Tip Tuesday: A Vehicle Kit

Tip Tuesday

Now that we have a larger vehicle (not sure whether to classify it as a car, station wagon, van, or–gasp the horror–SUV), I have room to put stuff.  And, for the first time since my late, lamented Corolla, lots of cubbies!  Cubbies should be a prerequisite of any automobile.  Toyota messed up by reducing the number of cubbies in later Corolla body styles.

There are copious cubbies in our new Dodge Journey (which was also less expensive than the Prius, with less expensive insurance)…yes…I know we will be paying for it with the increased amount of gasoline.  But I also feel safer in it.

Since I now have room for “stuff” in my car (and since I’ve–cough cough–promised Josh not to clutter the Journey), I’ve decided to make a “car” kit (for me).  My sister once made Josh a Superman Kit as a present that had car essentials (and other fun stuff).

My kit’s going to be a bit different (so, yes, we will have a “his” kit and a “her” kit).  Mine will actually be a massively scaled back version of a van kit that I pinned on Pinterest for a Toyota Sienna.

I do want to have a spare set of clothes for Muffin, a spare pair of shoes for me (after a particularly odd day of wearing shredded old rain boots at work), spare undies for Muffin (as we continue potty training) and for me (just in case), basic hygiene products, sanitizers, paper towels, tissues, paper plates, Febreeze, batteries, first aid kit (I need to update the one from the other car and put it in the new car), note pad, pen, marker, Capri Suns, water bottles, climate happy snacks (ones that can get hot in the car and still be okay), ziploc baggies, trash can with bags to line it, charging cables, rarely used electronics, bug repellent, sunscreen, Clorox/Lysol wipes, everyday clean wipes, brush with hair elastics, baseball-style hats for the three of us, umbrellas, eating utensils (plastic), straws, towel, flashlight, nail clippers, Tide to Go pen, mints, gum, throat drops, meds for Muffin and us, a few Dum Dum suckers, scissors, chap stick/Carmex, and lotion.  Also, I plan to include a few small rotating items to keep Muffin entertained.  And air freshener.  And “drink straws,” my name for the Crystal Light and Kool-Aid-style single-serve drink packets.  We already keep Muffin’s two “fluffy” character blankets in the car (Perry the Platypus and Spiderman).

After reading several sources, I will probably keep the “heat sensitive” items in a separate bag and cart with me in my purse or throw in a removable backpack for longer trips.

I also found a marshmallow construction kit on another blog that I might use for either the car or the trip.  Muffin likes marshmallows and building toys (Legos, etc.).

I know Josh will appreciate the rules of keeping the vehicle clean from this blog.  Unfortunately, I am not banning food in the car, so a few of the ideas are moot.

My favorites are whatever stuff is brought in has to be carried out when we arrive at home/our destination and trash bags will be emptied at gas stations.

And, he will love the monthly cleaning ideas from this blog.  He’s already said that he needs to vacuum the vehicle.  And we received it Thursday.

The author of the blog recommends a three-step process:

1)  Cleaning out the car.  She recommends having a garbage bag and two bins and working from one end to the other tossing items either in the garbage bag, one bin for items to be kept in the vehicle, and one bin for items that don’t belong in the vehicle and need to be returned to their permanent home.  She also removes car seats at this time and shakes out floor mats/rugs.  I would probably use this opportunity to replace items as needed in the car kit and change up toys/books for Muffin’s portion of the car kit.

2)  Vacuum

3)  Wipe and Clean/Detailing:  Rubber/vinyl surfaces, upholstery, glass/mirrors

Every car I’ve had has become a clutter bin, but I’m bound and determined that this one won’t be.

My goal is to also carry a mobile medicines kit so that we don’t have to worry when we are doing road trips.  I will probably pack it for the Canada trip and carry it in the car on long trips (It will have to be taken out of the car when we aren’t in it because we are heading toward 100 degree outside temps).

I’m linking up at Six Sisters Stuff’s Strut Your Stuff Saturday.

What have you done to organize/prep your vehicle and what do you think of my suggestions?

Meal Plan Monday: A Huge (Sigh) Confession

Meal Plan Monday

Last week’s meal plan did not go anywhere near as planned.  First, there was the car accident with the air bags hitting my shins and making it uncomfy to cook.  Then, Josh got sick from tox-ing on a McDonald’s McDouble Thursday (and he still isn’t 100%).  We haven’t eaten from McD’s in quite some time, so this may have been a huge shock to his system.

Needless to say, there was a lot of “to go” and restaurant eating this week.  😦

But Sunday’s meal made up for it.  Crock Pot Gyros.

But, here’s what you came for.

