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Every parent knows the gangrene hour. It is between the time you walk in the door at the end of the day (from work or wherever) and when you feed the monsters children before their hunger-induced frenzy destroys sanity and household.

Back in the last century when my children were young, I had several meals that took 20-30 minutes tops to put on the table. I tried to keep staples for these meals in stock at all times. I mentioned these meals with only a few ingredients when posting on Swistle’s blog and heard from Momma Goose asking for those recipes. Had I blogged them?

No, but I thought I could find them again and began looking. And looking. What did I find? I found that what I served my children in the last century are nowhere near what I would serve them today. When you learn better, you do better.

Peachy Beans:
Easy recipe: 2 cans of Campbell’s Pork and Beans and a can of Delmonte’s sliced cling peaches, drained. Pour drained peach juice into saucepan and heat, adding a spoonful or so of brown sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add beans. Heat to eating temperature. Serve with iceberg lettuce, carrot curls, or cucumber slices on the side. Optional: add coins of hot dogs for meat serving.

This is far too high in sugar content and salt (why didn’t I notice how much salt was in those cans of beans?) to be a go-to item today. I rarely added hot dogs back then because the prepared lunch meats totally wired my son who dealt with ADHD. Iceberg lettuce is basically water, not a ‘real’ vegetable at all.

Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice/boil-in-bag rice with Peas and Velveeta Cheese:
If we had ham steak, pork chops, or grilled chicken, this was an easy ‘side’ to round out the meal but… Instant rice has very little nutritional value. Jasmine rice or basmati rice doesn’t take longer and is much better for you. Better choices now are Quinoi or even brown rice (but that takes much longer to cook, so you need to plan ahead and reheat). As for the Velveeta? I could pour a sauce of melted Velveeta on anything and my son would eat it. Now I grate fresh cheeses for the same effect and *much* better nutrition.

Pasta Mix-Ins:
I had the right idea. Keep pasta on hand and mix it up depending on what was available. My mix-ins were usually pasta primavera concoctions made of frozen (or fresh) veggies, sauteed together in butter and canola oil. The most time consuming part was the slicing and dicing. Then I served it with garlic bread or butter rolls. Today I would offer a pesto dipping sauce instead.

I made meatballs ahead of time and kept them in the freezer. Cook in oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees and add to tomato sauce. This time you really need a salad and bread sticks or garlic bread. (healthy is nice, but get real! You *need* garlic bread at least! <g>)

Chicken Patties/Gordon’s Fish Patties:
More freezer staples—add a salad or fresh carrots, cucumbers, celery, or tomato slices and you are good to go… but I put them on rolls with mayo. Not what I would serve today. Today I roast a whole chicken and then save the leftovers for chicken salad, or as add-in to fresh garden salads. I use pita bread (whole wheat/flax) instead of rolls, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Young children need meat proteins, but I can get my proteins from a variety of beans, poultry, and fish. I do not buy frozen fish or chicken patties these days, preferring to poach salmon, grill sword steak, or saute chicken. (DH makes an awesome sauteed catfish!) Not quite as fast, but still within the 20-30 minutes put-it-on-the-table time frame.

Another go-to back then was Steak-Umms — thin slices of frozen roast beef that you cooked 30 seconds per side, delivered on a hoagie/sub roll with sauteed peppers and onions (and maybe cheese). Honey – thy name is cholesterol! But fast? You could hardly beat a 2-minute (max) meal!  Do they still sell Steak-Umms?

Ramin Noodles Smorgasbord:
I would take the ramin noodle packages and add ground hamburger, sliced onions, and whatever frozen veggies I had for a casserole. Lots of sodium and fat in that meal. Nope—not on a menu today!

With practice, slicing and dicing veggies gets faster. Veggie stir fry’s take 20 minutes from frig to table. Cooking sauces can be olive oil, water with a pat or two of butter (most veggies have a high water content to start with), or peanut oil. Add soy/teriyaki sauce for salt flavoring. I use sea salt, myself.

I don’t cook much these days. DH has eating issues so I trust him to cook what will work for him. If he has troubles with what he cooks, I don’t feel guilty, but if I cooked the exact same thing and served it, I would. He is a wonderful cook so I don’t miss much except the raw fruits and veggies I love. I enjoy them at lunch when I don’t dine at home.

