Make Ahead Meatloaf

Make Ahead MeatloafI’ve always bought hamburger in bulk packages. In the winter instead of portioning it out into freezer bags I make meatloaves. I don’t eat meat, but my boys love meatloaf and I like the smell of it in the oven. In 5 minutes, I just made 4 make ahead meatloaves for the freezer. It would have taken me just as long to bag the hamburger and then I’d still have to remember to thaw it out before I could do anything with it.

Ingredients:

  • Foil mini loaf pans, or similar.
  • 1.5 – 2 kg (3.5-4.5 lbs) of lean ground beef – fresh not frozen because refreezing ground beef is bad.
  • 1 package of Knorr Onion Soup Mix or Onion Roasted Garlic Soup Mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • Optional – 1/2 cup minced onion and/or 1 or 2 medium carrots shredded.

Instructions:

Wash your hands and place everything in a bowl large enough for mixing.

Meatloaf prepAre your hands clean and free of jewellery? Dig in and start kneading your meat – yeah I said it. Mix thoroughly by hand – the last thing you want is someone biting into a lump of soup mix – it’s very salty.

Portion out into your mini loaf pans – this time I used some small pans with cardboard lids that are awesome. Cover with cardboard lids or foil and mark date with a sharpie marker.

mini-meatloafWhen you’re ready to eat your meatloaf place frozen meatloaf in oven and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.

Now I’ve got four made ahead meals in the freezer. Forgot to get something out to thaw? No problem. I don’t do high maintenance meals that need my undivided attention. Meatloaf is so simple! Freezer to oven, prepare a  package or two of scalloped potatoes (out of the box ladies – comfort food!) to go with, and supper is taken care of while I’ve got 45 minutes to do something exciting like laundry.  If the recipe looks familiar it’s because it’s exactly the Knorr (formerly Lipton) recipe spread out over more ground beef. It’s an easy way to cut the salt, because neither of my guys like overly salty food.

Get Your House Ready For Winter

Fall is always the season of outdoor chores while I try to get my house ready for winter, and I’m usually behind on them. Just in case you’re behind too I want to remind you of three things you need to do to get your house ready for winter before the temperatures dip below freezing.

Disconnect your hose.

disconnect your hose for winterHoses last longer if you put them away out of the weather for the winter, but it’s more important you disconnect it from the faucet. Your outdoor faucet – if it’s properly installed – doesn’t need the water to be shut-off and the pipes drained. The problem is if you leave your hose attached, a certain amount of water remains in the faucet – enough to freeze and burst the pipe. I’ll be honest – I didn’t disconnect my hose one year so I now only have one useable outdoor faucet which means I get to drag 100 ft of hose around all summer. So disconnect your hose for the winter. If you live in a newer home your outdoor faucet is most likely a frost-free. If it isn’t, or you aren’t sure click here.

Cover your Air Conditioner

Ideally you would do this before the leaves start to fall. Your outdoor A/C unit can handle weather, you aren’t really looking to protect it from rain and snow. What you’re doing when you cover it – especially if you cover it before the leaves start dropping – is keeping it free of leaves and debris. A clean air conditioner works better at cooling your house and it does it more efficiently. You can buy a cover at most hardware stores, just measure the width, length and height before you go. If worst comes to worst at least put a board and a brick over top of the fan.

Clean your Gutters

I have my limits and this is one of them – I don’t do heights – but I can still tell you why it’s important and what you need to do. You want to make sure you remove all the leaves and debris (and any maple seedlings from the spring) so that water runs freely to the downspout. The reason you need to do this is to help prevent ice-damming. Ice damming occurs as snow is melting from your roof. If it can’t travel away from the roof, it builds up as the snow continues to melt. Eventually the water gets forced under your shingles and suddenly you’ve got water damage on your ceilings. If you can’t do it yourself, you need to try to get someone to do it for you. Consider installing guards that keep the leaves and debris out next spring – I know I’ll be looking into it.