 

Monday, 4/28: spaghetti and sauce (There was that great deal on Classico sauces, so I’m probably going to use one of those), Artisan bread from the freezer made into garlic bread

Tuesday, 4/29: grilled chicken and grilled corn (probably on the George Foreman outdoor grill)

Wednesday, 4/30: salad/leftover gyros/gyro salad (A local eatery, Sam’s Southern Eatery serves a gyro salad, and I would like to try my own version, basically a Greek salad with kalamatas, feta, gyro meat, cucumbers, and tzatziki sauce thinned a bit with red wine vinegar) or hot dogs

Thursday, 5/1: brinner (We didn’t have it last week)

Friday, 5/2: pizza of some variety—maybe French bread pizza

 

I am considering this as a flexi-menu. The Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday menus may be changed around to fit our needs. If Muffin eats well at Granny’s and falls asleep on the way home (from not taking a nap during the day), salad day will probably be sooner rather than later.

As always, I am linking up at OrgJunkie.com’s Menu Plan Monday.

What’s on your meal plan this week?

 

Gyros Make the World Go ‘Round! (Or, at Least, a Crock Pot)

I have a mild obsession with gyros.  I have no idea why.  I have absolutely no Mediterranean bones in my body.  I had my first gyro at the Red River Revel, where they are sold as a fundraiser for something, but they are very cost prohibitive.  But addictive.  They probably use lamb and a rotisserie.

I didn’t.  Instead, I used a Crock Pot and modified the recipe from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures.  Because you know, I do that.  I can’t help it.  And I probably committed several forms of gyro sacrelige today.  But, this is how my gyro…rolls.  I should note that the gyro in totality is NOT Muffin Approved.  😦  He did like the cucumber, the tomato, and the meat, however, so I know I can get away with serving them again because they were definitely Josh Approved.  And I have to enjoy Crock Pot recipes that are Josh Approved because, well, there are so few of those.

Did I mention that I think I could have bathed in this tzatziki sauce?  That may be the reason I’m obsessed with gyros.

Changes that I plan to make for next time:

1)  Add a bit of breadcrumbs and an egg to the mixture (might be committing even more gyro felonies, there).

2)  Swap out the ground turkey for ground pork for moisture sake.

3)  Make my own Greek seasoning.  I used McCormick, and I did not like all the big chunks.  And I might add just a bit of honey or sugar to the meat…like 1/2 teaspoon or less.

I read somewhere on the web (several places actually), that to get the authentic flavor and texture, you have to pan fry the slivers of gyro meat for a few seconds.  Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures recipe does not mention doing this, but I did it, and I liked what it did to the texture.

I also added a few mint leaves minced to the tzatziki.  I think it really made a difference.

I also think next time I will use the onions from the pot and not fresh onions on the gyros.  I also think I will try to find flatbreads rather than pocket pitas for the bread.

Here’s what I did this time.

Crock Pot Style Gyros

(Heavily Adapted from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures)

1 pound ground beef (ground from a roast by my mixer is what I used)

1 pound ground turkey (I will use ground pork next time)

1 onion sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons Greek seasoning

salt and pepper, to taste

Place onion and garlic in the crock pot.  Mix together meat and Greek seasoning.  Form into two small loaves and place on top of onions and garlic.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Remove the meat from the crock pot.  Rest/cool for thirty minutes.  Using your sharpest knife, thinly carve strips of meat off of the loaves.  Just before serving, spray a not-nonstick pan with nonstick cooking spray or pour in a thin layer of oil.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Position slices of meat one layer thick on the pan.  By the time you finish placing them in the pan, it will be time to begin turning them over.  It’s okay of the strips break; it actually makes it easier to build the gyro.  Evacuate the pieces to a serving dish.  Repeat as necessary for dinner service (I made two batches and saved the rest to “brown” later).

Spray pan again with nonstick cooking spray.  Warm first one side, then the other, of enough pita breads for dinner.  Evacuate to a plate to keep warm.

Build your gyro by spreading tzatziki sauce (recipe below) down the middle of a pita or flatbread.  I used copious amounts because I love the stuff.  Layer the desired amount of gyro meat, followed by tomato, onion, lettuce, cucumber, and more tzatziki sauce as desired (although I would recommend that you learn from my mistake and not put it on the top).  Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese.  Use your hands and patience to mold the gyro into a roll (if you are like me and you put too much stuff in, this will be a challenge).  Wrap your gyro in foil in such a way that you can peel back layers to eat your gyro.  The reason for not putting your tzatziki as your top layer is that it tends to stick to the foil and you have to show poor manners and lick the tzatziki off of the foil greedily.

Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.  (Innocent whistles)

I guess I better share the tzatziki sauce with you.  So that you can make some of your own and not judge when I wake up in the middle of the night to eat the rest of it and lick the bowl it’s in.  Erm.  Not that I’m planning on doing that or anything.  I promise.

