Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stand-Alone Mashed Potatoes

I received some requests for my stand-alone mashed potatoes, here they are. They are my go-to side with BBQ. They fit the theme well because they taste good just as they are. They don't need gravy or any other topping. You just eat them as is. They are not an exact science, so I will give you the bones of the recipe and you can take it from there.

You will need:

  • 6 or so potatoes, peeled and diced. If you dice your potatoes they will cook through on the stove much faster.
  • cheese
  • milk
  • butter (real butter, not margarine)
  • sour cream
  • salt and pepper

Boil your potatoes until cooked through. Drain and toss them in your mixer. Your mixer will give you smooth, creamy mashed potatoes. I let mine mix before I have even added anything. Then I take anywhere between a half stick to a full stick of butter and melt it in the microwave (I said these were good, not good for you). Pour the butter into your turning mixer. Then add about a half a cup of cheese. The cheese should melt quickly with the hot potatoes. Then, still with your mixer turner, add milk, a little bit at a time until the potatoes fluff up. Finally, I add about a tablespoon of sour cream. You can leave out the sour cream if you feel so inclined, but it helps the creaminess. Salt and pepper the potatoes. I like to use a little bit of red pepper too. The result should be fluffy, no lump mashed potatoes that are ready to be eaten without gravy!

So random tips:
It is important to add the milk after the cheese, so the potatoes will be hot enough to melt the cheese almost instantly.
Allowing the mixer to turn the whole time you are preparing them will allow the potatoes to be lump free.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pringles Can Turned Cute Spaghetti Storage

It always seems like every time I make spaghetti, I have some let over. That half package of spaghetti then floats around my pantry until someone (the child) knocks it over and we end up with crunchy noodle mess. Most containers I have tried to store my spaghetti are too short and just make it harder to keep out of the way, except one. Of all things, a Pringles can fits noodles perfectly.
Storing noodles in a Pringles can is incredible! They fit and the can is slender enough to not be a nuisance in your pantry.
You will need a original flavor Pringles can. You can probably use other flavors, but I figure that using the one with the least amount of flavor is probably the best way to keep your noodles from being flavored in any way. Next rinse out your Pringles can. Rinse it with warm water for NO MORE than a minute. If you keep it under a minute the container will have no problems holding together.
Let the container air dry over night. Take a piece of 12x12 scrapbook paper and Mod Podge, wrap it around the can, securing it as you go. Trim off the excess. Allow to dry completely.
After your container is dry, simply add your noodles for perfect storage. I have put spaghetti noodles and linguine in these and they have all fit wonderfully with no change to the noodles whatsoever.

How do you store noodles?

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Friday, February 24, 2012

Speak Important Things- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This review of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson may contain some spoilers. Also know that Speak contains some sensitive subject material which may be briefly mentioned in this review. This is strictly of review of the book, not the movie which I have not seen. 

1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have time to get to your class before the bell rings.
3. The dress code will be enforced.
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.
5. Our football team will win the championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with you in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly."

Speak is a book of pain, suffering and healing. Melissa, the main character and narrator, is a freshman in high school, who has became on outcast before the school year even starts. It is hinted at that she used to have many friends until a party at the end of the summer, a party at which Melissa calls the cops and gets many of the kids busted. Calling the cops on the kids at the party turns Melissa into a social pariah, she is alone with nobody to turn to. With nobody to tell the real reason why she called the cops, Melissa becomes silent. 

Melissa becomes increasingly depressed and begins to fail all her classes. All of her classes but art, which she uses to express her frustration, sadness and shame. 

Although what really happened at the end of summer party is not revealed until the end of the book, you understand something has happened. Something drastic to change her whole personality around so quickly. Normally in fiction, when I come across a teenage character that is particularly filled with angst I put down the book. Not so with this book. From the very beginning of this story there is clearly some underlying trauma. Something happened to break her and now we are watching as she puts herself back together. We aren't watching angst that comes from having to take out the garbage. Rather, this is angst that comes from having life as you know it ripped away from you. 