So there you have it – three fairly simple things you can do to get your house ready for winter.

Do You Really Want Their Help?

Do You Really Want Their HelpWhen a new romance comes your way, there’s always that sweet honeymoon phase. The one where they want to impress you with their abilities and their prowess with tools. During the honeymoon phase it all seems romantic and endearing in a cave-mannish way, but relationships come and relationships go. Meanwhile, cars are expensive and your home is your sanctuary – one you’ve invested real money to have. Do you really want their help? I’ve learned the hard way that it pays to think carefully before allowing romantic partners to help you with your car or your home. I’m sure there are many women out there who have had even harsher lessons than me. Ask yourself these questions before you give anything the green light.

Do they really know what they’re doing?

During my last relationship, I allowed him to replace my front brake pads. Now this is something I do know how to do, but normally my dad does it for me because he just can’t stand to see a woman doing physical work. This time I figured it would save my dad some work, so hey why not. The next day the front end of my car sounded horrible, like the wheels were going to fall off. I had to have it into the shop for something else – probably an e-test. I asked the mechanic to take a look. He advised I needed new rotors. I went and bought the rotors and went to my parents house. My dad and I ended up putting the new rotors on, but in reality all the brakes needed was for the pin the pads ride on to be pulled out and cleaned. It didn’t end there though, because when I went home I had to deal with a pouty he-man wanna be. These days the only people who work on my car are me, my dad, and my mechanic – period.

Are you going to end up with what you wanted or what they wanted?

There is a certain beauty to paying someone to do the work you can’t do yourself. The very nature of being a paying customer entitles you to have things done the way you want them done, or at least be provided with a reasonable explanation of why it can’t be done that way. Case in point, the electrical outlets in my bathroom are in completely the wrong place and not much else is the way I wanted it either. My ex – the plumber – did everything the way he wanted it. Trust me, I get pissed off every time I clean that bathroom because in my mind it’s all wrong. As far as doing it yourself – well obviously it’s going to be exactly right isn’t it?

Can you handle having the work they did for you thrown in your face?

Some relationships last for the long haul, while some devolve faster than others. Once you’ve hit the point where you’re still together but keeping score on every little thing, past efforts made for your benefit become fair ammunition to win an argument. It’s nice to think that will never happen to you, but I’ve had relationships that seemed perfect at the beginning quickly hit the point where I might as well have nailed a score card over the damn bed. And if score-keeping in the bedroom is acceptable, don’t think that bit of work they did on your house won’t come up during any argument they think they’re losing.

If things don’t work out, can you handle living with their stamp on your house?

A fresh coat of paint in a new color can do a lot to eliminate the ghosts of relationships past, but like the bathroom my ex built, sometimes work done by a past lover just keeps fueling your anger over past failures. And just as I have to live with siding permanently stained by a former boyfriend who didn’t understand the difference between insecticide and insect repellant, you will have to live with those reminders if things go wrong. Consider carefully, because you don’t want to have to move just because of a failed relationship.

FYI – Never spray Deep Woods off on vinyl siding. It permanently and noticeably discolors the siding.

Two At Home Again

Yesterday my youngest decided to shave his eyebrows off. Today he drew himself a set with a sharpie marker. He’s 19 – if you were hoping boys eventually out-grow stupid.Sharpie Eyebrows

And it’s official, I’m going to have two living at home again.

On the plus side after a year of living on his own, A1 is a lot less picky about meals. He’s learned something we all learn once we leave home – a peanut butter sandwich tastes like ambrosia as long as you don’t have to make it. And I get to cook more meals that I like but A2 won’t touch. It’s kind of hard to eat a huge ass pot of chili on your own and a week of chili for lunch and dinner doesn’t make me good company for me when I’m driving all day.