What do I miss the most? Fried scalloped potatoes. Not healthy and not something DH can keep down, nor can I get my favorite, personally developed and adapted, recipe at a restaurant. Which is probably a good thing… It isn’t on healthy lists anywhere…<g>

The CSI family of TV series have made dumpster diving an almost commonplace activity. Back when I did my first dumpster dive back in the last century, dumpster diving was only for bums and destitute vagrants. The closet TV show to CSI we had back then was Quincy M.D. and he never went dumpster diving. Needs must when the devil drives, yes?

The devil was definitely driving that night we went out to dinner. It was a Red Lobster ‘All You Can Eat Buffet’ night and we all took full advantage. Susan discretely removed her retainer and neatly folded it in her napkin… which meant that I had to request more napkins because she is a finger eater. No, she doesn’t eat fingers, (that would be silly!) but she does eat *with* them, tearing her bread into bite-size pieces, skinning the shrimp or chicken with her fingers, dipping lobster bits into the lemon butter sauce which inevitably dripped down her chin… we always ask for extra napkins even when she doesn’t “borrow” mine. (In her defense, I think she was 10 at the time, or maybe 11.)

We returned home…but the retainer didn’t. They cost (at that time) $125 to replace and we already had to replace one of them. A second one on our limited means was *not* something we were willing to consider. Back to the Red Lobster we asked around and heard that our table had been cleaned and already bagged and out in the dumpster. I got permission to look. I spent at least 30-40 minutes poking at and peering into plastic bags, palpating napkins, and trying to ignore the stench.

I didn’t find the retainer, but the story got the bill significantly reduced at the orthodontist office.

Compared to my most recent “dumpster” dive, the larger Red Lobster open fork-liftable container was a sanitary picnic in the park. My most recent dumpster dive was merely a large cafeteria garbage bin. It smelled just as bad as I neared the bottom of the barrel. The contents were nowhere near as nicely ‘packaged’ in the toss mix. But, like the first time, I didn’t find what I was looking for.

Yesterday I went to Subways for my 6″ veggie delite (love those!) and returned to work, using my key to enter the building. I then hung in my pant pocket. I went straight to the cafeteria and inhaled my lunch and left after 15 minutes for a 1PM conference call. That took me to 2PM when I left for another meeting down the hall. I left that meeting early at 2:30 to go to a dental appointment (read: more screwing around in my mouth).

Where were my keys? Not in my pocket. Not in the cafeteria and not under my desk, or in the stairwell. I checked my sweater on my chair, and moved the chair about to look under it. I had them announce the loss over the company intercom and got no response.

It was at this point that I asked for plastic gloves and an empty garbage bag to dumpster dive the lunch bin I used in the cafeteria in case I wrapped them up with my lunch wrappers and tossed them.

No, I did not.

Called the dentist and rescheduled. Called hubby for a pickup. (No, I do not have a spare key.) Once home I called the dealership to learn what I needed to do to get another key:
1) pay to have car towed to dealership from office (approximately 9 miles)
2) wait for them to work it in their schedule and pay $150 plus labor to have a new pair of keys made.

So… this morning I drove hubby’s car to work and asked a few more people who may have heard or found keys. Nada. I returned to my cube with a heavy step. Rounding the corner of my cube I spied something in my chair, between the arm support and the seat.

My keys.

My keys that at least 5 people had looked for in my cube, moved my chair and checked my (pocketless) sweater for.

The keys that I am going to use when I schedule a visit to the dealership to order a second set of keys before I *do* have to pay for a tow truck to get it there!

…is the guest.

Who never leaves.

The best you can do, after you have wallowed in your pity party for a bit, is take advantage of the situation. Find the hidden benefits and embrace them (there are always more than one) whole-heartedly.

I have had the house to myself since Wednesday evening, so…

  • I have had popcorn *with* butter and salt as a meal four times in the past three days.
  • I have slept with the window shades up every night and woken to a room flooded in beautiful morning light
  • I have caught up with all the latest summer season shows (Royal Pains, The Haven, White Collar, and Covert Affairs) and knit a pair of toe-up socks up past the heel (more than half done!)
  • Duncan and I bathed and groomed outside and he looks marvelous (although I have a few more clumsy scrapes and bruises that are not Duncan’s fault)
  • Dixie is sporting a trim that shows off her beautiful, expressive, golden brown eyes
  • and I have labored over a work project that is far more complicated than it should be (the title in the index does not match the title on the indicated page–confusing to say the least!)

