Did You Really Think I Could Stay Away?

Yah, I can’t.

But, I am getting things accomplished, more or less, so you can join me soon on my new website “Just Like Perfect!”.

Today was very busy in a fun way because I was actually able to spend a good amount of time cooking and baking so that I can add some new recipes to my site. I love being in the kitchen and it was so much more fun to do this for my website than to sit and try to figure out all of the technical stuff that is not working or to fix all of the back posts (I am sooo not done with that yet).

I won’t spoil the surprise but there are desserts, soup and a deliciously moist quick bread with a twist to look forward to.

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The only problem is that I think I used every pot and pan that I own so cleanup is ginormous.

I’m Lonely

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I’m lonely over in my big ole messy half-empty website without you.

So, because it’s no fun doing this without you and I want you to keep me company, I have decided to spend the next week working like crazy to get my place presentable and then switch over to my new website. Does that sound selfish? It might be, but just maybe you would enjoy grabbing a box to sit on and keep me company. From there, I will keep working on many things that need tidying but it will be so much more fun (for me any way) to have you along. What’s the point in waiting until my website is perfect when the whole point of my website is that it doesn’t need to be perfect to make a moment?

Thus, I will not be putting posts on here this week so that I can focus on getting “Just Like Perfect!” ready enough for switching over next weekend.

I would love to be “open” for the start of March. It is my 1 year anniversary for blogging, ya know. How can it be one year already? But, it makes the moment fun to switch to my new site during my anniversary month – lots to celebrate!

By the end of next week, I will be back and let you know what my plan is for the weekend…it is all just so exciting!

Talk to you soon and have a great weekend and week…

From me…to you

Aaryne

How’s My “Just Like Perfect!” Website Coming Along Now?

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Fabulous, just fabulous!

It has been a few weeks now and for the last few days, I have stopped complaining. That in itself is fabulous because I was getting tired of the “complaining me”, it’s not my nature.

My site is taking shape, finally, and I have not had any major setbacks (I just jinxed myself for sure) and I am getting excited. At the moment, I am knee-deep in tedious manual technical labor but my mind is busy dreaming about what I want it to look like, both temporarily, and as I move forward.

If you don’t know, I am a big dreamer. Big. And with big plans, often much bigger than can be accomplished in the near future – or ever. This website dream is no different.

So, I just reel myself in and make adjustments to my mindset. The biggest kink in my plan is that I need to go through the blog material that I have transferred over, post by post, because links are not working and my new website has the ability to include “featured images” (like my recipe blog had) but this site does not. So, I have to add an image for each post, fix links and clear any other cobwebs that I find. There are over 500 posts. Phew.

First, I started just going page by page and post by post. But I only got to page 7 out of 30 pages and I needed to see more success. I am the person who paints a wall and then cuts in because I need to see results fast. Granted, cutting in takes the longest and it is best practice to cut in first. And technically, once the cutting in is done, the rest of the wall goes quickly. But, at some point, I need visual stimulation to see that I am actually accomplishing something.

This post-fixing project is no different either. So, I changed up the routine and started fixing posts by category. Ahhh, seeing the categories get checked off of a list was the visual accomplishment that helped. I have left the largest category for the end, as I do with painting and cutting in, and will probably be sorry, but by that point, it will just have to get finished.

Thus, in the mindless task of going post by post, I think I have decided that I will open the Just Like Perfect! website once it is operable and invite you all to stop in and look around as construction is going on. I will still have to fix posts and get organized but right now, I am doing double the work by posting here and then adding it to the new site. It just doesn’t make sense. The whole point of my new site is that things do not have to be perfect to be enjoyed. It is about making moments that matter and perfection is rarely a key component. In my younger years, I spent so much time making moments perfect that I missed out on enjoying them and no one really noticed all of the details and “perfection” any way. There is a time and a place for perfection (although as I get older I am not sure when that would be) but I for one, am not going to miss out on a moment with life and loved ones because I could not present perfection. “Just Like Perfect” is perfectly acceptable and much more fun! I am missing you and need to spend more time with you again.

So, soon, very soon, I will invite you to join me in my latest adventure as I expand my blogging world. You can dust off a seat, bring some coffee for both of us (I am not sure where I packed the coffee maker yet) and chit-chat while I clean out cobwebs and corners and find places for all of my pictures and dishes. Eventually, I will return the favor and one day you will come in to smell the coffee brewing, find that fresh-baked goods are waiting for you and I am ready to share some scoop because I have settled in and it has become my new home.

