Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pierogi Making With Grandma Ruth

Today my grandma and I made 106 pierogi. We're Ukraininan so we call them Pedeha or Vereneke. (well we actually don't call them vereneke but a lot of Ukranians do)

Anyway, we made 106 of these and it took us 4 hours to do it. It was a slow process and it's a slow food as you roll out each piece of dough into a small circle. My grandma can't stand while she does it anymore so we sat at the table. And talked and talked. About all kinds of stuff. Funny stuff and sad stuff and meaningful stuff and gossip about her sister who is going all over the US with a new beau.

It reminded me that for eaons women have been huddled around tables or fires making Pierogi or tamales or homemade pasta or roasted wolly mammouth. More than just food was made around those community tables or fires. Now, in this time, in this place, cooking together is done so infrequently. (Heck, sometimes eating as a family is done infrequently) Last year I made them alone so its been 2 years since I've really cooked WITH my grandma. She's 85 this year, who knows how many more of these moments I get. How many times do I really get to slow down and talk to my grandma for 4 hours? When was the last time you talked with anyone for 4 hours? ( Leighanne and I talked for 4 hours at Starbucks the other evening and I'll tell you it was just as satisfying and less work.)

My grandma lives not far from my parents and I took them a plate for their dinner this evening. My father called both my grandma and I to tell us how much they loved them. The food of his youth made by his momma and daughter. How better to feel taken care of?

The ingredients for this meal are cheap, the experience is priceless.

Here are my two pierogi posts from last year if you are interested in my first attempt making them alone or the recipe.

Lonley Pierogi Maker
Pierogi Recipe

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Birthday Cupcakes

I'm usually of the mind that food made at home is cheaper, healthier and tastes better than store bought or mixes. I can think of only one exception and it's the Wegman's Ultimate Chocolate Cake-My favorite cake!! But that little gem IS expensive and probably has things in it I wouldn't want in my food. (SO I don't read the label!)

Tomorrow is my girlie's 4th birthday celebration with family. (Lucky for my wallet and sanity we have not started the kiddie birthday party thing yet.) She wants pink and purple cupcakes with princess sprinkles. (I have translated that to mean pink and purple shiny sprinkles but I could be WAY off on that one!) On the plus side, I have a CHEAP killer cupcake recipe! I recently had cupcakes from Wegman's that were good. Probably full of crap. Let me tell you, this cupcake kicks the Wegman's cupcake's butt! (Did I just write that? I used to think of myself as edgy..Now I'm threatening a Wegman's cupcake....)

This recipe is by no means health food. It's all white flour. The icing is sweet enough to make your teeth hurt but it actually DOES pipe onto the cupcake like the ones you see here in the picture. The cake is not too sweet so it is actually a great cake for the icing.

It's simple! Not much harder than using a mix.There is nothing in this cake that you don't already have in your home.

It's made with real butter-I AM a butter snob, I'll admit it.

And really, it's a great cupcake!

I was going to type it out, but really, it's not my recipe so I'll just link you to it!

Best Cupcake and Frosting Recipe

It calls for self rising flour but you can make that yourself at home. For each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And the complaining continues......

Yeah I know I'm supposed to be writing about Frugal stuff.... I feel unfrugal this month as Christmas nears (even though I am spending the bare minimum) All this spending has me edgy.... And every time I think of frugal things to write I get sidetracked and it never gets done. Possibly because I'm spending on more than just gifts. Parties and donations and cards, the list goes on... Nothing seems frugal to me.....It all seems like too much-Too many presents. Too many cookies and too much to do.

And Govt Patterson has proposed taxes on Haircuts, beer, cinema tickets, cigars, taxi rides, massages, ipod downloads, and sugary soft drinks as well as getting rid of the star rebate check taxpayers receive each year. Ok, when I looked at that list I noticed that in the past 6 months to a year I have purcahsed NONE of those things on the list except a haircut this past August and possibly beer once in a while. (I mean I don't even OWN an iPod!) Still.... These things seem so extreme. Are we not looking into the problem FIRST before proposing more money as a solution??? Serioualy, when I have a financial problem I try and figure out what it is before I look for another source of income....

And finally on my list of complaints is children's underware. Today I took my Grandma Christmas Shopping. We went to get my girl some new undies. Size 4T. SIZE 4 FREAKING T. For those of you not in the know, the T stands for TODDLER. And yes, there in the children's undie section, right near the Dora undies were packs of BIKING UNDERWARE WITH LACE ON THEM SIZE 4T.... What the *&#@? What $&#*%^! genius thinks it's appropriate to dress a 4 year old girl in bikini undies... I have enough ttrouble with princess boots, I about had a heart attack over the underware.... Needless to say, we got briefs. We had to hunt for them, but we found them.....

Merry Christmas...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bloggy Love!

The wonderful Karley over at The Chic and Green Blog gave me this lovely blog award! You must check out her blog, she does daily reviews of the most luscious handmade products online and best of all, she has her own line of Natural Good-For-You Skin Care Products. She was also recently featured in Martha Stewart's Body and Soul Magazine for her Goats Milk Facial Cream. Her shop is vacation until the first of the year, but make it your New Years Resolution to check her out! She also has how very own dot come website going online Jan 1st!

The rules for this award are to list 5 of your addictions and 5 Blogs you would like to recommend for this award!

So on to the addictions!

1) Books-I'm a reader! I read every day. I was an English major in college-Probably because I wanted to get credit for reading books-I probably should have been a business major! Anyway, I love all kinds of books, series mysteries, Classics, and I love non-fiction where I read everything from Gardening to History to How-to's!

2) Coffee-Anywhere, Any Kind, With a Friend, Alone, Shopping at Target, Driving somewhere, In the morning, you get the picture.

3) Gardening-At this time of year I don't have a lot to say about this, but in the nicer months I can wax philosophical for hours!

4) eBay- I have an eBay store that I love to work on. It pays my astronomical property taxes and provides me with a sense of accomplishment that I can work from home. And it's fun.

5) Early American Anything- Every since reading the Little House on The Prairie Books as a child I have been hooked. I love anything Early American. Homes, Decoration, Recipes, etc... My favorite magazine is Early American Life and this past October I went and lived like a pioneer!

