Married to the Empire

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cheap Vegetarian

My husband is giving up meat for the next 2 weeks. This is totally his decision, which is somewhat shocking. But now I need to come up with stuff he will be happy to eat for lunch and dinner.

I got a head start a couple of weeks ago when I decided to go Greek by making hummus and baba ganoush. This wound up being extremely inexpensive, as I cooked dry chickpeas in my crockpot. I soaked them overnight, then drained off the water, put them in the crockpot, added more water, then turned the thing on high and let it cook all day. Easy and cheap.

Mark Bittman's hummus recipe has become my favorite. It's delicious and simple to make with a food processor. As for the baba ganoush, I tried this recipe, which was good, but not great. (I'm comparing it to the baba ganoush at a local Greek restaurant, which is fantastic.)

In addition to 2 containers for immediate consumption, which I failed to photograph, the 2 recipes made all of this for the freezer:

And I still had enough chickpeas leftover for another round of hummus when I run out:

A 99-cent eggplant and about $2-$3 in dried chickpeas made enough food for multiple meals.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Lest you think all is medicine, vomit, urine, and sadness around our house these days due to both cats now having kidney disease, I took a few photos of the boys being cute and just living life.

Doogie's life hasn't actually changed. After I got him calmed down enough at the vet's office last week to get a proper blood pressure reading (30 minutes later...), the vet determined that he's fine for now. He only needs to eat a renal diet, which he's already been doing for the past 2 years. (It's way easier to have everyone eating the same food. You can read about what happened the last time we tried to do separate food in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul. My boys' story is called "The Gift of Acceptance.")

This next set of photos is what we call The Sheet Game. It's a favorite of Doogie's, and we play it when I change the sheets each week. He burrows under a sheet when I put it on the bed, then I march my fingers around the little lump that is his body, and he pounces.

And of course, every afternoon when the boys hear me slip on my Birkenstocks (Doogie has set his radar to detect this sound, no matter how quiet I try to be about it!), they race to door for Mail Time. I've been irritated with myself every day lately because I keep forgetting to bring the camera out with me. Calvin has been falling over onto the grass and rubbing his head in pure bliss. Now that the temps have dropped from the 107-degree range to the more manageable low-90s, we've been staying out a few moments longer. I figure I owe my boys that little piece of joy they get each day.

But Doogie still doesn't understand the concept of no-mail-on-Sundays.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cleaning Out

Last week's stress of vet visits and youth activities left me somewhat restless. You know, the sort where you don't necessarily feel like adhering to regular routine, but you have to do something or risk driving yourself mad.

Or is that just me?

My project of choice was to clean out my clothes closet. It was a mess, especially as there was a massive pile of shoes that just seemed to grow bigger and bigger. (In my defense, a huge portion of that pile consisted of Steven's shoes, but admittedly, some were mine.) Add in a bunch of clothes that didn't fit, were out of style, or I just couldn't remember the last time I'd worn them, and I had a lot to do.

I wound up with 6 bags of stuff to get rid of.

Two bags were just shoes. I have a very hard time getting rid of shoes, but it was quite ridiculous to still be hanging onto pairs such as my Doc Martens from the 1990s. I mean, come on. They were cute and trendy and great for a 20-something, but now they just look old, outdated, and dumb on someone in her mid-30s. Out they went! (Along with probably 20 other pairs of shoes. Have I ever mentioned that I have a lot of shoes?)

Then there were the hangers.

I'm pretty sure they've been procreating. The above picture reflects only about 1/4 of the mess of empty hangers I found in there.

After about 2 hours of work, in which I multitasked by also learning a song for church, my closet was respectable again. The shoe mountain is gone. Steven's (and my) shoes now have specific places to go in the closet. The excess is removed, and I felt a billion times better.

Funny how a little work on a long-put-off project can help clear the mind and actually make life seem a little brighter. If nothing else, it's easier to find things in the closet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lentil-Rice Casserole--Mexican Style

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I try to cook some vegetarian meals due to my husband's kidney disease. He's generally not happy about meatless meals, but he eats them. One recipe that I really like, but he doesn't, is the lentil-rice casserole from The Complete Tightwad Gazette. It's quick and easy to do in the crockpot, which is one of many reasons I like it. (That, and I think it tastes good, but if the hubby won't touch it again after the initial meal, what's the point?)

I was in a bind yesterday afternoon, as I realized I hadn't planned for dinner. Oops. I decided on this casserole, but then had an idea. I decided to try it Mexican style. Then I told Steven that if it was awful, we'd grab Taco Bell or something.

