Monday, September 30, 2013

Menu: Sept 29-Oct 1

Half-week menus rock!

French Onion Soup

Bumped from last week due to Life. Mr. Moon works the evening shift, and having meals ready to eat or easy to make when he gets home has really helped curb the urge to eat out. Also having to buy four new tires instead of the two we'd budgeted helped motivate sticking to the meal plan...

Leftovers! French Dip Sandwiches

What do you get when you have leftover "prime rib" roast, leftover french bread, and leftover french onion soup? Well if you scoop the onions out of the soup for the sandwich, you can add some flavoring to the soup broth and voila! Mr. Moon works, so at least it should be a quick "reheat" kind of dinner. After a day of unpacking and working, I'm sure he will appreciate an easy dinner.


Mr. Moon works. Fall gives me a craving for my mom's recipes, which are typically one-pot meals. I've worked out how to make this one from scratch, though this time I am going to have to open a can of cream of mushroom soup, just like mama made it! I'm really hoping we can get our bedroom a bit more put together that day, but if not it will have to be Wednesday. I'd hoped we could be a bit further along by this point, but there are only 5-7 boxes left to "unpack" and the rest is organizing.


  • Coffee protein shakes. It's working, I'm sticking with it. 


  • Bacon, cucumber, avocado, and tomato sandwiches. Maybe even with a rosemary chive cream cheese!
  • Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  • Chippy Dippy/burrito wraps

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Recipe: French Onion Soup

I pinned a recipe for slow-cooker Guinness french onion soup, and my sister-in-love asked me to tell her how it went. Well of course with an abundance on onions and just such a request, how could I resist?!

Original recipe here:

Well I don't have internet at home right now, so when I went to make the soup I didn't have access to the recipe. Like I would have followed it anyway. So here's what I did, and then the usual "how I would make it better next time."

What I Did:

  • Julienned ~4 medium-sized red onions, and tossed them in the crockpot. 
  • Sliced 3 smallish leeks (minus the top half of the green parts which were wilty), rinsed well, and tossed those in. 
  • Crushed an entire head of garlic, where the head was only as big around as a quarter, maybe a little more--last year's garden garlic! I was also testing the theory that you don't need to peel the garlic when using a crusher. It was marginally effective, but with the cloves as small as they were, I only got about half the garlic. Meh. 
  • All that with some salt and pepper in the crockpot, let that go on high for an hour. I thought the recipe said 2 hours so I was a little worried when I had to toss the liquid in at an hour, but I was headed out for some impromptu socializing and wasn't going to sit around for an hour waiting on onions! They weren't as cooked as I'd have liked, but they looked delicious. 
  • Added 1 bottle beer, 1 box of beef broth, and STUPIDLY added about a half of that box of water. As soon as I finished dumping it in I realized that was pretty silly if I wasn't going to use beef bouillon. But it was done, so in went a scoop of bouillon granules. 
  • Completely forgot the vinegar mentioned in the recipe, and would have had to use malt and balsamic to get anything resembling red wine vinegar anyway, thanks to the grape allergy. 

When we went to serve it 6 hours later, it was good but...

  • The onions were pretty lackluster. They weren't caramelized when I added the liquid, they had a nice texture but still even too stiff after cooking int he liquid for so long. The leeks were divine though. 
  • It needed more flavor for the broth. Definitely regret adding the water, this soup is usually made with consomme or at least broth that has been reduced 75% so it's a pretty thick flavor and then it's often reduced further with the onions. I ended up adding more bouillon granules to mine in the bowl. 
  • The croutons were lackluster. I usually make mine my putting garlic butter on crostini, toasting on the flat cast iron griddle, then broiling with cheese on. This time I just put the frozen crostini on a pan, added the garlic butter on top, and broiled the cheese on top. The crostini got soggy in a kinda gross way because they weren't toasted as much. I did use swiss cheese since I had that, instead of the irish cheddar the recipe called for, but I've had it both ways and I don't think the Irish cheddar adds much. 