Blogs I frequent

The Fine Art Of Motherhood-My best friend Deanna share her mothering, crafting & sense of humor!

Get Rich Slowly
Personal Finance That Makes Sense

Millionaire Mommy Next Door

A self-made millionaire shares her recipe for success, happiness and financial freedom

Leslie Land
Cooking *Gardening* Home Style

Granny Miller
A Journal of Agrarian Politics Philosophy and Practice. This woman is the real deal! She grows her own food, spins wool, cans, cooks, etc....

And of course, Karley's Chic and Green Blog!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Repurposing Cranberry Sauce

I admit it. I love leftovers. I love eating them. And I love planning meals that assure leftovers and I love eating something great twice and only having to cook it once. So for me, Thanksgiving is like Christmas as far as leftovers are concerned.

I love seeing how people use leftovers in creative ways-I've made sweet potato turkey hash! And this past Sat I had a brunch and made home fries from leftover sweet potatoes!

But what to do with cranberry sauce. I make my own and don't like it to go to waste. (This year it was cinnamon orange flavored!) I've seen muffins with this dolloped on top before baking. That sounds good. But I made something I 've never seen anywhere.

My daughter loves popsicles, even at this time of year. Our popsicles are usually made from plain yogurt with fruit mixed in. This week I got creative and made cranberry sauce popsicles! She loved the sauce at the table, what's not to love mixed with a little yogurt! And since there is a good deal of sugar in the Cranberry sauce, I just used a little. It was really yummy, a pretty pink and made a surprisingly Thanksgiving like popsicle!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Disgust

I don't usually use this blog as a place for complaining, airing my disgust with people,talking politics or airing opinions which may offend or irritate others. There are places for that. This blog is not one. This blog is my attempt at focusing on the good/beautiful/enriching things that I find for a bargain or for free. The good things in my life.

Having said that, I need to step away from that mission for a minute.

A Wal-Mart worker was KILLED today when shoppers broke down the doors at Wla-Mart in Long Island TO GO SHOPPING.

Broke them down! For what? A deal on an Ipod? For Christmas. A holiday where we celebrate the Birth of Christ. A man was killed. For cheap crap from China. People in such a frenzy for stuff with no regard for the safety of others. With only the sale on their mind. People kept going, few stopped. PEOPLE KEPT SHOPPING. What have we turned into? What are we teaching our children? This isn't a 3rd world country and these were not starving people stampeding for food to feed their children. These were adults still stuffed from Thanksgiving, beginning the gluttony that has become Christmas giving. To beat their neighbor to the cheap crap made in Chinese Sweatshops to give to their love ones.

With no regard for the loved ones of others.

With more than 200 people waiting in line, literally BUSTING THE DOORS DOWN, it's hard to imagine that this country is actually in a state of economic upheaval.

The madness of Christmas giving reached it's unfortunate crescendo this morning.

It's sickening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Disney Princess Boots

Today my parenting moxie was tested. Not by something major and earth shattering mind you, but by a pair of Disney Princess Boots.

As I dropped my girl off at pre-school I told her I was going to buy her some boots. At that very moment she was walking by another girl and looked down and saw what I thought were an ugly pair of Disney Princess Boots. She looked up at me with the sweetest little voice and said:

"Mommy, can I PLEASE have boots like those?"

I was non-commital, mentioning that I didn't know where her mommy got them.

Apparently her mommy got them at Marshall's because they were RIGHT next to a pair of HIGH QUALITY black and purple boots that I wanted to get her.

I'm not much of a Disney Mommy. She's never seen the movies, I didn't plan to be a character buying parent (anyone who saw the red Elmo cake I made for her 2nd B-Day can laugh right now if they want.) and I don't like the idea of marketing to children. And I also think most character clothing looks cheap.

These princesses have come into our life through means completely not of our own making-through books she's been given and other girls at school with princess stuff.

Ok, it's not like I think the Disney Princesses are evil or anything extreme like that. It's just that I find the older Disney princesses vapid and longing only for husbands. It actually says in the book that the dwarves asked Snow White to stay because she COULD COOK. (one hopes that at least when she was wisked off by prince charming (who was actually a COMPLETE STRANGER), that she would at least have some domestic help to help her get over picking up after 8 sloppy men for god knows how long!) At least Belle in Beauty and The Beast likes book and gets to KNOW the Beast and loves him when he is a beast!

To my chagrin these princesses are enchanting my little girl.

What to do? I walked around that darn store with the purple boots for 30 min. I called Deanna over this moral crisis. Would I buy the nice sensible high quality boots or would I cave and get the princess boots. I would never choose something like those boots for her and yet, she, herself would be so pleased with them. I never say yes to stuff like this. Am I letting an ideal I don't support into my house on the soles of her feet or am I over thinking this?

I came to the conclusion I'm not any fun anymore and I bought the princess boots.

She loved them. Really loved them.

The only frugal thing about this entire activity is the fact that the Disney Boots actually cost less than the High Quality Purple Boots.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Battening Down The Hatches!

Winter is quickly approaching here and my 76 year old house, while full of charm and high ceilings, is also quite drafty and cold! In an effort to conserve energy and cash I am looking at ways to make things a little more toasty without having to turn up the thermostat!

We have these cute little windows in our closets?!?!? They serve no purpose (although do let in nice light to see with during the day) and they have absolutely NO insulation or storms. Our closets are typically markedly COLDER than the rest of the house. Last night I installed window insulation over them and I can see a difference already! I am also going to do this in the 2 windows in my 3rd floor office. (one of which is very pretty and decorative from the outside but gets ICE on it during the winter!) I probably would not do this on normal windows that everyone sees but if you did, I can imagine it would really make your house warmer. The kit (which I already had from my old house) costs $20 for 9 windows! (Big windows I might add, I was able to cut the plastic in half) And using the blow dryer to help seal the plastic gives a satisfaction that is akin to popping the bubbles on bubble wrap, it's fun!

I'll also be making bean snakes for the doors out of material that I already have. The doors are original to the house but some seem to have been planed to accommodate the seventies shag carpet which once covered my lovely wood floors.

