Tuesday, January 31, 2012

End with a Bang

Deer season is officially over in Alabama.  Cameron and his brother spent the weekend at the hunting camp, hopeful that the last weekend would be a good one.  Cameron's wish came true early Saturday morning when he shot an 8-point.

The bucks were out in full force.  Cameron said there were 4 shot just that morning.  I had hoped shooting early in the weekend meant Cameron would come home early.  No such luck!  Gotta get every last minute out of the hunting season.  I think much of the weekend was then spent celebrating.  I'm glad he got his buck, and I'm even happier I'm no longer a "hunting season widow!"

 So what did I do with my spare time this weekend?  I worked on a little house project.  More on that to come!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Foodie Friday

I was eating solo last weekend since Cameron went hunting.  Typically, I just eat leftovers or some kind of pasta since I don't want to cook for just one person.  However, in an effort to try new things, I decided to try out a recipe for Greek Pasta Salad.  It has several of my favorite foods - pasta, feta, & kalamata olives - but would not be high on Cameron's list, so it was a perfect time to try it out.  If real Greek food is anything like our American version, I would love living there!  It's on my bucket list.  The recipe makes a large amount so I tossed it without the dressing then ate it for lunches this week.  Loved it!!

Greek Pasta Salad
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 c. olive oil

1 lb short pasta (I used rotini), cooked
English cucumber, halved lengthwise, then chopped
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
6 oz feta, crumbled
3 c. baby spinach

Mix all dressing ingredients until well combined.  Toss all salad ingredients together.  Add dressing and toss.

The next recipe we tried was Coffee-Rubbed Skirt Steak from Food Network Magazine.  I wanted to try this because we have never cooked skirt steak before and the idea of using coffee and cocoa powder in a steak rub sounded interesting.

We both agreed it needed salt, but was definitely a keeper.  It has a very unique flavor.  We tried wrapping the meat & peppers in a tortilla like fajitas, but I preferred it plain.  I think next time I'll serve it with cornbread like the recipe suggests.

I also made a new cookie recipe - Coffee Spiced Cookies.  I pulled the recipe from an ad in a magazine, but you can find the recipe on Crisco's website here.  They definitely did not turn out very big or pretty and as far as taste goes, I could take them or leave them.  However, our friends Harry & Lance came over the night I made them and took care of most of cookies for me so they must not be too bad!

The last recipe we made this week is not a new one, but it is a favorite and something we haven't made in quite a while, so I thought I would share.  Another Food Network recipe, but this one comes from Alton Brown's Good Eats  - Perfect Potstickers.  Unfortunately, they are no longer producing the show, but you can still catch the re-runs.  Alton has always reminded me of my brother if he had decided to be a chef instead of an engineer (and I'm pretty sure Chris would consider that a compliment, right?).  Cameron loves Asian food and I'm learning to broaden my horizons.  In case you are wondering, wonton wrappers are usually in the produce section around tofu and stir-fry vegetables.  The first time we made this, it took me forever to find them!  It's a time consuming recipe, but fun to do and well worth it!

Cameron had the great idea to make up our own filling of shrimp & conecuh sausage and make this like an etouffee.  Could be really good!

Hopefully you'll be inspired to try one of these recipes out yourself!  Let me know what you think!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Penny Saved

One thing I inherited from my dad is the passion for finding a good deal.  I didn't always think being frugal was a good thing.  My dad always had coupons in a folder he kept in his car.  When we went on vacation, he always had an "Entertainment" book, so our hotels and meals were discounted.  During my middle school / high school years, I found it all horribly embarrassing.  But as I got older and the money was now MY money, I found myself imitating my dad's money saving ways.  At first, it was just for clothes, because let's face it that was the most important thing to a college girl.  Then, I started trying the whole grocery coupon thing.  It didn't go well for me in the beginning.  I never felt like I was really saving any money.  Then after Cameron and I got married, I heard of a website that would match up coupons with the grocery store ad.  It tried again.  It went better that time but vet school took up so much of my time, often I wasn't even the one doing the grocery shopping.  After graduation, we started our "grown-up" life with "grown-up" salaries and "grown-up" bills to go with it.  That's when I learned about the wonderful website/blog called Southern Savers...

It's official - I'm a "couponer."  On Southern Savers, Jenny teaches you how to coupon.  She tells you where to get coupons then matches them up with the sales at different grocery stores & drugstores.  She also follows national daily deals on sites like Groupon & Living Social, as well as deals around the internet.  Yes, it's true that couponing takes time, but it's worth it to me to find an extra hour or two each week to get my coupons together for my weekly grocery shopping trip.  Plus, it has become such a game to me so I don't look at it as a chore.  And yes, I have been so proud of shopping trips before that I have called my dad to brag!  Call me crazy, I know.  But who doesn't like saving money??

