Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A stolen blog topic

Katy Wolk-Stanley over at The Nonconsumer Advocate posted this on her blog yesterday:

http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/2013/08/five-things-that-make-me-happy-and-one-thing-thats-pissing-me-off-6/

(Apparently I can't imbed links anymore either!!! Sorry that isn't clickable.)

I’ve decided to rip off her idea and post some things that make me happy, maybe even add one that makes me not so happy. We’ll see as the post progresses…

1. My grandson falling asleep in my arms. There is nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby, and after he falls asleep I’d rather hold him than put him down and go do something else.

2. My group of close, caring, supportive friends. By close, I don’t always mean geographically close, most of them live far away. But I know they’re still there for me, no matter what.

3. All my parents and siblings, plus in-laws, are alive. Do you know how few people live to be my age without losing someone close to them? I’m very blessed.
4. A steady supply of good books to read, and eyesight good enough to read them.
5. Health. That might sound odd from someone battling psoriatic arthritis, feeling tired and achy and dizzy every day. But you know what? I get up and go to work, and do what I need to do, every day. Even when I don‘t want to. Even when I feel awful. I’m in a lot of pain right now as I type this but I’m at work, doing a good job and being a productive citizen, paying my own way in this world. Right now, in the breezeway outside my office, a homeless man sits in a wheelchair. He just got out of the hospital and the only place he had to come was back to the relative shelter of the awning over our church walkway. We stored a few things for him while he was away, to keep it safe. Today I’ve given him ice water a few times, and some food, and placed a couple of calls to see if I can either speed up his housing application or find a temporary place for him til the housing authority comes thru. Before anyone complains they should meet this man.

Something that makes me angry:

People who don’t appreciate the help they’ve been given and would prefer to be self-destructive and whiny instead of grabbing the opportunity to improve their lot in life. Nobody said it was gonna be easy, but we’re all in this boat together. Grab an oar already!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

No pix

I dunno what's up with this site but lately I've been unable to post any pix at all. So many of my posts include pix, and since I can't show you what I've been up to, I've been pretty lax on posting lately. I hope this resolves itself soon. Meanwhile, let's talk!

Things have been pretty hectic at my house and I feel like I've accomplished NOTHING. I keep telling myself, this will only last for a finite period of time, then I can get back to normal. And I'm starting to see the end of the tunnel, but still. This dry spell where I have no time for creativity is starting to wear one me.

I've had a nasty eye infection and literally could not stand any light AT ALL for 4 days. I spent almost the entire 4th of July week in bed, in a darkened bedroom, with the covers over my head. I have never been so bored in all my life. I discovered the joys of audio books, since I couldn't do anything else I listened to books to pass the time. My weiner dog thought having Mom in bed all day was FANTASTIC, she got to sleep with me and snuggle under the covers, her favorite thing to do. During part of this time she was suffering from arthritis so we got to comfort each other. Win - Win situation!

During this time I also concluded that God has a sense of humor. I hear people say that all the time but now I get it. I've been whining for months how taking care of my infant grandson is exhausting for an "old lady" like me. Well, God gave me this ailment and made sure I got all the rest I needed, and then some! Haha, very funny. Now can I go back to my normal life? I promise I'll quit whining!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Free Food!!


Last weekend we were gifted with an abundance of free food by my former pastor and his wife.  It was incredible!  There was so much, beginning with a crate of raspberries. Unfortunately they were beginning to go bad, which meant I picked thru them to get the good ones out before they were all tainted.  I can’t begin to tell you how much I LOVE fresh raspberries so believe me, I got as many as I could!  There weren’t enough to make jam so I froze them for smoothies or muffins.  After eating my fill, of course. 

There was also a crate of bananas.  I gave several bunches away, then made banana pudding, and sliced and froze so many trays of them I lost count.  We’ve been eating them constantly (hubby loves banana sandwiches), and now that they’re beginning to be overripe, I hope to make banana bread tonight.  I also want to take some of the frozen slices and dip them in chocolate, then re-freeze, for popsicles for Drake. 

And then there was the corn.  Oh my goodness, I have no idea how many ears of corn we were given!  I gave several of those away too.  I shucked and silked the rest, cut the corn off the cob, and cooked it in 2 LARGE batches, which were then broken down and frozen into 8-9 generous meal-sized servings, with one batch going into the fridge to eat immediately.

Two cucumbers were included in the bag with the corn, so I turned them into a simple tzatziki by dicing finely and adding to some homemade yogurt along with salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic.  There were also a bundle of green onions in there, which I have so far not even touched. 

In addition to all that, my lovely neighbors heard I’ve been sick with an eye infection.  They decided to make dinner for the family one night, and was it ever delicious.  Blackeyed peas, cornbread, sweet potato fries, corn, and a cake.  I always enjoy their down-home cooking!  I blended some of the blackeyed peas for Zane, he loved them!  The boy has good taste.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bento whale in a pool of curry


In my previous post I mentioned making a bento whale for my grandson.  Well, now I’ve had several requests for the curry recipe, so I’ll tell you what I know!