So.... I don't think this saves any time or effort, and definitely reduces the quality. I AM going to do it again, here's what I'd change:

  • I'll put the onions and garlic in with a bit more salt and pepper, and let them cook for at least 2 if not 4 hours. 
  • I'll use a homemade beef broth that's been properly reduced. Crockpots don't reduce foods well if at all, so it's either use bouillon (which frankly is fine if you can get a decent one) or use a LOT of broth and reduce it on the stove. 
  • I'd add a second bottle of guinness, and a lot more seasoning in general. 
I don't see this as much of a time-saver, really. You have to do all the steps anyway. But it is something that is certainly better the longer it cooks, and thus would be a benefit to make it ahead and put it in the crockpot. You can even toast the crostini earlier in the day. Then it's just a matter of broiling the cheese on the crostini and dinner is served. Great for when you have time early in the day but not at dinner time, not so great for actually saving steps or total minutes. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Menu: Sept 25-28

Funny garden update: We have a grey squirrel that invaded my sage today, and I scared Mr. Moon by opening the door and yelling, "EXCUSE YOU!" at it (he thought someone was invading the house!). I had seen some digging marks before, but hadn't had the motivation or time to deal with it whenever I noticed on my way in or out the door. I mixed up a little sriracha and garlic and water, dumped that around the plants, and am hoping that will keep the little bugger from digging up my sage again. There is plenty of dirt around here, he doesn't need to go digging in mine!

We are so far REALLY enjoying this twice a week menu planning. Much easier to account for perishable foods this way!

Stuffed Peppers w/ gorgonzola & bacon
Sides: Sautéed summer squash, steamed green beans

Day off, lots of unpacking today! We kept pushing off the stuffed peppers because when we were thinking about dinner it was too late to take two hours to make it. So we roasted off the chicken yesterday, enough for stuffed peppers and some lunches so when we want it it's a simple matter of crumbling it into a pan and heating it up really fast (or stuffing it in peppers and baking it). We've also got a couple half-zucchinis and some fresh green beans from the farmer's market, and are looking for a fun send-off to summer.

Roast Dinner: Beast, potatoes, and purple carrots

Another day off, another bunch of boxes. Also from the farmer's market, purple carrots! And baby potatoes! We have one 3lb roast beef from a giant eye of round roast, and it is taking up space in our now-much-smaller freezer so it's got to go. Sounds like roast dinner to me! Plus we can roast off a little extra of the veggies for tomorrow's dinner.

Niçoise Salad over Dinosaur Kale

Mr. Moon is closing at work, which means a close-to-midnight dinner, our downfall the last few weeks. With the abundance of green beans, new potatoes, eggs, and kale it sounded like niçoise salad time. I will have to marinate pretty well everything the day before, but when it comes time to eat, it will be a pretty fast dinner.

Crockpot French Onion Soup

Mr. Moon is closing at work again, and I'm loving the chilly weather. I Pinned a recipe for guinness french onion soup in the crockpot and my sister-in-love asked me to tell her how it goes. This is definitely an active crockpot recipe for the stay-at-home types, because it starts with 1-2 hours of just onions, then a few hours simmering with the liquid, then adding some fresh herbs and browning the croutons. But it looks delicious, and I have an abundance of red onions plus some yellows and leeks, so it sounds like a perfect time to try it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Menu: Sept 22-24 -- Back on the Meal Planning Bandwagon

Yes, only three days. We're trying out a new Thing were we do our menu plans twice a week, on Sundays and Wednesdays. We are hoping it will lead to less food waste if we keep up on our perishables a little better. Of course, that means I need a new fun banner for menu days, but we'll get there eventually!

Crockpot Chili

Mr. Moon is working a double, and we haven't been great about dealing with the late-night dinners lately. Late night take-out on a tight budget leads to bad choices for the tummies and the wallet. Kicking off fall with a pot of chili sounded like just the right remedy for getting some wholesome food into us at the end of a busy day.

