Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hominy Casserole

My apologies for the lack of pictures - I am in great need of a digital camera, but it's going to have to wait until I can justify the expense of one.

So picture in your mind a beautiful golden cheesy casserole studded with green chiles.  Because tonight I made a lovely hominy casserole to go along with some bean and cheese burritos.

D and I agreed that salsa would have been very nice - but I didn't have on hand what I needed to make any.
Even so, the hominy casserole was very filling and 'comfort foody'.

The hominy itself was actually some cracked corn (cracked hominy) I'd bought a bit ago - dried cracked corn/hominy can be found in bags just like beans and lentils - I can't find it here in WV where I live, but I make frequent visits to the Washington DC area, where there are Jumbo International grocery stores that carry all sorts of interesting goodies, and I'd brought a couple bags of the dried hominy back with me.

I will most definitely be stocking up on more - I love hominy and there is a very hearty chewiness with the dried that is different from the canned.  A couple weeks ago I cooked up a bag (basically exactly as you would with dried beans - presoak, rinse, simmer), then divided the cooked hominy into portions and stowing them in the freezer for later use.

Here's the recipe I used as a starting point, switching the canned hominy for my cooked dried cracked corn.  I also felt it was still a bit dry after it was mixed together, so I added a couple tablespoonse of Mexican table cream to it, and that was a nice touch.

In thinking about it some more, I think I'd really like this as a main dish, adding some black beans and cooked sweet potato chunks or winter squash to it - I have a couple more portions of the cracked corn put up, so I'll have to give that a try soon.

I used 2 portions tonight - which made enough to serve 6 as a side dish, or 4 as a main dish.

All in all, a definite success!

Halloween Hair Goodies

My youngest had a great time finding or making unique outfits and hair styles - if it's glittery, lacy, has feathers, beads or anything funky or fun, odds are she'll be working it into an outfit for herself.

I'm planning on doing some sorting and organizing in the bathroom today, and one reason it's becoming vital is that she needs an full drawer for her hair do-dads securely away from our curious cat.

So of course... what we need around here are more hair do-dads!

Over at Funky PolkaDot Giraffe, there are some really cute Halloween colored floral hair clips being given away.  Look at these:

This lovely black rose is attached to a clear headband - very elegant and cute!   Deanna would wear this a lot, except I would hide it and keep it for myself.  Mom's privilege!

Not only is this nicely gothic for Halloween dress-ups, but wouldn't that be pretty with a chic black holiday gown for the Christmas season?

Now, this little beauty is pure Deanna - bright orange, the little trio of pearl beads hiding inside.  It's a hairclip, so it can be attached to all manner of hair styles.
Very cheerful and fun - hmm.... if I had these, I might have to hide that one too, unless she's very very nice to me.

Do you know someone looking for some fun floral headwear for October?  Go sign up for the giveaway! Before I have time to find a hiding place!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

K is For... Kissable Kids

(grandkids, that is...)



Anthony, David & Anastasia



(post linked to ABC Wednesday)

Play Date

My 21 year old daughter Jackie has always been very shy - she isn't reserved so a lot of people don't notice this... she's outspoken around those she knows, but it is tremendously difficult for her to meet new people.
A few days ago, she was approached via Facebook by an acquaintance who invited her to a local area Mom's group Open House ... there would be lots of moms and kids and door prizes and a peek at what sort of activities they do through out the year.

She panicked - she very much has wanted to meet more parents, as her unattached friends no longer have much in common with her. She's wanted to get her daughter - now 14 months old - around some other children to begin learning to socialize. But... a room full of strangers?

She said no. Her husband asked her to please say yes, instead. She asked me if I'd go with her... then said no, she couldn't go, because of X, Y, and Z. I told her I would go with her, and she should go.

We went through this for a few days - right up to last night, in fact. And I was starting to think this morning that she'd be backing out, because they were a bit late in picking me up.

But finally she showed - sheepishly confessing she'd changed clothes a few times trying to strike just the right outfit that said "I'm a good mom" and would allow her to nurse as needed without it being a big deal.

For me, this was full of flashbacks - it's been many many years since I've had a play date of any sort on behalf of my children.... and here I was again, gently coaxing my (adult) daughter to go say hello, to not wait until others approached her, because they were as nervous as she was. Some things never change!

Meanwhile, her own daughter was down and running - quickly showing a preference for the 3 year old boys.. the rowdier the better.

We met some nice women - ages ranging from early 20s to mid-40s, and lots of children from about 10 months old to about 4. Jackie will be going back - they not only have lots of activities and field trips with the kids, but they have mom-only time in the form of monthly Mom's Night Out dinners and a scrapbooking club she was interested in.

