Monday, June 30, 2014

Down the Lane, in Multiple Directions

I think I'll just start posting today to see what comes of it.  I really don't have a single thought to focus on.

I'm getting ready to travel for our son's wedding.  My energy is back and I've cleaned out the refrigerator, started washing the bed linens, and started packing.  My pup will go to a kennel, which she has been to before.  I miss her when I'm away, but I love it when she sees me when I return and is so excited she can barely contain herself.  She loves me.  Even though she's a dog, I need that love.  Everyone needs to feel someone loves them.  I'm lucky in that department, my family loves me - a bunch.  They like when I'm around and hold conversations with me that make me feel that I'm still able to contribute to society.

Family is top priority.  Even if there's just one person left in your family, it is important for a person's well being to stay connected in any way possible.  That's why I stay on Facebook.  I don't say much, just post cute pictures, but I get to see and hear what my nieces and nephews are doing.  They share pictures of their children that I will most likely never meet, but can create a relationship with in my heart.  I pray for them each morning and am happy to see their little bodies and minds growing strong and able.  I fall in love with the grandchildren I only see once a year, too.  They are all so beautiful and delightful.  In short, I'm in love with my family. 

There are times I wish my husband was still here to see how wonderful everyone is doing.  I really miss that man.  Somehow, I have a feeling he does see them all.  That when they need it he is right there, by their side.  Which brings me to our grand daughter.  She's a year and a half old now.  But, from the time she was just able to sit up she would go to his picture in the living room and kiss it.  One of her first words was 'grandpop'.  It has become her ritual when she visits to kiss his picture and give it to me and her mother to kiss.  It's as if he met her before we did.  Something to think about.

I see I have traveled down a number of paths in this post.  Sharing with you makes me happy.  I hope you are all well.  Show a kindness to your loved ones today.  Tomorrow may be too late.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cherries, Yummy, But Traumatic, Maybe Not Too Traumatic

As a female child brought up in an Italian American house I learned how to clean at a very early age.  Cleaning was sport in our home.  It had to be done correctly, no matter your age.  My mother was widowed at the age of 26 so it was just her and I and my brother.  She worked to support us and we cleaned and shoveled the coal into the furnace in the winter.  I cooked meals when I was ten.  Sometimes there may have been a little extra meat in them if I had an accident with the potato peeler.  Our fun was on the weekends when we were shipped off to my dad's parents' house.  Let the fun begin.

There was nothing expected of us at Grandma's house.  No cleaning.  No cooking.  Just fun.  My cousin and I would meet up there and find ways of exploring the huge Victorian that was surrounded by yard on all four sides.

The back yard was where most of the action was.  It had a huge patio with picnic tables assigned to three spots close to each other.  It was shaded by the fruit trees.  There were cherry- the favorite of all of us, apricot, peach along with two others I can't remember.  Lovely spot to spend an afternoon in.  If you were on the ground.

My brother and I were not content to keep our feet planted on the ground.  We would climb up the side of the garage - the side no one could see us - shimmy up the cherry tree to find a comfy spot and gorge on cherries.  I can still taste the heavenly fruit to this day. 

Not content to have eaten cherries from the tree, there was a day that is imprinted in my soul.  My brother was very bright.  Brilliant, actually.  He became an engineer as an adult, which was only right because his first engineering project was completed when he was ten at Grandma's house.

On the ground next to the back porch was a peck of cherries.  Fresh picked and looking very yummy.  The porch was covered by yet another porch over it on the second story.  We knew no one would appreciate us dipping into those cherries so my brother rigged up a pulley system out of nowhere to hoist the basket to the top porch.  After a few tries the system was operational.  Two happier faces you never saw.  We did it!  OK, he did it, but I was his helper.

We ate most of the cherries in the peck then decided we didn't feel so good.  Of course we couldn't tell anyone why we didn't feel so good.  A short time later Grandma found the near empty basket.  We were scolded and ushered into the house to lie down.  A few minutes later we were arguing over who needed to use the bathroom the most.  He won out.  But I have to tell you the bathroom became our best friend for close to four days.

You would think that neither of us would ever eat another cherry.  I don't know about him, but when I saw the grocery store had cherries on sale this week, I smiled.  I'm off to gather some.  Just not a peck of them.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What I Didn't Accomplish This Week, But Should Have

Have you ever had a day when you are lazy?  You know, you look around at dishes in the sink and laundry piling up, but put on blinders and a good movie.  I know I have.  But, I haven't just had a lazy day, I've had a lazy week.  The dishes are washed and the bed is made, but that's all I remember doing this week.  I've been reading.  I've been on Facebook. I've been sitting in the yard looking at the plants and the weeds.  Telling myself I had best get up and weed before the weeds take over.  Instead I found a dragonfly to watch as he dived into the water bath I have on the table.