I've added outlet and switch plate insulation to some of the outlets and switch plates on outside facing walls since when I put my hand near them I could feel an actual DRAFT. A package of 8 is under $2. I am planning to finish off the ones I didn't get to last year.

My kitchen is rather new but I noticed there is a gap between 2 cabinets that you can't see but also lets a draft in. I'm thinking of filling it with that expandable foam, Good Stuff, but I may just stuff it with foam packing material to avoid the mess and cost.

I'm also thinking of replacing the weather stripping on the doors but I haven't decided if I'm that motivated yet. I do need paint for the dining room so I guess I'll be checking out weatherstripping supplies while I'm there.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Frugal Decorating!

I really believe that we are all born with talents and skills and into our lives fall perks that others don't have in exactly the same way you do. Maybe you have an innate decorating sense like Deanna and Jeannine or your husband can build things like Kristin's or cooks dinner every night like mine.

Among other things, I believe I possess a, unique-to- me RADAR. Or perhaps I'm emitting some kind of vibe. Whatever it is, it causes people to put very nice things they don't want anymore in my path on the side of the road! I swear I don't know anyone with my luck in this department!

My latest find is this dresser! I had a console table there but it didn't look substantial enough to me. I was thinking how nice it would be to have a dresser there that I could put hats and gloves into.

Lo and behold this gem was on the side of the road! A first I thought I would paint it but then the yellow started to grow on me!

It looks even nicer in person!

In case you are wondering, the Tiffany style lamp on it is from a garage sale ($5) the bowl and pitcher and pictures were gifts and the hydrangea are from Bridget's yard! Even the patchwork heart on the trash picked doorknob is from a garage sale! Everything you see in the picture (except for the actual house!) cost me only $6!!!

Halloween Candy!

I'm usually not one to post links to my older stuff but as I was buying Halloween Candy yesterday I realized I should re-post my Halloween Candy Strategy in case you've forgotten or are a new reader!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Crockpot Applesauce

Well, I think I've finally recovered from the Squirrel Shock and I can come back and post about normal life once again.

Today I made Crockpot Applesauce. This is one of the easiest recipes ever and is perfect for this time of year.

Take as many apples as you want. Any kind you like. Wash them. If you have a hand crank food mill (and if you don't your grandma probably does) all you need to do is core them and cut them into chunks. If you don't have a food mill (old fashioned or otherwise) you may want to peel the apples. I like to cook the applesauce with the peels on because it gives the applesauce a beautiful pink color.

Put the apples in the crockpot and cook on high until they are soft. Today that was about 4 hrs on high. No water. Nothing. Just cook 'em down. When they are soft put them through the food mill to mash and remove the peels or if you have already peeled them, the mash with a fork.

You can add a little cinnamon and brown sugar but apples are so perfect this time of year that I usually don't.

I like this with oatmeal. I use it in muffins. My daughter eats it as a side dish or for dessert and I think it tastes like home.

This freezes beautifully so only put what you'll eat in a few days time in the fridge. You don't want your hard work going to waste now do you!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How the Prairie Kicked My Ass

I'm back from my Pioneer weekend and have lots to tell.

Some parts were really really awesome. Some parts were, well, not....

We arrived Friday afternoon and fitted into outfits. Mind you, I had 4 layers which will explain why I look 30lbs heavier in the pictures than I do in real life. I churned butter and washed butter and baked cornbread in hot coals in a dutch oven.. We roped the bed Will stuffed the straw ticks and sewed them up. He also learned how to take care of the animals. I did the dishes in dishpans and learned that I must always keep the fire going with these little logs split for this purpose that burn in about 20 minutes. While I was working on something, I was ALWAYS keeping the fire going. We made up the bed. We finally ate a wonderful supper of pumpkin apple soup (which was made for us before we got there) and cornbread and butter. We were shown around the cabin and then our pioneer guide left us. We got to use the bathrooms up in first aid so we had 2 nighttime walks. The sky was clear and the moon was bright and we walked using a candle lantern. The village was gorgeous in starlight. I read by that candle lantern in front of the fire and went to bed.

Sleeping on the straw tick was not as bad as one would think but the bed was REALLY SMALL. It was a nice evening so we were not cold with all the blankets that we had and the fire (That I must always keep burning).

Morning dawned and we walked up to the bathroom. This was the best part for me. When we walked into the village we were in our outfits in the midst of all the historic buildings and it was beautiful and quiet. I turned and looked over my shoulder and could see the sun rising over the fields. I wish I had a camera but I won't ever forget that scene. For those minutes I WAS back in time. The square was full of fall color trees and everything was perfect. I was in my dream. It was really happy for me.

I made cornmeal mush for breakfast (and kept the fire going) that we ate with my butter and some maple syrup. Will took care of the animals-He even fed these ENORMOUS Oxen. I cleaned up the breakfast dishes. I kept the fire going. I went to pick vegetables in the different gardens around town. Will built a split rail fence.

When I came back our Pioneer guide had arrived. She brought a surprise. Her son had killed 2 squirrels that morning for us to SKIN AND EAT............. I backed away..... Will stepped up and skinned and disemboweled a squirrel. (for those of you who do not know my husband, this is NOT normal behavior for him) Those little rodents were washed and set in a bowl on MY TABLE IN SALT WATER WHERE THEY SAT ALL DAY WHILE I COOKED.

This is where is started to get harry. A pioneer woman, I learned, spends her entire life cooking over an open hearth and keeping the fire going. All of this while she tends to the children (luckily I did not have to do that) washes these enormous heavy pots and carries a lot of water with a yoke when her husband is off doing something . Trust me, it takes a lot of water to make a meal. It is very smoky in the cabin. (So smoky that when I cleaned my ears out later I had SOOT IN MY EARS) There were so many flies all over the food (and those soaking squirrels). I made a twirling pork roast (The squirrels were for Sunday-They were for me to FRY!!!! ) Rye and Injun bread, Mashed root vegetables and glazed carrots with herbs for the dinner (lunch) meal. It was really hot in all of the clothes. We had A LOT of visitors. Students and friends and family (My parents brought our daughter) along with the regular visitors. All of them wanted to know what I was doing/how I was doing. How did we sleep, etc, I was really excited to show them. I fell behind on the dinner prep. WAY behind. It takes A LONG time to make 4 things over one fire and let me tell you, it took me all day. When we were finally ready to eat Will was nowhere to be found. He was driving oxen around the village and bringing back a load of manure for the garden. All I had eaten was a bowl of cornmeal mush at 7 and a contraband banana from Kristin and Michael. We didn't eat until 3pm. By that time I was very hot and very tired and very hungry. I was also feeling very sick from the heat and smoke. I ate because I knew I had to. A little while later I threw up. I threw up for the next 4 hours in First Aid. It was rather embarrassing getting sick in front of museum goers and staff members.

