Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Super Supper

Every year I have a Super Bowl party and every year I try to serve something different. One year it was pizza, not creative but easy, and one year was brisket, etc. This year I decided to try my hand at Maid-Rites. Maid-Rites seem to be a local term and others call it "loose meat" sandwiches. Loose meat sounds like a really bad Ron Jeremy movie so we'll stick to calling them Maid-Rites.
Searching for a recipe for Maid-Rites gave similar results so I chose one at random. At first I thought it would be simple, brown the ground beef, throw in some onions and salt and pepper, but the recipes all called for a little more, so I took a chance and loosely (no pun intended) followed the recipes. The first problem I encountered, how much meat and what kind?  This is why I went to a local butcher shop and didn't just grab something off the shelf at a big box store. The young men at the butcher shop were very helpful but weren't afraid to look to their fellow female meat cutter when they couldn't answer all of my questions.  First up, how much meat to get? One young man said you should consider 1/4 lb per person. After he said that it made sense, most restaurants serve 1/4 lb burgers so yea, that's a good portion. Then there was the choice of meat. They had three choices of ground beef; ground chuck, ground round and ground sirloin. Which one would make good Maid-Rites? The pleasant woman suggested ground round. After looking it up I learned that ground round comes from the hind leg, which is a little leaner than the chuck, which comes from the more fatty shoulder. The ground round ended up being really good, as it was just the Goldilocks amount of fat to keep the meat from drying out.
Here is the recipe I ended up using:
3 pounds of ground round
1 1/2 C warm water
2 Tbsp french onion soup mix
1 tsp beef bouillon, or one cube
1 tsp chicken bouillon, or one cube
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar

Add the water and all of the ingredients except the meat into a crock pot and set to high.  Stir until everything is dissolved and mixed well. Then add the meat and stir well, making sure the meat is all coated.  Let cook on high for 4 hours. Stir often to prevent the meat from clumping. I think I stirred it every 30 minutes or so but it probably didn't need it that much.

The ingredients list sounded so bizarre to me when I first read it but these were the best Maid-Rites I've ever had. If you're familiar with Maid-Rites you may have tried a Cheese-Rite which is just a Maid-Rite with, wait for it, Cheez Whiz.  Melt some Cheez Whiz and put it on a bun and oh my God, it's so good.
Maybe the half-time show was lame, the commercials were boring and the Falcons blew a huge lead but the food made it worth it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Princess Pickles

It's hard to believe it's almost been 12 years since I brought Pickles home from the humane society. She was so teeny tiny when Petey and I went to rescue her from jail. When we got her we had no idea she had so many health issues but she's the best and has the biggest most loving heart. She loves everybody and I can't even imagine a life without her.
Getting back to her health issues, she has hip dysplasia, which is managed with glucosamine, and some severe allergies. She not only has environmental allergies she has food allergies. Because of these allergies she's on a medication called Apoquel, for environmental allergies, and a special diet of kangaroo and oats. Some people think this is ridiculous and that Pickles is just a "princess" and gets babied. Pickles is my best friend and I take her health very seriously so yes, I spend a lot of money on her special needs and ignore the haters.
Yesterday I ordered more food from her veterinary clinic and they informed me that they were no longer going to keep it in stock. Apparently there are less expensive alternatives that other people are choosing for their dogs with special diets. The thing with Pickles is she's tried every limited ingredient food out there and the kangaroo and oats are the only thing she will continue to eat. She started out on fish and potatoes and although her coat was extra shiny, her puppy breath turned to dead fish breath. I was actually glad she decided she no longer wanted to eat that stuff. Anywho, the news was kind of a kick to the shin because I didn't know where I was going to get the food she'll actually eat. Luckily someone told me about Chewy.com  I normally don't bother with sites like this or Barkbox, etc.  because of her allergies. I'd love to be able to get a box of treats every month and let her eat and be merry but she usually eats and blows up like a strawberry.  So Chewy.com saved my life and will also be saving me about $25 a month. Yes, I can continue to get Pickles's food and at a much lower price than the vet's. Not only that it gets dropped off on my doorstep. I ordered a bag yesterday and Fedex just dropped it off.  I'm not even sure it was a full 24 hours from when I ordered. On top of all of that I found some treats she can actually eat. They have kangaroo treats, which are like jerky and smells horrible, but she tried one and is one happy pibble.
Lucky for me, and the bank account, I didn't have enough time to browse the full selection on the site but it looks like there's a lot of ways to spoil your best friend on there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Know it all at Alison

