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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Roof! - Almost.

This weekend tested my mechanical and general contracting skills, let alone stretched and worked muscles that I had forgotten I possessed.  My mother and grandmother recently bought a house in the next town over.  It has great bones but needs a few things to bring it into the 21st century.  This weekend I took out some baseboard heating in order to install a door directly from the garage into the main house.  Thanks to the invention of something called a Shark-Bite fitting, the average, everyday homeowner can get themselves into or out of some serious plumbing issues without the use of a torch and solder.  I was able to remove the base board and close the heating loop, and put water back through the system.  Unfortunately the spray of water from a pinhole leak stopped that project in it its tracks.  Thankfully this particular baseboard is on its own zone and in an extra room so it wasn't any big problem to leave the whole zone shut down until I can get back over there with another fitting.

I am lucky to have several generations of experienced contractors in my family, not the least of which is my father.  His knowledge base is extensive and I will often pick his brain for little things like, well anything wrong with the house or any huge project which I have decided I can tackle without the help of a professional and then realize I shouldn't have.  He is also great in assuring me that there are many things that I am perfectly capable of handling/fixing/repairing even though they scare me.  He introduced me to the Shark-Bite fitting and with them I was able to replace and repair several corroded copper pipes in my basement on the first try with no leaks.  Had that repair not worked there wouldn't have been any water at all in the house. 

A contractor has, however, been enlisted to install the new garage door since I have never attempted nor will I ever attempt to work with that huge spring which is under an enormous amount of pressure.  Electrical work which involves working in the circuit panel itself is also something that I will not attempt unless I receive additional instruction.  The very simple reason - electricity bites. 

Building projects around the farm have become old hat now.  I over-build just about everything and rarely I actually manage to get a completely level, square corner, but the projects are functional and almost always weather tight.  The roof is finally getting put on the rabbit shed.  I did not install the rafters and I am working with a lot of salvaged wood but it will be weather tight and will keep both the rabbits and the pig out of the weather this winter.  Next weekend we will finish sheathing the roof and square it up so it will be ready for metal roofing.  The forecast, budget and whether or not Little man's father gets his deer will determine whether the tar paper and metal roof will go on during the following week or wait until Thanksgiving weekend.

I might actually get my garage back before snow flies!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Meal planning Friday

I love to cook!  I would spend all day in my kitchen dirtying every bowl, dish, piece of cutlery, pot, pan, baking sheet, etc. in the quest to make the perfect meal (I might have said this once or twice before).  Unfortunately when you are working full-time and still want to spend time with your children after you get home from work, the perfect meal is not attainable every night.  Often dinner would be the last thing on my mind, neither Little man's father nor I would remember to take something out of the freezer in the morning, and then neither one of us would feel like cooking - dinner turned into yet another point of contention between the two of us.  After 30 minutes or more of thinking about what to make I would come up with something, head to the refrigerator looking for an ingredient that I knew we had three days ago, only to find it had been consumed in a snack while waiting for dinner to cook yesterday.

I set to the old, faithful, search engine and typed in 'meal planning' hoping that someone, somewhere would at least point me in the right direction to get started.  Salvation came out of that search - there are women who blog about just this type of thing - I knew there was something I liked about the blogging community.  My clicks landed me at  In addition to her strong faith and empowering woman through that faith, she publishes bi-weekly, gluten-free meal plans.  Each meal plan is accompanied by the recipes to cook all the meals therein.  This meal planning thing was going to be easier than I thought!

Needless to say I didn't go home, empty my freezer, cabinets and refrigerator of all my food and start with a monumental grocery list - although that might have been fun.  I went home and discussed it with Little man's father - if I do the planning, will you at least cook something from the weekly menu on your nights to cook dinner?  With a few grumbles and groans, he agreed to give it a shot.  Saturday morning, I inventoried the major food groups finding out what we had in the house and started to list a few basic meals that could be made with those items.  Then I thought about how to use up the left-overs; the roast chicken would make a chicken/cheddar/rice casserole or chicken and biscuits.  I quickly had a list of six meals for the following week.  I made out my grocery list with any items I was missing for those meals and then I added in a seventh - try-something-new recipe and added any missing items to the grocery list.

Getting the shopping done was only half the battle, dinner still had to be prepared each night.  Well, my internet search also yielded some pretty great tips, including some on involving your children in meal prep and clean up.  When I was single, I got tired of spending a fortune on lunch everyday so I used to cook up two family-sized meals on Sunday and parcel them out into individual lunch size containers and put them in the freezer for lunches during the week.  By the third week I had a pretty good selection of meals to take with me to work.  Meal planning involves the same kind of commitment on one of your weekend days, but it is centered around prep for the week, not necessarily cooking a week's worth of meals on Sunday while football is playing the background.

This past weeks menu looked a little bit like this:

Saturday - Pesto Pasta w/Italian Sausage, salad, garlic bread
Sunday - Roast Chicken w/oven roasted vegetables
Monday - London broil, baked potato, vegetable of choice 
Tuesday - Chicken/cheddar/rice casserole, vegetable of choice (made ahead or frozen)
Wednesday - Beef stew w/ herb and cheese biscuits (crockpot meal)
Thursday - Ham/potato/bean skillet
Friday - Parmesan chicken fingers w/ herb and blue cheese quiche, salad
Saturday - Tuna casserole, vegetable of choice (made ahead or frozen)

Sunday I made a double batch of cream of celery soup - 1/2 went into the tuna casserole which I made the same day and put into the freezer and half was put into the refrigerator for the chicken/cheddar/rice casserole.  Beef for the stew was cut up out of the roast that I bought at the grocery store and put in a separate storage bag in the freezer.  Carrots, onions, peppers, and tomatoes were cut up and placed in a covered bowl for Wednesday's stew. 

When meat is brought home from the grocery store, we now try to marinate it right away and freeze them with their sauce.  As the meat thaws it soaks up some great flavor.  Little man's father needed only wash a few potatoes and put them in the oven while finishing up chores or playing with Little man.  The meat and vegetables were started at the same time and in less than 20 minutes, a hearty, delicious and not terribly unhealthy meal was had by all .  While we were eating dinner, the rice was cooked for Tuesday's casserole.

After dinner on Tuesday, the meat for the stew was browned and added to the crockpot with the vegetables and remaining stew ingredients.  Wednesday before leaving for work, the crockpot was started.  The Parmesan chicken fingers were frozen after I made a double batch a couple of Sundays ago so we would have a quick meal option.  Quiche's can be baked ahead of time, frozen and reheated, unfortunately this didn't happen this week so the side dish for tonight's dinner will change on the fly.  Saturday, I try to have a quick and easy meal since I am usually running around trying to accomplish an entire weeks worth of chores in one day.

In the three weeks since we started planning meals for the week,  Little man's father and I haven't argued about dinner once, I have managed to follow the sales, stock up on local produce and meats when possible and have dropped my weekly grocery budget to right around $100.  This includes diapers, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, laundry detergent, etc.  This week's grocery shopping and meal planning has been sidelined by a trip to my mother's to check on an electrical problem, but tomorrow morning I will start anew.