Stuffed Peppers

Mr. Moon is on call that evening, so it could be a late night dinner or sudden extra time to unpack boxes. Having something we can prep ahead is good! I'm not really a fan of the tomato-and-rice stuffed peppers, but I saw a recipe for some with chicken that looked good. It had cream cheese as a binder, plus cheddar cheese, onions, and bacon. Sounds delicious but a little rich and heavy, even if it is fall. We fell down a rabbit hole of modifying it and ended up in a completely different place. We're stuffing ours with chicken, gorgonzola, rosemary, chives and bacon. With a side of summer squash and onions.

Crockpot White Bean Soup w/ Kale and Shrimp

I told Mr. Moon that if he comes home from work to discover this soup has suddenly had thai seasoning and coconut milk added to it, he shouldn't be alarmed. It might be a brothy soup but we DO have some "condensed" freezer bases of cream of celery soup. So I might start there. All I know is it will have kale. And leeks. And probably some shrimp.

Wednesday and Saturday (only through next week) or Sunday (all winter) are market days, so we're opting to do our menus twice a week to accommodate seasonal and uncertain inventories. One market has a luscious day-old bread section from local bakeries, and those usually have to be eaten within a day of picking them up. We have a few solid standby dinners we can go to if we miss a market day or need to supplement, but I'm looking forward to not living on pasta and rice and potato dishes. Mixing things up a bit, experimenting with lots of fresh produce and new ingredients. Though a nice meat loaf sounds pretty good right about now, too.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Moving: Things to do before you move into a new apartment (learn from my fail)

When we were moving in, the landlord did a walkthrough with us. He assured is the bathroom tub/shower area had been thoroughly scrubbed, and the faint brownish color on the one wall of the shower was staining from over the years.

You probably already know where this is going, but we're going to take a detour first.

The previous tenant also apparently had a fruit fly problem. Not having proper refuse disposal or cleaning supplies, Mr. Moon being here for a week before these systems were in place only made the fruit fly issue worse. IT WAS BAD. There are no pictures. Just me freaking out for weeks. We ended up putting out bowls of vinegar with a drop of soap, and after a few days of less-than-entirely-proper cleaning and refreshing the vinegar, the fruit flies seem to have died off. Thank goodness.

We did scrub the cabinets in the kitchen. The area around the handles was nasty, and the shelves were dusty and dirty. We also wiped out the fridge, though that had pretty clearly been cleaned with bleach. The landlord said they may have missed a couple smaller things since they thought the former tenant had been smoking inside, so they spent a lot of time scrubbing walls. They patched a lot of tiny holes, too, but didn't paint over them, so the walls have these kinda white polka dots on cream. Highly entertaining. The lighting in here is just so bad that you can't really tell. Please don't take that as me complaining; we love our cave.

Without further ado, things I wish I had done before we moved our stuff in:

  • Walls: Ok, they did that, but they'd missed some spots. Like the wall area above the shower, which is now dripping cigarette tar from the top windowsill. And the door frames. So maybe let's count that under
  • Trim: Lots of dusty baseboards, which were the only proof that the walls had been scrubbed; you could see sprays of cleaner in some spots. 
  • Fridge: They did that, we did a cursory wipe down, but it's worth putting in the list. And on that note a quick reminder about
  • Cabinets/shelving: We did great on the kitchen ones, the hall closet and bathroom ones somewhat less so. 
  • Dishwasher/drains: We didn't have one, but I wish we had done a nice drain volcano in the sink, maybe it would have helped with the fruit flies. 
  • Windowsills: For a landlord that was so super obsessed with how mold grows in windowsills, they didn't do a great job of cleaning them. 
  • Floors: They had the carpets shampooed, but the wood laminate flooring had a lot of footprints and dust on them still, even a couple small shards of glass. It would have been nice to have had a broom and mop available to take care of that straight away rather than tracking it all over the carpet. 
  • Light switches: I can't believe these haven't been done yet. I'm turning a blind eye to them but only for so much longer. They're GROSS! Like, obviously the plates were wiped down with the walls, but the switches themselves need some attention with a q-tip and some rubbing alcohol. 
  • Windows: I really don't know how these always get skipped in the tenant turnover process. 
  • BATHROOM! We wiped the toilet seat and the counter down. Trusted the landlord that the brown stuff in the shower was staining. Sprayed down the tub and shower walls with vinegar and let it go. LESSON LEARNED! SCRUB THAT TUB! When you want a bath at the end of a long day moving or unpacking boxes, the last thing you should need to be worried about is whether you are bathing in someone else's filth. You don't need a bunch of bleach or stinky cleaners, just a bottle of baking soda, some soap, vinegar, and a scrubby. Let me illustrate: 