I make curry 2 ways, either in a base of tomato sauce or a base of coconut milk.  If I’m understanding the Food Network channel correctly, the coconut milk one is Thai, and the tomato based one is Indian.  This may be entirely too simplistic but they both taste good, no matter the origins.  Both begin the same way.  I put some rice on to cook and start dicing vegetables.  Pretty much anything works for this, but I always seem to have carrots, peas and onion on hand so that’s my base.  Beyond that I’ve been known to throw in some broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, white potato, fresh green beans, cabbage, whatever is fresh and handy.  The more variety I have, the smaller amount of each kind goes in.  In a little oil I sauté anything that needs it, which I everything except the peas.  I buy those frozen.  Once they’re soft I put in my seasonings.  For a tomato base I sprinkle some curry powder into the oil and let it cook a minute so the flavors will bloom.  Stir it while this is happening, it might burn!  Let it coat the veggies.  I don’t like the curry powder you buy in the little red and white can at the grocery store, but at Fresh market in Destin, they sell a Madras curry powder in bulk that smells good enough to eat like a Lik-M-Stick.  Not that I’ve tried that.  Yet.  But I digress.  After the spices are heated up and smelling fabulous, I add the tomato sauce and whatever protein I‘m using, usually cooked lentils, occasionally chick peas, even more rarely I’ll add leftover meat.  I also add the peas and a little garlic at this point.  At this point all that‘s left is to let it simmer for 10-15 minutes and serve it over rice.  I add salt to mine but some people seem to think that’s all wrong.  To each her own.

As for the coconut curry, it’s the same until I get to the seasonings.  For this I go to one of the local Asian markets and buy a can of massaman curry paste, it’s less than $1 and it comes in a yellow can.  You can go to this link to see what the little yellow can looks like, so if you want to try this, you'll know what to look for. 
There are plenty of other curry pastes available but this is the one I like.  Not too hot and spicy, but very tasty.  At the point where you’d sprinkle in the dry curry powder for the tomato curry, here you will spoon out some paste and stirfry it in the oil and let it coat the veggies.  For the size meal I make for my family, I use about half the can.  This is totally dependent on taste, I’d say start with a small amount and if it’s not to your liking, stir some more in later.  Then dump in some canned coconut milk.  For my family I use 2 cans, a small family or single person wouldn’t need to use that much.  Salt (again) seems to be optional but I like it in mine.  Add the peas, protein and garlic and simmer, stirring often for 10-15 minutes.  Serve over rice.  Preferably with a bento sea creature swimming in it.   
 


Since this is more a technique than a recipe, feel free to ask for clarification if there’s anything I didn’t make clear.  I hope you’ll try it, this is such a simple, fast and inexpensive meal.  It’s a vegetarian meal I know my family won’t complain about, those rotten die-hard meat eaters are such whiners sometimes but not when I serve this!    

I'll be linking this post to the Blissful and Domestic linky party, stop in over there and see what everyone else has been up to!

Blissful and Domestic

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stuff


We had a great visit with our extended family last week, the last one left on Friday so now we can get back to whatever passes for normal at our house.  They delivered our new shed while the kids were here, my step-son was a great help in getting it set up.  Since then, hubby and his employee have been hard at work fixing up the inside so it can be used as an office.  They’re coming right along!  It’s happening a lot faster than I expected.  I’ll post some pictures another time, I haven’t taken any yet but I’m sure hubby has.

As for me, I’ve been doing some sewing and cooking, and a very small amount of knitting.  It’s just too darn hot to knit, but I want to because I find it so soothing.  So now and then I pick it up and work a little just to calm my mind. 

I’m getting back into the groove of cooking, sort of.  This week I’ve made several meals, including a curry that included my second attempt at bento.  First I was going to make a shark, but it looked like some sort of mutant.  So I changed it to a whale, which looked a little better.  Drake said it was a dolphin so I must have been on the right track!!!

Doesn’t it look cute, swimming in a vegetable/lentil curry?


Last Saturday Tahnee and I went thrift-store shopping.  Waterfront Mission was having a 69 cents sale and I got a few items to be re-purposed into new clothing or quilts.  I made this tank top for Drake from one of those purchases:

 

Pay no attention to the blue plaid shorts, they actually matched what he had on before he tried on the new tank top.  I didn’t get a “before” picture of the shirt, sorry.  It was originally an Old Navy polo shirt, size medium. I was able to use the collar as the ribbing around the neck but there wasn’t enough to do the arm holes.  At first I tried just hemming the arm holes but it looked all stretched out and baggy so I went back and used a bit of the leftover fabric to do a sort of “ribbing” effect.  It worked.  You know, someday I’m going to have to learn to do sleeves….  All in good time.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Or at least elephants.  I'm learning the art of Bento, and I'll work my way up to other animals but so far all I've accomplished is an elephant out of a hot dog, and some vegetable flowers.