Tzatziki Sauce

(Again, Heavily Adapted from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures)

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped, and then rechopped into a mince

8 ounces of plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage, but I’m not brand dependent)

1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning (Again, I want to find my own recipe)

1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice (fresh squeezed)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4-5 mint leaves (peppermint), minced finely

Mix together and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.  But, before you put it in the fridge, you need to sample it.  Take a big spoonful and place it in your mouth.  Swallow.  Realize you really gobbled that first spoonful, so you didn’t really get a taste.  Take another “taste.”  Repeat as necessary.

I like how this is generally a healthy recipe.  Just as with tacos, we tend to use very little meat and pile high with other toppings, including lots of veggies.  The only processed item in this meal was the pita breads (and I have thought about learning to make my own).  I guess the Greek seasoning is processed, as well (and something I want to make my own).

Are you as obsessed by gyros as I am?

Cent Saving Saturday: Thrift Stores!

Cent Saving Saturday

My sister is a thrift-store expert.  Her present home-city-area is home to a huge concentration of thrift stores.  I’m not talking about merely Goodwill or the Salvation Army.  I’m talking MULTIPLE thrift stores.  One is HUGE!  And, on our recent Easter/Muffin birthday party trip there, my dad and I got to take a peak.

I found this thrift store to be almost like Disney World.  I’ve never been to Disney World, but it is fabled that you need to allot more than one day to explore there to be able to see everything.  The same is true of this particular thrift store.  You need to spend an entire day (or more) shopping there to be able to see everything.  We were there for a few hours, and I only looked over clothes for Muffin, for Josh, for me, and the purses.  I didn’t even look through all of the clothing racks for each of us.

I also looked at the purses.  My sister has mentioned buying NEW designer purses there for less than two dollars.  I found two new ones that I really liked.

But…my big finds were the New Orleans Saints clothes for Muffin.  A Sproles jersey (yes, he’s no longer a Saint, I know) and a Bush jersey (One day he WILL come back to the Saints, just you wait), several tee shirts (including a carbon copy of Josh’s gray World Championship tee-shirt), and a long-sleeved shirt.

Regrets?  I didn’t look at bedding or toys.  I would have liked to have procured some belts for the belt closet at school to supplement students’ uniforms.  I would have liked to have found Josh some work pants.

But, this is going to be a hefty grocery shopping week.  There are lots of sales, and some grinding meat is on sale.  Yay!

Kroger:

Boneless skinless chicken breasts $1.79/lb.

Red, orange, or yellow bell peppers 99 cents each

Mini seedless watermelons 4/$5 (limit 4)

Classico pasta sauce 99 cents wyb 4 participating items

Capri Sun/Old Orchard Apple Juice half-gallon 98 cents wyb 4 participating items

D’Anjou pears 99 cents/lb.

1015 sweet onions $2.99/5 lb. bag

Sweet corn 6 ears/$2

7-Up 2L 88 cents wyb 4

Kroger cheese 2 lbs./$7

Albertson’s

Boneless Bottom Round Roast 1.99/lb.  (grind time!)

Boneless Half Pork Loin 1.99/lb.

Niagara 24-pack half-liter bottles 5/$10 (limit 5 cases)

Essential Everyday canned vegetables or tomatoes 50 cents (limit 6)

Garland Jack’s BBQ sauce 50 cents each wyb 2 (with in-store manufacturer’s coupon, limit 2)

Essential Everyday frozen veg 75 cents (limit 3)

Rosarita Refried Beans 69 cents/can wyb 10 participating items

Crunch n Munch Snack Mix 79 cents wyb 10 participating items

Wolf Chili 99 cents wyb 10 participating items

Peter Pan peanut butter 1.49 wyb 10 participating items

Jif To Go 8ct 2/$5 (possible:  stocking up for the train ride)

Brookshire’s

Iceberg lettuce 79 cents/head

20 lb. Tidy Cats scoop cat litter $6.99

 

 

Funny Muffin Friday: BDay Minus a Few Hours

Funny Muffin Friday

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of a very special day.  Four years ago tomorrow, this little guy was born.

And that he’s now this big boy:

Happy birthday, my dear sweet Muffin!  Mama loves you!

The Horrible Day and the Silver Lining on That Very Dark Cloud

First of all, let me say that I have tons to post that I hope to get to eventually.  We had Easter and Muffin’s birthday party at my sister’s over the weekend, and it was a blast!  Muffin and my youngest nephew had a great time playing (they are 19 months apart) and driving my oldest nephew crazy.  😉

But Saturday night, the night of the party, I knew that my sinus infection that so painfully had been in my cheekbones for months had decided to move up above my eyes so that I had “foggy head.”  Today is Tuesday, and foggy head is still with me.

