Friday, September 20, 2013

Blogging On Hold

My grandmother was moved in to a hospice house on Tuesday.  Yesterday we were told that she's in her last 24 - 48 hours.  

I just don't have to it blog right now, so I will be back later.  Until then, I wish you all the best. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weekend Deal

I meant to post this earlier, like on the weekend, but as usual time got away from me.  So here I am on Tuesday posting about my weekend deal.

I love saving money on groceries; a good sale, great coupons, or better yet, combining the two, makes me really happy.  I just can’t stand to pay full price for something that sales that can easily be found on.  This usually involves following the sale cycles and stocking up on things we use a lot of.

I also like to keep two cup (seems to be the amount most recipes call for) packages of shredded cooked chicken in the freezer.  On really busy days sometimes that head start on dinner is all that stands between me and the temptation to order pizza.  I usually wait for the bone-in chicken breasts to go on sale and cook them in slow cooker for the frozen chicken packets. 

Last week we used up our last package of chicken, so I’ve been looking for a sale.  None of the local grocery stores had the chicken on sale last week, so I decided to check Sam’s Club (my mom added me to her membership) to see if it was a good deal to buy it in a large package.  The price on the bone-in chicken breasts didn’t rock my world, but I did come across whole chickens reduced for quick sale.  They still had two days before their sell by date and were 83 cents a pound.  Happy dance!  I bought two of the two packs and it worked out to around $4.25 per chicken. 

I cooked two of the chickens in the slow cooker with garlic, parsley, and red pepper flakes.  I shredded the meat and put two cups in freezer bags.  I love knowing I have that head start on dinner when I need it.  I froze the other two chickens whole to use later for roasted chicken dinners.  

Sometimes it really pays off to check the reduced for quick sale items.  Have you found any great grocery deals lately?  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Please Tell Me I’m Not the Only One

Doesn't he look like a sweet cat?
It seems that many of you are animal people.  That’s at least part of why I like you.  I’m hoping (because misery loves company, right?) that at least some of you will tell me I’m not the only person with a cat who carries on like a demon spat straight from the very depths of hell at the vet.

I know cats don’t care for the vet.  I get it.  Cats tend to be somewhat contrary.  They aren’t like dogs.  Our praise means little to nothing (sometimes less) to them.  If they’re unhappy they want us to know it.  I get it. 

That being said, I can’t help but think that our cat Milo is an extreme case.  We’ve found only one vet (fortunately we like her and she’s a good vet) who will see Milo and actually do anything other than quake in fear before the wrath of Milo. 

He’s terrible at the vet; he growls and hisses from the moment we walk in the door until the moment we walk out the door.  He bites and scratches.  He latches onto fingers/hands/arms with his claws and drags them to his mouth to bite.  He clamps down and doesn’t let go.  Giving Milo an injection is a four person operation; the vet to administer the injection and three of us to hold him down. 

We’ve tried various things to make his vet visits less traumatic for everyone; they plug in a Feliway diffuser hours before we come, we give him treats in the carrier, we put nice soft blankets and/or an article of clothing that I’ve worn (I’m his person) in the carrier, and we all speak in soft, soothing tones.  The vet’s office also schedules his appointments so that we spend as little time waiting as possible.  I’m not entirely sure if this is just to give Milo less time to get worked up, or if it’s also to keep from frightening other people and animals waiting in the lobby. 

Yesterday morning Milo had an appointment for a skin problem.  I took him in the nice big carrier, padded with a blanket and the t-shirt I slept in the night before.  He rode in the passenger seat with me reaching in to gently pet him on the way.  We sat in our little corner of the waiting room and were taken to the Feliway scented exam room almost immediately. 

A clear plan of action (there are probably military operations performed with less planning than goes into opening Milo’s carrier) was in place before the door to the carrier was opened because Milo has a history of coming out swinging.  Yesterday he outdid himself.  He shot out of the carrier and grabbed the nearest vet tech.  He left her with a nasty scratch on her hand that bled all over the place.  He escaped our grip twice and screamed as though we were skinning him alive when he got his shot.  Everyone in the room, except Milo, was bleeding by the time it was over.  The furniture was knocked over and there were blood spatters on the floor.  All from giving one cat a shot.

I worry about what they think of us there.  I can’t help worrying that they think we’re abusive, or at least mean, to Milo at home because he’s so hateful and angry there.  I don’t think they believe me when I tell them he’s a sweet kitty at home.  It probably helps some that our cat Howard is so good at the vet; he happily bounds out of the carrier purring and rolls over to have his belly rubbed. 