There was a barn dance with musicians and real dancers and gaslight lanterns. I even got a pretty dress to wear because I got sick on the old one. I missed it all. :-(

The entire time I was in first aid my head was spinning and I couldn't get those squirrels out of my head (to the squirrels credit, many of the people who visited the cabin that day told me squirrel was really quite tasty. I do also realize that many people do eat squirrel. It is just not something I've ever considered eating and I was really having an issue with it)

We came home after the barn dance. I slept for 12 hours. We missed the entire day today.

I'm sad that it happened like that. I have not been this excited about something since giving birth. (I kid you not.) I would have really liked to experience the whole thing.

My friends who came back for the dance had a great time which I am grateful for as I was not there with them.

I learned a great deal which I will share over the next few days. The amount of information that our pioneer guide had was absolutely amazing-She was enthralling and can DO all of the pioneer activities that I was supposed to. She's the real deal! The people at the museum were great and even offered to let us come back next year for the whole experience.

Don't think I had a bad time. I had an awesome time. I learned a TON. I have A LOT of perspective. I got to do something most people never get to. It one of the most interesting things I've ever done. I just wish it didn't end so quickly. My husband had a GREAT time. A much better time than he imagined he would. He wished it didn't end so quickly.

At least now I know if the end of the world comes we can eat (or at least skin) the rodents in the back yard. My husband actually BROUGHT home the 2 squirrels and they now sit in my freezer.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leftover Lunch Satue!

My husband is a teacher and doesn't leave school for lunch. Since the alternative is school cafeteria food, he takes a lunch every day. He is NOT a sandwich eater so I don't buy cold cuts at all. Usually he just makes sure that he cooks enough dinner so that there are leftovers the next day. My Mother-in-law, bless her, also makes extra on nights when we eat over and packs us a "to go" container.

Today my mother-in-law told me that we were ordering Japanese food tonight. Yeah Japanese! Boo that now I have to make a lunch. And I haven't been shopping since a small trip on Sunday. And I'm not going today either. What to do. Our fridge is BARE.

So I looked in the freezer.

3 Frozen sausage patties and a bag of frozen tomatoes.

Back to the Fridge.

1/2 an onion
1 hot pepper
1 small homegrown eggplant
1/4 of an uncooked zucchini from dinner last night
A handful of leftover assorted olives from my parents 40th Anniversary party this past weekend.
1/2 cup roasted turnips from dinner the other night.
1 container with about 1 TBSP of Pesto in it
Butter-we are out of Olive oil.

Saute it all together. Add the pesto and tomatoes near the end. The trick with this one is browning the onion a bit before adding the rest. Then cook until all the liquid is gone. Make sure it gets kind of caramelized. Top with grated cheese if you have it. Served with a side salad this will make a yummy lunch!

Mind you, you don't need all of the above to make something good. Use what you have!

This particular one may work the best if you have a husband from Brooklyn who grew up eating sausage and pepper sandwiches. (This is certainly not what I ate growing up!) However, you could do this a number of ways-Chinese if you had some left over chicken and veggies. Mexican with some leftover beef and cheese. The point is that even when you don't think you have a lot of food in the house, you can probably whip up something!!!

I made sure that I used enough veggies so that this made 2 rather large lunch servings. One is in the fridge and one is in the freezer for the next time my MIL orders Japanese food!

No New Stuff-September Edition!

For those of you still paying attention to my No New Stuff Year I am happy to report my September total as:


I don't know if it's because I've been super busy, my school takes went up $1200 or what but in September I bought nothing new! Yeah me!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stupid Tax

If you are at all familiar with Dave Ramsey you know what Stupid Tax is. For those of you not in the know I'll enlighten you. Stupid tax is when something dumb you do costs you money.

Last week was my stupid tax moment. Last friday I was running around frantically preparing for my parents 40th anniversary party. The car started supttering and then finally JUST DIED. Right there on the street. Luckily I have AAA. 20 Min later I was riding with a smelly tow truck driver who dropped me off at my house while my car went over to the local mechanic. I fretted because the truck is 10 years old and someday the cost to repair it will be more than it's worth. Would this be that time I wondered?

I got a call from the mechanic a little later.

Apparently the gas indicator light is blown and I RAN OUT OF GAS!!!!

This is the 3rd time in my life I've RUN OUT OF GAS. Had I been paying attention to the level rather than waiting for the light this would not have happened. The new rule in the house is that 1/4 of a tank is now considered EMPTY.

Cost to tell me I'm a dumbass=$61.25

Stupid Tax.

Mr Clean, My New BEST FRIEND!

Ok, I know I'm late to the party on this one. WAY late as this product has been around for awhile.

First off, I'll say I'm not a gadget/gimick girl. I like simple things. I like doing things that old fashioned way. I clean with a rag and some cleaner. Sometimes I make the cleaner myself. I have never ever felt the need for a Mr Clean Magic Eraser.

Then my daughter drew on the white kitchen table with a marker.

NOTHING worked. The next time I was in the store I saw a magic eraser and in an uncharastic move, bought one on impulse.

HOLY COW. It worked like crazy. WITH JUST WATER. Then I used them all over the kitchen. That kitchen table I told you about-It's wood with a white painted finish (Purchased pre-child!) The chairs have this FILM on them that NOTHING takes out. NOTHING but my NEW BOYFRIEND MR CLEAN THAT IS!