I still don't quite know how to interpret her perception - she spoke with a lot of women (I helped begin conversations where she couldn't, and then receded into the background so she could talk with them without me as a crutch), seemed to enjoy it.. and then later declared that 'no one' talked with her. And oddly, at least three of those we met were women who shared that they had this same sort of stagefright when it comes to meeting with people. There were times when I thought it had a whole 7th grade school dance vibe.

Here's the thing - I am not shy about meeting people, so I know I can't say it's easy to someone who finds it very difficult. But I do think that there may be some grossly heightened expectations in play. What I know about meeting people in group settings is this:

- you aren't likely to instantly find that friendly soul mate with whom you can share everything. Oh.. she may be there, but you're not going to figure that out in a sea of conversations and kids running about.
- that's why you want to follow up. In this case that means remember at least a couple of the names, and 'friend' them on facebook... start a conversation on the group's discussion board, and otherwise begin laying some groundwork so that at the next meeting... you know a couple people.

- built in conversation starter when you're gathering with your kids. 'how old is your son/daughter?' and then compliment the child! They are beautiful, have a fun personality, are walking so well.... It doesn't matter. Just say something nice. At this point, they're going to continue the conversation and ask the same about your child... find the connections! If you need to toss out another question to keep the chatter going, ask something that isn't yes or no. It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful conversation... small talks keeps the connection going long enough for you each to decide if you'd like to speak more with each other.

- seriously.. the other person IS as nervous as you are. Especially in a play group, these are often women who haven't been around any adults they aren't married to for months. Socialization is a skill that takes continual practice. A good way to forget how shy you feel is to help someone else who is feeling shy.

- someday, you're going to be in this group long enough to be comfortable.. you'll have met your closeknit friends, and when you get together you're going to want to cozy up to them and catch up on all the interesting things in each other's lives. And someone at that meeting is going to be new, and see you with your heads together, and feel like they have no place there. Don't do that - make a commitment to say hello to newcomers.. to ask them about their kids so they have something comfortable to talk about. Tell them how hard it was for you that first day. Welcome them.

- your children will learn to reach out by watching you do it.

Edited to Add: I almost forgot to mention the door prizes! Both Jackie and I came away with some treasure... she received gift cards for our wonderful locally owned ice cream stand (currently featuring mad delicious pumpkin pie avalanches), and for a local fun park... I don't even know how to describe it.  It's got an indoor area with arcade games and small child rides, a bowling alley, laser tag space... outside is a water slide (in the summer months), miniature golf, and this time of year, there's a haunted house.  So between the two of those, that's one nice free date night out for her and her husband.

For my part, I got a gift bag full of Mary Kay goodies - 3-in-1 cleanser and moisturizer and a set of hand care products.  Sweet!

Tuesday Tag-Along

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pagan Enough

I'm very proud to be adding the Project Pagan Enough badge to my sidebar - I am comfortable calling myself Pagan - from the Latin, "country dweller". True.  Also often meaning those of having an Earth-centered spiritual perspective, generally polytheistic, but very open about what exactly that means - also true.  At least one definition online, tongue in cheek, I hope, defines 'pagan' as 'anyone who doesn't share your religious views'... and that is also undoubtedly true, as I rather doubt I share point by point anyone religious views other than my own - and sometimes not those, either!

The point here being... I am not Wiccan, although I love much of the way in which they practice their spirituality.  I am not Druid, although their love of the Bardic path speaks to me deep in my core.  I am not Heathen, although I spent several years in Germany and have a sentimental attachment to the history of the place.  I'm not New Age (too old) nor Native American in my spirituality, even though I am a quarter Cherokee... it was never my culture and I don't feel comfortable taking it on.  The other three quarters are Irish - and I dearly love much of the Celtic path, but I can't pronounce the myths so I tend to avoid them.
But I am Pagan... just.. not so much a joiner, maybe.  I engage in spirit through the changing of the seasons, try to live an intentional life and am very far from perfect in practicing what I know is most closely aligned with my heart, but I am trying.

I'm also likely to sign the membership book at the UU congregation I've been attending for the past year - a group of people who are not all pagan..but some are... not all Christian, but some are... not all Buddhist, but some are, not all atheists but some are.  And for the life of me, I am not sure which are which - and that is what I love best. The labels, and the definitions for the labels, don't matter - the point is not to find just the right box to squash each person into.

