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The Grub is a Music Critic

grub musicWhen the Grub was in just an itty bitty in my belly we used to play music for her to listen to as she was developing. Like every other parent out there, we tried just about anything and everything to help our wonderful little bundle of joy reach her full potential before coming out into the world and bringing all of the happiness that surrounded her into our lives. The thing we’d always heard was to play classical music, as it helped her brain development and I think we both wanted a child with some discerning tastes. We tried it for the last remaining months of my pregnancy as I read that infants can remember sounds over that period of time specifically. Obviously her hearing would be different in there, since the environment is like being underwater; but she would recall the things she listened to nonetheless. (more…)

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The Never-Ending Battle with Our DVR

dvrKevin and I are big fans of TV. But obviously, time is something we don’t have a lot of. It’s not like the old days when we’d spend all night watching shows and movies. In fact, I can’t remember the last movie I’ve seen. We have Netflix but we don’t get to it all that often, because we’re constantly trying to clear off the DVR. I mean we have episodes of shows from last year still on there.

I sure do envy people who get to binge-watch entire seasons of a TV show in a weekend. Those days are long behind us at the moment. So now we have a DVR that has about 19% free space left and admittedly, it’s mostly my shows. Kevin and I enjoy some of the same programs but let’s face it, I need my guilty pleasures. (more…)

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Keep Cooking!

cookingAs most of you know, I love to cook. Things don’t always work out, I’m thinking of a particularly foul batch of mint cookies, but that’s ok, it’s part of the fun. I bake, I fry, I roast, I simmer, I pretty much do it all. I’m lucky that my husband seems to appreciate the effort, even when things go south.

There are a few items I keep on hand to help me in the kitchen that I thought it would be fun to share. I’m not talking whisks and spatulas, but other less common tools that help you stay organized and put the best meal possible on the table.

Here’s some gear I could live without but am always thankful I have:

Electronic Thermometer

Meats can be tricky. No one wants a dried out chicken breast, no matter how much sauce you cover it with. And there are so many different ways to cook meat it can be tough to truly master. I use an electronic thermometer to help me figure out when things are cooked through all the way. The’re fast and easy to read and a lot better than cutting things in half to see how red they are inside.

Kitchenaid

This one is a real luxury and not something most people are probably ready to spring for. However, if you like to bake it can save you a lot of time and pain in your wrists from kneading. There are also a bunch of cool attachments like pasta and sausage makers.

A Good Watch

My kitchen is full of timers. There’s one on the oven, the microwave, and and just about every other piece of electronics. However, there’s nothing more annoying to me than a time going off while I’m in another room nursing the grub and unable to do anything about it. So, I started wearing a watch. And not just any watch, but one of Kevin’s tactical watches that he bought here. It’s got multiple alarms so I never have to worry about burning another loaf of bread.

Salad Spinner

When I got this as a gift I remember thinking that I was going to return it to the store. I mean seriously, it looks like something you’d buy at 2:00 am while watching QVC. BUT, I use it several times a week to get my salad greens ready. I’ve been washing all our salad greens myself since I heard that pre-washed greens are not always really washed. I just feel better doing it myself and being able to dry them quickly is a real plus.

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Looking for a Good Dog Collar? Go Herbal!

boston terrierNow that the summer months are upon us, flea and tick season is here. We had our Boston Terrier, Sam, treated to combat the inevitable parasite infestation; but sometimes that isn’t enough to ward them off. The decision was made to get Sam a flea collar to keep him comfortable and the house free of pests. We let him run around the backyard a lot and of course, he loves taking walks around the neighborhood. That means we sometimes run into neighboring dogs which can result in a lot of sniffing and curious interaction, making Sam even more susceptible to picking up something unwanted on his skin and coat. I used to get him one of those commercial brands, but working at the grocery store has made me more aware of the healthier options that are available (since we sell a lot of them) and I find myself doing a lot more research on many of the things I buy for the family, Sam included!

