Thursday, February 20, 2014

Seafood Chowder

Apparently this is food week. I’ve been on a mission to eat through the random proteins in our freezer.  So far I’ve successfully used almost a dozen turkey and beef burgers (tacos and shepherd’s pie) only having actual burgers once, turkey kielbasa (lentil soup), lots of rolls and of course left over home made ice-cream from this summer.  Why have I been on this mission?  The same reason I’m cleaning and purging around the rest of the house.  Getting ready for Baby; I want to be sure I have good go-to meals and meal starters in the freezer and pantry for when I’m to sleep deprived to figure out what’s for dinner (or lunch).  There has been a single piece of tilapia floating around in there for months (not sure how I ended up with just one) and I finally figured out what to do with it during last week’s snow storm.  Fish chowder!  You certainly don’t need to use tilapia, any white fish will do.  Also you could just use clams for clam chowder, just fish for fish chowder, leave out the corn if that’s not your thing, customize it for what you like. Recipe below

Seafoodchowder

Ingredients 
2 Slices of bacon
1 small onion
1 stalk celery
1TBSP Butter
1TBSP Flour
1C Milk
2C Fish Stock
1 piece white fish
6 large shrimp, peeled and deviened
1 small potato
1C corn

Instructions

  • Cut your bacon into bite sized pieces, let it get crispy in your chowder pot while you mince the onion and celery.
  • Once crispy remove the bacon to a paper towel, try not to snack on it.
  • Cook the onion and celery in the bacon fat until soft, then add the butter.
  • Once the butter is melted whisk in the flour. Allow to cook for 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Whisk in the milk and bring to a bubble then whisk in the stock.
  • Add your fish, you can put the whole piece in, it will cook in the chowder than you can break it up with your spoon. The chowder should be at a simmer (medium/low heat)
  • Poke your potato all over with a fork and microwave it for 3 - 5 minutes to par cook.
  • Peel and chop the shrimp into bite sized pieces.
  • Once you can handle the potato peel it then cut into bite sized pieces.
  • While you’ve been doing all this prep your fish has been cooking and you should now be able to break it up with whatever you’ve been stirring your chowder with.
  • Add the shrimp, potatoes and corn (I use frozen, toss it right in the pot frozen). And bring back to a bubble (medium heat).
  • The potatoes will take the longest to cook, check it in 15 minutes once at a simmer, the chowder will also thicken up during this time.
  • Check for seasoning, I used Lawry’s seasoning salt.  You could also use just salt and pepper or Old Bay.
  • Once the potatoes are cooked and you are happy with the seasoning toss the bacon back in and you’re ready to eat!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Canning

For many people canning is a seasonal adventure centering around bountiful summer and fall harvests.  For me it has always been a year round activity, you might remember that I self-taught pressure canning because our freezer wasn’t keeping up with my desire to use the whole chicken.  I’ve also found it to be way more convenient than remembering to defrost or trying to fast thaw sauces and stews.  Last week I went on a little canning binge. Blame the snow, something about it makes me want a steamy kitchen.
ChickenI always make double batches of chicken stock, I have a twenty quart stock pot so it makes sense for me to make a double batch and run the canner twice instead of go through the whole process twice as frequently.  This time I knew I would be needing a lot of stock for soup I’m planning on making tomorrow so I only canned one batch and stuck the rest in the fridge.
BeansIt seems that most of the canning blogs (this is my favorite) I read have spotlighted canning beans recently.  I have canned baked beans and chili with beans in it but hadn’t ever thought to do regular beans.  Usually I soak and cook a bag (1lb) of beans and batch freeze most of them for later use.  But I’m bad at remembering to defrost.  Now you may be thinking Christine, beans are cheap why not just buy cans.  Two reasons, first regular cans have BPA as a lining, BPA is nasty stuff and I prefer to keep it out of my food; second one 1lb bag of dry beans costs the same as one organic non-BPA lined can of beans (you can only find BPA free cans in the organic sections) one 1lb bag of beans yields five cans worth of beans for an 80% savings.  So I canned eight pints of beans this week too.  Having meal components ready to go will hopefully keep us fed well while we are sleep deprived after baby comes!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bedroom Art

