met Me?

I've started adding watermarks to some of my pictures and have tried to tidy up the sides. 

It was also suggested to me in another forum that I might consider switching to Word Press, and I did consider it.  However, Blogger and I have bonded over the last six months (and Word Press seems to be smarter than I am).  So I have decided, for now at least, I will remain where I am.

So please check out the changes, and let me know what you think!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Back In A Love/ Hate Relationship

...with my treadmill.

Last August we went on vacation and as far as my treadmill knew I never came home.  I've had good intentions, but for the last seven months that's all it's been...good intentions.


But guess what?!?!  Six weeks from yesterday, that means I officially have less than six weeks now, GG and I are registered for the 2012 Warrior Dash in Kansas City. 

Wondering what a Warrior Dash is?  Well basically it's a 5K race with obstacle courses that include water, mud, fire, ropes, barbed wire, climbing walls, a scrap yard, and more.  On a side note GG and I got tetanus shots in December in anticipation of this.  When you finish you're rewarded with a fuzzy warrior helmet, a finisher medal, a t-shirt, a turkey leg, and a beer if you're 21 or older and so inclined (I'm kind of hoping I can trade mine for another turkey leg). 

There are three types of warriors...

The Virgin Warrior: you own a set of dumbbells, but they are currently being used as doorstops and paperweights. You'd like to be more active, but thinking about it makes you tired and your TV schedule just won't allow it. The only thing getting you through this three mile obstacle course, is the thought of a cold beer and turkey leg waiting for you at the finish line. You don't want to win Warrior Dash - you just want to finish.

The Casual Warrior: you try to make exercise a priority but your most consistent workout is making a sixth trip to the coffee machine. Hours logged in the gym have now become hours logged at work and late nights at the office lead to take-out dinners. Perhaps this is why your letterman jacket is a bit snug these days. You don't want to win Warrior Dash - you just want to beat the guy wearing a dress. (did I mention there are costumes?!)

The Ultimate Warrior: you can step on the guy doing push ups in the start corral and not scream for your Mom. A 5K run is considered a mere warm-up and pain is viewed as a necessary component of any challenge. Your diet consists mainly of protein and your sheer athleticism causes Chuck Norris to tremble. To you, there's nothing like the smell of sweat at 6am on a Saturday. The term "fear" does not exist in your vocabulary. You don't want to run Warrior Dash - you want to win it.

GG and I might currently fall under the first warrior category, but we aspire to join the second category.  We are determined to not be beaten by the guy in the dress.  I'm not too worried about GG, after all, she's fifteen.  I, however, am not fifteen and therefore will need to train.  So it's back into a love/ hate somewhat abusive  relationship with my treadmill I go.  And if anyone has any great recommendations for some workout tunes I'm all ears (except for the part of me that's a quivering mass of fat unmusclelike tissue).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dry Land Fishing (Not Even A Nibble)

I don't know if you've ever eaten a morel mushroom, also known in our neck of the woods as dry land fish, but my family and I love them.  Unfortunately there is a very limited season for these treasures and it takes some skill to find them.  A skill that we all seem to lack.

Thursday there was an article in the local newspaper saying that morel mushroom season is early this year and this weekend should be prime mushroom hunting fishing season.  So L, the Girls, and I decided to try a little dry land fishing today.

So after breakfast we all got ready and hiked to the back 20 acres to catch ourselves a mess of morels. 

We found a box turtle, but no morels


so we kept looking.


This little guy found L (literally ran right up his pant leg), but still no morels


so we went back to looking.


We finally found some mushrooms, but they weren't morels.


So we quit trying to find morels and found our way home.


I'm convinced if they grew out of the ground already battered and fried in butter we'd be much more successful at sniffing them out.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our St. Paddy Saturday: Free Hot Dogs, Elvis (In His Undies), And More

This past Saturday was St. Patrick's Day and customer appreciation day at Sister's 2 Flea Market in Alma, AR.  Every booth was having a sale, they were giving away a free gift with every purchase, and they were  serving free hot dogs.  So of course the Girls and I wanted to go.  M, who is the one who clued me in on this grand event, also went and took her daughter.


We spent the morning walking through the flea market searching for bargains and making our own entertainment. 

  • We verified that carnival glass comes in more than one color.
  • We found a glass house.
  • GG found a fashion statement.
  • I found a project for L (I know he'll be able to make a bench just like this if I set his mind to it).
  • We found some great bargains (I bought some more cast iron skillets and a trivet).
  • And we ate a hot dog.

From there we headed for Lake Fort Smith State Park to search for the state park cache. Forty-five minutes later and 95 feet from where it should have been GG finally located it.  Can you see it?


We dropped our dice, claimed a bracelet, and were on our way.



