Menu Planning

I am one of those folks who does menu planning. I think like home cooking it is a bit of a lost art.  Menu planning is something that takes time and if changing things up bothers you can become a bit of an albatross around your neck; creating more stress when its purpose is just the opposite.   I do menu planning for one of several reasons.

First I don’t work in town and hence don’t grocery shop but once a week.    If I plan to serve interesting well-balanced meals that I need to have everything I might need in my pantry.  My pantry is well stocked with staples: flour, sugar, can goods and a freezer with beef, pork and lamb.    Perishables like milk, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and bread constantly need to be restocked along with what we have used up since our last time at the grocery store.   Shopping with a plan helps to ensure not only do I have what I need, but  I don’t end up throwing things out because  they have spoiled from lack of use.   It also helps keep us from going crazy buying things we really don’t need or are likely to use just because there is a sale.

Second I hate leftovers.   I can’t imagine eating the same thing two days in a row.    This for me means planning how to repurpose a meal so it is not the same.   I often cut my meat in to two or three pieces before I cook it.  If we have pork roast one night,  the leftover will be split and we will have pulled pork  or Cuban sandwiches then the next possibly chili verde.   It is highly likely one night a week will be smorgasbord of leftovers.   No matter how well I try I do end up with leftovers.   Usually it is a little of this and a little of that.  Sometimes it enough for another meal and that goes into the freezer for a future no cook night.   With my leftover tidbits, not enough of anything to make a meal, but when it is all served at the same time with a new veggie for fruit salad thrown in makes a nice meal.

Lastly we like to eat a wide range of foods and have an adventuresome palate.   We are always looking for a new recipe to try.   After work if we don’t know what we are going to make with the recipe handy , we have a tendency to fall back on the same old things.  Also Montana is not the place to come if you are looking for restaurants to sneak out to feed your need for serious ethnic cuisine fix.  Good authentic ethic foods is made in the home with ingredients you horde from online shopping or trips to the cities where there are ethic neighborhoods with grocery stores that stock what you need.     Montana is the place where beef is king, but don’t be surprised to be fed elk, antelope and lamb.   Our season are too short and growing many veggies that the rest the US sees as normal is hard here , as a result it is carnivore heaven.   Meat and potatoes is the main fare here.   We enjoy a good piece of meat, but it just doesn’t have to be roasted or broiled.   It can be wrapped in the spices of the world and served in ways that meat  is a piece of the total menu, not the over running piece of whole meal. Some nights we even do a meatless meal.

Menu planning is a Sunday evening chore for us.   RangerSir and I sit around and talk about what we are hungry for.   Possibly what one us has an urge to make.   Once that is decided the plan mode kicks in,  where we suggest what we might do with the other parts of the cut of meat if we make x or y.   We spend some time on our Kindles surfing the net for something that looks good and printing off recipes.   Once done we stack them in to make order, make notes about sides.   Look at the ingredients list and compare it to what we have on hand.   Monday night is shopping night, and we eat one of those frozen meals we have on hand.   The rest of the week we work our way through the printed out recipes, sometimes shuffling them base on time and preference.   Occasionally things really change up and the roast that was supposed to make three meals only makes two then we move in to full comfort food mode, making a simple soup, burgers or dinner salad with what we have on hand.

Menu planning isn’t for everyone or every family, but if you have thought you might want to try it, I hope you will give it a shot.   Like  every other kind of planner, customize it up and get it to work for you, not the other way around.

Relaxing Seaside

We recently returned from a trip to the Oregon coast.    We love the ocean and in an ideal world we would retire in the NW or the NE walking distance to the ocean.  This trip was part vacation and part retirement exploration. It was the first time in nearly 35 years that we went on a true vacation.   By true vacation I mean a trip away from home that we were not planning on visiting friends or family.   We were taking time away just for ourselves, and think about what might be next  for us.

It was a relaxing time.   We had no work pulling at us.  We took no computers and set our smart phones to take no business calls or download any work emails.   We were off line.   There was no one we had to see or place we had to be.   It was vacation time no excuses made.