On the minus side my hot water tank gets drained on a regular basis – which makes me happy it’s a small one. I can’t imagine my water bills if he was draining a big one every morning. I’ve also got the dirty towels to prove it. Note to self: install towel rod on A1’s “new” bedroom door.

On the plus side A1 is more intimidating than I am, which should nicely drive away some of A2’s more “sketchy” friends. My house will become the much less desirable hang-out for the group.

On the minus side A1 and A2 still like to rough-house and argue – in my very tiny living room. This is why I don’t have nice things – inevitably the thing I most loved would be the first victim.

On the plus side my dog is happy to have his full “pack” back. He missed A1 when he moved out. He moped and pouted for at least a month.

On the minus side we get Jackson – who I should just call A3 – too. Last Friday I took both dogs with me to run to Canadian Tire and I shit you not mine looked at me and if he could talk he would have said “Do we really have to take that asshole too?”, but really A3 is settling down a bit. I may have been too relaxed with my kids, but I’ve got no problem telling the dogs to go lay down or squirting them with a water bottle when they won’t get the hell out of my kitchen.

On the plus side we get Jackson – AKA A3 – who makes a far more intimidating guard dog than Louie the Lovebug.

On the minus side we get a river of toilet water that may or may not contain shit particles.

In the end though, I’m actually relieved. I’ve left things half sorted in my home because I didn’t know what the future would hold. Now that I know, I can start shifting things around. So yeah it sucks he is mostly in this position because some asshole ripped him off. And it sucks I’ve got to give up my separate office space, but after two weeks of not having a living room moving my desk back into my bedroom seems like a small sacrifice to use my TV again.

I wonder if he’s okay with having a lavender bedroom?

Change Your Furnace Filter

Changing your furnace filter is probably one of the easiest home maintenance jobs you can do. Depending on where your furnace is, getting to it to change the filter might be a different story. Mine is in a crawl space. I also have to crawl under a deck to reach the access door for the crawl. Fun stuff!

Under the deck and through the doorIf you know your filter size you’ll be able to do this in one step. If you don’t, you’ll have to run to the store part way through.

Turn off your furnace.

Filter CoverRemove the cover over the filter. If you are very fortunate – the size will be on the visible edge. My filters are 16 x 24 x 1. Height x Width x Thickness. If the size isn’t on the visible edge remove the filter. Mine is hard to grasp so I use a flat-head screwdriver to pry it out far enough to grab.

Remove FilterOnce the filter is out – look for the size stamped on it. If the size isn’t there, you’ll have to measure it. At this point, you can either replace the old filter and turn your furnace back on until you get a replacement, or leave the furnace off while you run to the store for a new one. Your call.

I usually buy mine in packages of two. I try to avoid the cheapest – sometimes they fall apart between changing the filters. Once you have your replacement filter look for an arrow on the side.

SIX(4)Install the filter with the arrow pointing towards the furnace fan. Think of a bag getting sucked to the back of a house fan – you don’t want that happening with the filter, which is why the wire side goes against the fan. It helps the filter media to stay where it’s supposed to.

Once the filter is in place, replace the cover, turn the furnace back on and you’ve only got one more thing to do. Mark the filter size on a piece of masking tape and tape it inside your thermostat cover – I guarantee if it’s your first time buying a filter, you’ll forget the size by the next time. Especially if you bought a package of two.

Experts recommend you change your furnace filter every one or two months, depending on dust levels, whether you have pets and that sort of thing. Putting filters on your cold air returns can help if your furnace is not easily accessible.

How To Check Your Tire Pressure

How Do I Check My Tire PressureYou should check your tire pressure. The weather is getting cooler, which means your previously perfectly inflated tires, might need some air added. Because you know stuff shrinks when it gets cold right? And tires that aren’t kept properly inflated don’t last as long and replacements aren’t cheap. There are other ways to do it, but I prefer to use my little air compressor to check mine in the relative privacy of my driveway. Then if they’re low, I can just fill them at the same time.