Check something else off the list!  I finally have all the frames in our room filled.  That only leaves the closet makeover before we can really call our room complete.  I’m not convinced that the amount of color looks balanced or am I particularly sold with the height of the two pieces over our night stands or if they look quite right any advice please send it my way.  But overall I’m pretty happy with everything.
GroupingThe frames are Threshhold from Target, no longer available, they originally had landscape 5x7 mats in them but I had more ideas for 8x10 portraits so I had new mats made at Michaels.  The mats ended up negating the fact that I got the frames on clearance, oh well.  From left to right the art is: a photo from our honeymoon edited in the Waterlogue app, Penguin Love, Whatever (painterly), Our Marriage Prayer (wedding gift).
WaterlougeAll the art is special but my own homemade print is my favorite.  This app is fairly new and a few of my favorite bloggers have featured it so, I coughed up the $3 and gave it a try.  I love it.  The quality is great, I printed this on my Canon photo printer on heavy weight card stock and it looks wonderful!
MysideI also hung our wedding guestbook canvas, from Teardrop Weddings (doesn't look like they have an active website anymore), over my nightstand.  Again I don’t know if it will stay but I felt like we needed some height over the nightstands and I didn’t want to do this, because we are clumsy and one of them would eventually be broken but maybe it would be nice to have some lamps.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that in approximately nine (NINEHOLYMOLYNINE!!!) weeks it will be taken over by middle of the night baby supplies.  Yes, the bassinet is already set up, someone in our house doesn’t cope well with change.  That someone happens to weigh 102lbs and is very furry, the bassinet has been up since January to help him get used to it being there, in hopes that when there is a tiny human in it, it won’t be so intimidating.
BrucesOn the other side of the bed over Bruce’s nightstand I hung art that we received for Christmas from the Canadian cousins, the colors are perfect for the room.  Also over on that side is the anniversary art I made for Bruce in May.  Again issues with hanging height.  But perfect in our room!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Progress Everywhere

We kept busy this weekend!  I had ordered the futon for the office with a sale code at Overstock during the Superbowl while the paint on the basement floor was drying.  Sunday Bruce emptied out and took apart his desk.  He’d had it for a while and it had moved three times (I’m pretty convinced that particle board furniture has a three time moving limit) and it was time for it to go.  His desk-top computer will relocate to the desk in the basement.  I emptied my filing cabinet in the fall also is going away and the old school desk went upstairs for storage, it’s a cool piece that we will repurpose eventually.  This is what Bruce’s side of the office looked like back in July when I was taking my old desk apart to build the Murphy desk.
OfficebeforeThe futon came after the snowstorm Wednesday and we left it in the garage until Sunday when Bruce took his desk apart and we put it together! That side of the room looks so much more open and I’m sure once the pile of stuff on the desk is put away the whole room will look bigger.  It is a big piece of furniture, but we need the office to also function as a guest room and this folds down to a full sized bed. I can't wait to add a few pillows and for the cushion covers to relax a bit after shipping.
CouchThis weekend we also moved some of the furniture around in the basement, working on the Phase Two layout.  Here’s what it looked like last winter before we started Phase Two:
BasementbeforeHere’s where we are now.  Don’t let those club chairs fool you, they are heavy, Bruce got them down from the attic yelling Doctor Jones!!! Doctor Jones!!! as if they were the giant boulders chasing him down the stairs.  Last night after dinner we just sat down there by the stove and hung out for a bit before starting our chores, it was really really nice.
BasementNext is to get the workshop set up so that Bruce can start building the shelving unit for our closet, while he’s doing that I’ll be re-homing everything else that’s stored in the closet in the nursery. He's also working on our taxes and I'm working on filling the freezer and pantry with easy meal options for after Baby arrives.  It feels good to get a few things done every week and know that we are definitely making progress!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Operation Useful Storage

This past weekend while Bruce and my dad were hard at work finishing the basement floor I took on an organizing project in the dinning room.  I have a hard time doing nothing while others are in the house working so hard.  When my parents were down a few weekends ago I told my mom that I didn't know what to do with my old dishes (she has the same set I was hoping she would want them, but no she also has a ton of dishes!).  She suggested I keep them incase we are ever serving more than eight people, good plan.  I price shopped around for some cases and found the best deal on Amazon. Each set was $15, I got two.  One for my white wicker dishes and one for my Royal China Starburst dishes.

Storage
The bottom of the dinning room built-it has been stuffed to over capacity for a while leaving me with no where to keep the large serving piece we use the most because they were just to hard to get out of the pile!

Needsmosthelp
Needshelp
First I pulled out all the Starburst plates, large dishes, cups and saucers and got them all packed away and labeled.

Away
Already much better.

Afters
Then out with the white wicker tea cups.  The rest of the white wicker is already in the attic, accept for the dinner plates which are still in our cabinet and are used from time to time.

After
Looking much better.