(In case you haven’t noticed or are completely confused, I have been thoroughly enjoying comparing moving into my new website to moving into a new home. It’s stressful and tiring but exciting and cozy as well. – That’s how my crazy mind works!)

Don’t Tell My Husband…

but I am not entirely sure what I am doing for Valentine’s Day…

I know, I know…how can it be that the world’s greatest gift idea gal is not all set for Valentine’s Day? Well, I have a plan in place but I like to get a thoughtful little token gift and I am not on top of my game this year.

Last year, Lindt Chocolate made these adorable Frog Prince Chocolates so I picked one up for him from Target. This year, Target has a frog prince tin with chocolates (ya know, in case you still need an adorable token gift – you have to purchase it from the store) but I cannot do the same thing this year. We already enjoyed my Chocolate Cherry Chip Brownie, in it’s fabulous heart shape.

Lindt Milk Chocolates in Frog Prince Tin 4.7 oz

Valentine’s Day comes hot on the heels of Christmas, our anniversary and both of our birthdays. We are not in need of gifts, although I did give him an idea for me (I can always enjoy some spices from the Spice House).

I will keep you posted…will this gifting gal get it together?

Stay tuned….

Mouthwatering Superbowl Must-Haves!

As a batch of chicken wing sauce simmers away on my stove, let me tell you a story…

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Meet one of the loves of my life…oh how I long for those wings and that pizza!

But we have a long-distance relationship because they are in NY and I am not.

Sure, it just looks like pizza and chicken wings, so what is my problem you are wondering – they are all over the place. Sadly, not all chicken wings and pizza have the same flavors and I cannot find those exact flavors in my Midwestern world.

So, I set about to see if I could create them myself.

I make a homemade pizza (homemade as in using frozen pizza dough!) that is tasty and has been a pleaser for years so it satisfies me when I want pizza even tho it is not the pizza you see above.

Thus, the chicken wing sauce became my obsession and after trying many recipes online I came up with the recipe below that is pretty darn close to the flavor that I crave. It seems that simmering the sauce to reduce it and then refrigerating it is key. Once you have the wing sauce, the possibilities are endless. Obviously it is perfect when paired with chicken wings but it is also delicious when tossed with popcorn chicken or as a dip for your chicken fingers. How about dunking your fried egg sandwich or adding it to a burger?

It is also fabulous in a Buffalo Chicken Pizza (see below) that was another favorite food from a restaurant in NY that I just had to figure out how to make myself.

I have also included a recipe for Blue Cheese Dip from the Pioneer Woman (adapted ever so slightly), that goes perfectly with this chicken wing sauce.

Just below the pictures are the links to my original posts and then the recipes follow in case you just need to get to the good stuff (although why you would want to miss out on my gabbing session is beyond me…)

Oh – and keep scrolling for the Hot Dog of your dreams!

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(I needed to show you two shots because you just had to see the melty blue cheese dollops)

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

  • Difficulty: easy but has a few steps
  • Print

Buffalo Chicken Wing Sauce

– adapted

8 tablespoons Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce (try to use Frank’s Original – I have tried with the wing sauce version and it is not the same)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar (I used seasoned Rice Vinegar for a little flavor)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or less if you do not like as “garlicky”)
3-4 splashes of worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on a very light bubble for 15-20 minutes. Add more “cayenne heat” if you need to adjust the taste.

Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

You can use the sauce now, but I discovered that refrigerating it overnight made the flavors and ingredients blend into a much better “sauce”. Give it a stir. If you prefer or need to reheat it, you can use the microwave for short bursts at a time or use the stovetop just to warm it. If you are adding hot wings to the sauce then you really do not need to reheat it because the heat from the wings will soften the refrigerated sauce.

Blue Cheese Dip

I like the Pioneer Woman’s version of Blue Cheese Dressing so I used that and just tweaked it a bit.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/fast-blue-cheese-dressing-recipe.html

1/2 cup mayo
3/4 cup sour cream
3-4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Blue Cheese Crumbles
1/8 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate.

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What a Perfect Pair!


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Yes this dog just might be your next best friend, the kind that you love to bring to parties and show off .

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Sometimes, a simple hot dog is best. But when you want to add a little somethin’ somethin’ to it, you can’t go wrong with meat sauce, and a hearty one at that. It’s easy to throw together and very forgiving if you need to substitute an ingredient or two.

