Monday, June 30, 2008

Relatively Cheap Travel

We are currently on the "I think we're going to Michigan" family tour" (At least that is what my daughter called it when we asked her what we should call our newest family adventure.) Then we are on to Ohio in a few days. In both places we are staying with family.

For people on one income and with the cost of gas, family visits are the way to go to see new things, visit with people you like (hopefully) and get the heck out of Dodge! Even visiting other people's grocery stores can be an interesting adventure if you look at it as one! I like just getting the opportunity to be in a new place seeing new things. It doesn't hurt that the Brother-in-law we are visiting is into food and wine and the family is really wonderful to visit with!

Today we went to one of my favorite food meccas if there ever was one! ever Zingerman's in Ann Arbor MI is an AMAZING deli and gourmet food store. Lunch was a $12.50 corned beef ruben (Zingerman's says it's a life changing sandwich and I tend to agree with them! Hell-take a look at the people in this line we stood in for a SANDWICH) We shared though because it was huge! (and really, that isn't even the most expensive sandwich I've ever had-Ask me about grilled cheese at the Waldorf!) That with a side, grilled cheese for my daughter and 2 water's set us back $29! Oh well it's the only thing we've bought since we got here! Tonight we bought a selection of beer, cheese and susage for dinner. I threw in Zingerman's Black Magic Brownies for dessert.

On the way to Michigan we stopped at Dundrun castle in Canada to stretch our legs and have a picnic (of food that we packed for ride-No Micky D's here!) It was a beautiful historic site complete with gardens and house tour (we didn't get to tour though) It seems like a place I would plan to go on the way but it was really just a happy coincidence that we happened upon it!

I LOVE that.

We are keeping costs low, having a good time and enjoying our vacation so far. More awaits in Ohio!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

White Tail Deer-Public Enemy #1

I HATE the White Tail Deer.

Seriously, I can't think of another animal I dislike so much. Even scary ones like piranha and lions-At least I can stay away from them.

Try as I might, I CANNOT stay away from the white tail deer. They walk past my windows when I'm eating. They eat from the urns on my front porch. Their babies frolic in the backyard while we are sitting on chairs in full view. I don't live in the woods. I live on a residential street that backs up to a one block wooded area that houses a small herd. I'm completely over their cuteness. Now they look like giant rats.

I've thrown shoes at them. I yell like a crazy woman when I see them in the yard. It's INSANE. They keep coming back.


True, I don't have it fenced in. That is what really needs to happen and that isn't happening any time soon. I've tried these garlic clips. COMPLETELY USELESS. One day I saw a deer eating a tomato plant that had a garlic clip attached to the tomato cage!!!

One thing that has been helping is deer fencing-Not installed the typical way. Laid down on the ground. Apparently the deer don't like the feel of this on their feet. (It's the green stuff in the photo) It doesn't look great but we take it off when people are coming over. It has been working. But once we left it off for about 20 minutes to mow the lawn and the deer ate the strawberries. Last night some of the fence was not put back in place properly and the damage was devastating (to me anyway)

I think I need some real fencing. I really don't want to install a 6 foot wire or mesh fence around this garden (This is a somewhat early photo and it's really filling in nicely.) but I'm getting desperate.

I'm thinking that as a frugal measure for my food bill I may start to supplement our meals with venison. (Ah, if only I could discharge a weapon in my neighborhood!)

People keep asking "Have you tried this?" and "Have you done that" and it's all anecdotal. No one has provided something that they have done that has actually kept the deer away. I have a spray for flowers but it is not for food. I need some good solid advice people. I need something proven to take care of the toughest deer. I'm getting desperate.

In the mean time we have been telling my girl that they are Santa's reindeer checking up on her and reporting back. For some reason we always see Dasher.

On a somewhat unrelated, related note, we saw deer from the largest white deer herd in the world last weekend on a wine tour around Seneca Lake. They look almost magical against a natural setting It was rather cool. Especially because they were fenced in on the Depot property and not in my backyard!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lightning Doesn't Strike Twice. Right????

I hope not.

Because friends, when we were out all day on Saturday drinking local wines in the Finger Lakes, my house was struck by lightning!

When we got home there was no phone service, no cable, no Internet. A shelf had been knocked off the wall and stuff on it shattered. A vase and sign were overturned. The refrigerator was off. The alarm system was wonky. When Jeannine plugged in the coffee pot, there was a small explosion which left scorch marks!!! The outlets would randomly work and then not! Very Bizarre.

My neighbors told us that around 3pm there was a loud thunder/ lightning clap over my house that sounded like a gunshot. The wife screamed! I'm glad we missed it.

Cable, phones and Internet are back up and running as is the alarm system. The modem and the cables in the basement were fried. Michael helped with the outlet but I have an electrician coming tomorrow to look things over and install a new breaker. We were lucky that all of our appliances seem to be ok.