El sol
The quest for knowledge took me to the Alison site. It boasts over 750 online courses, many which you can get a certificate or use towards a diploma. Obviously I was curious as to how good these free courses are. I figured one of the best ways to test the waters was to take a course that I would be sure to pass, Introduction to Spanish.
It was easy to sign up, and there are several easy ways to sign up for an account. If you have a google, facebook, yahoo, Hotmail or Linkedin you can use any of those accounts to sign up. If you don't you can create an account. The Intro to Spanish was posted by the Global Text Project that comes from the University of Georgia. It said it had 81,866 other students, would take 1-2 hours, study at your own pace, zero cost and you can get a certificate upon successfully completing the course.
It was broken down into six modules and even though it's free, there are ads that play before you begin each module. S'pose they have to pay the bills somehow. The modules also use Flash, so if you have a flash blocker you'll need to disable.
This was a basic course in Spanish but I found it very thorough. It gave you beginning Spanish lessons with very helpful vocabulary and most important some basic grammar rules. There was no video but there was audio with someone speaking the dialogue. Most of them used the Castilian lisp and one sounded like she was trying out to be the next WHASSSUUUUPPPPP guy in those old Budweiser commercials. She almost made the whole course worth taking.
There was a module that was supposed to teach how to type Spanish accents which I was excited about because I never know how to do that. Unfortunately none of this information worked for me. It's just easier to set up your keyboard to do the accents if you need them.
The course said I could print out a certificate upon successfully completing the course, which meant a passing grade of at least 80%.  I got a 95% because I messed up the question on putting the days of the week in order, I didn't read the part that said starting with Monday. Anywho, so I passed and went to print out my certificate but NOPE, there was no certificate. What I did get was five e-mails telling me I could print one out. Then I received another e-mail telling me that I could print out my certificate for $10. Since I know how to speak Spanish and don't need a piece of paper that tells me so I skipped that.  Unfortunately after signing up and successfully completing a course I'm now getting e-mails from Alison every day. Aside from that the first course went well.
Now if they just had a course to teach me how to like avocado and onions.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Here's to a Knowledgeable New Year

Just before the new year rolled around I came across an article that boasted how you could learn new skills in an afternoon. Of course I was curious. Who wouldn't want to learn something new and at such an accelerated pace? After the initial excitement of "something new" wore off I continued to read the article and laugh at myself for falling for such a scam. Sure you could learn any of the skills but not in ONE afternoon and not for free. Sadly this article had me hooked on the idea that I needed to learn something new and learn it RIGHT NOW.  Since none of their suggestions were going to get me there I searched for a place that would help feed the need. https://alison.com/learn/ was the answer I was looking for. This site states that it has 750 online courses in various subjects, some that you can even print out a diploma or certificate of completion when you've successfully finished the course. Some of these courses even come from prestigious schools such as Harvard and Yale. The one drawback, some of the information is old. That sounds silly because most information is old but in the age of technology it's tough to take a course using a specific software. For example, if you're using Photoshop and the material is ten years old, the info is old. Still usable but recent updates may make it difficult to follow along. Either way I'm going to attempt to work my way through some of the more interesting sounding courses. Data Analysis and Typing aren't high on the list, but I look forward to learning French and Carpentry among others. I'll keep you posted on how many diplomas I print out throughout the year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Whipping My Way into the New Year