Y'all...... that wasn't staining. That was soap and body scum. And I took a bath in a tub that had that in it. It took Mr. Moon a combined two hours of scrubbing (including the cleanup fro the scrubbing) to do the entire tub and shower enclosure. GROSS. But when it was done, oh, the difference is a sparkling, glorious shower. 

So my advice: The day you pick up your keys, head on over with a bucket of cleaning supplies and spend a day going to town. Trust no one*. Assume the last tenant (or owner!) was a slob who never picked up a cleaning cloth in their life, and that the landlord is too incompetent to have cleaned the place properly. A good half a day to a full day of work, depending on the size of the place, and you are starting from a good base point to keep the place clean from there forward. Also, much easier to do before you move any of your stuff in!

* Okay, if you have the receipt from a cleaning company and can confirm when they were there, what as was cleaned and with what products, you can probably safely skip those things if you're comfortable with the products. I still think a good wipe-down wouldn't hurt, just to get any dust that has settled since being kicked up in the cleaning process. 

Also, we've had some "eco cleaners" come into our old apartment and they had been used in the parental units' house and I bet in this apartment too. The cleaner the eco-friendly companies use a) only gets the top 1/4 inch of the carpet, attracts dirt like a magnet, and has to be gone over with a cleaner like peroxide or vinegar that can safely rinse out and break down their organic compounds. We've been here a month and the carpet looks horrid, but shampooing and steam cleaning are specifically prohibited in our lease. If I were purchasing a home, the first thing I'd be doing is ripping out the carpet and laying either hardwood or laminate flooring, for a whole lot of reasons. But failing that, a good "shampooing" with hot water and peroxide or vinegar will do wonders. 

That being said, don't forget to leave yourself a day to clean up behind you in the old place. A little putty and sanding action for holes in the walls, dusting and vacuuming at the very least, and wipe down the handprints from the walls. Be considerate to the people coming in behind you, ESPECIALLY if you've leaving behind roommates. We made sure to put a shower head in the bathroom when we took ours (though we had to do it when we returned the next week because the old one was missing and we needed to find it), and even knowing that we would probably be the next ones sleeping there in the now-guest room I made sure to make the bed with clean sheets and blankets. (That ended up being a good thing because we arrived at almost 3am when we went back down.) I had one of my helpers vacuum the bedroom, hallway and dining room which had dirt and dust and box shedding pieces traipsed through it for a week. This also illustrated to me how important it is to move furniture regularly to dust/vacuum behind and under it. Speaking of dusty baseboards. 

We're making progress on the unpacking process, though nowhere hear as quickly as I had anticipated. We've lowered our expectations from 20 boxes a day to 5, and 10 on days Mr. Moon has off work. We've stopped putting off the daily cleaning habits "until we're done unpacking," because the process is taking so long and the bad habits were making the place unlivable in other ways! I'm pleased to say we have the daily checklists updated for our new space and hung on the walls, in hopes they will help keep us on task. Focusing on just keeping the dishes caught up makes a HUGE difference. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Moving: Getting back into routine and making new ones

Mr. Moon has finished unpacking the kitchen, though there are already some rearrangements I want to make when we have the rest of the boxes unpacked. The dining room is still not done, and yes I realize they're the same "room" but for our sanity we needed to check something off. Having the kitchen done means no more eating takeout, which is obviously the financially responsible decision. We're still eating some packaged foods that I would typically make from scratch, but I'm hoping we can wean ourselves off them next month. Right now, we're just being gentle with ourselves and honest about our capabilities. Since Mr. Moon finally caught up on the backlog of dishes, that's been our main focus aside from unpacking: keeping up with the habit of emptying the sink every single night and putting away the dry dishes first thing in the morning.

