So my hours at work changed and I am getting home later. This means that it is later when I put together dinner. One of the great things about cooler weather is that I am one step closer to pulling out the crock pot to cook soup and stews for dinner. It also means that I have been looking for meals that would allow me to save time cooking, but are also healthy and yummy too. One of the things I came across was a number of websites that were encouraging the idea of meal prep. The idea is that you get ingredients for several meals, usually 4-6, and cook them one day on the weekend, storing the meals into containers to be frozen to eat later or kept in the fridge to eat that week. Sounds good right? Hmmm, hold that thought.
I found a website that allowed you to sign up for a meal prep challenge. The blogger would put together meals, send out the shopping list of ingredients needed and even include how many containers and what types were needed to store each meal in. Sounds even better, right? It did until I received the email with the list of meals that were to be prepped. There was not one meal that we would eat as listed. Most contained exotic vegetables or seasonings that would be extremely hard to get in my local stores. Or they contained items that were just not something that we would eat (hello brussel sprouts). As someone who only recently discovered the yumminess of roasted sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts are not in my immediate plans.
So to prep meals in advance, I would have to substitute a lot of things, which would mean guessing at the amounts to buy. One of the nice ideas about meal prepping is that you are told how much of each item you need. To replace those meant I would now risk getting to much or too little and the prep would fail. I then came across several blogs where they discuss the idea that meal prep takes nutrients away from the food, so if you are trying to eat healthier like we are, losing nutrients would not be something that we want to do.
I then came across the idea of sheet pan meals. The concept here is that you cook the entire meal at once on a sheet pan from start to finish in 45 minutes or less. Take a protein, such as chicken, and add vegetables. Season or marinade the chicken and roast the vegetables.at the same time. There were even sheet pan ideas for breakfast and dessert. I have several recipes bookmarked and I tried my first sheet pan meal last week and it worked out great. I made Asiago chicken and roasted vegetables at the same time. We added a salad and the whole thing took about 40 minutes from start to finish. Not bad for a week night meal. And of course you can make it as healthy as you want.
Now I just have to figure out what to try next? Any ideas?
My husband and I have made several trips to Conowingo Dam in Maryland to look for Bald Eagles. The dam is filled with fish which makes for a fertile feeding ground for the eagles and other birds that make the dam their home. Eagles are usually extremely territorial and live 1 ½ miles from another nest, but the eagles at Conowingo Dam do not follow that rule. There are literally hundreds of eagles living closely together and enjoying the bounty that the dam provides. I didn’t realize when I was taking pictures just how many eagles there were along the rocks.
Here are some of the pictures I’ve taken during our visits:
And if you want to see more, the short video below shows what the Conowingo Dam is like in November, when the dam opens the locks and fish flood into the water. If I were to visit in November, I think I would stay in the car. The video was entered on Nat Geo and finished in the top 4. The video is by Mike Lemery and can be seen here:
Now that the days are getting shorter, I am back to driving to work in the dark. Some mornings are darker than others, depending on the cloud cover. Although I only travel 6 miles from my house to my job, most of the roads I take are two lane with limited lighting. Driving in the dark means having to watch out for the various animals that are trying to get back home before dawn. It also means having to watch out for the deer that always seem to want to cross in front of my car. Note to the deer…stay where you are. It really isn’t better on the other side of the road.
If watching out for deer isn’t enough, we have to add the morning exerciser into the mix. While I salute those who actually have the energy to get out of bed and go for a walk or jog, doing so in all dark clothing is not a good idea. Why? Because we can’t see you! There are all sorts of fluorescent exercise clothing and shoes that have reflective things on them, so why can’t people actually wear them? They sell them for a reason. Companies don’t want you to get hit by a vehicle when you are out exercising.
But if you aren’t going to wear some bright neon shoes that light up with every step you take, could you maybe wear one of those lights that blink on and off? A light can be seen by someone in a car. If the light is too expensive, can you slap on some glow in the dark duck tape? I don’t care where you put it, but maybe a strip along your arm and leg that faces the street or wrap some around your running shoes….in other words, somewhere a driver can see it. That will help drivers and other exercising people see you and hopefully not run into you. Safety first!!!
Labor Day, also known as the unofficial end to summer has arrived and now begins the push into fall. The weather has actually been very fall like during the past week or so with temperatures mostly in the 70’s and even dropping into the 50’s at night. Of course it is supposed to get back into the 80’s today, so we will get a reminder that summer is still around. The last two days were also rainy as Maryland was visited by Harvey as the former hurricane exited the U.S. Next on the horizon is figuring out the path Hurricane Irma will take as it gets closer. For those of us along the Atlantic coast, we hope that the path stays well south and avoids the U.S. altogether. But, in case things don’t work out that way, and the path brings it up the eastern coast, we will get ready the best we can.
You can tell that the seasons are starting to change as the trees are beginning to thin out their leaves. Before long we will be able to see the homes behind us again. It is nice during the summer when you only see the green of the trees. Or in the case of our Japanese Maple, a beautiful red wine color. The cooler weather also caused some of the leaves to change from vibrant green to lighter green with yellow tones. So it won’t be long before we start seeing the oranges and reds as nature puts on its fall show.