Here's what I know I didn't accomplish this week:

1.Baking my dessert for the week.
2.Cooking any meals, but one.
3.Washing the bed linen.
4.Cleaning the upstairs bathroom.  Even though I don't use it, it collects dust.
5. Dusting the upstairs bedrooms and loft.

What I did accomplish:

1.Bring a small lamp downstairs and put it in the kitchen.  I'm not sure I'll leave it there.  I'll think about it for a while. (lazily)
2.Two posts on the blog.
3.Wrote a check to a charity, but have not mailed it yet.
4.Made ice tea. (not sweetened)
5.Warmed up a pizza for lunches.
6.Cleaned the powder room.
7.Vacuumed and dusted the floors. The furniture can wait.
8.Ate a bowl of ice cream with cherries and bananas and half a apple juice frozen pop.
9.Dishes in the dishwasher. They're still in there.
10. Made some medical calls for my brother.
11.Took a couple of naps.  Then went to bed on time.
12.Watched half a movie.  When I can figure out the ending early on, I loose interest.

What did you do -or didn't do this week?  Please let me know I'm not the laziest person on earth this week.

The long suffering pup, Marley.  She's got the patience of a saint.  I did feed her this week.  She's safe, just a bit humiliated.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Good Company, Good Conversation and Coffee Cake

I love to bake.  When I was working full time and came home upset over something, I would get out the Kitchen Aid and bake.  There's something soothing about it for me.  Maybe I was picturing the offender in the bowl.  I'm not sure. (A good bet though.)  One of the desserts I would make is a coffee cake.   The recipe I used was for two bread pan sized cakes.  One usually went into the freezer for the following week.

The recipe below is from one of the yootoob channels I follow on a daily basis - Noreen's Kitchen.  The recipe brought back memories of Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee and my husband sitting across from me at the kitchen table.  Good food, good company, good conversation.  It looks yummy.  I'm going to try this recipe and compare it to the one I use to make.

I hope you enjoy the video.  If you decide to bake it up, let me know how it came out.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Redo a Lamp Shade with Recycled Materials.

I want to share a yootoob video with you today.  Bev Volfie at Our Half Acre Homestead demonstrates how to recycle and reuse common items in her home to redo an old lampshade.  Ingenious!

I hope you'll enjoy the video as much as I did.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Changes in the Kitchen

I have gone from feeding six people to feeding just myself in a relatively short period of time.  .  Through the recent years I've made adjustments.  The portions I cook have dwindled.  Not always dwindled enough, but I'm getting there.
I know enough to make small packs of bacon or breakfast sausage before freezing.  I also know oranges and apples and other fresh fruits need to be purchased in single servings - each time I go shopping.  A few years back I figured out there was waste in the refrigerator and brought down the amount of food I purchased.  Although the price of a single piece of fruit irritates me when there is a bag of the same fruit that is half the unit cost.  But, waste not want not.

All things on the road to frugal living.  The one thing that did not occur to me is not to freeze so much more than I could possibly eat in two years.

I didn't take a picture of the freezer before I cleaned it out this week.  I should have.  I couldn't believe what was in there.  Things I forgot about for two years.  All shoved into crevices that existed between other items.  What a mess.  Most of it was freezer burned and collected ice crystals along the way.  My only thought was that I would most likely spend a year in purgatory for the sin of waste. (Catholic joke)

I needed to rethink how I viewed what the frugal lifestyle means.  How could I avoid this ever happening again. I have formed a plan.  I will no longer purchase large quantities of  anything, divide it, and freeze it when it is on sale.  Now for the next step.

I went to the meat market and bought one large pork chop.  I will divide it in two, beat the heck out of it, and oven fry the breaded pieces.  I will eat this twice until it is gone.  No freezer to save it until a later date.  I will make half a recipe of a dessert and eat that for the week.  No more freezing that either.  I will purchase two types of fresh veggies a week and eat those until they are gone. No more freezing these either.  And, hopefully, no more waste.  Fingers crossed. 

I've been tossing around the idea of actual meal planning, as well.  I've never committed menus to paper.  It may help me to save on waste as well. 

Do you have any secrets to staying within your budget and keeping food waste down?  I'm open to suggestions.

I've semi organized the shelves.  One for meats and one for baking items such as chocolate chips and nuts.  It imperative that I keep popcycles on the shelf for the grandkids.  The popcycle holder was a Kohl's find with a sale and 20% coupon.  The cost was 4.40.  It's very sturdy and has a drip guard on it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Huh?, Then WooHoo

Quite a few households in the USA  are proud owners of a Swiffer dry mop.  An ingenious idea thought up by a team of uncelebrated scientists.  Along with the Swiffer comes the expense of the dry 'static' cloths that need to be consumed each time the mop is used.  Some of us frugal hackers have reverted to attaching old rags to the mop in place of the expensive disposable cloths.  I try to reduce my carbon footprint, so I have used the rags (old washcloths) for years.

 Recently I did buy a box of disposable cloths.  Today the box was empty.  I sucked it up and went for a rag that I knew I had to wash out.  Eureka!   Under the sink in front of the bag of rags was a roll of (drumroll, please) paper towel.  I use approximately two rolls of paper towels a year.  For jobs that I don't want to wash out rags, such as when the pup has an upset stomach.

Do they work?  They aren't the 'static' sheets like the disposable cloths brag about.   Guess what?  The disposable cloths are not created with static.  The static appears when they are rubbed against the hard surface of the floor.  The paper towel did a great job of cleaning the dusty wood floors.  I love it!

So I know I will be purchasing an additional roll of paper towel this year.  Maybe two.  But, it will be quite a bit less expensive than the 30 count box of off brand dry cloths I have bought in the past.

You know, of course, I will combine a coupon and a sale to buy the paper towel.  The dry cloths are
never on sale.

I swear the floors looked clean.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Protiens and Carbs - The Dating Game

As my years are advancing I have renewed my interest in healthy eating.  Since my husband passed I have not been exactly healthy in my eating habits.  I made an appointment with a dietician and learned some interesting things.  I came away with an important and easy to remember thing
A  thought that diet fads do not take into consideration.

It's not what you eat, it's how much of it you eat.  She gave me an example of going to a get together with friends and family.  If the menu includes three carbohydrates and one protein, choose the protein and only one carbohydrate.  Both are needed for energy.

The body converts carbs and protein into energy.  Carbs are a fast burning energy and protein is a slow burning energy.  So when the carb energy runs out, the protein energy picks up. 

Let's say you eat a cereal bar in the morning.  Or oatmeal.  Without a protein you will be hungry in two hours or less.  But if a protein - such as milk or nuts- is added, you're full for four hours.

It's safe to say balance is the key for staving off hunger.

Some foods that contain protein are:
1. Nuts
2. Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, real cream, etc.)
3. Eggs
4. Fish
5. Chicken
6. Turkey
7. Red meats

Pair these up with grains, rice, potatoes, and desserts.

Why is there a rise in disease?  Could it be because we no longer drink milk with cookies?  (An example) I think I can see a correlation there.  Food related illnesses were not a problem when I was growing up.  We ate our share of cookies.  But we couldn't have the cookies without the milk.  Meals were from the four food groups.  Those groups were studied in junior high and high school.  When I began to cook for my family I served meals with the knowledge I picked up in school.  And the meals that were  served to me as a growing child.

There was no such thing as a diet or processed foods. (Don't get me started on that subject.)  We played and worked hard.  We ate simple and balanced meals.  And we enjoyed the lovely benefits of 'evil' sugar.  Real sugar.

Clutterbug, Clutterbug, Go Away.

Today there's a movement happening across the country.  People are downsizing.  Not their living space, but rather what they keep in their living space.  Gone are the days that each room is filled with small items cluttering up every surface.  This, it seems,  is especially true in the kitchen.  We've bought the rice cookers and gadgets.  Now we see they take up valuable space.  We seldom use the gadgets.  We've become a nation of downsizing. 

For me this is a good thing.  I have a difficult time being surrounded with multiple items.  I like my freedom in my environment.  I like that there is room for people to visit and not have to compete for space.  The owner of the company I worked for once told me all real estate needs to be used proficiently.  He was right.  My home is my real estate.  I took this to heart and began uncluttering.  I felt so much better and at peace in my home.

I began in the kitchen.  I will say, though, that even to this day I see a kitchen item that catches my eye in the store and have to ask myself where would I put it.  I (like most women I know) love kitchen items.  What do I need in the kitchen?  Here's a basic list to get you thinking.

1. Hand can opener
2. Rubber spatulas
3. Ladle
4. Bread knife
5. Paring knife
6. Chef's knife
7. Large spoon for stirring food while it cooks
8.Tea ball
9. 12 inch fry pan
10.2 pots, one small, one larger
11.Pasta pot
12.2 sets of stacking bowls
13.Glass storage  containers
14.6 mugs
15.6 glasses
16.Dish set
17.Water pitchers (A weakness of mine) 3 every day ones and 2 'fancy' ones
18.Measuring cups, 1 2 cup glass and a set of dry measures
19.Measuring spoons
20. Food processor
21 9x13 pan and carrier
22.8x8 pan
24. Glass canister set for dry goods (on the counter)
25.Coffee pot (counter)
26.Butter dish (counter)
27.Salt and pepper (stove)
28.Kitchen Aid mixer (counter)
29. Rasp
30.Cheese grater
31.Drying dish pad
33. Food Saver

I'm sure I've forgotten a few small items, but the basics are listed.  Very few small appliances that are not in daily use taking up real estate.  That's something I take pride in.  I try to keep my muscles strong by utilizing hand methods while in the kitchen.  I keeps me young and strong.

There is one plaque that states: ' I'll have a caffe' mocha vodka valium latte to go please'.

Since I like to bake my dry goods are displayed on the counter.  For me it makes life easier.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Easy Pezy Cheese Ball

I just realized the forth of July is around the corner.  This year will be a little different for our family.  We won't be home.  Our son's getting married on the sixth 'up North'.  So we will be traveling.  So I thought I'd share some recipes with you that are simple and takes just a few minutes to put together.  They make you look like a Martha hostess.

8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 small jar of pimento stuffed green olives, chopped into small pieces
1/2 can pitted black olives, chopped into small pieces
A few shots of hot sauce (to taste)
Garlic powder to taste
1 cherry (optional)

Mix all ingredients except the cherry.  Roll into a ball and plop the cherry on top.  Place in an air tight container and refrigerate.

This looks nice on an American fiesta table.  The black olives appear navy blue.  Red, (pimento) white, (cream cheese) and blue.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dollar Store - I Wouldn't Call it a Haul

After I left my daughters on Saturday I made a quick stop at the Dollar Tree to grab a few more candles for the decorations at our son's wedding.  There was an interesting display on an end cap at the front of the store.  It was wise to place these items on the end cap because I would never go down the aisle with the automotive items.  I would assume most females pass that aisle up.  For three dollars I found 3 items to help keep my car in good condition.

I got a package of glass wipes with forty wipes in it.  For a dollar!  Not the $4.69 the big name company charges.  Also I picked up a package of forty interior car cleaners.  Not the same price as the big name company charges either.  They smell different, but they have a nice smell to them.  More like baby wipes.  They do the job as well without leaving a residue.

Since I have a difficult time pulling out glass cleaner to wash windows in the house, I brought the glass wipes in the house and tested them on the slider.  With purpose I wiped down the glass when the sun was shining on it.  No streaks.  The wipe lasted long enough to clean the inside and the outside.

The third item is a sun shield for the front window of my vehicle.  It's not as heavy as a more costly one, but the  same principle is used.  I'm not too fond of this item because the straps to hang it up on the visor are misplaced.  I use it to protect the seats from cracking and fading, but would not suggest it's a good product.

The Dollar Tree is hit and miss.  For me, mostly hit. The good thing is you're only out one dollar if an item doesn't work out.  I normally take back what doesn't work and they credit you.  Knowing I'll return, that works for me.  I can't get upset over an item that I am experimenting with for a dollar.  Besides, Dollar Tree accepts coupons!

I'm a believer.

Do you shop at a dollar store?  What great items have you found?

My three finds at the Dollar Tree.  Two out of three I would suggest.  The sun shield is a no go.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Small Items Add Pazazz to the Patio

My daughter called to ask if I wanted to go to Kohl's with her and her children Saturday morning.  Two minutes past the agreed time I pulled in the parking lot.  One minute later she pulled in, parking next to a vehicle that she thought was mine. Tee hee, I was closer to the door!  With an empty spot right next to me.

Our son is getting married in 23 days and it was time to find clothing for her boys.  She had good luck, and so did I.

 I had purchased my dress a few weeks back so I could look around.  I found an LED flash light to put in the car at 65% off, which made it 7.99.  The right price for something I have been looking for for quite a while.  I had a 20% off coupon that sweetened the deal.  I paid 6.49 for it. 

What I didn't plan on purchasing were a few things for the back yard.  I've really held off decorating the patio until this year.  No good sales means I go without.  I don't mind this routine because I like to keep my cash close to me.  This serves me so much more than haphazardly giving my money to a store.  I bought two place mats.  One rectangular striped mat and a round straw mat.  I paid $2.44 each.  Another 65% off sale.  I stacked them on top of each other with the round one on top, then placed them in the center of my small table with the bird bath on top.  I'm delighted with the results.

This vignette is intended to attract the birds.  Hopefully the fresh water will keep them hydrated in the Southern summer heat.

I also found an outdoor pillow on sale.  Nice big flowers on it in orange.  It matches my hanging flowers.

Do you have a patio?  Or a big yard?  I'd love to hear / see what you have done to make your outdoor area a summer room.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Wrought Iron 'Thingie', Books, and Grandma's Fun

Thursday was the last day of school for the students in my area.  As my daughter is a teacher, she had to stay a whole day while students were released at 11:30.  I gladly picked up her boys.  We went on a small adventure to the thrift store. 

As long as they stayed together they could check out the books while I looked around.  With one eye on them and the other on my mission I enjoyed the time.  They each chose books - the 11 year old 3 novels, the 8 year old 6 age appropriate SpongeBob books.  After a check over of the content, they were happy that all of their choices were fine. 

I found a small Tuscany looking wrought iron 'thingie' to put my salt, pepper, and garlic containers in.  I'm not sure if I'll like the addition, but for .98 cents, I can take a few days to figure it out.

As a small celebration for the last day of school we went to a local fast food place for lunch.  We ate off of the dollar menu.  I was happy to hear them say they had not been there in months.  Neither had I.  But, a celebration is, after all, a celebration, so we had ice cream cones to end the meal.

We came back to my house to play a WII game and chalk up the driveway.  How delightful to hear the sounds of a child playing, using his imagination.

I had a very good day.

Then I took a nap!

Not bad for .98 cents.  Looking pretty after the bath and disinfectant rub down.  It looks like it may have been a small flower pot holder in it's first life.

All shiny clean with a new purpose in life.  I think I'm going to like it.


Monday, June 9, 2014

I May Be Getting the Right Idea, The Pantry Saga Continued

I was talking to a friend this morning.  She wanted me to check my email because she sent me some pictures.  We have fun sending pictures to each other showing our latest projects.  She was up last night until 10:30 PM redoing her pantry.  I received permission from her to post this picture on my blog.

How sweet!  Colorful and decorative.  I'm copying her.  Shh.  It's a secret.

I LOVE what she did with her dry goods.  A light bulb, at first, flickered - then shone brightly.  I see now that my pantry is not organized because I have been purchasing containers one or two at a time when I find a good deal.  The shapes and sizes are not consistent.  Bingo.  I finally get it.  Is it imperative to have consistent shape?  Not for the food.  Just for me.  For some reason I need things to appear neat and consistent.  You could call it a personal glitch if you will.  I'm not sure, but I learned to like me a while ago.  So I don't stress over my imperfections.  I only stress over an unorganized pantry!
Here's a reminder of what my pantry currently looks like.  I hope to change that look in the very near future.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Batch Two - Strawberry Jam

This Saturday morning was spent making jam from the berries I got at a local farm yesterday.  Pesticide free berries.  Yummy and sweet berries.  Berries of all sizes, but none that could be described as gigantic.  There was little waste - only 7 berries out of 3 quarts.  I was impressed because that meant there was care taken by whoever picked them.  (Not me!)

I began the quest in the normal way - washing the berries four times.  Sometimes they need five or six rinses.  I told this to my friend and she told me four was enough for her. 

Then came the messy part, hulling.  I use my thumb for this task so I don't loose too much of the berry.  I always cut too much off when I use a knife.  What a mess!  Good thing the disposal was ready to go.
Before I put them in the pan to cook, I pulsed them in the food processor a few times.  Then into the pan with a box of pectin and a small slab of butter.  I like the taste of the foam, but it doesn't look too good.  The butter keeps it at a minimum.
While the jars were warming up in the oven I got on with the jam making.  When the sugar was added and began to boil, I put the timer on for the one minute called for in the instructions.
The finished product.  Rich and warm and delicious.

I use flour sack towels just for canning.  They come in a pack of five for about 4.50.  When I remove the jars from the water bath, I put the towels in the boiling water to clean them.  Doing this doesn't remove all of the stains, but it does take care of most of them.

That took care of my Saturday morning this week.  What did you do?  I know I rested after making the jam.  Then came the task of cleaning up the big mess I made! 
It's around six PM.  I should probably think about making the bed. (ha ha ha)

Blue Skies and The Military

I live in an area of the country that people vacation in.  As a matter of fact there are so many visitors that locals go to small beaches in the summer, or join the YMCA for swimming.

My area also has the bluest skies I have ever seen.  On most days there is cloud cover that moves quickly out to the ocean to leave in their wake that gorgeous sky.  Our rain storms are fast and furious.  A driver may not be able to see through the sheet of rain and needs to pull over, but the drama is over in a few minutes.

Needless to say, the weather and I make great companions. 

Each morning I sit out in the garden with a cup of coffee, say my prayers, and listen to the birds sing and communicate in the woods behind my home.  I do this in memory of the mornings I spent with my husband.  He would talk back to the birds and they would respond.  I marveled at this skill.  I tried the same thing and watched the birds fly away from fear.

This morning the sky had not one cloud in it for a few minutes.  Then I noticed a few jet streams streaking the pure blue.  I became a bit upset because people have been talking about weather fixing.  Or whatever it's called.  My fears dispersed when I noticed the stream of white quickly dissipated, leaving the sky blue once again.

Ah, the Navy is practicing their morning routine.  That routine is comforting.  The sound of aircraft going overhead is comforting to me.  The military is protecting our shores.  Could they be watching our every move?  I suppose, but I don't know why they would waste precious time watching people go to work or water their gardens.  It would seem they have more important missions on the agenda. 

The extensive military presence in my area - in itself - is comforting.  I'm grateful to the section of the population that has devoted their lives to protecting us.  No where is it seen (by me) more than right here in my own back yard.  I salute those people who have chosen to serve others.  They put in long hours and have very little choices in their lives.  They do what they are instructed to do most every minute of the day.  They are, for the most part, respectful of their environment and the people they serve.  There are some exceptions, but there always is.

So instead of listening to conspiracy theorists, I have chosen to commend our military and thank them for their service.  I'll leave the rest of it to God.  After all, He knows what is real and what is not.  Fear robs us of our comfort and peace.  I have chosen not to live in fear.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Recycling and a Home Made Kitchen and Bath Cleaner

The topic this week on the blogs I follow has been recycling.  England has recently passed a law banning plastic grocery bags.  Australia has councils that dictate recycling demands.  The USA has thousands of counties that have recycling mandates that vary by the needs of the community.

Recycling is the responsible way to live.  Reusing glass jars from items you purchase for freezing liquids or for storing left overs is only one of the prudent ways to help our environment.  Making your own home made detergent and cleaning products is another.  There's a number of things we can do - as private citizens - to protect our environment.

Years ago when I worked at a local hospital emergency service (night shift) I found a stack of paper in the trash can.  This was before recycling became a way of life for us.  I lined up the papers and used the cutting board to make squares of note paper.  By hand, on each sheet, I wrote 'This is a recycled product'.  You can't believe how much my co workers poo pooed the idea.  When they were done making fun of the paper they began using it.  I only did this once because I succumbed to their intimidation tactics.  But I have since learned that intimidation no longer works on me.  I was ahead of my time, but what I did was the right thing to do.

I'm sure not one of those co workers remembers this, but I have never forgotten it.  I became a bit stronger that day filing away how I should have responded vs. how I did respond.

At this point in my life I do whatever I can to recycle and reuse.
1.  Use plastic store bags for trash. 
2.  Use cloth bags at the grocery.  (I get 5 cents back for each one. This helps me to remember my bags.)
3.  If I forget them I ask for paper.  I reuse the bags to wrap packages I send to friends and family when the cost is less than the post office boxes.  (Approximately 50% of the time.)
4.  Shred newspaper to put around the berry bushes as a mulch.
5.  Use cookie sheets over a pan in the oven or a casserole dish with a glass lid instead of foil.
6.  Use glass containers to store leftovers in the fridge.
7.  Use plastic onion bags as a scouring pad to clean pots and pans.
8.  Use baking soda to clean my flat stove top.
9.  Make my own kitchen cleaner.
10. Use a steam cleaner for the wood, tile or linoleum floors.
11. Kill weeds with straight vinegar from a spray bottle.

And so much more.   It's my way of life.  I love nature and the earth.  I have always had an appreciation for my surroundings.  Everyone I know has the same appreciation.  I'm thankful that we do whatever we can to protect the environment.  So, thank you.

Home Made Kitchen and Bath Cleaner

1. Glass jar
2. Citrus peels
3. Vinegar (white is best)

In a clean jar place peels to the top.  If you don't have a lot at a time, freeze them until you have enough.  Fill the jar with vinegar and seal.  Put the mixture in a cool dark place (cupboard will do) for 2 weeks.  After 2 weeks, strain out the peels.  Add an equal amount of water to the vinegar.  Place in a spray bottle and go to town.  

This video shows how to make a gift bag that can be reused from a tea towel.

Stay safe.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Shopping at the Dollar Store With the Grandkids

While a chicken was in the crockpot, I picked up our 2 eldest grandchildren after school.  There were requests to stop at the dollar store before I took them back to my house.  Sometimes I tell them we'll do that another time.  I don't want them to equate grandma with getting everything they want when ever they want it.  But, yesterday we went.

They each get $3.00 to spend.  It takes them a while to choose only three things each from the number of things they want.  But, the rule never changes.  Three is the limit.  I don't think a time has passed that the eight year old tries to talk me into 'just one more' item.  Nope.  Three it is.

I don't do this to be mean.  I do it to help them grow into the independent adults they will be before we know it.  Knowing some things have limitations in life is a lesson that is easier to learn as a child.  Making personal choices - such as which items to choose- creates a strong and healthy mind.  Another thing that our grands will not have to deal with is the emotions that come with an entitlement mentality.

While they pushed around a cart together I chose some silk flowers for an arrangement on my dresser.  I spent $6.00 on four silk flower bunches, one round glass vase, and a bag of clear marbles.  The marbles were to, hopefully, hold the stems in place in the vase.  Thankfully it was a good choice.

When my daughter came to pick up her boys, I showed her what I purchased.  After, of course, her boys displayed their bounty.  She sarcastically thanked me for letting them each choose a three liter of soda then told me my vase wasn't flat on the bottom.    She was right.  Well, it's from the dollar store so I didn't expect perfection. 

After I created the bouquet, I placed the vase on a cloth coaster.  There we go, problem solved.

This picture doesn't do the arrangement justice.  It is a subtle addition to the room.  The bedroom is the only room that has any feminine touches in it.  The rest of the house is furnished in darker tones. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

This week I....

I'm not sure if I've had an exciting week.  I have been content.  I like content.  It's a comforting feeling.  I haven't been doing too much outside of the home this past seven days.  I like being home.  I always have.  My children have finally realized I'm not depressed, I'm satisfied with the blessings I have.  I miss my husband, but other than that I feel so blessed to have the freedom to cook if I want - or not.  I do clean the house just because that is one of my loves.  I enjoy cleaning.  When I've completed a task I can stand back and admire my work in a very short period of time.  A type of instant gratification.  This week I have:

1.  Transplanted 6 marigold seedlings into their own spot in the garden.  This is a hardy plant that can stand up to the heat in my zone.

2.  Purchased 5 strawberry plants with a gift card my son gave me for Mother's Day.

3.  Planted the strawberry plants.

4.  Made a 'roasted' chicken in the crockpot.  The chicken is organic.  I used my fresh parsley and my daughter's dried basil to season it.  Cracked pepper and pink salt were the only other spices used.

5. Dehydrated basil from my daughter's garden.

6.  Swept and vacuumed the floors.

7.  Went to a church sale.  You can check out the post to see what I brought home.

8.  Went to breakfast with our youngest daughter and her children.

9.  The same day went to our eldest daughter's for dinner.

10.  Took stock of my canning supplies.

11.  Had 5 no spend days.

What did you do this past week?  Do you grocery shop every week?  Were there any good deals you found at the grocery?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I'd Like to Introduce You To... Continued

I had two small plants in the house that I planted from heirloom seeds.  I forgot to label them, then couldn't remember what I planted.  When I was at the garden center I picked up two pepper plants.  Peppers are a favorite either cooked or raw.  Imagine my surprise when I brought them home and the leaves were the same as the two seedlings that flourished in the window.  The plant on the right is my seedling.  The one on the left is the garden center plant.  Both appear to be strong, but, once again the garden center plant wins the largest award.  It will be interesting to see if the  seedling ever catches up to the big plant.
Although I planted an entire row of endive lettuce , this is the only one that grew.  A bit disappointing, but one is better than none.  I picked 4 leaves off the outer edge for lunch today.  I'll have a hard boiled egg and a slice of toast with dressing on the leaves.  I guess I'll have to tell the dog 'No begging,' because she'll smell the blue cheese dressing and want some.
Last, but not least are the beets.  Two rows planted, two rows germinated.  I picked the two that broke through the ground for a dinner last week and felt like an indulged princess when I tasted them.   I simply boiled them with a pinch of sugar and ate them with salt and pepper.  Yum.  I cooked the leaves as I would spinach (in boiling water).  I thought they were a bit grainy tasting.  I have since learned to roll them with a rolling pin to break them down before cooking to prevent the grainy texture.  When these are ready I will try that to see if it works.
There's the main stars of my garden.  I baby every one of them.  Today I am planting strawberries.  I want to be able to eat, and share, good old fashioned healthy food.  As the saying goes, I'm not getting any younger, and I'd like to be as fit as I can to continue contributing to society.  'Society' these days can be translated into 'family and friends'.  I closed the borders a while back.  It's a good way to live.  Others may not agree with my actions, but since the borders are closed, it really doesn't affect me.
Stay safe.

Monday, June 2, 2014

I'd Like to Introduce You To...

My garden buddies.  Not all of the plants are buddies.  Just the ones shared by my friends and family or the ones that survived from seeds.  Only the most prominent ones have names.  Those include the king of the garden my olive tree sent to me as a birthday gift from a friend who knew I always wanted one.  The second is a gift of heirloom lemon seeds from the same friend that traveled 3000 miles to be lovingly and patiently sown in organic soil in the window this past winter.
This is the king of the garden.  Oliver.  Appropriately named for his species - the olive tree.  He's a bit shy and doesn't like his picture taken.  Truth be known the photo has a lot to be desired.  He is skinny now, but he is suppose to grow a wide and thick trunk as he matures.  Kind of like a good baseball player.
The plant on the right is the lemon tree I grew from seed during the winter.  At last count it has 11 leaves on it.  I guess it will be a while until I get fruit from it.  Currently both Lawrence the Lemon and Oliver the Olive Tree live indoors.   I put them outside during the nice weather and bring them in at night.
I planted a dozen heirloom cucumber seeds, but only one survived.  I check it out a few times a day in case some sort of enemy wants to make it's home on my one lone cucumber.  This is war.  I know we have bumble bees in the woods because last year there were quite a few every day pollinating my plants.
The first photo is the heirloom tomato I planted from seed.  Again only one of a dozen survived.  I check this plant out a few times a day, as well because I lost all 9 of my plants last year due to a caterpillar invasion. The bottom photo is a plant I bought at a home center.  Which one do you bet on surviving?
Peeking out from behind the cheesecloth is my blackberry bush sent to me from my friend.  It was the first of an experiment to see if plants from far away could like the East Coast.  He loves it here.  This is the second year and I have 30 berries at last count.  There's a load of new growth so I am expecting more berries.  I'll pick them as they ripen, then freeze them for jam.  I will most likely have to combine them with other berries from the local farm to get an entire batch of jam.  But, a good start.  The shroud is to protect the berries from the birds.  They wake up before I do and would have a nice meal before I could drink my coffee.
One of seven bean plants planted.  To my surprise all of them germinated.  There were slugs munching on them so I put egg shells around them to keep the slugs away.  If you use egg shells be sure to wash them in hot soapy water before surrounding your plants with them.  This alleviates the risk of salmonella infecting the garden.  I wash them then dry them in the oven for a few minutes before use.
To be continued.......

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Proud to be an (Italian) American

On Facebook I joined the site 'The Italian American Page'.  Since this is my heritage I can get engrossed in the information put out there by this group.  Today was a long list of ... You know your Italian if.  I fell into most of the listed items.  I had a good laugh.

One of the points was, ... if your uncles were named Louie, Frank, Anthony, or Joe.  I had three of the four.  No Frank that I can remember.

This brought me to think about my grandmother.  Almost as wide as she was tall -  with a big comforting chest.  When she hugged you, a kid felt protected.  Her hair was silver and fell to her waist when it was let loose from the tight bun.  She worked in a factory sewing men's suits.  Her house was cluttered and a layer of dust was a friend of hers.  But, could that woman cook.  From scratch, every day.  Weekends were special because she made home made ravioli every Saturday.  I was there, along with my cousin, Nardine, just about every Saturday.  We sat by her side in the kitchen rolling a small piece of dough over and over while we talked to Grandma and giggled with each other.  God only knows what our personal conversations consisted of, but I'm sure we didn't want adults listening in.  Grandma was OK to hear.  She never repeated a word.

I learned a lot from grandma.  I didn't think I did.  I carry on her tradition of cooking with fresh ingredients.  I even make my sauce with her recipe.  Only thing is I didn't know it until my cousin and I were recently talking.  She gave me grandma's sauce recipe.  I make it the exact same way.  The meatballs, too.  I big batch them, then freeze them.  All of hers were eaten around the huge dining room table during Sunday dinner.  And, yes, every one of us was present.  Uncles, aunts, cousins.

I wanted to learn how to make ravioli a couple of months ago.  I watched a video on yootoob from the Jamie Oliver collection.  The chef had to be Italian or the ravioli would not be authentic.  Jamie has an Italian chef from Italy so I copied his recipe after watching the video a few times.  The measurements were European so I found a conversion chart.  The recipe for the dough is simple.

1 egg
1/2 C flour (add more if needed)

That's it.  Roll the dough out very thin on a floured surface. Very thin.  Fill with cheese or a filling of your choice and you have a delicious fast food meal.  I froze some of the ravioli ( I also leaned how to make ricotta  cheese) and ate the rest fresh.  So delicious.  This is enough for approximately 12 ravioli.

This blog is named after my grandmother.  A common Italian name for a not so common woman.  She rocked.
A bag of frozen home made meatballs ready for action.