The bedroom is our next priority, since we have a new mattress coming in on Wednesday and must have a path cleared to the bedroom as well as the bedroom ready for the new mattress. Seriously, I just want to name this thing. It feels like such a big, adult decision to be buying a brand new mattress, and it's going to be with us for years, so I feel like it should have a name. How do you go abut naming a mattress?

We're at 32 boxes (and trash bags) unpacked and broken down so far. Some of the ones that were unpacked got repurposed for holding other things that still need to be put away properly, such as for example all the clothes that were being used as packing material. But it's 32 boxes completely empty and broken down so far. It's looking good.

Yesterday I spent some time updating our daily checklists. I have found the box with the printer in it, but I haven't set the printer up yet (since the desk just got pushed into place today!). I also don't know where the frames to make the checklists into dry erase boards are. But those should be discovered here soon.

One thing I've really found is how much the clutter is damaging my calm. We are making it a priority to get the bedroom done soon so that it can be a safe haven from the mess while we get the living room set up. Setting a goal of finishing 20 boxes a day was probably impossible, but 10 boxes a day is doable. If we focus.

Soon, soon, soon. One day at a time, I guess.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

To Do: The new apartment!

The Living Room
- 0% done -
 View from the door

View from that hallway doorway

 Damage on the door from previous tenant. :(

Damage in the carpet from previous tenant :(

The nice thing about this living room is that it is BIG. South-facing windows let in a lot of natural light, but also a lot of heat. I will be surprised if we ever have to turn the heat on in here or the kitchen. That doorway you can see on the left of the top picture is the hall that leads to the bedroom and bathroom and closets. The doorway at the right of the bottom picture is toward the kitchen and dining room.

To Do:

  • EVERYTHING--This room has all the boxes, and most of the furniture. It will be the last thing finished. But that's OK!

The Kitchen/Dining room
- 60% done -
 Dining room

 Kitchen with gross-orange-wood cabinets. 

Aren't these liners just to DIE for? 

At least the cabinets don't waste any space. All the headspace is available, and the corners too!

At least the stoven is decent, though electric. But that's to be expected in most rentals. 
Damage on the floor from previous tenant :(

I love the eat-in kitchen, the south-facing window, and the fact that there is room for our little pantry shelves and a liquor cabinet and the kitchen island AND a two-seater table. I do not love the cabinet colors but nothing is perfect. I do love that the stoven is much newer than the rest of the kitchen!

To Do:

  • Unpack dishes (90% done)
  • Unpack food (80% done)
  • Buy liquor/glassware cabinet
  • Stain shelves for liquor cabinet
  • Unpack glassware
  • Buy dining table
  • Buy or have shipped kitchen chairs (my mom thinks she is reupholstering some for me)

Hall Closet
- 10% done -
Don't you just love that shelf at the top? I'm not sure what could even go up there!

The kitty box is going to go in here, and the usual linen closet items. I'm still not sure what is going on with that top shelf, but I'm sure I will find a use for it.

To Do:

  • Remove door
  • Hang a curtain rod & sheet-curtain
  • Unpack first aid/bathroom supplies, towels, and set up kitty box station

Storage room
- 0% done -
Not shown: This room has a curtain rod with shelf to the right, and the rest is open space; picture shows about how much space though. 

To be used for storage, rather than the "office/den/spare bedroom" it was listed as. It saves us an external storage unit, and maybe in time we could turn it into a little beer brewery if we manage to get all Our Stuff out and usable instead of being stored. In the meantime, I put all the stuff we would need to get to first in here so it couldn't get buried in the living room, and so that we would be forced to deal with the stuff from/for storage properly. Believe it or not, it is working. The living room is still a wreck, but this room is slowly being emptied again.

To Do:

  • Unpack everything that's inside, and repack with the storage items that are in the living room. 

