Well, after much thinking about colors, we finally picked something and got started painting the outside of the house. I absolutely love how it turned out! One detail you can't see from the picture is the bright red front door.

The family has mixed feelings about the color change. I hated the old color and love the new one, so I'm quite happy. My husband doesn't care much one way or the other. Red Chief likes the new color. Tiger Lily keeps telling me she wants the old color back . . . but she does love the red door.

Perhaps I'm a bore for picking out grey (on the outside and also a very light shade inside, too), but I find it soothing to look at and more traditional-looking than the former colors.


 




Yesterday I wasn't feeling great, but I needed to get things done, so this is kind of how my day went:


  • Tidy up the living room
  • Read a chapter of my book
  • Fold a load of laundry
  • Read a chapter of my book
  • Vacuum
  • Answer some emails
  • Fold another load of laundry
  • Read a chapter of my book
  • Clear the kitchen counter
  • Read a chapter of my book

This worked well and I got a surprising amount done by the end of the day (reading and otherwise). Tiger Lily was a big help, doing housework with me and amusing herself for long stretches of time. I will miss her when she starts school next year!


Image credit: Marco.Finke. Edited by Merops.

When I was growing up, I only had avocados once or twice: they weren't in my family's regular diet.

But since I've been married, I've had them myriad times, mainly because my husband loves them (and now I do too!). He served a two-year mission for our church in Chile, and there avocados are like zucchini, but worse, because there are more of them and they spoil faster. People were always trying to unload the avocados their trees dropped on the roof and ground.

So here's what I've learned about avocados. Let's do this as a Q&A, shall we?

———

Everything you should know about avocados

Q. How do you spell avocado
A. Avocado, not avacado. Please.

Q. How do you pluralize avocado?
A. Avocados. No need for an extra e.

Q. Are avocados a fruit or a vegetable?
A. Fruit.

Q. When are avocados in season?
A. California avocados are in season from February through September, but imported avocados from other countries such as Mexico allow us to have avocados year-round. (source)

Q. How do I choose an avocado at the store?
A. When are you going to use it? If you're going to use it today, look for an avocado that just barely gives when you press on it. If it's too mushy, don't buy it! If you're going to use your avocado in a few days, look for something a little firmer. It will ripen as you leave it out on your counter. Steer clear of rock-hard avocados unless you're not wanting to use it for a week or more.

Q. Should I keep my avocado on the counter or in the fridge?
A. Contrary to popular belief, either one is fine. Avocados left on the counter will ripen faster. If you store them in the fridge, ripening will slow down considerably, giving you several extra days in which to use them. Storing your avocados in the fridge can increase the likelihood of brown or black spots forming inside (see below), but I usually don't have a huge problem with it.

Q. Can I freeze avocados?
A. I haven't tried it, but others have done it successfully.

Q. How do I remove the pit from an avocado?
A. Remove the stem from the top. Cut in a line the tall way around the outside of the avocado, all the way to the pit, and pull it in half (this will be harder if your avocado isn't ripe). Now either scoop the pit out with a spoon (safer), or ease it out with your knife blade (less safe, but what I usually do).

Q. How do I slice an avocado?
A. Take your pitted avocado and scoop the flesh out with a spoon, trying to keep each half intact. Place pit-side down and slice. Some like to slice it still in the skin, but I find that's a good way to cut myself.

Q. How do I mash up an avocado?
A. Scoop the flesh out with a spoon into a bowl. Add a little lemon or lime juice and salt if you like, and mash it with a fork.

Q. Help! My avocado isn't soft enough to mash, but I need to anyway.
A. A food processor works for me. You may need to add extra liquid (lemon juice, water, olive oil, etc.) to get it going.

Q. How do I keep an avocado from going brown?
A. Acid. Mash or toss it with lemon or lime juice; with some of the dressing for the salad you're making, if it's a vinaigrette; or with anything edible and acidic that goes with your recipe.

Q. Help! My avocado has brown or black streaks going through it.
A. Oh dear, you've either let your avocado get too ripe or you've left it in the fridge for too long. I don't like the taste or smell of the spots, but they're not harmful. Cut the spots out if there's enough remaining salvageable flesh, and move forward with your recipe. (source)

Q. What should I make with my avocado?
A. Mash it up with salt and lemon or lime and dip your chips in it. (This is our lazy man's version of guacamole.)
A. Mash it up with salt and lemon and spread it on bread.
A. Put it on your hot dog, Chilean style.
A. Taco/nacho topping.
A. Put it on a salad.
A. Make my family's favorite salad.
A. Put it on a sandwich.
A. Put it on a grilled cheese sandwich.
A. Make this chickpea and avocado sandwich.

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This post brought to you by a fierce avocado craving. Do you have any avocado tips, facts, or recipes to share? Please do!




Last night after General Conference was over and the kids were in bed, I had so much running through my mind that I wanted something to do with my hands, so I could think.

So I started a batch of these waffles for breakfast the next morning, tidied up the kitchen, set the table for breakfast, and even made a pasta salad for Red Chief's lunch for the next day.

I've gotten in the habit of setting out the ingredients for breakfast, but I'd never gone this far before. And when I woke up late this morning, I was glad I had done a little extra work the night before.




I roasted a turkey for Christmas, and afterward I put the carcass, skin, and all the extras into my biggest slow cooker and covered with water. As usual, I let it cook for 12–24 hours, then strained and froze it. The carcass still looked as if it was good for another go, so I did it again . . . and then again. And guess what? The third batch of broth was still much better than storebought. I probably could have done another batch, but by that time I was getting thoroughly sick of the smell of turkey in my house.

I did the same thing again this week with a chicken carcass. Three batches, and the third batch still came out beautiful and yellow. By that time the bones were easily broken by hand.

This has worked so well that I'll always make multiple batches of chicken stock when I have a carcass now.

Another thing I've started doing recently is including the skin in my stock. It does mean there's more fat to remove at the end, but it makes the broth much fuller-tasting (and more gelatinous when it's refrigerated).

New to making chicken broth? I've written a how-to here.



Last week I made some freezer to slow cooker meals since we were having our house (including our kitchen) painted.

The interior painting is all done, thank goodness! We survived, and the painters did a great job.

The meals went pretty well. I made:


I pulled each meal out a day or two before we had it to thaw in the fridge. The bread thawed on the counter. I cooked the meals in my slow cooker in the garage.

The butter chicken was good. It looked too soupy when I checked on it, but it thickened as it cooled. The rice heated beautifully in the microwave.

The chili worked well but it cooked too long and tasted a bit overdone. One thing I find hard about slow cooker meals is that if you're going somewhere in the morning and want it to be done at 6pm, most recipes aren't supposed to be cooked for that long.

Beef and barley soup: good but too thyme-y. That will be easy to fix if I make it again.

All in all, I would definitely try freezer to slow cooker meals again. It made our lives a lot easier last week! Tips to myself for next time:

  • Thaw in the fridge one or two days in advance. Set bags in a baking dish in case of leaks.
  • If you can, stir once during cooking to mix the ingredients up (mine were layered in the bag and were still too stiff to mix up when I first put it in the pot).
  • Don't cook for longer than the recipe calls for. 
  • Turn off the slow cooker about an hour before dinner to let things cool down a little.



The painting has begun. We've hired it out, since neither of us much wanted to tackle the two-story ceiling.

I'm living in a state of color-induced panic. When they first painted a little of the new color on the wall, it looked so white. I thought it would be a bit darker! It looked lighter than it seemed on the paint chip and even from the sample we got.

But the more they paint, the more I like it. It looks very different in different lights, and I like it best by daylight, which our house has lots of.

They've painted the whole ceiling and the upstairs hall now, and I really like it! It is different, and it will take some getting used to. It is so much lighter and brighter. It's hard to choose one color for the main living area of our house because some areas (like the upstairs hall) are quite dark, and others, like the main living room are quite bright. But I wanted to keep it one color because it all runs together and there aren't good stopping places.

In any case, our floor is covered with dropcloths and our furniture and kitchen are covered in plastic, and I'm really glad that I put together some dinners last week.

The kids and I have had fun holing up in unused rooms (and sewing, or watching movies, or reading) or playing in the back yard or running away to do fun things around town. But I think we'll all be glad when this big job is done!

And then a few weeks later we'll start over again with the outside of the house . . . but I think that will be less interruptive of our daily activities.



I knew we were having the inside of the house painted this week, but somehow it still took me by surprise when on Friday I fully realized that soon the main living area and kitchen of my house would be full of painters, and I needed to do a thousand things first: clean everything, do all the laundry, figure out meals, put away the knick-knacks.

I needed to be ahead, but I was behind.

I didn't manage to finish everything I wanted to, but one thing I did do was get some slow cooker meals into the freezer. Now I can throw something in the slow cooker in the morning (in the garage, if they're painting the kitchen) and we'll have something to eat at dinnertime with a minimum of fuss and dishes.

It didn't take long to make


Freezer to slow cooker meals seem to be very popular lately, and these are the first I've tried. I hope they turn out well, because it's what we'll be eating for the next week! Have you tried any before? Did they turn out well?

I'm not looking forward to having the main living areas of my house tied up for the next week, but I am excited to have it repainted. We'll have the outside painted in a few more weeks.




Cobb salad sandwich. We enjoyed this, although it ended up being a lot of work to put together, for a sandwich. I left out the blue cheese (too expensive), but I made some of my favorite Cobb salad dressing to drizzle over it.

Ranch potato casserole. Red Chief requested cheesy potatoes for dinner, so I made these. Instead of ranch dressing, I doubled the sour cream and added some ranch dressing mix. Next time I would up the sour cream to 1 1/2 cups and salt the potatoes a little more. Yum!

Chicken tortilla casserole. This was pretty good but a little dry. Plus: it was really fast to throw together.

Lawnmower tacos. We enjoyed this, especially with all the toppings. Alone it would be pretty boring. I used half meat and half lentils.

Crockpot chicken and zucchini pasta. I had high hopes for this since I need to use the zucchini from our freezer, but it turned out rather bland, even after I spiced it up a little. It also made enough for at least 12 people. It's not bad, and we'll eat it, but that's a lot of leftovers! I think a lot of people might like this, if you like mild flavors. If you make it, use a six-quart slow cooker; I used my four-quart and I had to transfer it to bigger pot to combine with the pasta.


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