Speak is well written. It is mostly an inner monologue, with very little dialogue and development of other characters. We see the world from inside Melissa, inside her trauma. It is, in some aspects, kind of disturbing because of the heavy subject matter. Being written from the perspective of a teenager I believe it is easy for young adults to relate to. It is important subject matter, even if it is not comfortable. 

I really liked this book. It was funny in parts and easy to relate to. I understood her lack of enthusiasm for high school and the descriptions of the cliches at school was right on the money. Even though I really liked this book, it is not one I would read again and again. As important as I feel it is, it is kind of dark, a read that makes you serious and brings you down a bit, even as it uplifts you. 

I highly recommend this book, with some caution. It is dramatic. It can be intense, but it is important. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WoW: Capturing everyday moments

Can you believe it's Wednesday again? My husband was off work Monday for the holiday, so I'm a day behind...

How did it go last week, being a more patient driver? I actually didn't drive all that much last week, so it wasn't too difficult. I did drive more than usual with my husband as our pilot though, so I transferred my extra ooomph of patience to him instead of other drivers. :) It's so nice to reach our destination without already being aggravated. Save the aggravation for the places with poor customer service ;)

This week, I want to encourage you all to capture the everyday moments.
[random grammar note]

everyday is an adjective, but if you are talking about doing something daily, you do it every day (two words). So, capture everyday moments by taking a picture every day. :)

[end grammar nerdiness]
We know that our amazing host, Debra, is an fantastic photographer. Me, on the other hand... not so much. The pictures that I take usually end up okay, but I am teeeerrible about remembering to take pictures. If we hadn't taken our best (and almost only) vacations with Debra and her family, we might not have any photographic proof. Seriously.

One of my recent goals has been to take more pictures, and I've done pretty well. And, you know what? I love it. I love having photos of the humdrum things that definitely don't seem like Kodak moments.

A friend of mine always says that if there isn't a picture, it didn't happen -- it's not part of family (or other) history if there aren't photos. I find that to be absolutely true in my life, and so sad that the 95% of my life that is completely ordinary (and yet always changing) has NO moment in our family history.

So, I've started grabbing the camera more, to document the everyday. The mundane. The random! such as our new (brightly colored) running shoes, my daughter playing "dress-ups" with my son's help, the pajama-polo combination that happens when Daddy puts the kids to bed without Mommy, and the (expired) biscuits that explode all over the kitchen and try to take my thumb with them. 

Nothing life changing. But the everyday normal moments we'll love to look over and laugh about as early as next week. :)

So, here's to the everyday! Go capture it, and then you can come back here and link up to Debra's photo showcase. If you're interested, you can see more of our everyday happenings over at my blog.

  Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of two sweet little things (except on the days that they aren't) and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on (or off) the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about life and crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Easy and AMAZING BBQ Pork Chops

These pork chops are quite literally amazing. This easy, hands off, recipe produces delicious and tender pork chops that never last long in our house. I am not a pork lover (except bacon, because everybody loves bacon), and this recipe makes my mouth water and makes me seriously consider buying pork chops every week. This recipe can serve as many as you want, depending on how many chops you can get into a pan.

You will need:
a pan with deep enough sides to allow the pork chops to sit in water (I usually use a 9x13)
onion, chopped into strips
pork chops
salt and pepper
BBQ sauce, preferably a honey sauce, you won't regret going with Sweet Baby Ray's

Add a half inch or so of water into the pan. Layer the onions on the bottom of the pan in the water. Salt and pepper both sides of your pork generously. Lay the pork on top of the onion, adding onion on top. Add water to cover the chops. Cover with tinfoil. Bake for one hour at 450 degrees.

After the hour, pull out the pan and uncover. Drain the water. Pour sauce over meat evenly and change your oven to broil. Put the meat back in the oven for about 5 minutes to set the BBQ sauce.

