Be Happy Anyway

Be Happy Anyway
From Brave Girls Club

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mise en Place

I am a Food Network junkie. Seriously. When I am channel surfing there are certain shows I love to watch, but when they are nowhere to be found, Food Network here I come! One of the most important things I have learned from FN is mise en place or having everything in its place. Mise en place is all about prepping food and having ready so when you are cooking you aren't running around the kitchen looking for everything. "Where's the salt? Have you seen the baking powder?" And so on.

Well, today as I was preparing the mise en place for dinner, I was thinking about how my life is slowly becoming like my mise en place.

Sausage & Rice mise en place

As many of you know, my life before moving back to Texas was chaos. We never knew when dinner was. What WAS for dinner? Where are my keys? Where are your shoes? I could go on, but you get the picture. Since moving back to Texas, things are different. My kids make their beds, get dressed and eat breakfast every morning before doing anything else. They get an hour each on the computer with extra minutes later in the day for good behavior. They have to read before tv. Lunch by noon. Snack in the afternoon. Dinner gets started cooking by 5 as long as we are home. We actually eat at home and not out. AND bedtime by 9 (ok is summer after all) with teeth brushed and heads washed.

Our schedule is not the only thing in order. My keys have their own hook. My purse has its own spot. Dirty clothes go in a hamper. Laundry gets folded and put away. Dishes get put in the dishwasher as soon as we are done with them. The dishwasher gets unloaded as soon as the heat cycle is done (unless we are sleeping.) I always know where my scissors are.

This neatness has develop out of need. Out of need to keep the kakkerlakker away.

It is my goal to keep this system up so that when I move back to my beloved house in the spring, the kids will understand the need for organization and neatness. It is a good feeling.

So I am sure some of you are wondering what the resulting meal is from the above mise en place. Well, I will share.

Last week, I made a big pot of white rice. I then put the leftovers in quart sized freezer bags for later use. The sausage was from a larger package of sausage that we had on buns last week. I cut up and froze the rest. All I had to do today was dice red and green peppers and half an onion. (I have frozen these in the past as well, but not this time.)

I added two tablespoons of oil to a heavy bottom pan and sauteed onions and then added the peppers. Before the onions were clear, I added the sausage to the pan and about half of the package of Sazon seasoning package and stirred it well. When the meat was cooked and the vegetables were well "sweated," I added the frozen rice. (Note: if you know ahead of time that you will be needing the frozen rice, stick it in the fridge so it isn't a rock.) I poured 1/4 cup water in the pan so nothing would stick (still getting used to a gas stove), and put the lid on the pot to steam the frozen rice. After 5 minutes, I stirred the rice but it was still frozen. Another 1/4 cup of water was added, the lid on and waited another 5 minutes. The rice was mostly defrosted and I began stirring everything together. (Salt & Pepper to taste.) A final 5 minutes and dinner was ready. I used this time to heat up a can of ranch style beans.

Other than the canned beans, which in the future I will make and freeze as well, everything was food that I cooked. It was completed in 30 minutes. This is the same as a pot of Zatarain's Jambalaya rice (I love their rice) but without the additives, and I control the sodium and spiciness.

Think about any one pot meal you can buy in a box and think about how you can make it yourself in the same amount of time with less preservatives and similar effort. Use your Saturday or Sunday afternoons to prepare the mise en place for these things and freeze them. This is my goal for the rest of the year.

What do you do to keep organized, not just in the kitchen, but in your home as well?

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Long Journey - Part Deux promised. Or as Paul Harvey would say, "And now, the REST of the story."

The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful except for having to stop every two hours to make Little Man use the restroom. (Mind you he would say "I don't have to go, MOM!" I finally listened to him, only for him to have an accident. Thank goodness for vinyl seats.

It was a very long drive, but I am used to driving it in one shot. However, I never drive a 20 foot truck and trailer so I misjudged how exhausting it was going to be. (I am very thankful to gummy bears, skittles, and coke.)

We, of course, hit Dallas at rush hour. This is the point where I started calculating how long it will take to make it home if I drive x-miles per hour once we get out of the city. I visualized how far it was from one city to the next since I was finally nearing my stomping grounds.
Hmmmm, I think it is about an hour to the outlet mall. from there, I believe it is 30 minutes to Waco. My mother lives at exit 300 and from there it is another 40 miles....and so on and so forth.
This mental math was both helpful and detrimental. It kept me occupied but also gave me the sense that this trip was NEVER going to end.

The one thing that was the true lifesaver was the frequent phone calls from one of my friends who eventually volunteered to meet me at exit 300 to take over driving the truck because, by that point, I had HAD IT!

You might think this is the end of my adventure, but really and truly, the adventure had just begun:

I still had to "farm" my children out to different houses so they would have decent places to stay (Thanks ABW and RAA) because my house is still rented out.