Couponing has definitely become a fad these days and I see women in the grocery stores with their big binders of coupons every week.  I'm old school and keep my coupons in a simple accordion folder, and I only take the coupons I plan on using.  If anyone has watched the Extreme Couponing show on TLC, go ahead and forget it.  The show is unrealistic and frankly, I don't care if I bought a year's worth of toothpaste and energy drinks for $3, if I still have to go back to buy food.  But you can still save a ton, especially at drugstores.  CVS is by far my favorite.  I can't tell you how many times I have walked out with several bags of stuff and only spent a few dollars.

I promise I don't plan on turning this into a coupon blog, but I did have a good Target trip today, hence the post.  My goal with grocery shopping is to save 40-50% each trip.  It doesn't always happen, especially when I'm buying a lot of ingredients for all those new recipes I'm trying ;)  When I plan a grocery trip, I sit down with the Southern Savers lists for whatever store I'm planning on going to.  Sometimes I will go to 2 stores in 1 week if there are enough things I want to get.  First, I find things on the list that we will use and are a good price and I have the necessary coupons.  Sometimes we already have the item, but buying before you need things is the key to getting the best price.  Then, I get any coupons that are expiring that week that are either really good coupons or for something we use regularly.  Finally, I add anything we might need - milk, cokes, ingredients for recipes, etc.  Today, I had things from all 3 categories.

Total Before Coupons: 110.67
Total After: 62.64 - I saved 43%

One thing I love about Target is they often have printable coupons for their store brand products, which I had several of today.  In fact the paper towels were Free and I only paid 74 cents for Target brand Robitussin.  But my favorite deal today were the Healthy Choice frozen dinners.  Cameron and I are lucky enough that we both come home for lunch most days so we go through a lot of these, especially since Cameron eats 2.  I had a Target coupon for buy 3 get 1 free, plus 2 manufacturer coupons for $1 of 2.  You stack that with the weekly sale of buy 4 get 1 free, they ended up being 88 cents a piece!  I got all the produce we need for dinners this weekend, as well as tons of cleaning supplies.  Pretty successful trip!

So while it still may not be the coolest thing to do, I'm proud that my dad was able to pass the value of saving money on to me.  Even if you only have a few coupons, I think everyone can still use a few extra dollars!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Foodie Friday

So in an effort to try new recipes, I'm taking a cue from other bloggers and featuring the new recipes I make each week.  This week, I tried a couple new things.  The first was a side dish that doesn't really even need a recipe - Garlic Mashed Potatoes.  Typically, I make "smashed" potatoes which involves adding butter, cheese, & sour cream to boiled potatoes.  This time we roasted several whole cloves of garlic in the oven along with red potatoes cut in to chunks.  When the potatoes were fork tender, I used my hand mixer to mash the potatoes and garlic pulp along with some butter, salt, & pepper.  They were good, but not quite "garlicy" enough.  I will definitely try them again with more cloves next time.  No picture of that one, but mashed potatoes all look the same!

The second recipe I pulled out of my Food Network magazine - Almost Famous Swedish Meatballs.  You can find the recipe here.

Food Network regularly features "knock-off" recipes from different restaurants.  Apparently Ikea stores have restaurants in them and people love their Swedish Meatballs.  I personally have only been to Ikea a handful of times and am usually too overwhelmed to notice a restaurant!  So while I can't vouch for how similar the recipe is, we thought it tasted pretty good.  Our biggest complaint was that the meatballs were too soft, maybe from the pork?  The allspice definitely adds a different flavor you don't usually find in savory dishes.  I always tease Cameron that allspice is his favorite spice because he once decided to try it out since he had never used it before.  Trust me, it does not go well with lima beans!!  I think I'll try this one again, but make the meatballs out of ground beef rather than a beef/pork mixture.

I've already pulled out a few recipes to try out this week, so hopefully next Friday I will have a few more to share!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Our children

Cameron & I have yet to officially start our family, but we do have several 4-legged children running around the house.

Meet Lola:
Lola is an almost 4 year old female German Shorthaired Pointer.  Her registered name is "Lola's Second Honeymoon" after the Jimmy Buffett song "Frank & Lola."  She is our first and by far the most spoiled.  Cameron and I had desperately wanted to get a dog while we were students at Auburn, but both realized the responsibility was more than either of us could handle.  So when we decided to get married, we started to talk about getting a puppy as our wedding present to each other.  We both loved the breed and went to "look" at a litter outside of Birmingham, AL one month before got married.  Needless to say, we came home with a puppy that day...


Meet Lilly:
Lilly is a 3 year old female Brittany.  We continued the Jimmy Buffett theme and registered her as "Spider John's Lilly" from the "Ballad of Spider John."  Cameron surprised me with Lilly on the last day of my fall finals my 3rd year of vet school.  He had been itching to get a second dog after we got Lola earlier that spring.  I was hesitant, but how do you say no to a Christmas surprise puppy??  She has tons of energy and quickly became Lola's best friend.