2016 was filled with adventure and lots of fun. It's hard to sit here and think of one new thing I tried that I didn't like. Perhaps trying to brush the beagle's teeth with an electric toothbrush would land on the list of things I tried but will never attempt again, but that's about it. Hopefully 2017 will be just as adventurous and fun.
It only seems fitting to share a few of my favourite things from 2016.  First up is meringue. I had never attempted to make meringue before in my life and was completely intimidated. It looks really difficult and on top of that, people who already know how to make meringue do their utmost to make it seem like an impossible task.  You know the type, they try to make something seem incredibly difficult simply so you'll sing them praises. For all we know those people buy it at the store and pretend they made it themselves. Anywho, I'm here to tell you that as long as you have an electric mixer there's absolutely zero difficulty involved. I'm so glad I decided to not be intimidated by meringue because it turned out to be one of the most successful Christmas "cookies" I've ever made.
Here is the link to the recipe that I decided to try. I ended up having to make this twice because the first time I around I forgot to put in the powdered sugar. WHOOPS! Except it didn't make that much of a difference.  The second time around I did add more lemon though and that did make a difference. Since I wasn't sure I would even be able to make the meringue I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the rest of the materials and I bought the Cake Mate brand disposable piping bags.  I highly recommend you don't bother with them. I think a regular plastic freezer bag would have worked just as well, so maybe spring for a more reputable brand piping bag and tip. In order to put the yellow stripes on the bag I used a chopstick. I simply coated the stick in the gel colouring and drug it up the sides of the bag and it worked really well. Just a word of warning these are highly addictive. Now that I'm no longer intimidated by making meringue I'll try this same recipe with different flavours. Coconut, lime, raspberry, the possibilities are endless.

The favourite book I read this year, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. I've read a lot of very, very good books this year but this one tops anything I've read in quite awhile. I'm not going to go into too much depth on it because it presents itself in a way for you to form your own opinion. Basically it's about the study of animals and how much we don't know.  I was just discussing this book with friends the other day and one brought up the idea that maybe humans are just scared of the thought that we're not the smartest animal on the planet.
One of my favourite things I got was this Lomography Konstruktor 35 mm camera. I put it together myself! Seriously, all on my own and it actually works. Maybe 2017 will bring me my own darkroom so I can have even more fun with this. 
With only four days into the new year I haven't yet compiled a list of things I'd like to try. I know I'll be taking several fun road trips and going on lots of new adventures but as far as meringue and attempting the impossible, I'll have to wait and see what comes my way. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Things You Don't Need

A couple of years ago I decided to only buy things if I really need them. The only things I've failed in this decision are socks, books and cameras, but I really NEED them so it doesn't count. Honestly, I don't get much enjoyment out of spending money and I get way less enjoyment cleaning and dusting the junk that was purchased back when I thought I needed to spend money on crap I really didn't need. 
Last week when I went on a shopping trip, for stuff I needed, I came across these fun notepads that look like sticks of butter. A few years ago I would have actually wasted money on them. Mostly because it reminded me of my school days. In college I had to take a Design I and II class and the professors never made it clear what the actual point of the courses were. Design what and what for? So when it came time to build stuff and explain what the purpose of my "product" was I always said, "to hold sticks of butter".  Seriously, if we were going to get ridiculous assignments I was going to give ridiculous results. I always put my best effort into it but looking back I could have had a better attitude about things. Instead of being slightly judgmental towards the professors' teaching methods I should have just asked questions.  I didn't need any butter holders, I needed to be more proactive in my education.  
Something else I realised I didn't need, my Amazon Prime membership. You know what, if I can't wait five days for something to ship to me then I need more patience. Amazon Prime was really nice to have for the last two years but getting stuff in two days just made me more impatient. I used to think getting a pizza in less than 20 minutes was the living end but after eating a pizza that someone spent more time and put more effort into I realised that pizza that took 45 minutes tasted so much better.
You know what else you don't need? Negativity. Sure it sounds like a dorky thing to say but trust me, if you can remove (not literally) one negative person/thing (probably literally) from your life you'll start to see the benefits. Soon you'll stop associating with negative people and you'll find yourself surrounded by positive ones. Those positive people will help you see an entirely new world. 
Something else you don't need, plain tomato soup. Seriously, if you're not putting basil and garlic in your tomato soup you don't know what you're missing. 