So now Sam’s wearing an herbal dog collar. I feel a lot better about putting one around his neck now that I don’t have to worry about harmful pesticides poisoning him and causing him renal or liver failure, nervous system issues or even worse, cancer. You’d be surprised how mainstream dog collar products can put your pet at risk for such maladies. Herbal means there aren’t any toxic materials or harmful odors that could pose a health hazard for Sam. These types of collars fight off fleas, ticks, even mosquitoes and other insects with the use of pleasant smelling herbs that can also soothe pets and calm their nerves much in the same way these ingredients can relax any of us in a similar manner. Not only are these dog collars safer for your pet, but they won’t clean out your wallet either. You might think herbal means expensive, but with many options available out there, that’s just not the case.

I’ve found a few brands that offer flea collars, most of them using oils such as citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, and pennyroyal, in addition to other active elements that are entirely safe for use with your pet. One of the best I’ve found comes from Castor and Pollux. It takes all of these ingredients and infuses them into a plastic collar that releases them over a period of weeks for total protection against fleas, ticks, and all biting insects; which are repelled by the scents of citronella and cedar.

Another good collar I’ve found comes from Sentry and it’s well suited for dogs with high anxiety who get nervous easily. Sentry uses many of the same repellant oils but also adds chamomile and lavender for that calming effect on your pet. The collar is body heat activated, so the more nervous and worried the dog becomes the more the collar releases the relaxing scents. There’s one more I’ve found from a company called Pet Guard that uses all of the active oils like citronella, cedar, and eucalyptus, among others, but is also designed to help reduce pet odors themselves.

The collar has a menthol scent that is pleasant to humans but, like all of the other ingredients, repels pests. It’s also good for pets who may not have the most pleasing body aroma, the menthol beating back the strong odors that your dog can do nothing about.

All of them are great options to help your dog through flea and tick season and I highly recommend each one!

 

 

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The Crock-Pot Can Be Your Best Friend

crock potNo it’s true. I know maybe it can be slightly intimidating to some people, but trust me on this. You may be thinking to yourself that it’s just too easy, there has to be some kind of catch. Perhaps you’re put off by the fact that you don’t know what setting to put it on and you’re afraid you’re going to ruin your meal. It’s possible you’re confused about just what you can cook inside of it. Let me put all your fears and concerns to rest; the crock-pot can be your best friend because all you really have to do is prep and the cooker does everything else. I’ve sworn by this trusty Mother’s Little Helper for the past year and a half and I haven’t made a bad meal with it yet.

So what’s a crock-pot exactly? It sits on your counter, you plug it in, and the ceramic pot (they usually hold about six quarts of liquid) sits in an outer shell that contains a heating mechanism. The purpose of the crock-pot is to slow-cook your food at lower temperatures. This process takes longer to cook your food but is perfect for roasts, soups, stews, and, our favorite, chili. There are often three settings; high, low, and a “warm” setting. We mostly set our crock-pot to low, which means you’re looking at about 6-8 hours of average cook time versus a 4-6 hour time on high. Lower settings let your food simmer longer and the results are spectacular.

Here’s what’s so great about the crock-pot; I can prep my meal first thing in the morning, stick it into the crock-pot, set it on low and leave it alone until dinner time. You definitely need to plan ahead when you’re cooking with the crock-pot, because while you can set your unit on high and it’ll cook at hotter temperatures, the result may not be as ideal as when you let it take all day cooking. The two favorites we cook most in our crock-pot are meats, such as pork shoulder or beef short ribs, and chili. For us; the lower and slower, the better. Talk about tender – the meat is juicy and falls right off the bone.

You don’t even need to do a lot of prep either. For our short ribs, we get about a pound and a half to two pounds; season the heck out of them (experiment with rubs or buy one pre-made), and sear all sides in a skillet for a few minutes until they’re nice and brown. Place the ribs into the cooker, standing them vertically on their ends. Then scrape all the charred bits from the pan into a ¼ cup of water and pour it all in. Add barbeque sauce or a nice tasty beer in with the ribs. Add some onions, mushrooms, whichever veggies you prefer, and stick the lid on it. Voila, you’re done! You’re free to do whatever you need, feel free to leave it unattended while you go out and run errands. Or get work done at home. Check on it from time to time if you’d like but you don’t need to do much else.