If you know something bad about thse please don't tell me. They aren't made in China right? The fact that it uses only water is not offset by a terribly wasteful environment harming manufacturing process right???? I mentioned it at a dinner party and Rick told me he thought they were made by conservatives in New England. I'm just gonna go with that. OK!

Friday, September 26, 2008

For Deanna and Catherine (and Karen too)

Two of my four faithful readers called yesterday to see if I had gone off on a spending frenzy as have not posted in 2 weeks. Thanks for noticing ladies.

Here is something frugal and easy to do with your girls (or whenever you need a quick chocolate cake fix!)


You may or may not be glad that I introduced you to this. You probably have all the stuff you need in your kitchen and this would be a fun activity to try with your kids. On the other hand, it makes access to chocolate cake WAY TOO EASY.

And it really is good. Don't ask me how I know. Also don't ask me how I know that it's really good with Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa. I've been thinking of ways to dress it up a bit with chocolate chips or peanut butter. But really, do I even want to go there???

I know I said that it was for your kids but I really see you three ladies sitting around the office having cake some afternoon! At any rate, it's cheap, easy and yummy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pioneer Weekend Update

Just a quick update on our Pioneer weekend. The date has been changed to October 12th and 13th! We actually get there on the afternoon of the 11th (oh, one month from tomorrow I just noticed) but visitors can't come until the Saturday the 12th. I know a few people have been making plans to visit so I just wanted to let you know! One step closer to being Ma Ingalls!

I did get a few updates on the actual weekend that I thought would be fun to share.

1) We don't get to shower! (Although they do give us homemade soap to wash up with in the cabin) we don't even get to bring toothpaste. (They give us some kind of tooth powder) We get to bring a toothbrush, underwear and shoes.
2) There will be a barn dance to welcome us. I'm hoping this dance is the first evening when we arrive so I still look somewhat presentable to be meeting strangers.
3) They are having a church service on Sunday and I get to ring the church bell!
4) I will be spinning on a drop spindle.
5) There will be butter churning.
6) My husband gets to make all of the decisions and decide if he wants to help on any of the household chores that my children (that I don't have) would be usually be doing as traditional gender roles will be followed that weekend.
7) There will be physical labor for my husband and possibly a visit to the tinsmith or cooper to try his hand at those items.
8) The bathroom is fairly far away and we are the only people in the whole LARGE dark village that night. There is a person up at the main modern building with a walkie talkie in case we break a leg or something. Other than that, we are out there alone!
9) I think that scary water yoke thing was mine to haul water with.

And just a note to those of you planning to visit, there is a coupon in the entertainment book for buy one admission get one free.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Free Food Grab-Where I Find Out I Am No Farmer

Today Kristin and I went to our CSA, Windy Meadow Farm, where they had "open pick tomatoes" Which is basically a chance to go, at no extra charge, and pick as many tomatoes as you like. AS MANY AS YOU LIKE. How psyched was I over free food! When we got there they told us that we could pick corn and peppers as well. ALSO AS MANY AS WE WOULD LIKE.

And boy did we pick. We picked a lot of food. And carried a lot of food. It was tiring and we wore shorts and our legs got scratchy. We also had never picked corn before so there was a small learning curve there! Holy cow, I could not help but wonder HOW they harvest all that food each week with any sort of expedience. Two hours of picking was enough for me. I was tired when I got home. My legs and feed were dirty and splashed with tomato guts. We discussed how we were so glad we were picking today and not yesterday when it was 90 degrees.

We met the farmers who were really nice and my appreciation for those farmers grew exponentially today. It was neat to see all of the veggies growing. I bought some organic eggs and some sunflowers from the farmers children.

I brought a lot of beautiful food home which I started to preserve today.

I've often thought in a parallel reality I should live on a farm. Today I realized I'm a gardener, not a farmer.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Postcard From My Garden

Look at my beautiful garden!

Ok that is actually the ONLY view that isn't overgrown or has not been ravaged by deer or squash bugs or too much rain.....

I do have a bumper crop of herbs, turnips, kohlrabi and zinnia! Weird combo I know. The bed to the right is being re-planted with fall greens, broccoli and beets this week. I will also be using a fence!

Know Your Zip Code!!!

This past March I bought a nice higher end/volume all in one HP device for my eBay business. At least higher end and pricier than any machine I've had to date. 6 weeks ago it got a paper jam that I could not fix. (um yes, perhaps turning the machine AROUND to see that there is a back panel would have aided this much sooner.) Anyway, today I cleared the jam.

The darn thing would not work. I worked on this thing for HOURS. Installing and re-installing print drivers, using every possible USB chord in the house, calling it bad names, NOTHING worked. I finally called HP where I spent an hour on the phone with a humorless man in India.

Finally we came to the resolution that I will be getting a whole new device sent to me for free (Yipee me!!!) So comes to the part where they ask for your address. I actually don't KNOW my 4 digit zip code extension. The Indian man would not believe that it would come to me anyway. He told me he would not send the machine if I didn't give him that 4 digit extension. I finally looked it up online. After that his darn machine said my real 5 digit zip was not right. (And I DO CLEARLY KNOW THAT) I told him I was sure of the first part of my zip code. He did not believe me. He again told me that if I didn't tell him the real number that my shiny, new, WORKING machine would not be sent. This went on and on and finally he went to ask his supervisor what to do about people who don't know their zip code.

Seriously, don't these people have a program that does that? When I worked I was the project manager for just such a thing! I even got an award from the Post Office for automating this for my company. (I know, I didn't need to include that. I kind of like that I got an award from the Post Office though!) My company was smaller than HP for goodness sake. Anyway, I HAD given him the right number. He finally re-booted his computer and guess what, I DO know my own zip code.

The moral to this story is that I never thought that the warranty that came with a piece of equipment were actually worth anything (I'm not talking extended warranty which I never buy). Apparently they do work sometimes!

Moral #2-Learn your 4 digit zip extension!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Crab Apple Time!

On the property where we have our yearly vacation is a large gorgeous Crab Apple tree. What is a gal to do with (free) crab apples you ask!