Get yourself a decent air compressor – one of the ones that plugs into a cigarette lighter – and keep it in your trunk. You will be glad you have it when all the kids in the neighborhood start bringing you their bikes and basketballs so you can pump them up.

MOTOMASTER Air CompressorThis one is mine – it even has a nice light at the front. Expect to pay around $50, anything cheaper will be a waste of your money. You want something decent you can count on and have for a long time, and a good one can outlive a couple of cars.

How To Check Your Tire Pressure and Add Air

Open your driver’s side door and look for a sticker that looks something like the one below.

Recommended Tire PressureIt’s an important sticker. It tells you what size tires you need for your vehicle and the recommended tire pressure. Don’t go by what the tires say – the sticker is the correct safe tire pressure for your vehicle.

Valve StemPlug your compressor into the cigarette lighter and then pick a starting tire. Unscrew the plastic cap from the valve stem and do NOT let that little cap out of your hand until it’s back on the tire.

Hang on to the CapAttach the hose end to the valve. Mine happens to screw on to the valve. Some are just pushed on and then you flip a toggle down to lock it into place.

Attach Compressor Hose to valveUse the gauge on the compressor to check your tire pressure. If the tire pressure is correct remove the hose, replace the cap and move on to the next tire.

Tire Compressor GuageIf it isn’t turn on the compressor and make it happen. Once the tire is at the correct pressure – use the gauge and do NOT over-inflate – remove the hose and replace the cap. Don’t worry about the small amount of air that escapes while removing the cap.

Do all four tires and if they were low, I bet you’ll feel the difference the next time you drive somewhere.

Let’s Keep In Touch!

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Sometimes They Need To Come Back

Add text(23)I hosted our ladies game-night last night, so instead of waiting until Sunday night I did my housework on Saturday. Usually I wait until after Matt has gone home with his dog. Jackson is a nice dog but he slops drinking water everywhere, and his drinking water of choice comes from the toilet. I’ve come to expect toilet water that may or may not contain shit particles streaming across my floors every Sunday afternoon. So yesterday the floors were vacuumed and mopped and the toilet scrubbed. Booze and snacks were bought and the laundry – for a brief moment in time – finished. In the midst of these preparations my first-born sent me a text.

When can I move back home?

Back in the spring, when the impact of another person’s dishonesty was making itself known, I told him to move back home so he could save his money and get a decent vehicle. We haven’t really discussed it since, but I’ve made it clear the offer stands. Even if it left some things in my household unsettled while I wondered – will he or won’t he? Which doesn’t mean my stomach didn’t drop a bit when I first saw his text. My first thought was that the jeep from hell was causing money problems again and I felt his disappointment, because I know how hard it is to say you aren’t okay when things go wrong. The rest of my brief regret was for myself.

I’ll admit I thought about how much less fun it is to have my friends over when he’s here bitching about our smoking. I saw my nice clean floor vanish under a stream of toilet water – water that may or may not contain shit particles. I thought about the extra dog hair while picturing myself vacuuming a tiny house with two big dogs running around like idiots, because the vacuum cleaner scares the shit out of both of them. I imagined my laundry pile doubling and all of my mugs and bowls missing again, along with my four-cup measuring cup which is apparently the perfect size for a really big glass of water.

Then I started to think about how much nicer it is to cook for three than it is to cook for two. I pictured a happy entertained dog instead of one that sits and stares at me intently, like I’m supposed to do tricks or something because there’s never enough love in Louie the love-bug’s world. I thought about how nice it would be for his dog to have a fenced yard to roam in instead of worrying about the busy road he lives on. I thought about how happy I’ll be when he finally gets rid of that cursed jeep. Because the truth is, Matt moving back home will be 90% aggravation and 10% awesome. But unlike before he moved out, I’ve spent 90% of my time thinking about the 10% percent that’s sweet instead of the 90% that’s bitter, because as much as I appreciate the quiet when he’s gone, I miss him when he leaves.