What do you think?

 
The elephant is resting on a bed of homemade lo mein.  Easy, easy recipe! 
 
1 lb spaghetti or rice noodles
2 cups broth
About 2 cups assorted veggies, diced
leftover bits of meat, optional
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
 
I used fresh carrots, peeled and sliced, half a yellow onion, and a handful of frozen peas in this dish.  I like broccoli or cauliflower in it but I didn't have either one.  Really, almost any veg will do.  I've even added leftover homemade eggroll filling.
 
Dice up the veg and start sautéing in a little oil.  Meanwhile, start cooking the pasta according to package directions.  Undercook it just a little so you can finish the cooking in the sauce and let it absorb all that yummy sauce goodness.  Once cooked, drain the pasta.
 
When the veggies are ready, add meat if using, then add the broth and bring it to a boil.  Stir together the cornstarch and soy sauce, then stream into the boiling broth, stirring all the while.  As soon as it starts to thicken, remove from heat and toss in the drained pasta.  Stir til all the pasta is coated and cooked thru.  Top with bento elephant and flowers, or not.  Serve with sweet chili sauce, if you have some.  That makes it FABULOUS.
 
This post is included on a linky party at frugallysustainable.com.  Go check out the other great ideas there!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Finally. Sewing success!!


I made a shirt for Drake out of an old tank top of mine, and some ribbing I bought.  It was plain, but it worked.  That is, until I tried to put it on him.  I had forgotten, this kid has the world’s most ginormous head!  I got it on him but some stitching came loose at the back of the neck.  He wore it anyway, it was his “favorite”, at least til Tahnee bought him a new shirt a few days later, now that one’s his favorite.  But that one has a “motorbicycle” on it, so I get it.  It would be my favorite too. 

When I fixed the neckline the next day, I enlarged the opening.  I had made the pattern myself so I enlarged that too.  And it seemed so plain…

Note to self: Decide on embellishments BEFORE you make clothing.  They are hard to add once the garment is finished!  But I got this pocket on, despite the high degree of difficulty.  I think it enhances the shirt, and it cost me nothing.  I cut it out of an old pair of baby pants.  This whole shirt cost me about a quarter.  And now that I know what to look for in ribbing, I can scavenge that from used clothes as well instead of buying it.    
 
 
On to other news...
Next week I’ll have a house full of company.  Relatives will be sleeping on every horizontal surface in my living room for a week.  I’ve decided to break out that last turkey I bought at Thanksgiving, that’ll provide a lot of meat with no additional outlay, and give me more room in my freezer.  Addition menu items for the week are bean burritos made with homemade refried beans, fried rice, Cajun chicken pasta, nachos, and possibly chicken strips marinated in Italian dressing.  All are inexpensive and easy, good for a crowd and good for the cook.       

Friday, May 31, 2013

This won’t sound very frugal


But in the long run I think it will be.  I just took out a loan and am going to use it to build a storage building in the back yard.  Let me explain:  For the past few years my hubby has been working out of our house.  He had a nice office for his business but we reached the point we just couldn’t afford the rent anymore.  That BP oil spill DID affect the construction industry, no matter what they would have you think, and anything that affects construction affects hubby’s business.  So it’s been pretty lean for us the past few years, just like it has for almost everyone else in the world. 

When he gave up his office he put a bunch of stuff into storage and has slowly been using up and selling what he has, to the point where his large storage unit isn’t really necessary anymore.  For the past year and a half we’ve also had our daughter, her husband and 2 kids living with us, they all share one room since hubby has his office in the other room and he must have an office to work from.  So I had this idea, what if we built a storage building and turned that into his office, and used part of it for storage?  Turns out monthly payments on this loan will be about $50 less than what he’s paying for the storage unit!  And in a year and a half or so it’s paid off, where as if he continues to rent a storage unit, that’s just ongoing, forever and ever and ever.  And eventually he’d start looking for another office to rent, but now he won’t have to.  So yeah, taking out a loan might not sound like a great idea.  Doesn’t everybody want to be debt free?  I know I do!  But this is an investment in our future, and one I feel certain will pay us back for years to come.  Plus it‘ll give us a little more space in our small, overcrowded house, which is a good thing!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I’m in a cooking slump


For me, cooking is normally a no-brainer.  I can look at a pile of humble ingredients and throw them together to make something at least edible, and usually pretty tasty.  But I’ve lost my mojo.  Oh, I can still cook, I just don’t want to.  There’s no fun in it for me right now.  I know it’s because I’ve been feeling a bit burned out and stressed, the past few months have been pretty monstrous.  And I‘m tired.  I got a bit of a mini vacation last week, my BFF was in town for 3 days.  I stayed with her at a hotel in the evenings, I had to work during the day but she spent her day doing the things she needed to do, then we spent the evenings together.  It was refreshing.  I hope it was for her as well.