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Taos, You're Too Much

After leaving the ski lodge, where no skiing was done, we headed off to Taos, New Mexico.  To say the drive was depressing would be putting it mildly and it wasn't due to the company in the car. It was the landscape around us. The woman at the lodge mentioned to us that she admired the farms of the Midwest because they were so well "groomed". It was hard to believe the land we were driving by was what they use for farming. Every where you looked you could see broken down vehicles, shacks and various other large machinery just abandoned out in the middle of, I'm guessing they call it a field. We weren't sure what was actually growing on this land and we didn't see any livestock so I had to look up what they farm in New Mexico. According to this page we can thank New Mexico for pecans and a few other crops. For being called, The Land of Enchantment, it wasn't very enchanting to look at.
On our way into Taos we drove through the Earthship Biotecture homes. They looked neat but the area surrounding the homes wasn't much to look at. All I could think was, this looks like Mars and if we opened the car windows our eyes would start popping out of our heads like on  the movie Total Recall.
--------I wrote all of that on October 12, 2016 and abandoned it. Why? Because I felt like I only had negative things to write about Taos, NM.  It wasn't as great as we had anticipated but there were a few redeeming qualities, so I'll finish it up now,---
When we first rolled into town we hit the galleries and got something for lunch.  Taos is definitely a tourist hot spot, the downtown area was bustling which kept up the illusion that this was a great place. After we managed to get some lunch, everywhere was crowded, we checked into our hotel. It was very evident that it was going to storm.  I asked the girl at check in how long storms usually lasted around there and she kind of gave me a weird look. She clearly had no knowledge of a Midwest type storm where they can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 hours. The sky gave the illusion that the storm was going to be brutal and last for hours. It lasted about 5 minutes and didn't amount to much. Taos should be renamed The Land of Illusions.  While we waited for this heavy storm to roll through we scoured every touristy magazine that they put in the hotel room to find something to do. We struck out with the downtown area so we needed to see some other stuff. We didn't see anything interesting in the magazines and it was seeming hopeless to find something to do. I grabbed my phone and got on Instagram. I searched the hashtag Taos and thank goodness for those helpful tourists that tagged their photos so we could find some places to go. We first tried out the Taos Pueblo. It was quite an adventure just to get there. A dirt road with nothing nearby it felt like we had taken a wrong turn. Once we got there it was closed for some sort of repairs. We left there and went on the hunt for the large pair of glasses. Before we left on our trip we started a board on Pinterest where we pinned things that we thought looked interesting. One of those pins was the large pair of glasses on the side of the road. We found them and much to our surprise it was a whole sculpture garden at the Bareiss Gallery. The gallery wasn't open but we had fun walking around looking at the sculptures that are outside.
Something else we had pinned was the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We had crossed it on the way into town and didn't think much of it. We figured we'd stop by on the way out of town to check it out. It was just a bridge after all. Since we couldn't find anything else in town we drove back out there and checked it out. I don't really have a fear of heights so this started out as no big deal. Then when I got nearly half way out I stopped and was ready to turn back. Amber was just starting to walk out and she couldn't figure out why I was ready to turn around already. When a large tanker truck drove by she quickly learned why I was ready to turn around. Sure I've been on bridges that shake, even when there aren't cars driving across them, but this bridge was shaking over a VERY long way down. I offered to let her stay out there and I'd head back. Surprisingly she did stay a little longer and took some pictures but we both agreed that a shaky bridge over a very long way down was an uncomfortable place to stay for too long.
Clearly we needed drinks after that experience. Lucky for us the Taos Mesa Brewing Company was just down the road on the way back to town. I ordered beer and nachos and they were both delicious. We sat outside which was very nice. Lots of people with their dogs, the setting sun and the live music was all relaxing after our tough day trying to find something interesting to do in Taos.
Sadly we both agreed that Taos wasn't our favourite place, but we gave it a shot.