I love to serve this meal with my stand alone mashed potatoes, they are so good they don't need gravy. My mouth is watering just reading the recipe again. I think I am going to have to get more pork chops!

Friday, February 17, 2012

To See Wuthering Heights Is Not To Know It

This review for Wuthering Heights is full of spoilers, but I would surprised if you don't already know the story. 
It took me a long time to read Wuthering Heights. I have seen so many different versions of Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Jane Eyre and others that sometimes my husband is convinced that I single-handedly send the children of BBC executives to college. With all of the versions of Wuthering Heights that I have seen, I felt sure I had the story nailed down. A story that without a doubt always makes me cry. I story that was so full of love and hate that many people were doomed to end up unhappy.

When I finally picked up this book a few years ago, it took me chapters to shake off the preconceived notions I  had of Heathcliff as a great antihero. Passionate, misunderstood and dark. I had to rid myself of the notions that Cathy was a sad victim of circumstance. The two of them together instead, are full of tantrums, unspoken promises, selfishness and obsessiveness. Their selfishness and presence is so strong it is felt years after death, haunting those around them, making themselves and others miserable even through the grave.

This dark and fulfilling story follows Cathy and Heathcliff, childhood sweethearts through their passionate and almost violent love and their eventually separations when Heathcliff leaves only to return to find Cathy married to someone else. It then follows Heathcliff through the madness of morals that comes, with his desire to exact revenge on anybody who had ever wronged him, even to the next generation. It then moves onto this pain with Cathy's death and the years of unquiet his soul feels. His has wrapped so much of his heart and his soul up into her that one of his true desires in life is for her spirit to haunt him, to be buried next to her with the sides of the coffins removed so that they will mingle forever.

It doesn't seem like it could be a wonderful story of love and redemption when the entire book seems full of emotional torture. The isolation of the two families from almost anybody else, creates an atmosphere of desperation. They are desperate to be close to each other and then desperate to be away with really nowhere else to go. They love each other with a twisted obsession, they manipulate and betray and ultimately make themselves unhappy. There is no redemption for them in this life, the only redemption comes from the love their children will eventually have for each other. Almost like Heathcliff and Cathy's love played over again this time with happiness and redemption.

Wuthering Heights is a rare book. The characters are mad, manipulating, obsessed and I love them. They are kind of like the train wreck that you can't look away from. Heathcliff is not a romantic hero. Cathy is not a damsel in distress. Did they deserve their unhappy fate? Maybe not, but they definitely deserved each other, selfishness and all. There are no tears shed for them at then end of the book. They don't need or deserve them. We see at last happiness between Hareton and Catherine and Cathy and Heathcliff are perhaps at last redeemed.

The true story of Wuthering Heights is very different from the movies. I guess you can only fit so much into two hours and two hours is not enough time to contain the dark, twisted lives of Heathcliff and Cathy. Wuthering Heights will always be one of my favorites. It is a book that polarizes people. You either love it for all its mysteries or hate it for the nonexistent likability of the characters. Me? It could read it over and over.

I shall leave you with one of the book's most famous passages:

I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were contained here? My greatest miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn into a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WoW: Patience is a virtue...

Good Wednesday to you! I hope you all are having a wonderful day, and enjoyed your extra 10 minutes outside this week!

We were so blessed to have a-ma-zing weather last Friday, so we spent an extra 2 hours outside! Yes, we spent 2 hours outside playing (and splashing in puddles) in mid-February in Utah... in 60-degree weather! Global warming may put an end to the planet as we know it, but it sure makes the doldrums of winter go by more quickly ;)

This week's challenge: be a (more) patient driver.

I don't know that anyone loves being cut off by another driver who is in a great hurry, but I also don't know anyone (except maybe my mother...) who hasn't also been in a hurry and possibly committed a similar driving faux pas. It happens to the best of us.