I hope Howard earns us some redemption for Milo.  I still worry, though, that they suspect us of doing horrible things to cats, or at least to Milo.  So please tell me I’m not the only one with a cat like that.  Do you have a cat who behaves that way at the vet?  Better yet, do you have a solution for dealing with a cat who behaves that way at the vet?  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Favorites - Favorite Poem

***This post is part of a new series called Friday Favorites – every Friday I will release a new Friday Favorites topic.  Participation is easy, just link up to the latest Friday Favorites post and let us know in the comments that you’re participating so we can all check out your favorites.  Next week’s Friday Favorites topic will be “your favorite thing(s) about blogging”.  ***

My favorite poem is this one by Emily Dickinson:
If I can stop one heart from breaking;
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his next again,
I shall not live in vain.
I have loved this poem from the very first time I read it as a teenager.  I’ve had an ongoing fascination with Emily Dickinson and reading about her just makes me want to read more. One of the things I love about her work is that she seems to say so much with very few words. To me, this poem is a sort of motto for living.  It sums up what I believe is a good way to try to live, and she does it in 41 words.  That’s all.  Forty-one words.  I think that’s impressive. 
I think the thought of living in vain, or trying not to live in vain, resonates with people.  We’re only given a relatively short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, and none of it is guaranteed, so I think it helps to be aware of how we want to live.  It makes me think about things like whether or not anything that I do will help to make the world a little better place. 
I think this poem also speaks to the value of small things; stopping one heart from breaking, or easing the aching of one life.  To me, it says that helping just one person matters.  Small things matter.  We don’t have to solve the world’s problems not to live in vain, we just have to help in some small way.
I also think the poem is the perfect poem for people involved in animal rescue, which if you’ve visited this blog much, you know is important to me.  The photo is of a brick that is part of the walk-way to our no-kill shelter.  I asked for donations to them for my 30th birthday, and my Mother-In-Law purchased a brick for me to have engraved.  I chose parts of this poem because I love it so much and because I thought it was appropriate for animal rescue.
Animal rescue is about easing the aching of lives, and sometimes it’s one fur kid’s life at a time.  The part about helping one fainting robin unto his nest again really resonates with me when it comes to animal rescue because so much of it is helping on fur kid at a time into a better life.   Sometimes you have to focus really hard on the one life that is being saved because you’ll go crazy if you think about the failures.  I think this poem says that’s alright. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pampered Chef Garlic Press Review

***I’ve decided to start reviewing some products that I really like and think others might like too, and the ones that I wish someone had warned me away from.  Please note that I am not any kind of affiliate for these products.  Any links provided are just for your convenience.  ***
I ended up with my Pampered Chef garlic press about two years ago and it quickly became one of my favorite kitchen tools.  We love, love, love garlic, so any tool that makes cooking with garlic easier is a definite win.  The garlic press is priced at $16.50 on the Pampered Chef website, which is usually more than I want to pay for a tool that only does one job, but with as much garlic as we consume it gets a lot of use. 
The garlic press is dishwasher safe, which is a huge plus.  Hubby and I aren’t fans of hand washing dishes when we’re going to be running the dishwasher anyway.  I never did figure out whether or not the tool (it looks like the My Little Pony brushes) that came with it to scoop the skin out is dishwasher safe, so I don’t use it.  It’s a pain to clean and I don’t want to put it in the dishwasher without knowing for sure that it’s okay to.  I usually have to chop vegetables as well when I’m using garlic, so I just use the flat side of the knife blade to scrape the garlic off of the press and the point to scoop out the skin.   It may not be ideal, but it works for me.
I know some people argue that a garlic press isn’t a kitchen tool you need, and they’re right – you can peel and chop your garlic.  But, I do think it makes cooking faster and easier for me.  I do a lot of dinners in the slow cooker, and it makes the morning slow cooker prep before work go a little faster, and I don’t have to worry about my hands smelling like garlic all day long.  So, even in a small kitchen, I feel like the garlic press earns its keep and its drawer space. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9-11: Twelve Years Later – A Dozen Reasons to Thank Our Emergency Services Workers

Can you believe it has been 12 years since the 9-11 attacks?  Time certainly marches on.  Once again, I debated whether or not to post anything today.  It seems that so much has already been said, by people far more eloquent than I am.  But then I thought about everything the emergency services workers did that day. 
It seems that every year on this day we think about the first responders and all that they did and sacrificed, and then we move on to taking them for granted for another 364 days.  So here are a dozen reasons to thank our emergency services workers, including firefighters, police officers, 911 operators, paramedics, and EMTs, every day:
1.        They’re always there when we need them.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday or the middle of the night.  They are there, and they will come when needed.