Last year I made Crab Apple jelly and Crab Apple liqueur. They were both yummy. The favorite among my friends was the liqueur. (Although I do think Deanna used the jelly over a ham which I thought was quite nice!) I made an experimental batch last year that weconsumed rather quickly at a dinner party. I also sent guests home with little bottles. Bridget made Crab Apple martinis. I like it served over ice with some sparkling water.

It's outrageously easy!

4 quarts crab apples
4 cups sugar
3 cups vodka (you can use a cheap kind!)

Take a 4 quart mason jar, and fill it with crab apples that have been washed and quartered.
Add 4 cups of sugar and three cups of vodka. Store the jar on its side, turning once every day for 30 days to get the sugar to dissolve.
After 30 days, filter out the fruit bits and bottle. This recipe can be done on nearly any scale from 1 qt. to 4qt.

It's all I'm making this year! I have 3 large jars started and will have more tomorrow after I purchase more vodka. Hoping that I have enough for myself this year as well as some to give as gifts this Christmas!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

No new Stuff Year August-Book Buying Birthday

It's time for my monthly roundup for my No New Stuff Year.

I received some birthday money and promptly spend some of it on books. 6 books in the month of August. I can't even tell you the last time I bought 6 books in a month. I rarely go into a bookstore like Barnes and Noble because I find it so seductive. Coffee, new clean exciting books. All kinds of possibilities. For a book lover it is an easy way to part me from my money. I prefer the library. I can usually muster up the same kind of excitement if I remember that at one time all of the books there were new and shiny. Best of all, they are FREE.

But I digress. I bought 6 new books. 2 new eBay books that I wanted for reference and the entire Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. I only bought the books as I've been chomping at the bit to read them and the waiting list at the library is LONG LONG LONG for these books. So as my summer treat I read them for my vacation. I could not put them down! If you've read them let me know because I'm dying to talk about the ending and have run across no one else who has read them!!!

Anyway, I plan to sell the set on eBay because I really don't need 4 huge books taking up space on my bookshelf and these aren't really books that I would keep and refer back to. Aside from the books, nothing new!

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Go On Vacation More Than My Dentist

Paul recently noted that I’m on vacation all the time. I’m not really but the day I left for this vacation by the water I had an emergency dental appointment that was none too pleasant. To distract me, the dentist talked a lot-The Olympics, Michael Phelps daily dietary requirements and my vacation. He asked how long I was going for and was absolutely SHOCKED when I said 2 weeks.

He then proceeded to ask if I go on any other vacations during the year. I went to Marco Island for 10 days this past Feb (Thanks to the generosity of my in-laws) and then we went away for 2 weeks in the beginning of the summer to see family. The week before this vacation we went to the casino for a free overnight with my grandma and her partner. (Separate rooms) and I spent all of $5 gambling. All told I am spending 39 days on vacation this year. My dentist then asked if I had a job! I told him no. Again he was shocked! He told me he only ever goes away for 3 or 4 days at a time a few times a year. He works in a private practice. My husband is a teacher.

I imagine my dentist makes more than my husband. And he’s his own boss. Why on earth can this guy only take off 3 or 4 days a few times a year?

How is it that I am able to take more vacations than my dentist? Let me tell you.

Obviously having a husband with the whole summer off is plus and grants you the ability to do a lot of things you would not otherwise be able to do. Last summer I decided that even if we didn’t have a lot of extra cash, we do have time and we should really use that to our advantage. I like to be places and see stuff and didn’t want lack of a lot of vacation money stop me!

We also

Go on cheap vacations. I love this little cottage we are in but seriously, these are not plush accommodations.

Stay with family. I’ve been to Florida, Michigan and Ohio and have seen the sights in all of these places without spending a dime on a place to sleep.

Take advantage of free offers from others. If invited to a free night at a casino we’re going even though we don’t gamble. We left our daughter with my parents, stayed in a nice hotel and took advantage of the pool (which hardly anyone does at a casino so we had a nice quality place almost all to ourselves) How nice is an evening away where someone else pays for your meal and you don’t have to make the bed. I can have fun just about anywhere!

Don’t eat out a lot. (Trust me, I LOVE to eat out!)

Don’t buy a lot of stuff on the actual vacation.

Pack a lot of picnics (So far on this vacation we’ve picnicked at the lighthouse and had a dinner picnic while fishing on the dock here)

See a lot of free things. Museums, Piers, Parks, Gardens, and Wineries (even a fish hatchery this vacation!

Look for a lot of low cost things. We have a zoo pass and noticed that the zoo up here has a reciprocal agreement-guess where we are going on Wed!

We spend time together just exploring

We like little things. Today we went swimming at a local beach and then stopped at a local produce stand. It was enough of a morning for me to be having a good time.

We actually have a library card for the town we are in and go there a few times during our stay.

I understand that not everyone wants this kind of vacation, I get that. Trust me, I’ve been to the Waldorf and would like to stay there again. I’ve had really expensive meals and I really enjoy them. Sometimes when you go on vacation you want to be pampered and not worry about the cost. But for me, now, the cost IS a factor. When I started this blog I noted that sometimes you have money and sometimes you have time. I have time and I’m making the most of it without a lot of cash!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Vacation!

Hi all,

I haven't fell into a spending frenzy somewhere! I'm off on vacation! Check back though because I'll probably highlight some of the frugal fun we've been up to!


Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Pioneer Digs!

Today we went to Laura Ingalls Wilder Day at the Genesee Country Museum today and got to see our pioneer cabin for October.

It was rustic!
I'm getting the idea that we aren't really prosperous pioneers.
Bridget thought we had the wrong house.

But then we walked around to the other side.
The bed. (it's across from the kitchen) The first thing I noticed was that YOKE and the BUCKETS. Do I have to wear that thing? Is trekking water men's or women's work???? Later Deanna said "Did you feel the bed? You better feel the bed!." So I felt the bed. Full of straw. I hope they change that straw. Oh well. I probably get to do that.

My kitchen! My husband asked if he would get to cook and they told him a big fat "NO". So I guess this is ALL MINE. I didn't get a good picture of the food drying and hanging from the ceiling. That looked like fun.