When he tried it, he exclaimed, "Oh, this is really good!" Then he later told me he was stuffed. Yep, it was that good.

Mexican Lentil-Rice Casserole

1/2 cup rice
3/4 cup lentils
1 can Rotel, plus enough water to equal 3 cups
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder*

Put it all in a crockpot, turn it on high, and cook for approximately 3 hours. Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese.
*You may not actually need the garlic powder if your chili powder has garlic in it, as most do. I use a specialty chili powder that does not have garlic, which is why I added it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


My deepest thanks to those of you who left kind and encouraging words for me after reading yesterday's post. I've been sitting on all my thoughts and feelings for so long now, that it actually felt nice to let it all out.

I discovered a wonderful group this summer: Page CXVI. They're putting out albums of hymns, often with added bridges that are powerful and beautiful. They've been my go-to music this summer.

Over and over, I've been drawn to their song "Joy." I found myself in tears the first time I heard it. It speaks to the current state of my heart. Life stinks sometimes, but we're still supposed to have joy because of the hope we have in Christ. We may not always feel it, but it's there nonetheless.

I found this video on YouTube. The only change is that the recorded version ends with "It Is Well With My Soul." It's the lead singer from Page CXVI, though. I recommend listening all the way through. I got it the first time, even before she reached the bridge, but maybe because I was there myself. I read on their blog that a lot of people have written to them to say that they couldn't finish the song because it didn't sound like she had joy. But that's the point.

Funny thing... I had to take Doogie back to the vet today for a blood pressure check. He flipped out as soon as I shoved him in his carrier, and his freak out continued once we were there. They couldn't do a reading on him in the back with all the barking dogs, so they put me in a dark, quiet room with him, where we sat for about 20 minutes so that he could calm down. Doogie loves music, and he adores my singing, so I sat and rocked him and sang to him. "Joy" calmed him down beautifully.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


A phone call this morning let me know that I'm now the only member of my household who isn't in the club.

The kidney club.

Our sweet Doogie has been losing weight, so they ran a billion tests on him at his annual vet visit yesterday. The results came in: kidney disease.

And like Calvin, his calcium is high, but it's not his thyroid. So we might be looking at cancer, too.

Can I be 100% honest here? I'm drowning.

It's been a difficult summer for me. I've had such bouts of anxiety that I've been reduced to tears more times than I can count. I don't sleep well anymore. I hate to say it, but church responsibilities are weighing me down like a cast-iron anchor I can't unchain myself from. I've had to play youth minister most of the summer, and frankly, it's a job I never wanted. I love our students, please don't misunderstand. But I prefer to play a support role. My husband's position as youth minister is strictly voluntary, and naturally, the job that actually pays him a salary has to take priority. So while he works, I play youth minister. I'm ashamed to say that I'm looking forward to the start of school next week, as it means that I no longer have to come up with entertaining activities each week and attend them as the responsible adult in charge.

Throw in sick-pet duty. The best part of the summer with our youth group is camp, and I had to miss it this year because of Calvin. I don't resent Calvin for it, but I do resent the situation. Administering pills, cleaning up messes, and going to the vet regularly is exhausting.

I'm worn out.

Now finding out that my other cat, the one who still runs and plays and gets mad at his brother because he won't wrestle anymore, is sick, too, has just pretty much pulled me deeper under the water. I'm freaking out here because this cat doesn't go to the vet easily.

And then there's the cost. This is expensive. But they're our babies, and we can't let them just die when we can actually do a few things to make them feel better. We made a commitment to them when we adopted them, and it's not as if we have human children to clothe, feed, and create college funds for.

But I'm drowning.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thanks for Your Input

Based on comments I received here and on Facebook, I'll keep the blog going, along with its name. I may have my husband change my header for me at some point, but he's so busy lately that I don't want to bother him with unimportant stuff like that. I pretty much suspected that most of my regular readers are here for the life stuff, not the Star Wars stuff, but confirmation helped me make a decision. I do still like my blog name, even if it doesn't really fit well anymore, so I guess I'll hang onto it.

Thanks to all who registered an opinion. I appreciate it!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sweet Surprise

I had two grandmothers, but I only remember one. The first died when I was only 6, and while I remember being told she'd died, and her funeral is a vivid memory, I don't remember her. I guess we didn't see her often enough in my young life to have harbored any strong memories. That makes me a little sad.

I was very close to my other grandmother, and while her death a couple of years ago wasn't a surprise, it was still distressing. I cherish the pieces of jewelry she gave me, and I think of her whenever I wear them. I have several pictures of her around my house.