So now, no excuses.  Back in the saddle, as it were, time to take advantage of this little bit of momentum I have going and get busy.  I’ve been looking at recipes on the internet and found a few new ones I want to try, like this:


Looks simple, reasonably healthy, and delicious.  With this on the side:


And if I didn’t want to make the pancakes as the main dish, a nice roasted chicken would be a good meat to serve with them, yes?

And of course here in Florida, the heat is nearly upon us, so it’s time to stop using the oven and start relying on stovetop and crockpot recipes, so there’s this:


Is it just me?  Do others get bored with cooking, or with eating the same recipes over and over?  Do people appreciate your culinary efforts, or would they rather blow their money on the Dollar Menu?  And it’s not just cooking, I’m feeling restless in all areas of life, not sure what’s going to fix that but maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit.  Watch this space.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Birthday gifts!


Sunday was my daughter’s 23rd birthday.  She had a job interview that afternoon so we knew it was going to be a fairly low key day.  They asked me to keep the baby or a while so they could take the toddler to the beach for a while, when they got back we ate meatloaf, mashed potatoes, corn and homemade brownies. 

I helped Drake make a birthday card for her, it was mostly scribbles but what do you expect from a 2 year old?  He loved making it for her and was SO proud when he handed it over.  I made 2 gifts for her, and neither of them cost me anything at all, except my time.  I had seen on Pinterest where a woman made headbands to hold her long hair back, they were SO SIMPLE.  Sometimes Ayla likes to wear headbands so I made her one, I cut the band part out of an old shirt I’m saving to make a dress for Lyla.  All you do is sew a tube, turn it right side out and stitch it onto a ponytail band!  Absolutely brilliant, and it took no time at all.

 
Now, regarding the second gift.  A few months ago I was doing laundry and thought, I can’t believe she pays $12 for a scrap of fabric and some elastic.  I can make this.  So I snitched one of her (freshly washed) thongs and made a pattern.  I used a silky piece of an old nightgown for my first attempt, it was so slippery I couldn’t sew it properly.  I had rough edges sticking out everywhere.  It was a learning experience that went directly into the trash.  For my next attempt I cut the sleeve out of an old tee shirt and used that.  Maybe it’s not sexy like the silky fabric would have been but it worked! 
 
I think they turned out quite cute, and the recipient was very happy with both her gifts, once she got over the shock that her mother made her UNDERWEAR for her birthday.
A few years ago a friend gave me 2 boxes of elastic, all sizes and weights.  I donated one box, kept the other.  So all projects using elastic are free for me, til I go thru that whole stash.  It might take a while, I guess I need to make some more butt floss underwear!
 

Friday, May 3, 2013

And more kids clothing


When I was working on that $7 quilt, I wanted something in an earth tone where the sashing strips met.  I had nothing in my stash that fit the bill but I found a man’s tan plaid shirt at the thrift store, when it was 69 cent day.  I grabbed it.  I cut out the pieces I needed for the quilt, then I decided the leftovers would go well with khaki, so I saved them. 

Fast forward a few months.  The quilt is finished, I have time on my hands (HAHAHAHAHA!!!!) and I have formulated a plan.  Using an old pair of my khaki pants that had a stain on them, I cut out a pair of shorts for Drake.  I used the leftover shirt fabric to trim the cuffs, put the shirt pocket on the behind, and made a waist band.  I used elastic in the back of the waist, but in the front I used the buttonhole strip off the shirt, and ran cord thru it to tie them to fit.  I made a few mistakes but managed to correct them as I went along.  I learned several things NOT to do, and have since figured out how to do it right, for next time.  But they’re OK.  Quite cute, if I may say so!! 
 






 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
So here’s the thing.  I didn’t really use a pattern.  I was winging it, sort of making up a pattern as I went along, eyeballing it.  I’m usually pretty good at that.  Well, that day my eyeball was way off, these things are HUGE on him!  They might fit him next summer, or possibly even the one after that!  But now I have a pattern and some handy dandy sewing hints to make things come out the way I want, so it’s all good.  I’ll add these to the box of stuff for him to grow into.  Meanwhile I have an old denim shirt of hubby’s that would make a cute pair of shorts.  And you can bet I’ll measure the kid before I start this time!           

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kids’ clothing: Where I make my mistakes for free!


I’m enjoying learning to sew clothing by making kids’ clothes.  They’re small so they whip up quickly, and I’m using old adult clothes for fabric so they’re pretty much free.  And here’s the biggie, when (not if but WHEN) I mess up, it’s no big deal!  They can wear the mistakes for pajamas, or not wear them at all because no real commitment went into making them.