2.       911 operators sort through frantically delivered, sometimes woefully inaccurate and inadequate information to send the help we need.  And they remain calm while doing this.

3.       Firefighters will go into a place that everyone else is leaving.  When everyone’s instinct is to run, they go in to save lives and control damage.

4.       Paramedics and EMTs go straight into bad situations to help injured people, once again when most people want to leave, they go in to help.

5.       Police officers deal with the side of human nature that many of us prefer not to think about.  They see it up close and personal, and they make things a little safer for the rest of us.

6.       Often, these people continue to do their jobs, and go above and beyond, in spite of budget cuts that make their jobs harder.

7.       Many of us know what to expect on a given day at work and are offered a certain amount of safety.  They aren’t, but they still do the job.

8.       Some emergency services workers are volunteers.  They’re doing these things with no pay, on their time off.  Enough said.

9.       Even the paid ones aren’t in it for the money.  Google salaries for some of these positions to see what I mean.

10.   They will deal with something truly horrible, and when most of us would want to hide under the bed with some comfort food, they go back and do it all again tomorrow.

11.   Studies show that because of the schedules they work and the things they deal with, they are far more likely to develop stress related issues, including PTSD.  Yet they still do the job.

12.   They are very rarely thanked or recognized for any of this. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Garlic & Herb Cream Cheese

This has become a favorite at our house.  Bagels are a breakfast staple for weekday mornings, and this garlic and herb cream cheese makes them a little more interesting than just butter or plain cream cheese, but doesn't take any more time in the mornings if I mix a batch up on Sunday night.

Garlic & Herb Cream Cheese

8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ tsp parsley
1 garlic clove, pressed or chopped
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp onion powder

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Enjoy on bagels or toast.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When the Author Comments On Your Less Than Glowing Review

I don’t review very many books at all.  I read a lot of books and I will almost always rate them on goodreads, but I rarely take the time to write any sort of review.  Part of it is laziness on my part.  I read the book, I rate the book (and make sure it’s added to my books read this year on goodreads because, yes, it matters more than it should to me to reach my goal), and then usually move on to the next book.  I also don’t think reviewing books is necessarily my gift; other people write much more interesting reviews than I typically do, so I usually leave it to them.  Persistence is my gift, so if I read a book that I just know a friend or family member will love I usually just hound them until they read it in an effort to make me go away quietly.  In my defense, they usually like the book.

All of that being said, once in a while I do review a book on goodreads.  There’s not much of a system to my deciding which ones to actually write a review of, but it’s usually for a book that wasn’t what I expected (good or bad) or a case where I thought my rating needed an explanation of sorts. 

Last year hubby and I were in a cookbook book club, and I reviewed a few of the cookbooks we used.  I gave one of them a less than stellar review. 

Now, I’d like to take a moment to throw something out there about books read in any sort of book club.  I’ve noticed that the reactions to the books tend to be strong.  It makes sense to me.  You have a group of people choosing books for the whole group to read; not everyone is going to love every book they read, especially if it’s a book they might not have chosen on their own.  The other side of that is that sometimes you come across an unexpected treasure – a book you never would have picked up on your own, but one that you absolutely love.  So it makes sense to me that the ratings for book club books might not be very middle of the road since it can easily be a book your felt forced to read, or a book you never would have found, but totally rocked your world.  Has anyone else noticed this?

Back to my less than stellar review.  I gave the book two stars, which on goodreads means “it was okay”.  Here’s my review:

I bought this cookbook because it was the one being used for a cookbook book club, otherwise, I probably wouldn't have bought it. I thought it was somewhat over-priced in the grand scheme of available cookbooks. All of the recipes that I made, or tried, were very, very good. However, I have two major issues with this cookbook.

The first problem is with the book itself; it was not designed as a cookbook, it was designed more along the lines of a coffee table book. It's very pretty to look at, but an absolute pain to use. The book doesn't lay flat and the shape is very awkward. It's extremely difficult to follow a recipe when the cookbook won't stay open. I finally ended up copying the last recipe I made, just to have an easier time using it. It seems silly to have to make a copy for yourself from a cookbook you own. There are also some typos in the book. I know that's not a huge deal, but it's not something I was expecting to find in an over-priced cookbook.