Hot Dog Meat Sauce

Hot Dog Meat Sauce

1 lb ground beef (chicken, turkey, or even tofu I suppose)
1/4 cup pasta sauce
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons hot sauce of your liking (or omit)
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar, any kind – I used seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
3 dashes of soy sauce
salt & pepper to taste

– Brown and drain the ground beef.
– Combine all of the ingredients and mix in the ground beef.

Serve with fresh diced onions, fried onions and banana peppers…yum!

That’s it – you’re done! This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated if need be (just warm it before serving).

Set for Surgery

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Bright and early Monday morning me and a wee one are headed off for some child-related day surgery. We were able to get in on a cancellation, which meant that I had some scrambling to do Friday afternoon to get ready. With insurance authorizations, school teachers on notice, childcare for my other wee ones in place, and all other related tasks in order I now need to prep for the surgery day.

Naturally, my first priority and concerns are for my wee one undergoing surgery. But there isn’t anything more that I can do for him at this moment.

So, it becomes about ME.

Yes, me.

Will I have enough to eat?
(Probably a tuna fish sandwich is not a good choice in an enclosed waiting room. But bacon might be.)

What am I going to bring to keep me busy?
(This is not a problem at all. I have piles of things that I want to do and cannot get to. The better question is how do I narrow down the things that I bring to keep me busy to things that I would actually get to because I cannot bring in a rolling suitcase.)

What am I going to wear?
(Luckily, this is not a formal affair. But I suppose that fleece jammies and fluffy socks would be inappropriate since I am not the one actually undergoing surgery. I need to find the outfit that feels like sweatpants but looks like I put in a little effort. That will take some planning.)

Do I have enough headache medicine?
(Hanging around is not one of my strengths.)

In preparing for this day-long venture, I have become aware that I am actually going to have some rare time by myself. It’s not at the spa or at a bookstore but I always say you need to enjoy your opportunities however they come to you even if it doesn’t look exactly as you would have planned. It’s the only one coming so make it count.

I am getting a little excited. A cup of coffee, perhaps. I can leisurely read my books about self-publishing, a book by Marlo Thomas on ladies in the prime of their life starting their dreams (I do fit into that category) and one of the fabulous series of “Dummy” books  instructing me on how to use my new camera. Plus, there are still those holiday magazines that I have not looked at yet.

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Yes, it is a bit exciting.

There are also thank-you notes to get to and my holiday stories that need work.

And that pesky task of finding a new name for my blog/website. That task is like a mosquito flying around. I get tired of it and swat it away but it keeps coming back making noise.

Most likely I will be fraught with anxiety on separating from my wee one while away in the hands of others and I will sit with a nervous foot tick counting the seconds until we can be reunited, completely unable to focus on anything for myself. My giant stack of fun things to do will come home untouched.

But, it is a fun thought and is keeping me busy!

 

 

 

Road Trip – 3 Day Weekend!

I am now ruled by the “school schedule” so the first 3 day weekend that I saw on the horizon was a chance for me to plan a Road Trip (much shorter than my summer one) so I planned a weekend away. We headed north about 3 hours to the middle of Wisconsin to check out the world in those parts. I have 4 letters for you…

VRBO

“Vacation Rental By Owner”

It’s fabulous.

I have no affiliation with them so this is not a “pitch post”. I discovered this website last year (VRBO.com) when I was looking for a place to stay for the week over the summer. It is similar to other sites that offer homes to stay in for vacation purposes. This one just happens to have homes in the areas that I head to. I used them this past summer twice while in NY on our Mammoth Road Trip excursion. (Check out the link if you missed all of that goodness. The link provides the first bits of the journey and you can follow the rest under the “Gift of Gab – Road Trip Ramblings” category).

With a family of 5 and often an additional guest along, renting a whole house for the same price or less than a hotel is a no-brainer. I have been on a “country kick” lately so I have rented homes in the country and it brings me back to my roots. I love it!

We rented a farmhouse with lots of land, walking trails and a lake/pond…plus beautiful barns and out buildings.

At the time that I planned this weekend getaway, my mind thought, “Oooo, 3 days, that’s enough time to getaway”.

It’s not.

At least not in my world.

By the time I pack, travel and get us settled, I have used up a day and a half. Then the last day is spent getting packed up, traveling and settled back into home. So I really just went away for an afternoon.

And this is what we took…

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Believe it or not, I got it all in our minivan. Plus, 3 kids and 3 grownups.

I have Super Spatial Powers.

I had to switch out a toy house for a flatter one but that was so minor that I consider it quite an accomplishment.