Another corner of our humble abode. I'm guessing that the girl who actually knows how to card that wool next to her doesn't come with the cabin. I hope I get to spin because I actually have always wanted to learn to do that. If I could spin some wool and then knit it into something that would be neat wouldn't it!!
Now for the animals. I don't think that guy is the caretaker so that is up to my husband. That is our chicken coop. There was also a pig. They told us that my husband will be taking care of the animals. He mentioned to me later today that he thinks those animals smell. Oh well buddy, too late, there is no going back now!

They don't look smelly do they????

Friday, August 8, 2008

My Mukka

If you know me at all, then you know about my almost unnatural love for coffee drinks! Any kind of coffee drinks. With friends. At a coffee shop. Or with a book, anywhere.

For my birthday this year my husband got me The Mukka Express! It is an all-in-one cappuccino/latte maker. It works like a traditional Italian Espresso pot but has a top that holds milk and a neat little valve that steams the milk! REALLY STEAMS it! (I once had a cheapie machine that didn't do squat as far as steaming the milk was concerned!) This makes a really authentic cup of gourmet coffee!

We saw it at a friends house. From Williams Sonoma for $99 plus shipping. My husband got a NEW ONE IN THE BOX from eBay for $50 and free shipping! The directions says it makes 2 at a time and I guess that is true if you are using a normal size cup. At any rate, I will break even after 10 cups!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dilly Beans

The food from our CSA seems to be really piling up around here.

At first we were getting a pretty manageable amount each week that would quickly be eaten. As the growing season has progressed, so has the amount of food each week! Very neat considering it's only costing us $10 per week!

Not one to let food go to waste, I have been freezing it and this week I made Dilly Beans. We had them this weekend at a friend's cottage and I thought I would try my hand at this myself.

2 lb. fresh, tender green beans
Break tops and stems off beans; leave beans whole.
2 c. water
2 c. white vinegar
3 tbsp. pickling salt
Heat to boiling.

4 heads of dill
4 garlic cloves
Hot red pepper flakes (I used hot cayenne's that I had in the freezer)
Pack uncooked beans lengthwise, tightly, in sterilized, hot pint jars. Add 1 head of dill, 1 garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes to each jar. Pour boiling liquid over and seal jars immediately with hot lids. (I also processed them for 10 min in a hot water bath-I'm always a little wary of just sealing with a hot lid.)

Makes 4 pints. Dilly Beans will be ready to eat in 6 to 8 weeks.

This was cheap to make as I used about $1 worth of green beans, I grew the garlic and dill myself and had the peppers from a friend in the freezer.

Don't they look pretty!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I'm Not Buying It! June & July Update

Nope, I haven't gone off somewhere on a spending frenzy!

I've been busy with guests, weekends away, garage sailing, my birthday-You name it. I've been too tired to blog and feeling not all that frugal anyway!

So back into the swing of it with a roundup for June and July for my NO NEW STUFF YEAR.


At the end of June we went on a 2 week vacation to see family. Prior to that I had purchased nothing new. The day before there was a shameful trip to the dollar store where I bought a bunch of stuff totally against my principals to pull out for my daughter every once in a while during the 1200 miles that we drove. I probably only spent $10 but it was complete crap. While on vacation, a reproduction pioneer type bowl was mine for $9. Oh yeah, in the interest of full disclosure there was an ill fated trip to Ikea (Thank god we don't have these near me, I would be in therapy.) where I dropped about $115 on various things that I probably really didn't need like lights and a canopy for my girls room, various storage things, spice jars (oh yes, thought I. I do GROW my own herbs, wherever will I put them????) All crap from China. I'm ashamed.


I think I'm pretty clean here. I did buy new (real) Crocs for my daughter. Oh yes, I also purchased a handmade (by a homeschooling woman in CA) Pioneer dress for my girlie for Laura Ingalls Wilder Day at the museum this weekend (she will also wear it for Halloween and to visit when I'm a pioneer! And Soap. FIVE Handmade bars of wonderful soap from Etsy. Technically this is ON THE LIST of stuff I'm allowing myself to buy but technically, we were not out of soap either. I bought it as a birthday present for myself! I'm so hooked on this stuff!

So I'm halfway through this year and I'll tell you, this really isn't that hard. (when you cheat!) But really, I think I'm doing pretty well. I am realizing I probably don't buy that much stuff that I don't "need" to begin with. So perhaps I've set a really easy goal for myself. I have also been having a lot of fun garage sailing this year so anything I bought second-hand I don't need to tell you about!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wake Up Your Garden!

After a short break due to out-of-town guests, I'm back!

I found myself in a Starbucks a few weeks ago (Don't worry, I used a gift card ;-) Did you know that Starbuck's gives away their used coffee grounds for use in your garden just for the asking! Sometimes they have them already packaged in a bin somewhere. That day they had just been cleaned out by an old gentleman with a big veggie garden. I asked at the counter.

I was rewarded with a HUGE bag of grounds! I was busy that week getting ready for my guests so I didn't do anything fancy with them, I just added them to my compost pile.

You don't need a compost pile to make good use of coffee grounds. They are great for your garden too. They can be used as mulch for plants or worked into the soil to help amend it. You can top off your potted plants inside and outside with the grounds. You can even sprinkle them onto the lawn or around some bushes. There is no need for your grounds to ever reach a landfill or go down your disposal! (If you don't have a big garden you may not want to ask for a huge bag at Starbucks.)

You can even water acid loving plants with leftover coffee, not that we ever have any around here!

Sunday, July 20, 2008



As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

Hmmm, as a 1930's housewife I rate poor. (That's probably because I don't make dinner or vacuum.) I will point out though that 41 was the last # in the poor category though, so if I didn't swear or if I wrote letters to my in-laws I would be average. I did get credit for garden club which is typically something women born in the 30's are STILL doing.

I told my husband who asked, "How are you as an 1830's housewife?" I guess we'll find out. I just got a form for our measurements for our costumes for October. I also spoke with the woman who told me that we'll be sleeping at the museum for 2 nights and that all I need to bring is shoes, socks, underwear and a toothbrush. She didn't mention mascara or hairspray. I'm not really that much of a get out of the shower and go kind of gal. I just don't have the hair for that.

note to self-Start investigating wash and wear hairstyles.