Even if that stream of toilet water that may or may not contain shit particles is hard to get over.

Scissors, Salad Forks and The Sacred Coffee Mug

Scissors, Salad Forks and The Sacred Coffe MugEver been to one of those houses where the milk bag looks like a pack of wild wolves chewed it open? Those are houses with children between the ages of whatever age you let them have real scissors and the age they move out. Tonight Betty Crocker was in my kitchen and I was making scalloped potatoes. You know who makes scalloped potatoes out of a box? Parents that’s who. So why do they use that plastic for the packaging. You know – the plastic that can only be opened by scissors or a bomb? It pretty much looked like either a wolf or a rat opened that package.

My mother likes to say the only way to keep anything safe from children or – apparently – young adults is to hide it up your ass, but scissors are kind of sharp for playing those sorts of games. You know what else is too sharp for those games? Forks. Forks are too sharp.

Last year at Christmas Eve dinner, I was serving eight. Somehow, my service for sixteen had been reduced to the point where one person had to use one of those ridiculous salad forks. Since I was the hostess I made sure I grabbed my fork first. I sure wasn’t eating my lasagna with the stupid mini-fork. There’s an unopened box of plastic forks in my kitchen, but I guess Asshat #1 didn’t care for trying to eat with those so he took the real forks for his lunch. Sometimes they made it back, sometimes I got other people’s cutlery instead. Perhaps they should hold an annual event where he works. We can all take our where-the-hell-did-this-come-from cutlery in and exchange it for the missing pieces of our own.

Asshat #1 used to prefer drinking water and juice out of mugs. Aside from the entire wrongness of drinking cold liquids from a vessel clearly designed for hot, this meant my entire collection of mugs usually resided under his bed. I bought four ‘special’ mugs. So now I can let you in on how to make a kid (or teen) think anything is the most special desirable thing in the world. Buy it in limited quantities, and then point out they are yours and yours only. “Those mugs are for my friends to use when they come over for tea” works nicely. You have just guaranteed every one of those ‘special’ mugs are going to join the under-the-bed collection and the under-the-passenger-seat-of-my-jeep collection along with the oatmeal crusted bowls and ready to explode Tupperware. Some won’t survive the ride and as the numbers shrink each remaining mug becomes infinitely more desirable.

I’m down to one now, which made it the sacred weekend morning coffee mug. Or at least it was when I was working six days a week. Lately I get less bent about #2 using it. Now that my weekends are a bit longer, I just use whatever cup I was drinking from the night before. If #1 can drink cold liquids out of a mug, I can drink hot liquids out of a beer mug. I haven’t quite sunk to the level of drinking from a four-cup measuring cup – yet.

There’s no getting around it, unless your asshole is a Hefty stretch bag, your stuff is going to go missing. Sometimes it’s your scissors and cutlery, other times it might be your booze, your smokes or your condoms. If I have to choose between them, I’ll take chewing open the milk bag while eating with a salad fork.

 

Everyday Remarkable

Everyday RemarkableWhen I was getting my hair cut last Friday, I was the second last appointment of the day. The last appointment of the day is a friend and neighbor of my hairdresser, so she arrived early and settled into the chair next to me to wait her turn. My hairdresser introduced us to each other, shared a bit of my background with her neighbor and then shared a bit about the neighbor. The neighbor was around my age and lived with her mom. Other than noticing I have a disturbingly vain tendency to stare at myself way too much when I’m sitting in front of a mirror talking, the conversation was really enjoyable.

The neighbor had just ripped up her mom’s front yard and replaced it with hosta beds and mulch. The hairdresser had just returned from Mexico where she and her husband had renewed their vows. We chattered along about this and that, eventually the conversation turned to another mutual neighbor family the two women shared. It seems this family had recently experienced more downs than ups. Their grandson had just been diagnosed with Autism and from the conversation I assume they were providing child care when the parents were working. They had also had a tree fall on the grandson’s swing set while yet another neighbor was cutting it down. The neighbor who had caused the damage while taking down his tree wasn’t willing to set things right. But this isn’t a story about the bad guy, it’s about the woman who arrived early for her appointment just to chat.