We drove 15-20 minutes and I made an announcement to my potty trained children that they should tell me they needed a bathroom when they first felt like they had to go, NOT when they really had to go. That is too much pressure and I cannot always find a safe place to stop, even to use Mother Nature’s bathroom facilities.

About a minute later I heard, “Mom, I have to go to the bathroom.” I forgot about bathroom breaks. Kid bathroom breaks that take over the whole trip.

We hadn’t even left our world yet. So, I tried to stifle my signature sigh and we exited the highway that we had just zoomed onto and headed back to use a bathroom. McDonald’s was the best option and of course then everyone was hungry and wanted to eat there. Well, the kids any ways. I have no problem saying that I love McDonald’s, I wouldn’t even dream of lying about it. I am not ashamed. BUT, I do get tired of it because it is one of the few places that my kids will eat or is around me when I want something fast. I have tried other fast food places and their speed of service does not even compare. When you have 3 young kids in the car, you cannot hang out in a car stuck in a line that has no exit for 20 minutes waiting on a chicken sandwich. Don’t they know that?

So, I decided that we may as well go pee, get lunch and THEN maybe everyone would fall asleep. Let me remind you that all of that stuff I showed you earlier is packed in this van so you have to climb over things to get in and out. And the two potty trained kids are in the very back because the toddler needs to be close to his mother – he’s just a baby, after all, and the grownups get carsick. It’s a major chore when a kid has to go to the bathroom. And of course the toddler is upset that everyone else seems to be getting out to do something fun so he falls apart that he is not included. Well, he can come, yes, so now all of us, minus dad, are off to enjoy the insides of McDonald’s. They did give away free toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids, so it did end up being extremely exciting. That’s the great part about Road Trip…the unknown treasures!

Back on the road, no one went to sleep as I had planned. We had to make another pee stop using nature’s facilities off an exit only to discover afterwards that a mile down the road there was a real rest stop. Muffins were antsy so we got off at that rest stop and stretched and regrouped, hoping THAT would help people sleep so we could keep going. It worked.

But then MapQuest failed me. It has maybe only failed me once before and I only say that because I can’t remember that it did but it MAY have. It told me to go left when it made no sense and I could not find the road it talked about unless I went right. I do not use GPS, I outwardly scoff at “SURI”(SP) the iPhone direction lady and any other technological “I will help you find your way but only when you have screamed at the right decibel or when I am back from my break, or when you have service again or maybe never” service that is available these days. Too many gone wrong moves that have left me weary of their true intention. I am old school, as I have pointed out (I am waiting for permed big hair to come back you know) so I like MapQuest. Yes, I know that is not really “old school” as in getting out the map and highlighting my route “old school” and that MapQuest uses the same technology but it works. I like visually seeing where I am headed before I go, then I have a better idea of when things are looking funky.

Kids were awake now and antsy again. Another pit stop, a call to the destination for “HELP!”, and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the driver (that’s me) to keep me going.

We made it. But it is not early afternoon as I had planned. It is late afternoon. I need to set up camp so it is ready because suppertime and bedtime are right around the corner.

It was not until the next day, later the next day, when I scooted out to check out the new adventure.

Being an old farmhouse, there were remnants of past lives so I enjoyed thinking about their daily routine. I would not have made it. I was lucky to make bacon and box mix brownies in addition to caretaking and my whole morning had been consumed. Can you imagine if I had to go pump my water, get my eggs and milk, head out to the outhouse, take care of the wee ones and make breakfast? Me neither.

But when I did get out, this is what I found…

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beautiful property and buildings. It was a fabulously warm weekend with wonderful smells and sounds.

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A lake and various old farm instruments dotted around.

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Lily Pads. I love Lily Pads. No frogs or turtles sunning though.

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I ventured down the dock and the end of the dock was constructed of scraps, any scraps available so that you could go further. It was a bit rickety but I went further.

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And further – right onto the pallet at the end.

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It was beautiful, serene and so peaceful. I saw an otter and a Crane. It may not have been a Crane. I call every bird with longs legs and wide wings either Cranes or Herons. Unless the bird is pink, then I call it a Flamingo.

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By the time I made it back to my breakfast, it was no longer hot, but it was worth it to have been off exploring before I was back on momma-duty.

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And my “running” shoes, I mean “jogging” shoes, that had still looked like they were fresh out of the  box even though I am supposed to be exercising more were quite happy because they were dirty with nature.

Just hopefully not the same nature that we had left behind on one of our pee stops.

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