The second problem is with the actual recipes; while they are delicious, they're not always very practical for cooking at home. Some of the quantities are basically insane to make at home. It seems like they just put the cafe recipes in the book and didn't reduce or adapt them for cooking at home, even though it's sold as a home cookbook. Sure, sometimes you do need a dish or dessert to feed 10 - 20 people, but not that often. Quite a few of the recipes in this cookbook leave you with much more food than you can possibly consume at home. They don't really seem to lend themselves to being halved either. I also thought that the cookbook doesn't always take into consideration what is available in the average home kitchen; quite a few of the recipes call for unusual sized pans, a standing mixer, food processor, etc. It just seems like some of the kitchen tools it assumed you will have aren't necessarily standard.

Overall, I can't say that this will ever become one of my "go-to" cookbooks. It's just not a good format for someone who actually intends to use it, not just decorate with it, and for the money, there are definitely better cookbooks available.

And now, here’s the author’s recently posted comment:

Thanks for your comments Danielle! The book is a very creative book, where many of the recipes were pulled from my restaurant days. ALthough, I am not the only book that has large quantity recipes. Ina Garten and The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook are very similar her recipes.
I agree totally on the cover of the book, but people also love the look of the book. I am working on changing the cover.
Thank you so much for your comments, they all help!!!

I’ll be honest, I thought it was a little weird.  I don’t think my review was scathing.  It was my honest opinion, and I tried to explain why I didn’t like the cookbook instead of just saying I think there are better cookbooks out there.  I didn’t post anything at all on the author’s website.  I just reviewed the book on goodreads. 

I don’t think the author’s comment is really that bad, but I don’t think it’s entirely appropriate either.  Maybe it’s just me, but it has the feel of having been fired off in a hurry, which is usually a bad idea.  It also seems like it’s aimed at changing my mind when she points to another cookbook that has something I said I didn’t like about hers.  Furthermore, my review was for a finished cookbook, not an advance copy or any sort of pre-release, so I don’t think the part about changing the cover was especially relevant.  That’s how it was published, so I think she needs to deal with the fact that at least one reviewer didn’t like it.

I won’t say that the author’s comment has put me off buying her next cookbook because I probably wouldn’t have anyway based on the first one, but it definitely didn’t make me likely to re-think that decision.  I stand by my review.

I’m just not sure how appropriate it is for authors to comment on reviews like that.  I’ve heard of authors not reading reviews of their work for fear of responding inappropriately.  I can’t help wondering if that’s a better choice than responding even a little defensively to a less than glowing review. 

So what are your thoughts on the author commenting on a less than glowing review?  Have you had an author comment on any of your reviews?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Favorites – My Favorite Things About the End of Summer

***This is the first post in a new series called Friday Favorites – every Friday I will release a new Friday Favorites topic.  Participation is easy, just link up to the latest Friday Favorites post and let us know in the comments that you’re participating so we can all check out your favorites.  Next week’s Friday Favorites topic will be “your favorite poem”.  ***
I can’t believe how fast the year is flying by.  It seems like we were just taking down the Christmas tree and now Labor Day weekend has come and gone.
Labor Day seems to mark the end of summer, though according to the calendar, fall doesn’t begin until September 22nd this year.  So it seems like the next couple of weeks mark the tail end of summer.  I’ve always loved the very end of summer. 
I love how the nights and mornings are already a little cooler.  The days are still warm, even a little hot some days, but the nights and early mornings are cooler.  The air conditioner doesn’t run as much, and there’s a peaceful silence late at night and early in the morning.
I’m enjoying harvesting the very last of the garden produce.  In our garden, we’re down to only cherry tomatoes, but they are still going strong, and are still sweet and delicious.  It’s interesting to see how much longer they will last.  
There’s also an anticipation in the air.  Fall is coming and seems to be on everyone’s mind. Some might argue that anticipating fall isn’t part of summer’s end, but I think it is.  There’s a rhythm to swapping out the summer clothes for warmer pieces and breaking out the soup and stew recipes in anticipation of using them soon.  Sometimes looking forward to something is better than the event itself.  The end of summer offers that for fall. 
The end of summer offers the ritual of the last time wearing certain clothes and shoes this year, or the last trip to the pool, or last vacation this year.  Some things are made so much sweeter when there’s a finite time for enjoying them – watching the tan lines fade and putting away the breezy summer dresses until next year.  I love to savor the very end of summer and watch it slowly turn into the beginning of fall. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Announcing Friday Favorites