Chili is also easy! Add all of your ingredients; beans, chiles, meats, tomatoes, onions, spices, sugars, and anything else you put into your chili (again, we sometimes pour in some beer). Mix it all into the ceramic pot, set it on low and let the crock-pot do the work. If you’re up early like I am, you can have all your components inside and cooking long enough so that it’s nice and simmering in time for lunch. I often go the eight hour route on the chili, but you can certainly cook yours at less time on the high setting. But when the weather gets cooler, the chili is always ready to go around here. Again, you can leave the crock-pot alone for the day while it cooks but unlike the ribs or roast, you’ll want to check in on the chili and stir it from time to time, tasting it periodically since the spices and sugars can sometimes burn off and you’ll want to keep the seasoning aggressive. But as always, it’s entirely up to your personal taste.

You’ll notice I said you can leave the crock-pot alone for the day. That’s what I really love about it. When you’re as busy as we are around here, short of having a private chef around while you go on with your hectic day, the crock-pot can be your friend. It’s made us some amazing meals and we scour the Internet for more recipes all the time.

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You Can’t Just Walk Into Target For One Thing

targetI love Target, or Tar-jay as we still like to call it. That place has got everything, things you didn’t even know you wanted until you walk inside. But if I ever shop there to buy the one or two things I need and walk out with only those items, it’ll be the first time. I swear they know my weaknesses for low prices, cute outfits, and impulse shopping. Just yesterday we had run out of paper towels. The Grub’s been trying out this new food we got her and she’s been having none of it.

Dumps it right on the floor and don’t even get me started on how much of it ended up on my clothes. She does not like this stuff at all, and she’s letting both of us know about it. We’ve had to take two of Kevin’s suit pants to the cleaners and he made the mistake of trying to feed her in that favorite Ravens T-shirt I got him for his birthday. Needless to say, we’d been going through paper towels a lot quicker than usual around here and we were running low. I used to think Kevin went through rolls of paper towels fast, but he’s got nothing on Elsa.

Oh how I long for the days where he would use them for anything and everything around the house; whether it was for drying his hands at the kitchen sink, wiping down the car, cleaning the blinds, blowing his nose – it seemed my Kevin went through a roll of paper towels a day. But Elsa has been making more of a mess than usual and I’ve found myself reaching for paper towels every time. It’s a bad habit, I know; bad for the environment, bad for the wallet, bad all around. Yet, there I was down to the last sheet on the last roll of a 12 roll pack I had bought at Target just last week! And that was a $135 trip to the store that started with me needing only toilet paper and Band-Aids, and resulted in me walking out with the aforementioned items, a blender, three tank tops, a cute green bra, some greeting cards, dishwashing soap pods, coffee, hot dogs, a 12 pack of that beer Kevin likes and the movie Fast and Furious 6 on Blu-ray because it was on sale and Kevin loves it.

This time was going to be different. I just needed paper towels. But I couldn’t justify a trip to Target only for paper towels, so I looked around the house to take some inventory. I figured if I went in there with a list of items, it would keep me more focused and I wouldn’t lollygag around. Just get the six or seven things I really needed, don’t even look at the other departments as I was passing through. Eye on the ball, Beckie. Get in, get what you need, get out. No blenders, no cute tank tops, NO Vin Diesel. So it turns out we needed: paper towel, tin foil, sugar, toothpaste, mouthwash, and those Breathe Right strips (because Kevin’s started snoring again and those usually help). I was determined to complete my mission. I got in the car, drove over there, and parked. Even found a spot close to the front of the store, so I didn’t have a lot of time for something else to pop into my head to add to my list as I walked inside.

Grabbed my cart, and made a beeline directly to each item. Tin foil. Sugar. Toothpaste and mouthwash, same section. Bam. Bam. Bam Bam. And then, I hit a snag. I shouldn’t have stopped. I should have kept on walking. But nope. I did stop. I did look. The Swiffer Steamboost. On sale, from fifty bucks down to twenty-eight. That’s almost half price! And have you seen the floors in my house?! I argued with myself even as I was lifting it off the rack and placing it into my cart. The tin foil was looking at me like it was ashamed. I was ashamed too. But it’s a Swiffer Steamboost at almost half price. I hung my head and moved on.

That’s when I noticed this pair of cute gold strappy sandals…and they were ONLY $18.99! They ended up in the cart next to the Steamboost and I could swear that was laughing at me now…

I walked out to my car, reading the receipt that read $163.65. I didn’t realize I forgot the paper towels until I pulled into the garage.

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