It bothered me all afternoon, so I said to Mum “I’m going to go and get a new swing set for him.” We went and looked at the metal ones. I’ve never bought a swing set before but I said to Mum “there is no way that thing will last though the winter.” It would have been a heap of rust by spring. So we went to the lumber store to get one of those wood play sets – you know the ones that come in a kit? I couldn’t find them so I got one of the sales clerks to go look for me. She came back with this little box – I didn’t realize the kits were only the hardware.

I went and got some of the lumber and took it over to them. When I was unloading my truck, I told them I’d bring the 4×4’s the next day. I don’t think they really thought I was going to because they were surprised when I came over to unload them the next day. You know, I hadn’t even been home a half hour and they brought me a Thank You card? Isn’t that crazy?

Out of all the remarkable in this entire conversation, the only thing this generous woman found remarkable was that the people she did this for brought her a card to thank her.

Real Friends Don’t Play The One-Up Game

BECAUSE REAL FRIENDS DON'TWe always joke about men and their pissing contests, but women have their own version of this game. It’s the one-up game. We play it to see who has the best/worst husband, who has the best/worst kid or who has had the best/worst day. It sucks. I was reminded last night of how much I hate this game as I crashed a late night Twitter conversation. I was also reminded of one of the people I have truly been blessed to know.

I met Carol at my last job. I can’t honestly say we were friends outside of work – she had her very own full rich life. We would take breaks together and talk the way women do.

Carol gave me something my other friends couldn’t: perspective, without the one-up game. Sympathy without platitudes. A good swift kick in the ass if I was wallowing in self pity.

Carol raised two boys on her own, way back when divorce was almost a one way ticket to poverty. At the time of her divorce, she worked in real-estate. Real-estate income fluctuates so she had to give it up. Imagine having your child support based on your best months sales while trying to live on it during a slew of worst month sales. So she put away her business suits and spent years working in the greenhouse industry.

Whenever I talked about how hard it was to get by on my income, Carol had a sympathetic ear. She could have ten-upped me if she wanted. I still had twenty-five years of future earnings, but Carol was nearing the end of her working days. At that point, there are not nearly as many opportunities to improve your circumstances, yet I cannot recall one single instance where Carol played the one-up game.

Perspective came when she would count her own blessings. One of Carol’s favorite sayings is “My angels are always looking out for me”. She would explain this by recounting a time she was in a tight spot and somehow, she would find exactly the amount of money she needed to get through to the next tight spot.

She never told anyone You should count your blessings—she was too damn busy counting her own. Instead she lent a sympathetic ear and gave you time to own your frustrations and sorrows. No one-up game, no judgement, just quiet sympathy and a head shake at the difficulties life throws our way.

Carol wasn’t one to let you wallow in it though. If the sorrows of today were still the only thing you were talking about a month later she would quietly ask Well, what are you doing about it. A statement that is guaranteed to get your gears turning. This is bothering me, what am I doing to fix it, change it, or let it go?

Carol has spent more years as a single woman than she spent as a married woman. Yet I never heard anything more than a matter-of-fact statement from her about it: things didn’t work out. Instead, she filled her life with other things: girlfriends, chorus, musical shows and even trips. She didn’t care if she had to eat eggs on toast for months, as long as her trip jar was growing.

Carol taught me that being alone doesn’t mean lonely. That when our friends need us to listen, we hear better with our mouth closed, and that sometimes our friends need a kick in the pants. Every woman needs a Carol in their lives.

Linking up with Yeah Write this week – because like Carol, they give me perspective and sometimes a kick in the pants.