I woke everyday mountain time and was the first one on the beach with the dog.    It was solitude at its best.  The two of us started every day walking miles along the surf.     Each day RangerSir and I would have breakfast at the little house we rented and decided what we wanted to do that day.   The weather was iffy and so it was a day by day event.   We spent part of each day out exploring the area and eating lunch somewhere differently each day.  In five days we had five different chowders.   We poked around  towns along the Oregon coast looking at what they had to offer and how they might fit with our retirement plans.   We always found ourselves back at the beach two or three more times daily besides my morning walk.  We planned our days around the tides.  We could not get enough time seaside.

One of the things we did was kite flying.   Neither of us had done it since we were kids.  The kinds of kites we flew were the paper kites with the wooden crosses and tails made of rags.    The area of  Oregon we were at  has lots of coastal winds. We splurged and bought a kite at the local kite store, nothing fancy, mind you.  We had no idea what to expect, so we did not go crazy, though the store had hundreds to choose from of many colors and designs.   Our new kite was a modern contraption made with ripstop nylon and a built in tail.   Our modern-style kite far exceeded our expectations.  Kite flying was one of those things that we only give ourselves permission to do when on holiday.   We live in an area of Montana with plenty of winds and even more open spaces, so you will likely find us flying our Oregon coast kite again in Montana. We won’t wait so long to fly a kite again.

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Life Truely Is What You Make of It

I work for a small  nonprofit and their finances are an open book.   The writing has been on the wall for some time, that it was highly likely that my hours would be cut.   This week it happened.   I am now working three-quarter time.   In spite of it all when it finally happened it sucked, at least it did for  a bit.   I am the age where I am working for retirement and loosing 25% of your income, well that isn’t good.

Now none of this was under my control.   Life was happening this way and nothing I was going to do could change this.   After sleeping on this for a couple of days I found one of my driving principles in life that I had somehow lost during all of this again.   Here it is: You can not change much of what happens in your life.   You can’t make someone like you, give you a job, buy your stuff or be happy.   The only thing you can control is how you react to life.

I like who I work for and I find my job/work interesting and satisfying.   I am lucky that even working 3/4 time I can meet all my financial obligations.   So bottom line unless I want to I don’t have to go out and find another job.   This change did mean though that I am going to likely need to postpone my target retirement date.  Woe is me.   Or maybe not.

Here lies my moment of enlightenment.  I was not suffering from a work cutback; I retired early.   Ok,  the caveat is that  I am  a part-time retiree, not full-time.   That may not sound so good, but listen to this and tell me if it does not sound pretty darn good.   I no longer work eight-hour days.    I work 7.5 hour days.    I no longer work five days a week.   I have every Friday off.   I have time for the lunch-time yoga on Monday.   I can take off on Friday and get things done that used take up my weekend.    I have time to cultivate friendships that I put on the back burner.   I have more time to cook because I  love to.   I have time to volunteer more.    I have time to spend being creative in my studio space.    I have time to make gifts for Christmas.    I feel like blogging, because I am no longer mentally spent at the end of the day. I have more time to bike, hike, read and anything else I decide to do.   I gained time every day and  have a day just to myself every seven days.   This is the first of many retiree Fridays.

Now what was that about a job cutback?

 

 

 

 

And You Wonder Why- Shithead Dog Owners

I tried to think of some other title for this posting, but somehow this seem to be the only thing that fit. I apologize if I have offended you, but I really think it is the best I can do.

I just returned from a week long holiday.    For the first time ever we took our dog rather than board him.   It was an enlightening experience.   The add on fees for places to bring your dog ran the whole gamut, from just a little extra to fees that altered what we would do and where we would go.   I could understand this after all my dog is not perfect, no far from it, but I do think I am a responsible pet owner.  I did wonder why there were not add on fees for kids because I suspect that they can do as much damage as some dogs and there are many more of them that travel.

My dog is a house dog and yes he his allowed on the furniture (track dirt that is in his toes).   He barks at folks who walk by our car and when we are home barks at strangers who pull in the drive.   That is the downside.   The upside is he sleeps in a crate, and goes in there when we are away.   He is low to the ground and stands by the door to be dried off and paws cleaned when it is damp out.   He doesn’t bark when left home alone in the crate.   That is the upside.