I should note that I have chronic sinusitis.  Chronic.  And I take it until I can’t anymore and go to the doctor (or the walk-in), get an antibiotic (even let them tell me that regardless of the screaming pain in my sinus cavities that it must be fibromayalgia or, my personal favorite, tonsilitis…but by that point I don’t care as long as they give me the antibiotic), and get better for a bit.  The reason that I sit there and take it is so that I don’t become resistant to antibiotics.  (And, since I have something non-contagious, I don’t want to catch something contagious as I go to the doctor.  Yes, it’s a thought process, albeit a flawed one.)

Today ended Easter break and ushered in a return to work.  Still head foggy from the sinusitis moving upstairs, I really should have taken my own advice and called in.  Really.  I should.

Instead, my head fogginess coupled with driving to work in the dark (my choice, I admit it, but I tend to get more done before the school day starts than I do in the afternoon when I’m exhausted and beaten up by the day’s events) and the members of my neighborhood providing me a lovely obstacle course to drive around by parking in the street…while…I misjudged the distance from my passenger front fender to the truck facing me…and the truck won.

Really won.

My little baby hybrid and my legs…didn’t win.  I will spare you the picture of my bruised legs.  This is a food blog, not a never-eat-again-because-disgusted blog.

So, I called the school secretary and explained to her that I wasn’t going to be making it in today.  Ouch!  Contacted Josh who was at home with Muffin (thank goodness Muffin was not in the car with me).  Contacted the police.  Tried to contact the owner of the truck twice by ringing the doorbell.  Didn’t do so well with that one.  Contacted my assistant principal who had already heard from the secretary and was about to call me.  Contacted the insurance company.  Waited until a time when I wouldn’t scare my parents (and not wake them up) to call my parents.  Contacted the insurance company and the rental car company.  Again.  And then had Josh contact the rental car company a few times for good measure.  I have plans to go back to work tomorrow, people!

Declined medical care on site (which I think my sister, upon hearing about the accident, is still angry about).  Let me just explain my reasoning: 1) $500 deductible on car insurance + $500 deductible on hospitalization/ER for health insurance only to sit in the ER for hours because bruised shins and a scraped upper chest and an abraided arm probably don’t rate too high, triage-wise.  (And if I were a victim of a real emergency, I would be a bit put out with someone wasting hospital resources on something so trivial)  2)  I wanted to go home.  Keep in mind, sinusitis=feeling sick and woozy.  I wanted a nap.  3) I knew I was going to have to be on hand to deal with all the insurance stuff.  4)  I received my rental car at 2:30.  I was not going to have my parents have to be my chauffeurs in all of this.  So, I had no car to go to the ER or the doctor until then.  By then, I was completely worn out.

But the bright spots of the silver lining:

1) Muffin took care of me, bringing me “flowers” from the backyard and showering me with snuggles and smiles.  He felt very grown up and proud of himself for it.

2)  I have some of the best coworkers.  When one of us is hurt or in trouble, you can always expect an outpouring of calls and texts and prayers.  I appreciate all of those…and all of my coworkers…immensely.

3)  I won my first online giveaway, sponsored by one of my fave foodie blogs, The Slow Roasted Italian.  Yes, of the pretzel bites fame (in fact, when I told Josh and my mom about it, that’s how I presented it to them).

A picture of that lusciousness deserves repeating:

There.  That picture makes me feel better!

As I said, I hope to post much more of this weekend (well…minus the wooziness caused by sinusitis) shortly (including a post that I’ve been working on FOREVER that I should now be able to move from the Draft Slush Pile).

I hope everyone had a great day and that tomorrow is even better!

Meal Plan Monday: Try a New Recipe to Shake Things Up

Meal Plan Monday

Several blogs that advocate menu planning propose and promote the concept of a meal rotation. I am not organized enough for a monthly, weekly, or even bi-weekly menu rotation. Instead, I menu plan around what I have on hand, what has been recently on sale, or what our tastes and schedules are around a particular time.

Plus, it’s fun to shake things up every now and then with a new recipe. Now, I am not necessarily advocating something on the scale of The Spring Cleaning New Recipe Challenge every week. If you have the time, energy, and resources to do so, great! But, I’m talking about trying a new recipe once a meal plan or so—another way to break up the monotony.

The new recipe for this week is Crock Pot Gyros. I love eating gyros from the Red River Revel, the local arts festival that occurs in Shreveport, Louisiana, in early October, but they are so expensive! (Like $8 for the gyro alone). I am really hoping that this recipe works!

 

Anyway, here is the plan for the week with the new recipe added. I have two planned eat-outs, tonight (because we are traveling) and Saturday (Muffin’s birthday at Chuck E. Cheese).

 

Monday: fried chicken with the fixins

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, baby!

Wednesday: brinner (breakfast for dinner)

Thursday: Crock Pot gyros from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

Friday: leftovers (If there are any)

Saturday: Muffin’s birthday celebration at Chuck E. Cheese’s

Sunday: Crockpot Honey Garlic Chicken

As usual, I will be linking up at OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday.

What’s on your plan for the week?