Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring ----A Time For Changes

Life is one of those things that constantly changes and we have to adapt accordingly.  My job was cut in September from a full time 40 hr/week position to a part time 30 hr/week position.  I've been trying to find another position, part time or another full time position.  I've been able to survive due to having very few bills, being frugal, using coupons as much as possible, and rarely going out.  If I'd had to support myself fully it would have been impossible to have survived in our area on my pay.  Life caught up with me recently with a financial crisis causing me to accept a second job that I wouldn't have chosen before.  My youngest daughter who I would have described as the must responsible and trust worthy of my kids has chosen to walk away from a vehicle loan that I allowed her to put in my name but not before blowing the engine in it.  My ex refused to help her repair it but instead offered her assistance in getting another vehicle if she walked away from it and let me deal with it. (Is it any wonder I'm no longer married to him?)  I am now on the line financially for the unpaid payments, unpaid insurance, and future vehicle and insurance payments but also for a $2600 engine repair so the vehicle will even run.  I needed another vehicle but this vehicle was not one I would have chosen and I would never have bought something with such high monthly payments.  Fates apparently had other plans.  Word of warning - don't ever allow anybody to put anything in your name - it rarely works.  Many people warned me but I insisted my daughter would NEVER do anything like that.  How wrong I was.

My manager at the new job assured me that my only wanting 18 to 24 hours a week was acceptable yet has put me on a 40 hr/week schedule.  Putting the two jobs together that makes roughly a 70+ hr/week.  It's been suggested that I quit and find something else but that's not an option at the moment.  The fact that it is a full time position, even if it is minimum wage, may end up being a life saver if I find myself unemployed at my first job when our contract ends the end of April.  We are currently on the second extension of our last contract and this extension was only for two months.  I don't think it bodes well at the moment.  I had enrolled at a massage school to start classes in May hoping to be able to move into another field either full or part time but that's no longer an option.  Fate can be cruel but having a pity party won't help with the issues so there's no point in dwelling on it.  It is what it is and I have to deal with it.  The new job eases the huge stress I've been under financially but creates it's own stresses obviously.

Working so many hours leaves very few hours to do anything else during the week to say the least.  As my life is now changing, I have the option to either stop blogging, put the blog on hiatus, or to share my attempts to organize and survive until I find another position that better suits my life better.  I have chosen the latter.  For those of us that take our debts seriously and in the lousy economy we are currently living in I'm sure I'm not the only person that has had to take a second or possibly a third job to make ends meet.  If my sharing my struggles with learning to manage my household and other responsibilities helps somebody else then it will be worth it. 

I hope to be able to share my struggles with having to pack all my meals before I leave the house without breaking the bank.  I'm hoping there's a way to organize and keep our house clean since hiring somebody to clean isn't an option.  I refuse to believe that I won't be able to have a garden so I need to figure out how to manage that also.  Caring for the dogs is a huge concern.  I've been working this schedule for a week and already the dogs are showing they have too much energy and need to do something to wear them out before they start getting destructive. Excessive energy is a huge problem for those of us with high energy breeds like the Border Collie.  Of course there's also concerns of how to keep a relationship going between Matt and I along with maintaining a relationship with my adult children.  My son is due back from Afghanistan in two weeks and it tears me apart that I can't go out to Texas to see him when he gets back stateside.  Hopefully he'll take mercy on me and come back for a visit.
I don't want anybody to think I'm having a pity party for myself.  I've accepted it and have learned from the experience.  I'm a fighter and although I may have an occasional pity party for myself it doesn't last long.  I know that this too shall pass.  Hopefully what I learn along the way will help somebody else out who may be in a similar situation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Asian Glazed Tilapia

I'll be honest, I've never cooked fish before other then baking salmon.  I absolutely love fish so I can't explain why I haven't pan fried fish before.  Matt has always cooked it since we've been together.  Prior to that I never cooked fish because nobody in the family liked fish except for myself so I would have it when we went out to eat on occasion. 