Having never traveled with a dog before I spent some dough decking him out to make traveling with him easier.   The first thing I got him was a travel crate.   I had planned to collapse his home crate and take it along until I saw the travel crate, then I knew he did not care but I had to have one for this week on the road. It was lots like the collapsing lawn chairs with the bags you sling over your shoulder.  Of course we put his wool blanket from home in it. What was so interesting is that in the evening our dog heads to his crate long before we head to bed and with this one we found the same to be true when we were on the road.  He quickly figured out it was his safe place just like home.  It was a safe consistent place that he knew, no matter if it was a hotel on the road for a night or a house for the week.   Thousands of people will argue against crates and I will continue to argue that it is like a den that canine in the wild seek out.   You are feeding your domestic dog’s wild side.

It folds up like lawn chairs and works great if your dog is used to being crated. If your dog hasn’t already been trained to be in a crate I am sure they would rip their way out in 10 minutes tops.

I also decked myself out with a poop gather for walks since I did not do it at home since he had nearly 25 acres and he choose to do it out of what would be considered the lawn here at home.  One of the advantages of having a country dog. My contraption hooked on the dog leash, dispensed bags and even had a pouch to hold the full nasty until I got to a place to throw them out.    Nothing I hate worse than seeing dog poo that has not been picked up.    (Now you understand my blog title).   I know my dog his healthy and even though picking up dog poo is not my idea of a nice time, I know he is vaccinated, healthy and does not have worms or other intestinal nasties.   I can’t same the same for anyone who is so ignorant they don’t think that they have to pick up after their dog.   If they are that stupid about that simple responsibility, who knows how much more stupid they are about responsibilities that cost money like veterinary care. I was absolutely flabbergasted that the hotel and other places furnished bags and special waste cans and still people were so stupid and lazy as to not pick up after they dogs.   RangerSir was sure I was going to get decked each time a dog owner would walk away from a pile and I would call after them and say hey there are bags there pick up after your dog.    Stupid, lazy dog owners allowed their dogs to poop everywhere and I suddenly knew why the fees…at least most children are potty trained.   Children must toilet train themselves , because obviously if they had to depend on their parents many would never learn if devoted dog owners are any indication.

Now how stupid or lazy can you be? I sure found out on this trip.

It worked out well taking the dog along.   He went with us many times and stayed home in his crate when we didn’t want to take him along, no different than home.    We included him on the daily walks on the beach and we left him home when we explored towns.   He spent his day sitting between the seats watching where we were going in the rig.   When he got tired of that he would curl up and sleep until we got to our  destination. It was a vacation for him and us.   I would repeat taking a dog a long, it worked great for us, but was an eye opener as well.

 

If I put a basket on my bike does that make me Miss Gulch?

I have been pimping out my bike, in what I think of as a functional way.   I am sure hard core bicyclists would have fits what I am doing to my bike, but too darn bad.   I am not going to buy a bunch of bikes for every different function I might participate in. I want my one bike to serve all my needs and functions.   I have a mountain hybrid bike that I can use for hard pack trail riding, but also use to ride over to pick up the mail or make egg deliveries to the neighbors on  the gravel roads around here with a little surface riding.      So far it has been working for every where I want to ride.

Using my bike this way I wanted a basket. for things that I find myself toting around.   After months of buying and returning rear bike racks everyone promised would work and did not, I finally found a bike rack that works on my extra small woman’s frame.   It was my first step to getting a bike basket to make it easier to haul jazz around. .   Now I have found a bike basket that I can take off when I don’t want it and put back on when I do need it.   I am happy as a clam.   Just this week I put three dozen eggs in it and hauled it to the neighbors.   I took a four mile trip to go fetch the mail and brought home my large parcel.   Pimped out or not I was loving it.   Then  I come home and my lovely husband tells me I look just like Miss Gulch.   LOL

 

For those who might wonder I have a petite woman’s frame with disc brakes.   I found the Bontranger back rack small disc to finally fit my bike like rear racks fit the rest of you folks bike.   My basket is a Kettler rear bike basket.