At this point I need someone to look at the roof to see if there is any damage. Who does that??? We have a 3 story house and family with a history of falling off the roof and seriously injuring themselves. So NO ONE I know is allowed to peek at the roof-We don't even have a ladder that tall.

No frugal tip today folks, I just thought it was really interesting that my house was struck by lightning. As I tend to be a worrier, I guess I can cross that one off my list. Perhaps I should play the lottery this week.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm Going To Be A Pioneer!!!!

In the most exciting news I've received in a while, I got a call today from The Genesee Country Museum , a local living history museum, and one of the largest in the country, letting me know that my husband and I have been chosen to participate in their Pioneer House Experience!!! My daughter is too young to participate at this time.

For those of you who watched the PBS series, Frontier House, the experience will be much the same. We will go and live for a weekend at the museum as true pioneers (AND I EVEN GET TO DRESS UP!!!!) Open Hearth Cooking, Animal husbandry, Butter making, Food Preservation, etc...... We were chosen to participate in October so we will be having a harvest celebration. The dates are October 15th and 16th. We need to report the weekend before to learn all we need to know about pioneer living in a one day workshop (hopefully this does not include slaughtering your own hog because I don't think my husband is up to that!)

We get to sleep at the museum which I think is very neat and everyone who comes will be able to see us in all of our pioneer glory.

Unfortunately, I think they will make me leave the clothes when I go back home.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Coach Handbag

I bought a Coach handbag yesterday.

It's embarrasing actually.

It's not even a knockoff. It's the real thing. Nice size very roomy. All caramel color with that signature coach tag hanging from it. Very classic.

Oh no, don't for a minute think I actually bought a new bag at full price! Surely you jest!

My mom has this spendy friend who was having a garage sale. I bought this number for $30!!! Can you believe it! And it's in NEW CONDITION. She had about 30 bags for sale (Um yes, this woman CAN SHOP, believe me!) She actually changes her bags with her outfits and won't even carry a purse with gold accent if she's wearing silver accessories (completely out of my comprehension.)

Anyway, for the same price I normally pay for a handbag I am now carrying a Coach bag.

Now the embarrasing part.

It's not that it's from a garage sale, heck no, that is the best part of it.

It's that I WANTED that purse. It is nice leather but really that is not why I wanted it. I wanted an expensive purse THAT IS WHY I WANTED IT. I don't think I've ever paid over $45 for a purse in my lifetime. And I'm SO NOT about labels. (Usually) I'm the anti-consumer. I thumb my nose at people who buy things because of the brand. I laugh at people who put their babies in $100 cashmere sweaters. I scoff at people who buy overpriced tees at Abercrombie.

And now I'm carrying a Coach bag (although Jen tells me that her VERY spendy friend in LI now tells her that Coach is no longer a big deal because EVERYONE has one)

Maybe I'm a fraud.

Get out your rotten eggs and tomatoes. I'm ready....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Garlic Scapes!

I planted about 56 cloves of garlic last fall.

Finally, this week, I have garlic scapes! What are garlic scapes you ask? (Don't feel bad if you don't know I didn't know until I bought them one night last summer at the farmers market!)

Anyway, a garlic scape is the tender curling young stalks of hardneck garlic. Harvested in the spring, they are crunchy and garlicky, and, like garlic cloves, their flavor is mellowed by cooking. (I actually find their flavor mellow anyway, but I like garlic) They will flower if you let them and then the garlic plant is working on producing the flower rather than the bulb below. You need to cut them off!

And so I did! I cut 3 yesterday and both evenings we had a simple vinegarette of lemon, olive oil and garlic scapes over my homegrown lettuce! (I only used 1/2 scape per evening) I am going to make some garlic scape pesto later this week.

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oil
¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.

And I'm at least going to dream about this naughty dish.

I will have about 45 (that is all that came up) of these babies between this week and next (you have to get them off the plants NOW) and they do keep for a while in the fridge. If you are in my neighborhood please stop by because I would love to share this with you, especially if you've never had it! (Although you have to promise to eat it because I get really grouchy when people waste my homegrown goodies!)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Seaside Gourmet

One of the happiest afternoons I've ever spent was sitting in beach chairs with Jen in the waves in Long Island Sound eating cherries and throwing the pits into the sea. We talked about everything that day. We had no schedule. We only had cherries to eat. They were the best cherries I've ever had. I even used that afternoon as my happy place visualization during childbirth (It did not work BTW...)

We have a park at the beach about 1 mile from my home. It's kind of hard to find, so as a result is usually quite empty. I took my girl there 3 times last week. We played in the sand and splashed in the water. When she was tired we sat with our toes in the water and drank watered down juice and Annie's Cheddar Bunnies. We talked. She asked me if I was tired. I said no, I just liked sitting with her. She said she liked sitting with me and that I was the "Best Mommy she ever had." They were the best cheddar bunnies I ever had.