Tonight I braved the scary world of fish cooking and I aced it.  I saw the recipe for Asian Glazed Tilapia on The Frugal Girl's Blog and thought it looked delicious so I added it to the menu for this week.  I had originally thought to substitute salmon since Aldi's lowered their salmon price but when I went shopping I stopped at Krogers first and they had tilapia on sale for almost the same price so I grabbed the fresh tilapia.  The one thing I might alter in this recipe is adding either a scallion or green onions to it.  I served it with Dole's Asian Island Salad and it was a nice light meal which I can safely say will be repeated over the summer.  This is an awesome fast recipe, which probably took me about 15 minutes and that included opening and preparing the salad.

Matt has been telling me for years about these fish tacos he had out in California and after tasting the glazed fish he said the fish tasted just like the fish in those tacos so I'm anticipating fish tacos will be appearing on the menu using this recipe too.

One word of caution regarding buying fish at the fish counter - watch the weight.  I told the guy I wanted 1 pound and didn't realize until I went to check out and saw the price that he'd actually given me 1.5 pounds.  Granted I have a piece to take to lunch tomorrow but if I didn't like leftovers this would be a waste of food - well to a degree - the dogs would have loved eating it and weren't to happy that it went into the refrigerator. 


I need a vacation just to catch up on my blogging!  So many things I want to blog about.  Since I have a few minutes here's my menus for this week.

Sunday: Potluck with friends.  Grilled rabbit was the main course (yum).  We took calico beans.

Monday: Corn beef sandwiches (leftover corn beef from Saturday) with ranch bow tie pasta salad

Tuesday:  Planned:  Chicken leg quarters, noodles, and California mix
                 Actual:  Cheese tortellini with chicken, roasted red pepper, and Alfredo sauce, California mix, and crescent rolls

Wednesday:  Asian glazed tilapia and Asian salad

Thursday:  Homemade pizza

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Things have been a bit nutty and I didn't get any blogging done this week.  Here's my menus we used for the past week.  The picture above was taken in the fall.  Our Mary Jane's Farm local group were privileged to be able to drive some antique tractors.  I apparently did a good job driving initially because he had me drive out on the dirt road instead of just in circles.  The shifting is a bit tricky on these so he did the shifting and we got to drive.

Sunday Brunch:  French Toast & bacon.
I woke up with a migraine so it was a good thing Matt had planned to cook this day.

Monday: Cube steaks, mashed potatoes, gravy, and fried corn.
This was a pure comfort food day since I was dealing with the after effects of the migraine.

Tuesday:  Italian chicken, broccoli and rice pilaf.
I put the chicken and broccoli in a roasting pan and added about 1/3 cup Italian dressing.  Baked at 350' for an hour. 

Wednesday:  Venison steaks, asparagus, and crescent rolls.

Thursday:  Taco Salad.
With the warm weather we've been having I'll be incorporating salads more.

Friday:  Dinner out.  It was my Captain's going away dinner and we were invited.  Hibachi Grill.  I had steak and lobster which was absolutely sublimely delicious.  Matt had the steak and calamari, which was equally delicious.  Neither of us have ever been to a hibachi style restaurant so it was a lot of fun and very entertaining experience.  The Captain gave me a gift card that paid for most of our meal which is why we were able to eat a little better then we would without the gift card.  It was a very nice gift for sure and much appreciated.