A while back Sheila had sent me a couple of nightgowns she made, that her daughter has now outgrown.  They’re still too big for Lyla but I made a pattern from one and cut it down a bit.  My mom had given me a shirt with a makeup stain on the front of it, and since I don’t need more “bumming around the house” clothing I used it to make a nightgown.  Thing is, it turned out so cute I can see her wearing this as a dress or tunic instead of a nightgown.  I left the buttons on the front of the shirt, which gives it a really cute detail, and if I drew in the waist with elastic or a belt I can really see this as an outfit.  But there’s the issue of the makeup stain, so this can be a gown or play clothes, whatever she needs.  But I definitely see a dress/tunic in her future.

Here’s the shirt, before:



 

 

And here’s the gown, after:
 
 

 
And finally, here's the inspiration piece, the gown Sheila sent:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I finished a quilt!


This may not seem like a big deal, but lately finishing ANYTHING is a big deal.  My life has been extremely busy and stressful over the past few months.  But it’s done, and I’m happy with it. 

I challenged myself to make this quilt entirely from previously used fabrics.  There are shirts, dresses, sheets, you name it, it’s in there.  The backing is a sheet my mother gave me.  I had been on the hunt for one at a thrift store but I decided to ask.  Well, ask and ye shall receive, she gave me 3 sheets!  I’m set for backing for a while.  I bought the batting with a half price coupon at Joann’s, and I wanted a particular color for one area so I bought a shirt at Waterfront Mission when they had their 69 cent sale recently.  In total I spent about $7 on this quilt.
 
The profit from all quilts I make and sell this year will go into my travel fund.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Goal Achieved!


One of them, anyway.  You may remember, when I started this blog the intent was to keep myself on track financially in order to save up for 2 trips.  One was to a wedding in New Orleans.  That wedding was last weekend, and I’m happy to report I was able to save for the entire trip, putting nothing on credit.  SUCCESS!  Being the aunt of the groom, I didn’t feel it was necessary to spend anything on a new outfit, I put together something nice enough from my current wardrobe.  Not like when I was the mother of the bride, for that I bought something lovely and new (to me, it was from a consignment store).

I’m also happy to report I’m well on my way to saving up for the next vacation, in September.  I hope to have more than enough banked so that I return from that trip with cash left over, but even if that doesn’t happen I want to have enough to thoroughly enjoy myself while I’m away. 

Now, back to HOW I’m getting the money saved up.  I’m still cooking most nights, although I’ve had a hard week and regret to announce we relied on takeout pizza.  But sometimes you do what you gotta do.  Now I think I’m back on track, I have a menu planned for the upcoming week, I’m going shopping tomorrow night.  My menu for this week is as follows:

Ham, potato salad

Black bean burgers, home fries

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, glazed ginger carrots

Quiche made with bacon, onion, bell pepper, shredded carrot

Taco salad

I hope to also find time to make at least one snack food this weekend, I’m debating whether to try granola or candied popcorn.        

I’m also doing a lot of sewing.  I hope to finish a quilt this weekend, I can’t wait to show it off.  I’m very proud of it.  I’ll give more details when it’s finished and I can post pix of it.  As soon as it’s finished I was to take a break from quilting and make a few items of clothing, I have a VERY cute idea for Drake and can’t wait to see if I can make it turn out how I picture it in my head!  I also want to make a skirt for myself.  And I have sorely neglected my knitting lately.  I had started a sweater last month but I have far too much on my mind lately to concentrate on counting and getting the rows correct so I’ve set that aside.  A few nights ago I started a simple garter stitch afghan, toddler sized to give to Zane when he’s a little older.  Absolutely NO thought involved at all, which is what I need right now.  Plus I’m making it striped so I can use up a lot of leftover yarns.

And an update on the Great Laundry Soap Experiment:  So far so good!  I like the results I’m seeing so far.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

If I ever conquer this mountain of laundry, I refuse to plant a flag because it’ll just get dirty and I’ll have to wash it.


In my never ending quest to save money, I’ve decided to make my own laundry detergent.  No big deal, you say, recipes are all over the internet and it’s not uncommon at all these days for people me make their own.  True!  But for me, this is a second attempt.  I tried it once before, about 15 years ago.  Neither hubby nor I were satisfied, and if he has an opinion on laundry, there must be something to it.  His usual opinion involves little more than asking, Do I have clean underwear?  So when he said he hated it, I stopped using it.  We went thru 2-3 batches before I quit, wanting to give it every chance.  But the clothes looked dingy and felt stiff.  At that time, I was too broke to buy the recommended Fels Naptha soap to put in it so I was using hotel soaps given to me by my sister-in-law from her many travels.  I hope those soaps were the problem but I’ve never been sure so this time, I sprung for the Fels Naptha.

I used this recipe, halved: 

Apparently I don’t own a grater (???), and the baby was asleep in the living room so I didn’t want to use the food processor, so I chopped the soap with a knife.  I melted it down in water on the stove, then added the washing soda and borax.  After letting it cool a bit I poured it into my old laundry detergent container.  I paid for that, I might as well get all the use I can out of it, right?  Then I filled it to the top with cold water and shook it up. 