And this is why I'm proud to post that logo - because I know my lack of specificity makes me 'not pagan enough' in the eyes of some.   And because my willingness and desire to share my religious observations with those of a diversity of spiritual perspections make me not ____ enough, either.  I've been on the receiving end of those judgements - and I know I've been on the transmitting end of them too, especially when it comes to Christian views (I carried a heavy burden of hurt and anger as have many, and it came out in hot accusations that were much broader than they should have been) and it's time to grow up and get over that.  Which I have for the most part - but it's always a good thing to announce your intention publicly to 'seal the deal'.

The Project Pagan Enough principles are:
  1. You are pagan enough, despite how you look, act, smell, dress, believe, or are.
  2. You recognize that others are pagan enough despite their appearance, smell, manner of dress, belief, practice, or other aspect.
  3. You recognize that you can have an academic debate on the finer points of belief or practice, but that it does not take away from someone else's level of being pagan.
  4. You welcome, befriend, and encourage others in the pagan community despite their appearance, dress, or other physical or superficial characteristic.
  5. You promise to treat members of other faiths, despite the faith, with honest-to-goodness fairness, equality, and grace, not judging them or their faith based on the actions of fringe members of their same faith.
And here are the UU Principles:
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
They sound similar, don't they?

Universal Unitarianism tends to be a religion of practice rather than belief - and while I can quickly get hung up twelve ways to Sunday on what my beliefs are, I can boldly affirm what principles I wish to model my life after - what principles I hope to pass to my children.

They may never follow my religious path, but these principles do speak nicely to my spiritual path which can cross religious lines with ease.

Currently, of my four daughters, two are Christian (one currently nonactive), and two are atheists.  And they've all learned not to argue with me when I'm setting out altar space to welcome Autumn, or arranging colored eggs weeks before Easter to commemorate Spring - because the easy answer is "You don't have to believe in the turn of the year. It happens whether you notice or not - so let's notice it and be grateful."

I don't need them to share my beliefs.  If they smile at the first hint of leaves turning, or pause to look up at the full moon, that's pagan enough.

Tarot Tuesday: TODAY - A Tarot Spread

One of my passions is Tarot - I enjoying reading Tarot, exploring decks (and owned too many of them, I think), enjoy creating interesting spreads although I don't always read with set spreads anymore.

I created this simple spread as a daily motivator... a peek at the day ahead, with an emphasis on mindfully responding to it.  After the explanation of the spread is a reading I did for myself using it.

T -  Theme of the Day
(the overall outlook, the sort of experiences that color the day as a whole)
O - Obstacles and Opportunities
(remember Obstacles are also Opportunities.  This is where you are challenged to step up)
D - Drama
(what pushes your buttons... where the emotional triggers are, positive or negative)
A - Accomplishments
(what you can expect to Achieve if you take Action.)
Y - YES!
(what comes to you - your gift from the universe you can choose to accept)

If you give this a try, let me know what you think!

TODAY - A reading
Deck: Druidcraft

T -  Theme of the Day
2 of Pentacles

This card shows a woman standing in a protected spot near the water's edge, juggling a pair of pentacles.  Overhead a solid tree grows out of the rocky soil and in the background a storm tosses a ship about.  In spite of the difficult conditions and the stormy weather, the woman has a happy, serene expression on her face and is not afraid.

This card speaks of the need to make practical choices regarding one's resources - money, possessions, physical energy.  Here is what strikes me - she is able to keep multiple balls in the air - but she's juggling 2, not 10 - her sense of safety comes from not attempting to do too much, not stretching herself too thin.  Yes, that storm is out there, but she's found her protected spot so that she can live a fun and joyful life without undue worry.

For today, I will not think in terms of what I don't have - but in how I can best use what I do have, and remember that thriftiness can be fun if you let it be!

O - Obstacles and Opportunities
Queen of Pentacles

I have to laugh - I am my own worst enemy is what this tells me.  The Queen of Pentacles is she who cares for all things practical, financial and physical.  It is her role to nurture and care for what she has.  Her job is to maintain and look after home, hearth, health.

As an obstacle, she tells me that I need to be careful about doing this - if the theme is thrift, the challenge isn't just to acquire things in a sane and efficient way - it means that caring for what you already have is the only way to experience abundance during lean times.   Today I need to put in some time cleaning and caring for my home... and the challenge comes, as it so often does, by the competing need to care for myself physically - I have RA, and the weather has turned chilly and wet and that means I'm stiff.  So I will need to be very mindful as I work, to not give in to doing nothing, but take care to rest along the way. (story of my life)

One last thought there - this deck's Queen of Pentacles has that wonderful big drum... and I think that is my Opportunity.  I can live this day to the beat of my own drum - there is no Right or Wrong other than what I choose to declare right or wrong.  So I can get through my tasks in the way that best works for me. That harks back to miss juggler in the 2 of pents, doesn't it?