We planned to go to Devil's Den State Park on our way home and grab that state cache as well.  When we arrived we ran into a little snag.  There's no cell service there.  The geocache app is designed so that you can save the coordinates of a particular cache and then if you don't have any cell service you can use the saved coordinates and a compass to find your way.  Do you remember that when the girls and I first started geocaching we didn't know how to read a compass?  Well that hasn't changed.  So if you happen to get lost where storefronts are not visible, you might want to phone a different friend.

But all was not lost.  We quickly moved on to plan B and went hiking instead. 



When we went to check out at Sisters 2 there was a copy of the vintage Army photograph of Elvis in his underwear.  The Girls and I had gotten into a discussion with M's daughter about the fact that he had served at Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith.  After we got home that night I got a call from M wanting to know if I had purchased that photograph.  It would seem that when she unpacked her purchases that photograph had been wrapped, packed, and placed among them.  She thought perhaps it should have gone in my bag instead.  This puzzled us for a few moments until it occurred to me...weren't we suppose to get a free gift with every purchase?!?!  The Girls quickly searched our bag and found that we too were the proud owners of Elvis in his underwear.


The Girls and I are going to look for a picture of Madonna in her cone bra and make ourselves a collage.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Rainy Day Treat: Strawberry Bread

It's been raining since yesterday.  Not that heavy 15 inches in 48 hours everybody grab a sandbag and hold on rain they originally predicted, but that slow and steady been going on for so long that even though the air isn't really cold it's still too damp to be comfortable rain.  So L built on a fire and I put on a fresh pot of coffee and set about to make us an afternoon snack.


I found this recipe in an extension homemakers cookbook several years ago. I don't make it very often so it's kind of a special treat in my house.

Strawberry Bread
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 quarts strawberries
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Slice strawberries, cover with 1 cup sugar and let set for 10 minutes. In a seperate bowl combine flour, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, soda, and salt. Mash strawberries, add oil and eggs and mix well. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture and stir together until moistened. Add nuts, if desired. Pour batter into two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour.



Slicing the strawberries seems to make them easier to mash and will allow the sugar to work faster.

Covering the strawberries with sugar and allowing them to macerate for at least 10 minutes.
 

This is another thing that a potato masher is handy for.


This recipe mixes together really easy, no need to use a hand mixer, a heavy spoon will work fine.


Either pan works great, but remember if you're using a dark pan it tends to cook a bit faster than a glass pan does.


The girls weren't home from their sleep over yet so L got to lick the bowl.


I use a toothpick to make certain they're done.  It's best to let the loaves cool before removing them from the pans, slicing into them, and eating a piece (but trust me, it's not absolutely necessary).


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

J's Baby Shower

As most of you know I've spent the last couple of months planning a baby shower for J and Baby W.  I made cake plates, made old dishes new again, and colored flowers.  I practiced recipes for punch, crab dipTwirly Burlies, and pizza pinwheels.

Last weekend all that planning came together and we celebrated the upcoming arrival of Baby W.


However, there are some things you just can't plan for.  Like the fact that the flowers I bought to color had at some point gotten too hot and therefor would not soak up the dye, or the fact that the same evening I made plans to stay at T's house so we could get an early morning start NG came home from school with what we later found out was strep throat, or the fact that for some reason (that I can not explain because I certainly didn't order it that way) there was a random star painted onto the cake, or the fact that although I purchased blue napkins they were no where to be found when we went looking for them.  No, those are not things you can plan for, they're just things you deal with. 


The star didn't bother me too much.  After all it was still cake icing and who can be to bothered by something as yummy as cake icing?!  But those blue napkins (or the lack there of) drove me nuts!


But we managed to work it out.  L took care of NG since I couldn't be there, the star on the cake made a great conversation piece, and T and I made an early morning trip to the local Neighborhood Market for more flowers and a couple of last minute must haves (they didn't have any blue napkins, I looked!).  Since I hadn't planned on making a trip to the grocery store that morning but I had planned on keeping my hair in Velcro rollers until just before the shower started, guess what?!?!  That's right... I went to the grocery store wearing rollers.  This greatly amused T and she insisted on getting a picture.  Does this make me an official People of Walmart?


T and I spent the morning cooking, cleaning, prepping, and finishing the decorating. Later we drafted S, J's sister, to help with the last minute details.




 

The shower started at 10:30 a.m., and the next 2 1/2 hours were a baby shower extravaganza.

There was food...



drink...


presents...








family...




friends...



and fellow baby bumps.


We all brought a copy of our favorite children's book for Baby W's library,


and later got a sneak peak of the nursery.  Click here to check out the rest of the nursery decor.


A special thanks to K with Designs By Kiva and AD with Click Click Zoom Photography for taking pictures.

Everyone seemed to have a good time.  Most importantly J had a good time and that's what really mattered.