In an effort to get on something resembling a somewhat regular blogging schedule I’ve decided to give Friday Favorites a try.  I realize it isn’t Friday, but the idea struck so I’m going with it.  Every Friday from now on I will write a post on a Friday Favorites topic and release next week’s Friday Favorites topic. 
Participating is easy, just link up to the latest Friday Favorites post and let us know in the comments that you’re participating so we can all check out your Friday Favorites.  Why not end the week on a positive note?
I plan to try it for about a month and see how it goes.  That’s one of my favorite things about blogging, trying out new ideas to see what does and doesn’t work for me. 
So, without further ado, tomorrow’s Friday Favorites topic is “your favorite things about the end of summer”. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Simple Solution Review

***I’ve decided to start reviewing some products that I really like and think others might like too, and the ones that I wish someone had warned me away from.  Please note that I am not any kind of affiliate for these products.  Any links provided are just for your convenience. ***

This one was recommended by one of my pet transport friends, and it has become one of my favorite cleaning products. 

I love pets; we have five, we occasionally foster, and I sometimes do rescue transports.  The only bad side to all of that are the occasional pet messes.  For the most part I’ve been really lucky with the transport pets; they’re almost always very well behaved and very rarely make any kind of mess in the car. But accidents happen. 

When I was transporting this adorable little puppy his little bladder just couldn’t hold it until the next stop.  Unfortunately it soaked through the blanket I had on the seat. 

I cleaned the car seat as soon as I got home with a mixture of Lysol and water.  I thought everything was fine until the next afternoon when I got in the car and caught a faint whiff of urine.  I cleaned it again with Lysol, and again thought everything was fine.  The next few days were cooler and I didn’t smell anything.  Then we had a warmer day and the smell was definitely back. 

The next time around I tried straight vinegar.  I thought surely that since I was now driving the vinegar-mobile the urine smell would be gone.  Wrong.  The next warm afternoon yielded a urine smell with some vinegar undertones. That’s not a good smell!  Not good at all.

At that point I decided to check with some of my fellow transporters thinking that surely someone would have found something that works.  The two most popular solutions were cleaning the car with a carpet cleaner and Simple Solution.

Renting a carpet cleaner is time consuming and gets to be a little expensive, so I decided to try Simple Solution first.  I can’t remember how much the bottle cost, but I remember it being fairly comparable to (maybe a little cheaper than?) Nature’s Miracle (which I think is useless). 

The instructions were to spray the Simple Solution, let it sit, and then blot it up.  It didn’t even call for hard scrubbing!  Once again, the urine smell seemed to be gone, though by this time I was nervous.  The next warm afternoon came – and no urine smell.  Not even the faintest little whiff!

The Simple Solution worked!  It has been months, and we’ve had some really hot days, but the smell never came back.  We’ve started using Simple Solution for any pet related cleaning and it works great.  I’ve told several friends about it, and they’ve all said it works great for all of their pet messes as well. 

The spray has a very light, pleasant scent.  It reminds me of clean laundry, which is one of the things I like about it.  It doesn’t have that sickly sweet air freshener scent, though there’s definitely a scent.  The scent isn’t strong, it doesn’t linger, and it definitely works. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer Vegetable Pizza

This pizza is quick, easy, delicious, and a great way to make use of the summer produce.  You can play with the measurements and ingredients to make use of whatever cheese and vegetables you happen to have on hand.  We seem to use a slightly different combination of vegetables (depending on what we have on hand) each time, but it’s always really good.

1 refrigerated pre-made pizza crust
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 – 4 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped (we use 4 because we love garlic)
Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
Squash and/or Zucchini, sliced
Tomatoes, sliced
Shredded Cheese

Roll the crust out on a bar pan or cookie sheet.  If you’re using a well seasoned pan you don’t need to oil the bottom, if not you’ll want to oil the bottom of your pan.  Mix garlic cloves into olive oil and spread over crust.  Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning and Parsley.  

Bake at 350 for 8 – 11 minutes.

Sprinkle cheese over the crust.  It’s really good if you use a mix of cheddar and mozzarella.  Then layer on your vegetables.  Sprinkle the veggies with Italian Seasoning, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Layer on some more cheese. 

Bake at 350 for 15 – 18 minutes.