Done1
A little shuffling around and everything is away, it fits and is accessible!

Done2

The cabinet looks like it's a different color in every picture, I took them on two different days and the sun was setting while I was doing a majority of it!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Basement Adventures: Drylock

This part of Phase two is the beastliest! But I'm happy to say that after seriously hard work for two weeks by Bruce and my parents it is finally done!
When we moved in our basement was a mess, not only was it full of (mostly) crap, but there were also water issues.  During the summer of 2010 I solved the major water issue by filling the holes in the window casings with some Drylok Fast Plug Cement and by cleaning the gutters and adjusting the downspouts.  We have a crack near the dryer under one of the windows that will require Fast Plug before painting, we only get a small puddle there when it rains very hard.  But the basement was still damp, like damp, cardboard gets soggy damp.  Then I saw this post over at YHL.  Problem solved, kind of.  You see our nasty walls already had several coats of some type of paint on them, which, was in several stages of peeling off.  When the paint peels off you get this wonderful stuff called efforescence, which are salts carried through the concrete with the water.  For a long time Bruce thought this was mold, granted, there was plenty of mold growing damp cardboard but it wasn't actually growing on the walls!

Effo
Originally I thought it would be simple, slap some paint on the walls and floor and call it a day.  Then I read the UGL Drylok packaging.  "If you have existing paint or efflorescence use UGL etch to prepare the surface for painting.  Then I read the etch directions ensure that surface is free of dust, dirt and any oils.  Now it's a process.  First we scraped the walls with wire brushes, trying to get any and all loose paint and concrete away off the walls.

Scrape
Second we cleaned the walls using a mild all purpose soap, we used Mrs. Myers and Lysol, following up by spraying down the walls with water using a pesticide sprayer to make sure we got all the soap off.  Using the sprayer also helped get loose sand and grit out of the nooks and crannies of the walls. Bruce and my dad may have found this tedious and just hooked up a hose to the pressure tank on the pump, which, also worked.

Rinse
Now wet vac up the soapy water and set up some fans, a dehumidifier and crank up the wood stove (if you have one) and wait until everything is dry. Is it dry? Good, now slather on the acid etch, wear a respirator that stuff reaks! Wait 30 minutes. Now rinse off the etch and get the walls nice and dry again.

Vac
Now you can paint, but you can't just roll this stuff on because you cleaned out all those nooks and crannies so buy some cheap paint brushes so you can get the paint nicely into all the nooks and crannies. You'll need two coats to cover the four different colors of paint and bare concrete that are your basement walls.  We found that going over everything with a roller helped create a uniform finish.

Paint
Admire your hard work.

Floor
Repeat for the floors.  Admire some more.

Admire
We are using UGL latex Drylok on the walls, as of now we have used a total of seven gallons.  We're using latex instead of oil because we couldn't be sure what type of paint was already there.  On the floors we are using Behr's Garage Floor Epoxy, it does scratch when you're moving large items like book cases so be aware of that, our goal for the floors was to have a uniform color and something that will prevent water from coming up and this, so far, is working pretty good. Also when painting the walls we came down onto the floors about four or five inches out from the wall then went over it with the floor paint, for extra waterproofing around the walls.  Now everything looks so fresh and clean, its great motivation to get our work spaces set up so we can get moving on the fun projects to get ready for baby!  I can't thank my parents enough for all their help with this HUGE project the only step I could help with was the wall washing and it would have taken Bruce at least twice as long to finish without their help!!!

Friday, January 31, 2014

29 Weeks

We are officially in the third trimester! I’m still feeling pretty good overall, sure there is a fair amount of heartburn and bending over is a thing of the past, as is sleeping all night long but that’s really not much to complain about. Baby is very active when I’m waking up and going to bed at night and definitely growing!
People always ask about cravings, I haven't really had any.  Other than chocolate but that's pretty normal for me even when I'm not growing a tiny human.  I try to cook healthy, well balanced meals but again still pretty normal for me, possibly we are eating less vegetarian meals but they are still around in the meal plan.  Every night I take my mulit-vitamin and half a calcium supplement (I halved the calcium when started eating more Tums to combat the heartburn!).  So I'm happy to report that recent blood work all came back normal.  AKA I'm not anemic nor do I have gestational diabetes.
I've been reading about natural childbirth and cloth diapers, we're planning on give both a well educated try, with the full understanding that even the best laid plans can go astray.
So for the next few weeks we'll be chugging along doing stuff around the house before the whirwind of bridal and baby showers and baby prep classes start at the end of February!
29wks