Several years ago she passed this on to me:

It's her 1949 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. I have a lot of cookbooks, and truthfully, I rarely look at this one. I mean, it's old. A lot of aspects of cooking have changed over the years, and this isn't my go-to book by any means. I prefer more modern cookbooks.

But I got a chocolate craving last week. I'm starting to suspect that chocolate isn't a migraine trigger for me, so I decided to indulge the craving and make some brownies. I'm a fairly accomplished cook and baker, but I realized I'd never made actual brownies before. I looked in several cookbooks to find a recipe, and I wound up pulling my grandmother's old cookbook, too.

Imagine my delight when I opened it to the brownie recipe and found this:

I found notes in her handwriting! Definite treasure to me.

I decided to use her recipe. And it was good.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Identity Crisis of the Blogging Kind

I'm having an identity crisis. A blogging identity crisis. When I started this blog nearly 3.5 years ago, I went for a name that I thought was somewhat clever and different. My blog had a fairly unique theme. How many other stormtrooper's wives are blogging out there, after all?

Back then, the name fit. Steven trooped pretty regularly, and the events were varied. I had plenty of things to blog about that fit with the blog's name, and then I could fill in with all the other aspects of life.

Fast forward 3+ years, and life is changed. While Steven is still a stormtrooper, he rarely has time to do it anymore. A demanding job that has him working late fairly often, a youth ministry position that fills a massive chunk of time, and a spot as a church elder has left him with virtually no time to troop. I'm not sure he even checks the 501st Legion's boards anymore. He's even dismantled the Star Wars room and is planning to get rid of a huge chunk of his collection.

Throw in the difficult journey of dealing with a sick pet, my various crafting attempts that I show here, thoughts on housekeeping, cooking, etc., and you have a blog that doesn't fit its given title. I feel as if I should throw in something Star Wars related every once in a while, but that is starting to feel forced. I had an epiphany last year when I tagged along to a stormtrooper event I didn't want to go to, just so I'd have photos for the blog. I was miserable, and a blog is supposed to be fun and not full of obligations. I mean, it's not as if I'm a well-known blogger with a devoted following, making money off of this thing. It's basically just a hobby.

So, I'm going to open this up to opinion. I know a few of you have already weighed in on Facebook. Should I change the name of my blog? Shut it down and start a new one? Keep everything the same? Frankly, I've even toyed with just quitting blogging completely, but it could just be that I need a break from it (or perhaps it's pressure I feel from this identity crisis I seem to be experiencing). I welcome your thoughts. Does a blog's name matter?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More Martha Clearance Crafts and Sweet Gifts

I was a little late to the party, but that just means that I got even better deals. Walmart appears to be doing away with their scrapbooking stuff, and that includes their Martha Stewart Crafts line. At the Walmart near my house, I found clear stamps for $2/set. Wow! I scoped out other Walmarts and found the Martha stuff tucked away almost unnoticed. The prices were higher, but still good. I paid $4 for stamp sets there. A package of 5 glitter markers was $5. The dye markers were marked down to $10, but I counted them and saw that there were only 23 markers, instead of 24. I'm brazen enough to ask for a discount on the discount. I got it: $7 for the set. Sweet!

I seem to have the best luck with finding Martha stuff on clearance at Walmart, of all places! I'm way too cheap frugal to pay full price for Martha's stuff, but I'll take it at such low prices!

As if that wasn't enough, I was generously given a ton of stamps and other scrapbooking materials. A blog reader emailed me and offered me her stuff since she's moving and not wanting to take it with her. So kind! Thank you again! I feel very blessed.

I don't know if you'll be able to see the detail of this, but it's the Pledge of Allegiance in a star shape. I'm a sucker for patriotism, so I think this one is my favorite of the lot. (Of course, I'm nuts for the cat-themed stickers, too. I really need to make scrapbooks for my furballs.)

On the theme of patriotism, I spent some money my sweet mother-in-law gave me on some fabulous Texas-themed stamps. (I bought them at Stamp Asylum in Plano.) Cool store. Love the bluebonnets! And I really like the Texas stamp. Where I don't like it is on my pants. Yep, I dropped a fully-inked stamp on my pants. It was dye ink. That stuff does not come out, so I now have Texas-themed pants. Awesome.

And last, but not least, my friend Karen gave me this:

She was in Hobby Lobby, saw that stamp, and thought of me. Not sure what to think of the words drama queen making her think of me. Hmmmm.

I have a lot of crafting to do.

Monday, August 2, 2010