I’m curious how thick this will be.  When I made it before it was a very thick gel.  I have a high efficiency front-loader, and I wanted something a little less thick, so I kind of did some overkill with the water.  I hope it gels enough, I don’t want it runny either.  Admittedly, this first batch is total experiment. 

During this process Hubby asked what I was doing.  I explained, and he looked skeptical because he remembers how we disliked it the last time.  But I explained about the change in soap and how I hope that makes a difference.  I also explained that a jug of detergent from Sam’s costs me $12 and this same jug, filled with the homemade stuff, costs about 15 cents a gallon, according to the website.  Maybe less because I used more water.  He perked up and said he’s interested to know how this turns out.  I also read on that website that it might help to use a vinegar rinse, so we’ll do that as well.  I never use fabric softener but I do sometimes do a vinegar rinse on my laundry so this really isn’t a change but HE doesn’t know that.  And I don’t remember ever using a vinegar rinse on it when I made the laundry soap before. 

I’ll post updates as we start to use this stuff.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Clearly, Dollar Tree is letting their standards slip.

My last shower cap lasted over 5 years.  This one?  It's been just over a year and the elastic is all stretched out.  Who knew Dollar Tree would stoop to selling cheap, shoddy products?  Hmmph.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rewind


I had a simple, delicious meal planned for last night.  Baked ham, sweet potatoes, English peas.  Sounds good, right?  Then I got home and realized I hadn’t thawed the ham, which is not a huge problem.  Then I realized the sweet potatoes were starting to go bad!  So I had to rethink this entire meal.  I peeled the sweet potatoes and diced them, avoiding the icky spots.  I had half an onion left over, that got diced as well.  A sort-of-mangy bell pepper, some fresh broccoli that still looked good, and a handful of those English peas, and we’re in business.  I sautéed the veg with some madras curry powder, added some tomato sauce, dumped the whole thing over rice, and it was delicious!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I love it when a plan comes together


Remember how I started this blog to save money/make money so I could travel more?  Well, the first planned trip will be upon us soon.  We’re going to New Orleans for a wedding next month.  I have the money for that trip set aside, now I just need to call and make my hotel reservation.  Regarding my vacation, my hosts had asked that I come in May.  It was just too soon.  I don’t have enough money saved for that yet, I could get there but I’d have no funds to go and enjoy myself.  So I asked if we could postpone this til September and they said that was fine.  Yay!  That gives me enough time to do this up right.         

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Whoa. What a week.


Hubby had stents put in his heart last Friday, and thankfully, the surgery was very successful.  He feels so much better already.  But it’s been a whirlwind for me, the VA chose to have him get this work done in a hospital 3 hours away.  In addition to taking off work for that, my son-in-law has had 2 job interviews this week, and I took off early those days to keep the kids, since Ayla went back to work last week.  He got the job, he starts Monday, so YAY for Shane!  But I do kind of feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.  If it weren’t for Tahnee pitching in I don’t know how I’d manage.  She brought us Subway sandwiches for supper last night.

Last week I made homemade pizzas, something I haven’t done in a while.  I made the dough, I sautéed 4 colors of bell pepper, plus an onion, til everything was sweet and tender, I even made the sauce.  I baked the crusts for 4 minutes, then added the toppings and baked again, to guard against soggy middles.  Here’s how it went:
 
 













 I added sliced green olives and pickled garlic to my pizza.  SUCH a good flavor!!!  Thanks again to my co-worker John for that pickled garlic, it is so addictive.  So is his marmalade, but that’s a different post.  I ended up with 3 extra crusts, 1 large and 2 small.  So I wrapped them in foil and froze them, along with the leftover sauce.  I can definitely see me making pizza for lunch one day this weekend.  We’re out of mozzarella, I wonder how a cheddar or provolone pizza would taste? 

Monday, February 11, 2013

I had a very frugal weekend, if you don’t count the trip to Goodwill

Actually, even including what I bought at Goodwill, it was frugal.  I spent just under $30, and got a lot of good stuff.  A pair of jeans for Ayla, which she needs for work, a pair of shoes and a shirt for Drake, 2 outfits for Zane, a Spiderman cake pan, and a baby sling.  Ayla had given hers away, not realizing she was having another kid so soon.
 
Poor Drake has my feet, which means nobody will ever be able to buy him a pair of shoes without him around to try them on.  I see shoes in his size at thrift stores all the time, but won’t buy them.  I know what ill-fitting shoes are like on these wide, flat appendages we are forced to call feet.  More like duck flippers with toes, if you ask me.  Having him there to try them on was great, assuring I didn’t waste my money on shoes that hurt his feet.
 
As for that cake pan, with 2 little boys in the house, one of them is bound to want a Spiderman birthday party at some point.  Drake is already a fan, so maybe for his next birthday that will be the theme.  Although I was already gearing up for a train-themed party this year, but it’s not like the cake pan will go bad.
 
Following our trip to Goodwill, we gassed up the car so I could get to work this week, up 20 cents a gallon from 2 weeks ago.  Then we were off to the library.  Drake was hesitant about returning the one he checked out last week, but when he got in there and found others that were just as cool, he was OK with it.  Ayla got a card for herself, she doesn’t need mine now to check out books, and she let him check out 2 books for this week.  Following the library, we went to the park at the Landing.  It was chilly with the wind coming off the water, but very pleasant.  And we ran into some friends from church, so that was fun.  There they are, down by the water:
 
I made this week’s menu pretty much vegetarian, the only meat involved was a half pound I had stashed in my freezer, plus a little bacon.  So far nobody has complained.  And it dropped my weekly grocery bill a lot!  Our menu is as follows:
 
Taco soup (1/2 lb ground cow)
Chili (kidney beans)
Veggie frittata, roasted onion potatoes
Lentil curry
Bean with bacon soup
 
I always keep bacon in the freezer, I’ll lop off a bit to flavor the bean soup.  I had bought fresh broccoli and one each red, yellow, green and orange bell pepper for the frittata.  I ended up using very little so next week I’ll make homemade pizza, to use those items up.  Slowly caramelized peppers and onions are my FAVORITE pizza toppings, and broccoli cooked slowly in with them ain’t too bad either.
 
I made the fritatta and potatoes Saturday.  Looks yummy, huh?
 
 
 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Starbuck’s Should be a Treat, Not a Lifestyle Choice


I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea.  But even so, going to a place like Starbuck’s is nice.  I use the term Starbuck’s generically in this case, fill in the name of any similar place, such as Panera Bread or Tim Horton (shout-out to Kim!).  In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with treating yourself from time to time.  I know a lot is being said lately about austerity measures, both in our personal lives and in government.  Some people can live in total deprivation, keep their eyes on the prize, and be content.  I am not one of them.  Before my BFF moved away we took the time occasionally to go out and have a treat.  Might have been dinner, or a drink and pastry, or even a snowcone.  The place didn’t matter, it was a time to decompress from our busy lives and catch up.  I miss those dates with her but that just means the time we will spend together on our infrequent visits will be that much sweeter.

My problem with the aforementioned treat spots comes when people start treating themselves too frequently.  It’s no longer special.  It can turn into a habit, something you don’t even enjoy anymore but since you stop for coffee and a muffin on the way home every day, why change the pattern today?  And it turns into an enormous money drain.

As in most areas, I don’t want to say “This is the way it should be done”.  Rather, my message is “Think before you act”.  Not original, I know.  Very little in this world is original, but when it’s good advice, it bears repeating.  And this is good advice. 

THINK.  What is that purchase costing you per week?  Per month?  THINK.  How could that money be better spent?  THINK.  Are there alternatives that will satisfy?  How can you implement them? 

If coffee and pastries are your thing, do an internet search.  Here’s a coffee treat recipe I’m told is really tasty.        


I like chai tea, but at Panera it’s around $3.  Not worth it.  I can throw some cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and cream or milk into a cup of tea and it’s just as tasty, in my opinion.  No idea what it costs but I can assure you, it’s nowhere near $3 per serving.

As for those pastries, baking from scratch can be fun, and a worthwhile skill to cultivate if you don’t already know how.  Yes, I know it takes time, and you’re a very busy person.  We all are.  Even a muffin mix is cheaper than one muffin at a coffee shop.  And once people know you can bake, you’re going to be very popular. 

THINK.  That’s all I’m asking.              

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Maybe I should stop dissing the mall


I got an amazing deal last night.  I never have a “nice” coat since I rarely use one here.  I make do with old sweaters and stuff my mom gives me, plus a hoodie.  I got a stain on my 3yo hoodie which was starting to look worn anyway, so last night I was at the mall and stepped into Avenue to see if they had any deals.  I found a nice quilted coat in khaki, reg. $60, marked down to $18.  I got it!  Then I got up this morning and it was 31 degrees so I cut the tags off and wore it.  Not the greatest picture but here you go:
 
And why was I at the mall, you ask?  Isn’t that Mecca for the shopaholic looking to load up on overpriced merchandise?  Maybe not.  Apparently the mall carousel is free on Tuesdays.  Yesterday Ayla asked if I would keep the baby after work so she could take Drake.  I asked if I could take him and go with them, she said sure.  So when I got home we went, he rode the carousel 4 times, and we went to the indoor playground they have there so he could play for a little while.  I took Zane into Avenue with me while Ayla took Drake to the playground.  I was thirsty so I sprung for 2 sodas (my first one in months), 75 cents apiece.  So the entire outing cost $1.50, plus gas to get there.  The coat doesn’t count because I had already decided to buy one when I found the right deal. 
Here are the kids, enjoying the outing:
 
 
 
Yeah, that was money well spent.

 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Quilt Challenge

I have several quilts to make this year, and I’ve decided to challenge myself to something a little different with the first one.  Normally I make quilts with whatever fabric I have on hand, which can include leftover pieces of fabric I’ve purchased for other projects, pieces of clothing I’ve cut up, fabric I’ve been given, and sometimes I even buy new fabric just to fill in an area I feel a quilt needs.  But this one is going to be made completely of fabrics that had a previous life.  Meaning, it must have been used somehow before.  The only new piece will be the batting.  I’ve got squares cut from shirts, dresses and sheets, and so far I’ve made 16 squares of the 20 I’ll need.  It’s a simple 9 patch so it goes pretty quickly, I started it on Saturday.  It’s turning out extremely pretty!  The sashing will be made of a sheet, and I plan to do a patchwork border as well, then a solid border. 
Over the weekend I also made a wall hanging for Zane’s room.  I bought all the elements new except the green paint.  But even so, the project was inexpensive, I think it cost around $5.  And so cute!  It will be perfect over his bed.


Friday, January 18, 2013

My Favorite Project

I made a lot of stuff last year.  In addition to my tried and true items, I learned a few new techniques and tried new patterns.  I even created a pattern of my very own, after losing my favorite knitted slipper pattern and realizing it’s no longer free online.  It’s only $2 to replace it, but it’s the principle of the thing.  It was free for years, now it’s $2.  And I’m not paying.  So I combined elements of what I could remember from that pattern with a baby bootie pattern and came up with a very serviceable adult slipper that is still not perfect, but I’m tweaking it every time.

Out of all the things I made last year, I’ve decided my FAVORITE is the sweater I knitted, then embroidered for Lyla’s Christmas present.  Here it is:
 
 
 
 
What, you may ask, is on my agenda for crafting this year?  I think there are several quilts in my future.  More sewing of all types, I want to expand my knowledge and ability in the area of sewing clothing.  Nothing fancy-shmancy, just more than pajama pants.  I definitely want to learn to sew pencil skirts for myself.  I love them and find them flattering.  All the knitting I've done this year was with heavy acrylic yarn because that's what I had on hand, but this year I want to try making clothing with lighter weight yarn, possibly even cotton.  This is Florida, after all.  The heavy knitted items won't get much use unless we vacation in cold places.  Which isn't out of the question, but still.  I need to be practical, learn to make things we can use often.
 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Returning to normal?


I had some dental work done on Friday.  I’m recovering nicely, it‘s sore today but I’m at work and doing OK.  I still have to be careful while eating, last night for supper I ate a bowl of oatmeal.  This morning I’m having toast with marmalade, it’s good but I have to chew slowly and carefully.  I have a can of soup for my lunch.  I think the new partial fits better, well it’s the same partial but they changed up the right side to accommodate the new work.  It used to slip up and down a little bit and was uncomfortable sometimes.  Now, it seems to fit better.  Time will tell, once I can start eating properly we’ll see, but I think this is better.

While I’m glad this dental work is behind me, I have to say it put a pretty good sized dent into my savings.  If I‘m going to meet my goals this year I’ll have to buckle down on the savings by being more frugal, more careful with spending.  I know there are still changes I can make.  Also once Ayla is recovered from her C section she’ll be going back to work, that will ease some of my spending.    

Since I was recovering, I had a very restful weekend.  I spent it watching TV, reading, knitting and holding Zane.  Several times I’d let Drake get on my bed and he’d play all around me, all I had to do was smile at him and he was fine.  We told him I didn’t feel good and he was not pushy with me at all.  I finished the book I was reading, 1000 White Women, it was good but sad at the end, as I expected it to be.  I didn’t get to finish watching Downton Abbey but I did watch several episodes of Hawaii 5-0.  I also knitted a slipper, once I finish the pair they’ll go into the gift box and probably go to my dad, or Shane or Randy, for a birthday gift.
I cooked some dry kidney beans yesterday and Ayla used them to make a very good pot of chili last night.  She uses less chili powder and more sugar in hers but otherwise it’s the same recipe I taught her, and Shane and Drake prefer hers, I have never seen Drake eat so much.  She said she feels bad, making “my” recipes in front of me, and changing them.  I keep telling her, if you cook, you do it to YOUR taste.  I was able to eat some of it because the beans were really soft, and it was delicious.  I also taught her how to get tomato stains out of her shirt and explained, that’s why I change clothes before cooking, and we also have 2 aprons.  She had never noticed the aprons hanging on the wall but said she would use them from now on.
Apparently the lid I grabbed this morning for my tea cup is the wrong one.  Every time I take a drink it dribbles on my shirt.  I hope I can get the stains out tonight, this is a new and very comfortable shirt.