The next morning after a good night's sleep, my phone buddy and I pulled the truck and car up to RAA's house. Mind you, this house has sat empty for two years, or so I thought. Come to find out, along with her brother who had tried his hand at remodeling  and quit midstream, critters (kakerlakker for mine norske venner) had taken up residence in the "vacant" house. The grass was a foot long, and two years of debris had gathered on the driveway and backyard. The garage door wouldn't open because the ceiling had fallen in. The brother's "remodeling" left a couple of walls bare to the unprimed sheet rock and ceiling tiles lay in pieces on the floor. After seeing the house, I began questioning my decision to leave Missouri and the solid roof I had over my head, albeit a miserable existence, to come to this "I don't know what."

Mind you, I was very thankful to have any roof over my head, but I had never lived in anything like this before. All I could see was plaster, bare windows, missing trim, critter remains and a place where a big puddle of "I don't know what" had evaporated in the kitchen.What had I brought my kids to? What should I do? I truly considered turning the truck around, but my phone buddy assured me that we could make it alright and that I had made the right decision.

The next three days were spent unpacking, shopping for slippers and hardware and storage and furniture (I had no bed or anywhere to sit), hanging curtains and mini blinds, assembling furniture and cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning. (Thanks again ABW.)

But that's not the end folks!

I moved the kids into the house on day five of this adventure. We wore slippers for the first time ever because we were afraid of what we might step on. (I ordered an exterminator.) We continued to unpack boxes, boxes and more boxes. (There still unpacked boxes in the immense laundry room that will stay that way until we are in our real house.)

Since we had no cable, we watched VHS tapes and DVDs and rented from Red Box, which the kids just loved. Every night I had to convince James that it would be okay.The best thing about the whole thing was that he now had a regular bedtime, took showers without arguing and now brushes his teeth without being told. These are all things that never would have happened in our chaotic life back in Missouri.

So despite the craziness of the house we had moved into, my children had found something they had never had. They found stability.

And that folks is how Annemarie came into her own; how she gained control of her family; how she realized that she is stronger than she ever imagined.

Maybe one day I will share with you what happened on day seven - it involves a failed attempt with a plunger, a plumbers "snake" and a weekend long evacuation. But for now, I am happy to say, I am slowly finding happiness.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Long Journey - Part 1

Yes, I drove this while pulling the attached trailer with my car from Missouri to Texas.

The moment I picked up the 20 foot truck and trailer from the dealer, I was so nervous. The lanes on the Interstate seemed so narrow. I found myself drifting to the right line, so I stayed in the right lane the entire way to the apartment which made for a fun time because there are exits all along the way. The engine also didn't have a lot of pick up for such a big load so I am sure there were a lot of fingers flying my way. Hopefully, they felt badly when they saw me white knuckling it down the highway.

When I got home, I just pulled into the driveway, praying that I could pull the truck off of the trailer to go pick up my paycheck to pay for the trip back to Texas. Unfortunately, the man at the dealer put the straps on wrong and I couldn't release the straps. I called a friend and sent photos of everything and went online and tried to find away to release them. Just when I was about to figure out how to back the truck up and take it back to the dealer (20 miles away), G drives up and saves the day. (You have no idea how angry I was that HE had to save me. I know that's stupid.)

After getting the car off the trailer, I scooted up the highway (another 20 miles in different direction) to get my last paychecks. The feeling I had receiving those final envelopes was one of doubt and trepidation. Was I making the wrong decision leaving a job that provided nothing but a paycheck to go home to no job that provided NO paycheck? By that time, it was too late to turn back. So I said my goodbyes to my friends and hit the road again back to the apartment where I found G had loaded most of the garage boxes onto the van.

We spent the rest of the evening (until 10 pm) with a break for supper, packing and loading.

The following morning, the kids and I pulled the truck onto the Interstate going south only one hour late. Everyone had been to the bathroom and were warned to give a heads up long before a bathroom was needed because the 11 hour ride (turned 13 hour with the heavy truck) is not generous with the restroom stops.

I think the most challenging part of the trip had to be the close confines of the truck's cab. It touts that it seats three, but it never said comfortably.
This trip really taught my children the importance of cooperation and tolerance, something a 7 year old and a 15 year old often have very little of. In fact, this entire experience of moving back with uncertain circumstances awaiting us has been a lesson for all of us.

This could become a really long story, so I shall stop here in the middle of our road trip and invite you back tomorrow when I finish the drive and find the most interesting of accommodations at the end of our long journey.

(Are you curious??)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mean Old Playlist dot Com

What the heck, Playlist? Your player has been my background music for going on 3 years and now you go and do this??!!

My favorite player is no longer available on my blog. The link however is there if you are ever curious what makes me smile, or laugh, or cry.

I am not sure what to do now. This is the second player that has disappeared on me.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin