Sunday, August 19, 2007

Vacation!

I will be taking a short vacation for the next 2 weeks. We will be taking our yearly trip to the cottage by the water where the picture at the top of the page is the view from the porch if walk out into it and turn left. Hoping to renew my spirit, relax my body and set some goals for the coming year. As we move into the fall, (and a new school year for my husband) I feel like it's more of a renewal time than, say, new years. I know, fall seems like a weird time for renewal but I always feel like the fall is the start of something and that summer, the logical end for my personal year. So farewell for a few weeks and I'll be back with some postcards from vacation and my thrifty notions along the way!

Picking Vegetables With Bob

Yesterday my daughter and I spent the morning with my grandmother and her partner, Bob. Bob has a garden and, at 85, supplies my whole family with fresh tomatoes, all summer and into the fall. He also grows other veggies, but tomatoes are his forte!

My girlie loves Bob and the feeling is mutual. They play and run around and yesterday, she helped pick the tomatoes.

To me, a morning spent like this is just wonderful. I don't think I saw food actually growing until my friend Jacquie's father grew huge zucchini in their backyard when we were in grade school. At the time I didn't even like zucchini so this wasn't even mildly interesting to me. I want my girl to be aware of where her food comes from and have respect (and hopefully a love) of where and how it is grown. So many people today have little connection with the food they eat and the beautiful process that nature goes through to grow a tomato or a zucchini or a flower. It is my hope to instill in her, a connection to her world that she can enjoy her entire lifetime.

Later she ate some of her "matoes" and enjoyed them very much!


Pesto!

Tonight I made pesto from basil that I grew in the garden. I didn't have any pine nuts so I left those out. It was still delicious. My daughter ate it with chicken and pasta and as usual, when she eats pesto, mumbled "yum" a few dozen times to herself while eating. Apparently eating with a fork was slowing her down (she's 2 1/2) because when I looked over at her she was using her hands to more quickly get the pasta to her mouth. My husband and I had it over some cooked yellow wax beans that we got from the farmers market and grilled on some of the zucchini we've been growing. I've been making pesto so long I don't even use a recipe. It varies a little each time but it's always good.

Pesto
1 Large Bunch of Basil Leaves
2 Cloves Garlic
A handful of pine nuts
Enough Olive Oil to make the above items whirl around nicely in the blender. (You'll have to experiment with it)
A bunch of Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

Whirl the first 4 ingredients around in your blender until everything is smooth and finely ground. Mix in some Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Easy, fast and yummy! Can be used on pasta, veggies, pizza, in dip and just about anywhere! I usually make a few large batches in the summer and freeze smaller portions for enjoyment when the weather gets cold.

Nice Matters Award!

And today's nice news of the day is that I've been nominated for a Nice Matters Award by Lightening, a very hip mama from Down Under! Apparently I have at least one reader! And she's nice!!!

The award was started by Bella-Enchanted

"This award will be awarded to those that are just nice people, good blog friends and those that inspire good feelings and inspiration! Those that care about others that are there to lend support or those that are just a positive influence in our blogging world!"

Very cool stuff as I can't even remember the last time I was nominated for anything!!! (Except for Garden Club President but I don't think anyone else wants the job!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lipstick Lessons!

The next time you want to plunk down some big bucks on the latest and greatest beauty product, do yourself a favor and check out it's review at Makeupalley. The site is filled with reviews of hundreds of beauty products broken down by name, brand, price point, etc.... These people get REAL exited over makeup and many of them spend a lot on such products. Use their experience before you feel the need to pick some of the pricey stuff for yourself. Mostly I've learned that the more expensive products don't usually garner more favor than their less expensive counterparts at the drugstore.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Home Made Citrus Sugar Scrub

While on the below mentioned Wine Tour, we stopped into a sumptuous artisan gift shop of hand made items. Beautiful pottery bowls, handwoven textiles, silver jewelry and a lovely assortment of all natural beauty products. The best part was that they were all open in the bathroom so you could try anything you wanted! I was particularly taken with a Citrus Sugar scrub that smelled luxurious, looked yummy and made the skin on my hands nice and soft. The price was $14.99! The bottle boasted, "Look at my Ingredients" being that I like to follow directions I obliged. The only thing in this scrub was sugar, some oils and some citrus essential oil! OMG! I have everything at home already!

So last night I whipped some up using:

1/2 Cup Sugar
A little Olive oil
A little Coconut oil (use a little oil at a time until sugar becomes a smooth paste)
a few drops of citrus essential oil

That was it! Free for me because I already had everything. You could use different oils and scents I imagine but that was pretty much it. All you need to do is rub it on your skin and rinse and you'll feel smooth and smell great!

A Day at Seneca Lake

Friday was spent with our friends Bridget and Rick taking in some great Seneca Lake Wineries. For those you not from NY, the finger lakes produces some wonderful wines (most notably Reisling and Gew├╝rztraminer) There are wonderful wineries to visit, most have nice gardens, and boutique wines made by people passionate about what they do. Some of our favorites included: Anthony Road, Miles, A new one (this week!), Red Tail Ridge, and everyone's favorite, Shalestone which only does reds (and does them well!) and produces only 5 wines in very limited supply. It can be a reasonable trip if you don't lose your head while drinking all that wine and decide on a case. Each winery charges between $1-$2.50 for a full taste and those on the higher end of the scale usually include your glass to take with you or a coupon off a wine purchase. When we did the wineries at the North Fork of Long Island, each of those tastes were $5-$6 per person (and the wine was not as good either!)


Along the way I spotted an artisan cheese and gelato maker called Cowlick Farms. We were able to go in an taste all of the cheeses and gelato much the same way we tasted the wines. We bought a Camembert and an herb Gouda that we shared with Bridget and Rick back at their home where we made dinner.

We did buy about 9 bottles of wine, but for us that really isn't bad..

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Low Fat Zucchini Muffins

As I had 2 more large zucchini to deal with today I decided to make some Zucchini Muffins. I could have used a jazzier recipe for a really spectacular muffin, but wanted to use what I had on hand already and what most people would have on hand. I used a recipe from Allrecipes.com and scaled it to make 24, rather than 12. As long as I'm cooking I might as well make it worth my while! Now I have some for breakfast and a picnic tomorrow and some to freeze for our upcoming 2 week cottage vacation. I also had a cup of shredded zucchini leftover that I froze for future use as well.

INGREDIENTS
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups nonfat milk
4 egg whites
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
2 cups grated zucchini

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease muffin tins lightly with oil or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Combine whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon, mix thoroughly.
Mix the milk, slightly beaten egg whites, oil, honey and shredded zucchini together. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just barely moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full with batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

I cut the honey in half to make these low sugar as well but probably would not do that next time. I do like them though because they use all whole wheat flower and not too much fat! And they were very cheap to whip up considering I already had everything I needed at home!
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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Priceline.Com for Hotel Rooms



I swore off Priceline.com the time that I arrived in Bilioxi Mississippi at 11:50 PM on the day I requested travel.

However, this week, I have changed my mind. We went to Toronto with my In-Laws to see a Yankee game (well, ok, Blue Jays game where the Yankees were the visiting team) A friend of my husband told him he should look at Priceline for a Hotel, we had only used them for plane tickets to this point. He went on, asked for a 4 star hotel near the stadium and for $85 American, we got a great room at The Westin Harbour Castle. (Last year for the same trip we stayed in a so so Days Inn for $125 American. ) The rooms were great. Decorations, sleek and very "Toronto" The water view was beautiful and I swear, the bed was even nicer and more comfortable than the one I slept in at The Waldorf Astoria in NYC!

The seats were great and purchased, courtesy of my in-laws, on eBay for less than the best seats the box office had left at the time the reservations were made.

Dinner, also courtesy of my in-laws (Frugal tip-Have nice In-Laws!) was at Wayne Gretzky's restaraunt. Interesting even if you aren't a huge fan of The Great One. There is a very neat mini museum in the back where you can see all kinds of Gretzky memorabilia.

The most un-frugal thing about the whole trip was eating at the darn stadium. Prices were high ($3.70 for a bottle of water!) Since the exchange isn't that great at the moment, eating there cost 2 of us the same as one of the actual tickets to the game and we didn't eat all that much!

It was about 100 degrees. The Yankees won. Mariano Rivera was an amazing closing pitcher and look! Derek Jeter is so happy to see me he's waving to me with his glove on ;-)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sew Something!

I actually made this purse. I love the fabric and the button and there is a pocket on the inside made of the exterior fabric. This is my first attempt at sewing so don't look too closely.

Actually, this isn't my first attempt at sewing. In the 8th grade I made a pink satin pillow in the shape of lips. I've been scared to sew ever since.

I'm not sure that I can even claim this to be that frugal when it comes down to it. Supplies were pretty reasonable, though I had to buy a $12 pattern and I borrowed a great sewing machine from my grandma (so that part was frugal) If I were to figure the time involved, this would definitely be considered an act of love rather than a time or money-saving activity.

All said, I loved it! I have been wanting to learn to sew for a while now so I got a book out of the library and went very slowly and made this purse. So while this did take a while I learned some valuable steps that will probably take a lot less time and effort the next time around.

Also, I'm excited about the possibilities! The fabric and patterns available are endless and beautiful! I can't wait to start on my next project which I think will be some beautiful bibs for my daughter and friends.
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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Home Grown Zucchini!


Even though I've grown food for about 6 years, I've never had any luck with Zucchini! I know, zucchini is one of those things that people seem to have an overabundance of every year. Who CAN'T grow zucchini? I always had problems with cutworms or some other vermin so eventually I gave up.

This year I'm in a new house and didn't plan to grow any vegetables as I don't have a garden plot dug yet. My brother did remove a row of hedges by the driveway and right before I went to plant grass, Bridget called me and asked if I wanted any free zucchini plants. Why not I thought, free plants and free food, who could refuse that! The grass can wait until fall and I have a mini vegetable garden.

6 little plants showed up and after a few weeks I could practically see these suckers growing. After 2 were sacrificed to animals (deer I think). I have my first 3 beautiful Zucchini!! Grown organically, in the backyard, by me!! I feel like I need to make some zucchini bread even though I only have three right now. I'm expecting a bumper crop as I can see tons of tiny little zucchini growing! Check back for some yummy ways to use it. Tonight we're grilling it with the Lemon Garlic Dressing to have along with steaks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Secret Sidewalk Tour


Close to my home there are some beautiful, expensive turn of the century homes on the water. When I was a little girl, my parents would drive by them and I would look at them in wonder. But they would be gone in a blur as the car sped on. Nowadays I really enjoy walking past homes rather than driving so that you get the full effect, savor them longer and and see all of their gardens up close.

Imagine my pleasure when I learned of a "secret sidewalk" that runs behind these homes, right through many of the backyards! And it's open to the public! And free!

Someone a long time ago, was thinking about beauty for the general public!

The homes were beautiful, the gardens were really well kept up (and there were so many different ones!) and we could enjoy them all for as long as we wanted without having to pay the taxes on waterfront property!!!
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Colonial Birthday Wishes!

We live about 35 minutes from one of my favorite places, The Genesee Country Museum, A living history museum which features a 19th-century country village. As you stroll among the 68 restored and fully furnished buildings, you see how a log cabin settlement grew into a bustling community of stores, shops, schools, churches and fine houses. Everyone is dressed in period clothing. There is an art gallery and at different times during the year, an old fashioned country fair, baseball game, civil war reenactments. It's one of the largest museums of it's kind in the country. It's amazing really and a visit encompasses your whole day.

This year for my birthday my husband gave me the gift of 2 classes there! The first is "The Kitchen Experience"

Kitchen Experience

Spend time with one of our cooks and learn about 19th-century ingredients and equipment, methods of cooking and preserving, receipts (recipes) and much more! We will costume you in period clothing.

Now THAT is really cool. The second is one of my own choosing. I'm thinking of

Herbal Sampler


Make and take home a variety of herbal products – a medicinal herb salve, herbed cheese, body powder, spicy sweet bag and sleep pillow.

OR

Create the Perfect Holiday Table

If you’re searching for a fresh approach to your holiday table, take inspiration from the Livingston-Backus kitchen for delicious details of meal preparation and artful home decorating ideas. Partake in a sumptuous buffet of the prepared dishes, and take home a special recipe book that will ease you into holiday preparation

This is a great clutter free birthday gift!