We have started planning short day trips around the area now that the weather is more comfortable. We booked a fall foliage train ride in Pennsylvania in mid-October and are planning a longer trip in early November. We are taking a covered bridge driving tour and another that will tour barns, some which are hundreds of years old. I hope to get plenty of pictures.
I remember the first time I became aware of cable television. I was in high school and my father was upset that the town was allowing a cable company to dig up our grass to install the lines for cable. He argued with the city to get them to plant new grass to fix the mess they made out of our lawn. The grass grew back long before the town ever got cable. Each time it seemed like we would get cable, the company would go out of business and another company would eventually take over and then it would happen all over again. It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I learned my town had finally gotten cable.
At the time, the price of cable seemed relatively cheap in comparison to prices today. I remember my parents trying to decide what movie channels to pick and eventually realizing that they were paying for a lot of channels that they never watched. Once married, cable was a must as most places didn’t get channels on free television. If you lived near a major city, then you were luckier that most people. We usually chose the most basic cable plan. Later, we would choose a plan that also included the internet.
We recently completed a two-year contract that rolled into a month to month contract. Of course, the plan increased by $16 a month. When I looked into what a new two-year plan would cost, I saw that they would increase us another $25 a month, or $199 a month for the same plan. What is even worse is that if you were a new customer, you could get the same exact plan for $79 a month. So, to reward me for my loyalty, you will charge me $120 more a month? Ummmm….no thank you.
So we started looking at our options. The first thing we did was keep track of the channels that we actually watched. Out of 254 channels, we watched maybe 25 on a regular basis. We looked to see what options were available in streaming television and checked out Sling and Hulu. We ended up signing up for a free trial with Sling and picked the package that contained most of the channels that we watched. The only down side is that they do not have any local channels and we like watching the weather and traffic in the morning before going to work.
We then contacted the cable company to see if they would make us a deal, but they wouldn’t. Actually, the price kept going up instead of down. We then called back and asked what the price would be to increase our internet speed and drop cable. The person we talked to this time was very helpful and explained that we would need a different internet cable coming into our house for the fastest cable and we would get 15 local channels. The price was half what we were paying. We chose that plan and officially cut the cord.
After the install, we have fast internet where we can stream Sling television and also get the local channels for morning news. The surprise that we learned was that there are more than a hundred free channels that we also get as well. Many of the channels are from throughout the region. Some of the channels are from the UK and Japan. They apparently have agreements with Public Broadcasting (PBS) to stream their programs. The reality is that we have not missed cable at all. To think of all the money we wasted with cable and all the channels we never watched. I only wish we had known this sooner.
While I love touring the countryside and capturing pictures of wildlife, I don’t necessarily like to see them up close and personal in my yard. This summer has been rather interesting around my house as several different animals have decided that our neighborhood makes a good place to live.
We have always seen deer around the area, but rarely see it near our house. One morning, we saw four deer making their way across the field behind our house. They came up from the river at the end of the block and were on their way back home after a night out. A few days later, I was on my way to work and I saw something in the road. It looked like a cat at first, but I realized that it was bigger than a house cat. As I got a little closer I realized that it was a red fox. It was headed out of my housing area, so I’m not exactly sure where it was coming from. I just hope it doesn’t live near.
My husband was working from home the next day when he sent me a text that a groundhog had apparently taken up residence under the shed in the back corner of the yard. When I asked him if he was sure, he sent me a picture. Since it was about the size of our pug, I was concerned and wanted it gone. We called a wildlife company that will trap and relocate the animals. The price was close to $200 to put in a trap so we decided to buy one ourselves. At the same time I saw a story on the Baltimore news that a rabid groundhog was found on the grounds of the Baltimore zoo, so I definitely didn’t want that living under our shed.
After about a week we didn’t catch anything. We were going to put the trap away but we ended up lending it to our neighbor when he said that a groundhog was living under his shed and eating from their garden. I figure it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet at their house for the groundhog. After a couple of weeks he returned the trap and said that he didn’t catch anything either. So apparently the groundhog moved on.
Last weekend my husband went outside to mow the lawn. He saw a tiny bird alongside the shed and he thought it was injured. We put some water near it and when he checked a little later, it looked like it was trying to drink. After he finished the grass, he looked for it again and it had hopped up on a low board of the fence. My husband took a picture of the little guy (who looks a little grumpy) and I texted it to a co-worker whose husband volunteers for a wildlife rescue organization. It seems the little bird is a newly fledged mockingbird who may have overestimated his flying ability. He said the mom and dad were probably close by. When we checked an hour later, the bird was gone, so the water must have worked. The next day we noticed mom and dad mockingbird chasing one another around our trees. I think they might have been celebrating their empty nest.
We have had a lot of rain go through the area in the past week. While we received a couple of inches, some areas received a lot more. The good news is that we have cooler temperatures for a few days, which has been nice since we were in the upper 90’s for a couple of weeks. As the storms moved through, the sky looked beautiful….
Photo © Lenalee
Storm clouds clearing in the late afternoon
Photo © Lenalee
The picture above was taken several weeks ago from our deck. It was early morning after storms had gone through with a front that was bringing cooler weather. Since moving to Maryland, the one thing I have noticed is that when a front goes through the area, either a cold front or a warm front, there is always a big difference in the clouds as it clears the area. Fronts would go through in Kansas, but never with such a separation of the clouds.
So what do you see when storms go through your area?