The weekend was not a total suckfest.

Open invitation, come one, come all… highlights include rants and whining by yours truly with backup vocals provided by puppy pack members Dixie and Duncan.

My dearest sister (my only sister, but that’s not important) has an annual event that I try to attend. Open Mic at the Bird House is a blast! She accommodates my schedule as best she can by scanning my available summertime dates and selecting a date we can plan around as early as 6 months in advance. This sounds like I have a bazillion social things on my calendar, but that’s not it. Really, I have so few…

I screwed up my nerve and even sang a solo last year and I didn’t die of embarrassment and I finished the song. I sucked, but my expectations were so low that I did meet them… that would be the two things I already mentioned… finish and don’t die of mortification. This year, our mother was coming up by train from Florida for the event. I planned on going to visit Aunt Peggy and scheduled Friday and Monday as vacation days. Good times, yes?

I sing a lot, but not as much as I used to. I sing best in small groups or choirs and choruses. I blend well. I sight read well. I have had traumatic memorable solos. A solo phrase here and there in a song, I’m fine, but have lousy projection. I was rehearsing ‘I Will Remember You’ acapella for presenting at the Open Mic. Alone, practicing by myself, I didn’t suck. Put me in front of people and my throat locks up and my hearing goes and my vision is screwy. But if I practice enough so that I can do it in my sleep, there’s a chance that…

Life happens. Which is better than the alternative but still!

Our puppy pack was doubled for two and a half weeks. Remi (who *loves* to visit, enjoying the freedom of our doggie door) and Jake (who can get *out* the doggie door, but his arthritis prevents him from getting back *in*, so he pokes his nose through the doggie flap door over and over until the noise alerts us he wants back in) stayed with us while Jess, Conor, and crew went off on vacation.

The very first night Duncan and Remi got into a tussle. Remi was crowding Duncan on the couch watching me come home and it escalated. In separating them, my calf got in the way of Remi’s teeth. It was an accident. The puppies, once separated, were mortified and hid. I had the bite checked out and all was fine. No stitches, keep it clean. Fine.

When we got back from the emergency room, the dogs were all ‘what? we’re fine!’ and they were. The puppy pack continued behaving well and playing together every day.

Fast forward through to the morning before Remi and Jake were due to go home. My calf sported fading bruises and the final scab or two. In the shower, I consider wearing a cool summer dress now that my legs weren’t such a freak show. Drying off I hear the puppies barking at the front window…and then the sound of barking changes to fighting sounds and I scramble out of the bathroom, skittering across the kitchen floor to the front couch where Remi and Duncan are… well, you know…

I grabbed Remi’s back legs, lifting them up (a technique one of the vets or dog trainers told us about) while Stephen brandished a kitchen chair on their heads, forcing them apart. (Now you know why the lion tamer always had a chair in his hand!)

Well, a few slips and slides and crashes later (um, that would be me doing the slips, slides, and crashes because, as I said, I just got out of the shower, wasn’t all dry, and totally starkers) we got them separated. and calmed. Again, with the ‘oh crap, I’m in trouble now’ guilty faces and slinking into crates and under tables…

This time, Remi had two small puncture that were already hard to see once the residual smeared blood was cleaned off. Duncan did not get off so lightly. His neck was a bloody mess but he wasn’t crying or showing discomfort…just puppy guilt.

The vet shaved and finished cleaning Duncan’s neck and declared that no stitches were needed, but gave him a shot and sent him home with antibiotics to be administered every eight hours for the next eight days.

That time frame just covers the time when both Stephen is away on a biking trip and I did Open Mic at the Bird House in New Jersey. Our kennel will not take dogs on that medicine schedule. Our already-scheduled pet care provider who comes to our house four times a day to feed and visit, etc, could not guarantee the med schedule timetable. Other efforts to find a work-around for this dilemma were fruitless. Bringing them to NJ with me was not an option for many, many reasons, but maintaining sanity was high on that list.

So I won’t be going to the Open Mic at the Bird House and I am royally bummed. I’m home alone with just our two puppies. And fresh colorful bruises. And the heat. And the humidity. And sneezes (don’t know where they came from but they are getting really annoying).

Duncan is getting his meds on the dot while I am your decidedly grumpy pity party hostess. You’re all invited but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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