D - Drama
3 of Cups

Can you hear it? "But I don't waaaannnnaaa work, I wanna hang out with my friends and plaaaay!"    The 3 of Cups shows a trio of friends toasting each other over a good meal - it is the card of comaraderie and social parties - and while it also often means having a good old boozefest, I doubt that is going to happen in my world today.  But wanting to avoid work to play instead? Oh that is my drama every single day of my life.

There is also one thing I will want to be on the lookout for.  Deanna's been having some issues with friends lately that seem to be on the way to recovery - but she has plans after school to spend some time with them (post-argument, and everyone kind of touchy), and with this card in the drama position, I may need to be prepared to have to support her if it doesn't go well.  OR it will go great and it will be the release of drama that is highlighted.  Until next time. We'll see!

A - Accomplishment
III - The Lady

Isn't she beautiful?  The Lady, the Goddess, the Mother, pregnant with possibility, surrounded by creative abundance and the harvest of own creation.

This sort of lush, full sense of abundance is what I can accomplish today by managing my resources and taking care of what I have - this speaks to the creative energy involved in living joyfully during hard times... what you can't buy, make.  Find ways to repurpose what you already have.  Be creative!

Such a positive card to show up in the 'you can do it' position gives me a great antidote to the childish desire to not do anything that smacks of work - without labor, there is no birth, but our urge to create is larger than our desire to avoid anything difficult.

I will be on the lookout today for ways I can generate creative solutions to my home maintenance concerns, and to see what can be recycled or re-purposed to minimize the amount of garbage my possessions and consumer habits create.

Y - YES!
3 of Pentacles

And this is one step forward from the 2 of Pentacles that is the theme of the day - my gift from the universe today is to get a step forward, to begin laying a solid foundation for the future.

It reminds me that the day's tasks aren't the whole project... they are a step along the way.  But also that what I do today is the foundation I can build on.

The 3 of Pents also has a lot to do with professional guidance - bringing in advice and experience from others.. here, they watch the person working but in many decks, they are consulting blueprints, books... each bringing their bit of expertise to the project.

The gift of supportive guidance - that is all those wonderful blogs in the sidebar - all these people each finding their own way, sharing tips and inspiration and support... watching over one another as we each try to create a home environment that can withstand the storms that are undoubtedly shaking the world right now.

Yes to that.  Yes.

End of the Day Update:
So, I put some time into giving the bathroom a good scrub, getting rid of empty bottles and leftover debris abandoned by my daughter and her family when they moved out.  I tossed the shower curtain into the washer, and got all the surface cleaning done except the floors.  Tomorrow, I'll clean out the medicine cabinet and closet, and mop.  Good chunk of work there.

Was there drama?  As a matter of fact, there was - Deanna and her friend were in a high state of hilarity (troubles forgiven and forgotten), and managed to spook the cat, Frankie.  Frankie forgot to obey the law of gravity and elevated quickly upward, straight into my nicely decorated autumn ornament tree.... which tipped over, very nearly impaling daughter and friend who were lazing about on the floor beneath the table where it sits (the 4 foot tree is composed of shaped metal, so this had all the makings of a gruesome horror movie scene)

Fortunately no one was badly hurt, and the friends are now truly re-bonded after noticing that each one attempted to keep the tree from landing on the other - in fact, it was that dual instinct to stop its path downward that kept it from landing on them.  Just one would have only resulted in tipping it over onto the other.

Frankie meanwhile sat across the room blankly wondering what all the commotion was and absolutely refusing to look apologetic.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's Cookin' This Week - 9/27 - 10/3

Here's my planned menu for this week - I'm making good use of my Angel Food Ministries order this month (link on the side) so I'm putting *s where I'm using part of my bounty.  Two *s mean it's something from last month's AFM box, still tucked away in the freezer:

MON 9/27: Scrambled eggs*, Blueberry Pancakes*, Sausage, Cantaloupe slices*

UPDATE: D is having a very bad day today - the sort that involved no appetite and a desire to pull the covers over her head and go to bed at 4:30 pm.  So yes we did have Breakfast For Dinner after I coaxed her to come out of her room for a little while, but modified from this relatively wholesome version to something less nutritious but more comfort foodish - fried potatoes, sausage, and a cheese omelet.  The blueberries and cantaloupe will wait for another day, when life isn't being so difficult. (No, she likes fruit just fine - she just wanted those fried potatoes and cheese a lot more)

TUE 9/28: Pork Chops*, Cole Slaw*, Green Beans*, Applesauce (homemade from Farmer's Market apples and put up in the freezer)

(UPDATE - Gloomy weather and a hectic morning and... general ho hum laziness.. has Tuesday and Wednesday's menu being flipped.  Dinner is whatever you can find tonight...pork chops tomorrow.)