Saturday:  Corn beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.  I cooked this in the pressure cooker.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I love it when I can pull a meal together with random items found in my freezer or pantry.  Last night I pulled out some chicken leg quarters (bought for 25c per pound!) to thaw in the fridge.  When I got home I'd originally considered doing orange chicken but discovered when I went to grab some orange juice from the freezer that I didn't have any.  What I did notice was a bag of white sparkling wine and a bag of tomato juice.  Hmmmm - a play on chicken cacciatore came to mind.  I dumped the chicken into my clay baker, tossed in a bag of frozen broccoli, and dumped both bags of frozen liquids in.  I seasoned with salt, pepper, seasoned salt, and dried rosemary.  I flipped the chicken over about half way through and mixed up the tomato juice and wine so it blended better and then drizzled over the chicken before putting it back into the oven.  I served it up with some mashed potatoes and the last two dinner rolls I found in the back of the freezer.  The whole meal probably cost me less then $3 for everything.  There was no cost to the wine since I froze the last of a bottle that wasn't going to be finished off.  The tomato juice was leftover from a chili making so no cost there either.  I just have to remember to put these items in bags and freeze them instead of forgetting to save them.  The one thing I would recommend would be freezing in ice cube trays instead of baggies if you can and then putting into baggies so you customize the amounts easier.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Lodge LCC3 Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker
The other night was an easy meal night thankfully.  My recovery has been very slow and the continued exhaustion irritates me to say the least so easy meal planning is a blessing.  Temps dropped significant through the afternoon into the evening and Matt wasn't too excited about going out and grilling the brats.  I'd seen a recipe a while back braising brats in a crockpot.  It was too late to try using the crockpot so I winged it and decided to try it on the stovetop.

 I used one of my cast iron pans that has a hinged lid on it.  I put a touch of oil and a pat of butter in the pan and the lid.  I then placed the brats in the lid portion to brown and tosssed 1/2 an onion and 1/2 of a green pepper into the pan.  Once the onions and peppers were sauteed I took the brats and added them into the onion/pepper pan, poured about 1/2 can of beer over them, and put the lid on.  I simmered these for 20 minutes, turning about every 10 minutes.  I then took the lid off and simmered for another 10 minutes.  The brats were absolutely delicious!  We will definately be adding this recipe into our repetouire.

Side note:  I placed my bun on top of the lid and toasted it up a bit. 


Friday night's dinner was:

Pan-fried salmon
shells & cheese with truffle oil
home-canned green beans
homemade tartar sauce

I frequently get asked by people how we manage to make homemade meals like the one above on a nearly daily basis.  They claim that they're too exhausted to cook after working all day and can't figure out how we manage it.  I'll let you in on a secret - everything we make isn't totally homemade.  I knew by Friday night we'd both be tired and not into cooking anything elaborate so I chose an easy meal plan.  The salmon (wild caught) was purchased frozen at Aldi's, pulled out the night before to thaw and was quickly pan fried with some dill and lemon pepper.  I also purchased a box of shells & cheese at Aldi's to which we added a small dribble of truffle oil to boost the flavor.  Opened and heated up the green beans and we had an easy meal that took probably about 20 minutes to fix.  Deciding on what type of pizza to order usually takes us longer then this meal did to prepare.  Last night we also split up the cooking.  While I was cooking and prepping the green beans and mac & cheese, Matt cooked the salmon which took probably about 5 minutes since the fillets were thin.

It wouldn't have made sense to make an entire batch of mac & cheese for a side dish just for this meal so boxed mac & cheese can be a handy pantry item.  Depending on what it will be accompanying, there are a variety of items that can be added to pop the flavor and make it taste almost homemade.

* truffle oil - if you haven't tried truffle oil it is a huge pop of flavor and requires a very small amount to add a touch of gourmet taste

* bacon - take several pieces and chop into small slices then cook and sprinkle into the mac & cheese at the end - you might also want to sprinkle some on top

* broccoli - add about 1/2 cup chopped broccoli that's been steamed or you could add in to the pop with the pasta while the pasta is cooking (good use for leftover broccoli)

* bacon & broccoli - I'd probably cut the broccoli amount back to 1/4 so it doesn't overwhelm the bacon

* chopped green chilies - if you like spicy food add some chopped green chilies to taste

* sun-dried tomatoes - chop up a couple sun-dried tomatoes and add for color and taste

* add cheese - you can add a variety of additional cheeses such as smoked Gouda or sharp cheddar to change up the flavor of the cheese sauce

The options are endless.  The bland mac & cheese suddenly isn't so bland any more.  So rethink how you make basic things like mac & cheese and see if you can think of something to add to the dish to liven it up and make it more appealing.