Monday, July 14, 2008

It Doesn't Hurt To Ask

On the way home from vacation, we stopped at a Hawthorn Suites Hotel in Ohio so that I could visit a wholesaler. When I called to make the reservation, the rooms were $124 a night.

With our AAA discount, the rooms were $111.

I've read a lot of frugality books and they always say to just ask for a cheaper rate. I figure when they tell me a rate, that is pretty much the rate. I went out on a limb with the $111 room though and said,
"Can you give me that room any cheaper?"
She said "I can give you the funeral rate for $94."
I didn't question the funeral rate. I didn't say anything about a funeral. Who even knew there was such a thing as a funeral rate??? Whatever. She wants to lower the rate, be my guest!

Then I asked if she knew where the wholesaler was in regard to Hotel. "Oh yes, are you visiting them? If you are then I can give you the room for $69!"

In a very short amount of time I saved $55 on the room. I actually saved $110 because my nephew was traveling with us and they gave us both rooms for the $69 rate. I had no idea about the wholesaler discount of course but I still would have saved $30 per room between AAA and the funeral (???) rate.

I guess it really doesn't hurt to ask!

Croc Update

Apparently everyone's children are wearing Crocs. Here are 3 email responses I received in addition to the comments in the original croc post:

"I can't believe I can actually add to this. So Kobe has some of these shoes. He's had them for a year and they look good. He wears them all the time too. I guess the tread at the bottom is worn somewhat smooth, but not so bad that I would consider replacing them. I think it's more surprising that he hasn't grown out of them."

"Let me start off by saying.... I LOVE CROCS! Not the fake ones, the real ones. Yes, they are a little more expensive (and NO, they are not made of the same material.... more on that later) I bought a pair for myself, my son, and my daughter about 1.5 years ago. My son wears them occasionally, I wear mine only in the house (bought for house shoes) and my daughter wears hers EVERYDAY! She loves them! She loves to decorate them with the Jibbitz (talk about expensive, but worth it if she likes to wear the same shoes everyday!) The tread on the bottom is only starting to wear (slightly, after 1.5 YEARS!!!! I'll take that anyday!) She is now just growing out of them (they are meant to be a little big, that is why the size is 6/7, 8/9, not just a 6 or a 7!) I just went on and bought her 4 new pairs (you spend over $100 and shipping is free). I bought her 3 different colors (to coordinate with outfits) and a Dora pair. She LOVES them all and wears them EVERYDAY! I figure if I spend only $100 in a whole year on shoes for 1 child, that is more than a bargain!
Now, about the material..... Crocs uses a patented material that does not mold, mildew, stain, or smell. It is wonderful, and the BEST part (which, Chrissy, you will love) is that when you outgrow the Crocs, you can send them back, and they will RECYCLE THE MATERIAL!!!! Isn't that great! Talk about 'Going Green'! And, Crocs also sells Crocs that are already made of recycled material! These are the best things going, in my opinion! And, my kids love them!!!!"

Julia has a pair of real crocks. Doesn't wear them everyday but I'd say 3-4 days out of a week. She's had them since spring and they seem to be holding up pretty well."

Ok friends, thanks for the input! When I was at Wegman's this evening I looked at a pair (yes, my grocery store sells Crocs!) and the bottoms do seem to be a bit harder than the ones we have. I also really like the Soles united program that Jacquie was referring to as well.

So maybe Crocs are not a Crock!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Its a Croc

Or maybe not!

I went to buy my girl a real pair of Crocs ($24.99) in the beginning of the summer. She was between sizes and none of them really fit her. In the mean time my mom got her a cheap pair for $7.99 at CVS.

I love these shoes. I think they look really cute, she can get them on and off by herself, a real help and I wash them almost every night in the sink and they look great the next day.

However, she's only had them about 8 weeks and the tread on the bottom is wearing thin. Granted, she does wear them almost every day. Soon she's going to need new ones because she'll have no traction. 8 Weeks per pair of shoes does not strike me as a good bargain (at any price). I'm left wondering however, if this would have been true of the real Crocs. They seem to be made of the exact same material. They are 3X as much. I have no issue spending more for the next pair if they last longer than these ones.

My own Crocs lasted me a summer and into the fall but they were the sandal type and I didn't wear them all of the time.

So, does anyone whose children have Crocs have any advice on this one. Usually I think I have the frugal answer. Today I don't.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'll Have A Large Order Of Medium Wings Please

On the way home from our trip we had to pass one of my sacred places-The Village of Fredonia. More specifically, SUNY Fredonia, the place where Jen and I will tell you, we had a better time at college than anyone we know. (Probably anyone ever.)

Of course we stopped. Of course I went to Pizza, Wings and Things and ordered A LARGE ORDER OF MEDIUM WINGS. The best wings ever. A magic recipe. You have to get the medium ones to make sure you get that special combo of tangy and spicy. I would love to know how many of these I've consumed in my lifetime because I bet it's a lot. (see that phone #, it's still the same and I still know it if that tells you anything!) Probably 500. Mostly eaten at night. Possibly eaten drunk.

A few years ago Jen and I went back and approached the guy who was behind the counter and begged for the recipe. He said "um OK, it's Open Pit BBQ sauce and red hot." That's it. The secret is out people. Make these wings at home for yourselves. (Although they won't be as good unless you eat them with Jen.)

In 1993 (you do the math, I can't bear to.) these wings were $6.75 a dozen. Today they are $13.09. We used to use our laundry quarters to tip the driver. $13.09 for a taste of my past, I would call that a bargain.

A quick tour through the town & school with my husband, nephew and daughter wasn't nearly enough. I needed to walk around and drink it in but we had been driving all day and wanted to get home. I was practically weepy and everyone in the car was very patient being that they could not quite grasp the enormity of this place for me. The last time I was there, Jen and I knocked on the door of my Freshman dorm room and harassed the girls inside. We asked them if they were having a great time there. We later decided they were not having as much fun as we did. Clearly I can't be trusted there. I start feeling wild and reckless like I did in college.

I can't even drive through this place without my heart breaking a little. It's a good pain though-Kind of like eating a large order of medium wings.