WED 9/29: Cook's Night Off - fend for self

(UPDATE - rain, rain, rain and gloom - the cole slaw turned into smothered cabbage and onions to go with the chops.  Swapped out green beans for fresh pineapple chunks just because.  Honestly would have happily added a couple more veggies and done away with the pork chops - they were tough and disappointing.)

THU 9/30: Bean and Cheese Burritos*Spanish Rice, Hominy Casserole

(UPDATE - done, but minus the spanish rice... the hominy was very filling and seriously did not need more grains)

FRI 10/1: Tuna Melts, Sweet Potato Fries*, Salad

(UPDATE - never happened... D was out with friends, and I added thinsliced leftover pork and cabbage to some ramen - which was actually really good)

SAT 10/2: Broiled Steak**, Baked Potatoes*, Broccoli** and Cauliflower** with Cheese

(UPDATE - we both ate late lunches and decided to just have a grab-what-you-can dinner.)

SUN 10/3: Corn* and Potato Chowder, Rolls

(UPDATE - Had the steak tonight instead, with sweet potato fries and cheesy cauliflower.  The chowder will roll over til tomorrow.)

(posted on Menu Planning Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie)

Mmmm... Coffee!

I mentioned that I've been going through a lot of changes over the last few months - here's the one that will make everyone who knows me laugh themselves silly.... I've switched to a half-caf blend of coffee.

I love coffee . No, I LOOOVVVVVEEEE coffee - I've been known to swear I have caffeine instead of blood in my veins.  High octane, dark, rich coffee...mmm.

But it turns out that maybe my little boastful jest was a bit true - because it turned on me a few months ago, and I started feeling a racing heart beat that was no fun at all!  Off to the doctor, and home again with a list of suggestions... reducing caffeine being at the top of my list.

It felt rather like someone was saying 'You know that last vice you love and cherish?  Get rid of it and after that why even bother to go on!"


Rather than completely eliminating it, I decided to avoid the killer headaches and drama, and start easing it down... a scoop of decaf this time.... a couple next time.  And kept going until I stopped feeling the scary heart throbs.

Right now I'm at half and half and that's working for me.  The slow switch let me avoid the caffeine withdrawals and the sudden taste shift (yes, decaf does taste different!).

I have only slipped once, and the symptoms immediately returned, so now I know.

My decaf of choice is Starbucks House blend - it seems to be a very neutral blend so it plays well with whatever else I'm using.  And I do so love to try new blends, so that was important to me... because when you're breaking a bad habit, it helps a lot to make sure that whatever is lest is high quality and fun!

Kristin at Frugality in the Making is having a giveaway of gift box from Community Coffee that includes a bag of their Crescent City Blend and a travel mug.   The coffee sounds like a smooth blend and it's nice to be put onto this company, as I've never heard of them before.

Looking at their site they've been around forever - 91 years in New Orleans!   They have a really nifty savings program for overseas military members, too - APO/FPO addresses can get 4 bags free when they buy 4.   I like companies that remember the special challenges military members face.

They've also got some neat non-consumable products, like a vintage logo sign and a really sweet ceramic container for coffee that would be very helpful in storing my mixed up blends.   I may be ordering that when I can whether I win a chance to taste their coffee or not!

Here we go again

As may be obvious, summer got away from me - lots of travel on my side that kept me away from home, and some big changes - the most notable being that my adult daughter, her husband and their one year old daughter got their own place.

So now it's just me and my youngest daughter, Deanna, who is a senior in high school which means she's on the go, non-stop.  So I have now gone from feeding a herd for years, to feeding two people at most - and frequently just myself.

Other changes involve a protracted period of tiny income requiring some creativity on my part to keep meals from feeling like desperation dinners, even when that is what they are.

One thing I'm learning - I don't need to cook as much as I think I do.  We can eat well by cooking 3-4 nights a week, and dealing with the leftovers on the remaining nights, and still spend less for food than I used to.
I am still menu planning.. but a lot of things wind up pushed back because she's not going to be home and I still have enough in the fridge to keep me happily fed.

So, I do want to pick up again here - menu planning, foods we try, along with other cost saving ideas and domestic pleasures.    :) Here we go again.