- 10% done -
 Bathroom from the doorway. Unpictured: towel rod over the toilet, and another across from the toilet.

Bathroom from the tub. Look! Two nice towel rods by the sink!

 This mauve tiling and starburst tiling are delightfully 70's. The cabinetry, like the kitchen's, less delightful but still 70's. 

I love this grey-lavender lily tile in the shower. Gorgeous!

To Do:

  • Hang shower curtain.
  • Buy over-toilet-cabinet.
  • Unpack the bathroom boxes. 

- 20% done -
 View from the door. 

 View from the far corner. Gotta love a north-facing bedroom window! No excess light! 

This closet is HUGE! 

 Damage to the carpet from previous tenant :(

Mold in the caulking... Ew :(
To Do:

  • Set up bed frame
  • Buy new mattress
  • Re-hang closet rod (including custom wedges--AKA cardboard)
  • Unpack clothes (30% done)
  • Unpack crafting supplies
  • Arrange desk hutch
  • Unpack office supplies
  • Arrange nightstands
  • Unpack nightstand stuff
  • Get windows recaulked

Still need to grab some things--like the cat and the herb garden--from the Vancouver house. We are hoping to make a trip down sometime soon, after we get a little more settled in. My mom bought me some dishes that match my kitchen theme, and those should be arriving soon. We had been hoping to have more boxes unpacked by now, but impulsively shopping for mattresses and a liquor/glassware cabinet came first. Now it's time to buckle down and Unload Those Boxes!

P.S. Sorry the pictures are of the place being empty rather than today's pictures. I will grab some in a few days with an updated progress report. In the meantime, how cute is that bathroom?! Favorite room in the house.

Moving: The aftermath

Moving was a fiasco.

  • The sticker idea didn't work, the stickers were too small. Next time, use the tape. 
  • Very detailed labels are a lifesaver. It takes an extra few seconds to write roughly everything that was in the box, and those seconds add up. But at least include anything specifically important, like NIGHTSTAND FAN or LOCK BOX or what pieces of kitchen equipment are in each box. 
  • The idea of packing things with clothes worked awesomely. Do that! 
  • Have someone in charge of packing the truck who is well-rested, patient, and good at real life Tetris. 
  • Take lots of breaks. It is OK to sit down! Sitting down to pack something doesn't count as a break. 
  • Make sure everything is packed into boxes before the day you pick up the truck. Leave as very little as you can get away with until the last minute. 
  • Standard-sized boxes are a life-saver. Even if you are using non-standard sized boxes, as long as you have a LOT that are the same size and shape, that's what's important. 
  • Non-standard-sized boxes are a lifesaver. Some things just don't fit in the perfectly shaped things sold by moving companies. Sometimes you need something smaller than a Small box or oddly sized to make a nice, sturdy stack in the truck. For these, oddly shaped boxes are key. 
In the future, I will take the six weeks recommended to pack properly and get things labeled nicely. Oh, wait, no I won't. That NEVER HAPPENS. 

It's done. The moving truck is unloaded and returned. Some of the boxes are even unpacked. We ended up having to do some projects that didn't directly involve unpacking boxes, so we aren't as far along as we'd have liked with that, but the unpacking is still coming along nicely. I have a couple pieces of furniture left to acquire, specifically an over-the-toilet shelving unit. We acquired a liquor cabinet at Goodwill yesterday, but we have to stain the shelves so we have somewhere to unpack the glassware. 

It's a whole different kind of to-do list, more urban and less homesteading for a while. We discovered yesterday some sticker shock over produce prices. Some of it is the natural food stores jacking up prices for the name. Some of it is the odd weather. Some of it is that we have been spoiled by out-of-city prices, though the best price on produce in Vancouver was at a natural foods store.

So we will save up for a CSA again for next summer. We will plow through our jars and jars and more jars of plum jam. We will gather our herbs and maybe get a tomato plant in a pot next year. We will scope out some produce stands with better prices and check out the farmer's markets. And soon, soon our lives will be in order.
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