So, this week, let's be a little more patient behind the wheel. Whether that means leaving early (or even just on time ;) biting our tongues, or just taking a deep breath when traffic isn't flowing our direction, let's see if we can diminish road rage by at least not adding to it further. :)

What did you do with your extra time outside last week? I'd love to hear!

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of two sweet little things (except on the days that they aren't) and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on (or off) the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about life and crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bath Pouf Flowers, alternative to real flowers.

In our house this year, we are looking for alternatives to our regular Valentine's traditions. I love flowers, but the honest truth is, they can be expensive and they don't last very long so this year we decided to by pass the real flowers for something a little more practical and still cute. This mason jar of bath salts and poufs is a different take of the jars I made here.

You will need:
a mason jar or vase
ribbon to tie around the edge
bath poufs
bath salt or the stuff to make your own.

I always make my own bath salts. You can follow my recipe for the bath salts found here.

Add three or so inches of bath salts to the bottom of your jar. Stick the skewers into the poufs. Add to the jar. Tie with ribbon and you have beautiful, practical flowers!

What are you do for Valentine's this year?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WoW: Get outta here!

Hello and happy Wednesday! How did your week of letting your kind words be heard go?

I have to be honest... mine did not go so well. I was doing well and then it all just kind of fell apart. At very least, I refrained from saying unkind words... baby steps, right? Please share any success you had, to make up for my completely lackluster performance :)

The challenge for this week:

Spend an extra 10 minutes outside, enjoying yourself. A walk around the block, a walk to the mailbox, building a snowman (if you're lucky enough to have snow), watching the clouds go by, watching the street sweeper go by -- 10 minutes beyond what you normally spend outside. Because a breath of fresh air is a wonderful figure of speech, but it's an even better physical action. :)

Have a happy ten minutes (and more, hopefully),

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of two sweet little things (except on the days that they aren't) and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on (or off) the Web (WoW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about life and crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Caramelized Pork- A Favorite Recipe

If you had ever told me that a recipe containing orange juice and pork could be amazing I would have raised my eyebrows, but this is seriously delicious. It is the perfect combination of sweet and savory and it makes my mouth water just thinking about having this for dinner. I like to serve these with garlic mashed potatoes, because who doesn't love a good garlic mashed potato?

You will need:
1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBSP. brown sugar
1 TBSP. orange juice
1 TBSP. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Saute the pork and garlic in olive oil until a skillet until the pork is lightly pink in the center, or about seven minutes on medium-high heat.

Drain and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cook for about 4-5 minutes until the pork in well coated.
Don't fight over who gets the last piece. We always seemed to get locked in a fork battle. :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WoW: Let your kind words be heard

Hello again! How did your digital exfoliation go? Mine was great. I unsubscribed from email newsletters, uninstalled some no-longer-used programs, and transformed my desktop from this outdated (picture-wise) and cluttered workspace:

to this purty and tidy one:
You almost can't see the items on the desktop. It's great! Among the gems I discarded were a friend's digital Christmas letter... from 2009, expired printable coupons and vouchers, and shortcuts to almost every application we've installed in the last, oh, 3 years or so. It's so nice to have it clean. :) I'd love to hear what you got rid of this week!

And up this week, a challenge to
let your kind words be heard!

Do you ever find yourself thinking something nice about someone, but for one reason or another (social "rules" are weird that way!), you don't ever actually come out and say it? I do this far too often -- taking note of a nice thing but not saying anything. Like somehow acknowledging the good in someone or something else somehow lessens the goodness in myself or my situation, or maybe I just don't have the courage to speak up. 

So, this week, when a truly kind thought crosses my mind, I aim to share it, whether that means complimenting a stranger, telling a friend how much I really appreciate them, or writing a letter to a company whose service I appreciate. 

One way or another, I'll let my kind thoughts be heard, this week and hopefully beyond. Won't you join me? :)

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of two sweet little things (except on the days that they aren't) and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on (or off) the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about life and crafts and whatever else comes up at just Lu.