Meet Lulu:
Lulu is a 1 year old female gray tabby cat.  Yes, I realize all of our pets have "L" names, and yes, I have promised my husband that I will not do that to our children.  But the first two had Jimmy Buffett names, so Lulu (Jimmy's sister) just seemed to fit.  I have always had a thing for gray cats and when a stray tiny kitten was brought in to the vet clinic I worked for at that time, I was attached.  She had been hit by a car and was supposed to be euthanized, but her only injury was a broken toe.  One toe amputation later, she was up for adoption, and I knew the perfect home for her.  The pups weren't too sure about her at first, but a year later, I'm pretty sure Lulu thinks she is a dog.

And now introducing.....


No, we have not completely lost our minds!  Hank was found running with another GSP in Mobile and taken to the county shelter.  Their owners were never found and the female was eventually adopted, but Hank was still at the shelter.  His picture was forwarded to us by friends, knowing we have a soft spot for German Shorthairs, but the Gill household was not looking to expand.  Then we learned the Southeastern German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue was trying to get him out, but didn't have a foster home to put him in.  Can you see where this is going?  Yes, we are officially foster parents!  He is about 1 year old, and we are quickly learning the trials of puppyhood all over again.  He has managed to escape the backyard twice already - both under & over the 6 foot privacy fence!  Thankfully, both times he stayed in the front yard.  He is absolutely precious and we already have a couple homes interested in him.  I'm hoping we won't be a "foster fail" and will actually let him go!!

I absolutely love having a house full of animals, but I think 3 dogs and a cat is enough.  My mother is concerned I might replace children with animals!  Don't worry, Mom, I really do want kids, but for now I prefer to able to leave my "children" in a crate when I want to go out!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend at the Hunting Camp

Cameron and I spent the weekend at the hunting camp with his brother, Chris, and our nephew, William.  It was my first trip of the season, and I have definitely missed it.  While I am not a hunter, I do enjoy being out in the woods where it is so calm & peaceful (as long as Cameron isn't shooting!).  Plus, I enjoy spending time with Cameron doing something that he loves.  Unfortunately, highs in the 70s does not make for perfect hunting weather.  We saw a few does, but Cameron has already shot 2 this season and is holding out for a buck.  I also saw my first bobcat.  It was too dark to get a good picture, but I did take plenty the rest of the weekend.  When we weren't hunting, our time was spent napping, watching football, catching up on my magazines, and socializing with other members of the camp.

 Sitting in the shooting house.

The girls also love the hunting camp - room to run and tons of exciting smells!

We heard William was very excited to get to go to the hunting camp 
so he could grill with Uncle Cameron!

and of course build a shooting house out of duplos - complete with a green field.

We ended our weekend with dinner at Cameron's mom's house for Epiphany, a celebration of the wise men's visit to see the baby Jesus.  It's always nice to spend time as a family and a great way to bring the holiday season to a close.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year


The year 2011 brought many new changes in the Gill household and I am looking forward to a great 2012.  As many people do, I make resolutions and goals every year.  This year is no different.

1) My first goal is to start a blog - obviously I am working on that one now.  I have contemplated starting a blog for some time, but kept saying I would put it off until we have children.  From what I hear, I have more time to write now than I ever will once there are little feet running around the house.  I love reading other people's blogs, so why should the moms get to have all the fun?  I also think a blog will help motivate me to work on some of my other goals.

2) This is the year that I WILL learn how to operate our fancy Nikon camera and take good pictures.  I am always inspired by the beautiful photos I see around blogland and I hope that my own blog will encourage me to improve my photography skills.

3) I have always loved craft projects and started scrapbooking back in high school.  However, college and vet school put much of that on the back burner.  But that amazing little site called Pinterest has got me itching to get back to it.  Plus, my parents were very generous this Christmas, and I am now the proud owner of a Silhouette Cameo machine! 

4) This next goal is a continuation of last years - to improve my cooking repertoire.  I did a pretty good job this year of making new sides & main dishes, but rarely ventured to desserts, appetizers, etc.  Pinterest is again very inspiring, as well as my massive binder of torn out recipes and large cookbook collection.  All I can say is Cameron better get ready to eat!

5) Goal #4 makes Goal #5 somewhat of a necessity - Exercise!  More specifically running.  Cameron has been after me to take up running with him for a couple years now.  I stick with it for a while but life always gets in the way.  I plan to run my first 5K at the Azalea Trail Run this March (I started to sweat a little just typing that!).  Last fall I started a Couch to 5K program so this week we will be picking up where I left off.

So now that my goals are set, I hope to keep myself accountable through this blog as well as share a little of the Gill life along the way.  Until next time!