Grown Up Movie Date

Last weekend RangerSir and I went to town and did a movie date.   It is not something we do very often, because we don’t have the same taste in movies, I can not imagine sitting still for two hours, and the thrifty side of me hates the expense.     I was in the mood to splurge and it was my turn to pick.   I choose “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”   I did this for two reasons.   I like Helen Mirren and I like food.   I wasn’t expecting great things, possibly a little more of an art film bent than your standard boy/girl move.  I tend to enjoy art films, even subtitles and my little corner of Montana is definitely short on that.   This had the look of a possibility.

No doubt there is the standard “love story”, but I found so much more to enjoy.

First let me say, the movie had  the usual cliché story of nice looking young fella and gal attraction  who get together, torn apart and together in the end.   I let this all take a back seat to the wonderful acting and interaction of the adults who were in their sixties, Helen Mirren and Om Puri.   It was so great to not see the grown-ups relegated to supporting walk-on roles but in was be part of center stage and the story.   Helen did not disappoint me, and I enjoyed seeing  her work with Om Puri, who was great as well.  I loved glimpses of the beautiful scenery of France, that I am likely to never seen in person.

Though RangerSir and I were chopping away at the monster bag of popcorn in lieu of lunch, we both were wishing that there was any Indian restaurant near by to satisfy our gastronomical senses that had been aroused by the cooking and spices shown on screen.  I think that there is maybe one or two Indian restaurants in the whole state of Montana, so Indian food was only going to happen in my kitchen.   I am now wondering about adding cardamom to some things that are not considered “normal”, as it is one of my favorite spices.  After this movie I am thinking a little adventuresome uses of the collection of spices in my drawer.

My biggest disappointment was the missing subtitles.  I know most American’s hate them and this after all was an American target audience film.   There was lots of French and the native tongue of the Indian family spoken.   All of which I missed because the film maker thought it was alright to sum it up with an occasional English blurb that would give you the  gist of what was spoken.   If you don’t like them, don’t read them, but don’t leave me out by not including subtitles, and giving me a shorthand version of what was said.

When we left both, RangerSir and I, agreed it had been worth the spluge.   We had enjoyed the movie more than we had planned.   It was worthy of our time and glad we had gone. Besides that it was a date and you never get old to date, look at Helen and Om.

Peace in the Village – At Last

Every spring I get new chicks.   In the past nature has always taken her toll, that has ensured that I am not overrun with too many chickens.   This year Mother Nature had the last laugh, because I lost no chicks to infant mortality, nor did they have to go early because they were the wrong sex, nor did a single predator somehow show up to cull my flock.    No this year everyone of the 15 baby chicks I purchased was a hen, who made it to egg laying adulthood.   I suddenly had a flock of 20 chickens.

Twenty chickens is too many for a back yard flock.  I am a recreational chicken wrangler.   I want it to be at least sort of fun.   When you have twenty birds, there is too much poo, too many pounds of chicken chow ate, and just civil unrest even with over 20 acres to wander free range style.   We had reached the point where we were going to have to butcher 15 birds just to bring our flock back to a size where we could enjoy our hens.   Instead we got lucky in that our friends who raise chickens for eggs to supplement their income were in need of pullets. Late summer is really not the time you want to be ordering and starting baby chickens in Montana so getting 26-week old laying hens was perfect to them.   Problem solved for both of us.  They came over with three dog crates and went home with 10 pullets to add to their flock.  Much less stressful for us.

It is amazing what the reduction of our flock to ten has done to our flock.   They are quieter, and no longer play the role of mean girls to some of the flock.    They are much more cohesive group who all wake at the same time, travel in a single bunch and retire to the roost early as a group.   On top of that they food consumption has dropped, they are doing much more free range eating.   Lastly the coop is easier to keep clean.   Before winter sets in we will still need to cull our flock to half size, but with only five yet to go it will be a quick morning event rather than an all day ordeal.

When you only have ten chickens in your flock there can be peace in your valley.