It cost nothing. It was worth everything. It reminded me of why I'm frugal and what I'm doing here home with her. Sometimes I long for the days of 2 incomes. It was all so easy then. I liked having a job. I liked the money. I liked the people. I liked getting fancy coffee and eating out for lunch. I liked buying new furniture. I liked feeling important and smart.

I Love my girl.

Happy doesn't have to cost a dime.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Buying The Best Of Everything

This evening at the library I noticed a book on the new non-fiction shelf entitled "Where to Buy The Best Of Everything."

Seriously, who is buying these kinds books for the library???? How many people who would actually READ that book would BORROW it from the library.

NO ONE! They would BUY the book.

No one who wants TO BUY BEST OF EVERYTHING is BORROWING BOOKS (Truthfully, I'm wondering if they are actually reading many books but that is another commentary.)

$19.99 of my taxpayer dollars down the drain!

I Love Redbox

Ok I think I may have a problem.

I just discovered rebox at Wegman's. It has been there for a while but I never really paid attention to it until this past Sunday. I had an evening with not a lot planned and decided to get myself a movie. $1 a night How could I go wrong.

Well it's been 3 nights of redbox movies! Yippee! I've spent 3 whole dollars this week! I don't know what has possessed me to sit around watching movies all week long.I think it's the price and the lure of current movies! (I usually get movies from the library that are like 3 years old). I've seen 27 Dresses, Juno, and Wild Hogs (I feel so current!)

The best thing is, my friend Salli pointed me in the direction of the FREE redbox code. If you enter your cell phone# at the Redbox site they will send you a text message with a code for a free movie every Monday. A FREE movie. Now that I can get into! (and now I have to learn how to receive a text message on my phone!) But, now that my movie marathon is coming to an end I'm going to look forward to my new weekly Monday Movie Night!

Monday, June 2, 2008

One Year Later

Here is what one rhododendron and about 40 years will get you.

I was lucky enough to move into a house with such a beauty in the front yard. I always think about how if it were not for some other nameless, faceless person who lived here before me it would not be here. They don't know I'm thinking about them and enjoying the fruits of their long ago labor. It reminds me that people before me have lived here, loved here, have been sad and happy here. Sometimes I imagine them in the different rooms of the house. What did their furniture look like? I have my favorite places in the house, where were theirs?

Last year was the first year I saw this bloom. It burst into it's splendor just in time for my dear friend Leighanne's wedding. She was a radiant bride. She got ready at my house and there are lovely pictures of her in front of this bush. She loves purple and I was thrilled with the color when it opened almost as if it was just for her! It was a whirlwind day complete with vows in the park and a bagpiper.

The evening after the wedding hew new stepson was killed tragically in a car accident. The bush stayed in bloom the entire next week during the calling hours and funeral. By the weekend we had a violent thunderstorm and all the flowers came off. It was as if the drama and emotional highs and lows of the whole week were echoed in the intense beauty and short life of the flowers.

Leighanne and Tim have had a long first year of marriage. The bush is blooming again, after having the leaves ripped off and after a long hard winter. Leighanne and Tim are blooming too.

In time, someone else may live here and never know this story. For me, this will always be Leighanne's wedding bush. The flowers will remind me of Her and Tim and Brendan always.

1 year later. Rest In Peace Brendan Barry, the world still misses you.

First Harvest

Yum! The first harvest of the year! Spinach, Lettuce and Arugula!

Can I tell you how good this was! Good!

Yesterday we had the Arugula in a pasta side dish. It didn't call for Arugula but was amazing that way. Tonight,salads with the mixed greens. I have feeling we'll use up this pretty fast but I have more planted and will do more for fall as soon it will be too hot to grow lettuce very well.

All in all, the seeds cost less than $3 and I have plenty more than what was needed to grow these! All it took was some water and a little patience.

I'm very self sacrificing

Recently, on the blog of an old friend of mine, he had the following to say about his wife's hair products:

She uses bumble and bumble, but don't tell Chris, She'll be like, "That stuffs way too expensive! Here, let me make you something out of jello and honey! See the jello is only 59 cents and the honey is free cause I get it from the bee hive in my backyard. I almost died last year because I found out I was allergic to bees, but hey, for free honey, whats a week of swollen face and limbs?"

I thought that was kind if hysterical until this morning.

See I made homemade yogurt for the first time yesterday. It seemed a little off. At least it didn't set up like yogurt from the grocery store. My husband told me it was NOTHING like the yogurt his prior girlfriend's Indian mother used to make.

This morning he called:

"I steered clear of your yogurt this morning, it looked a little runny"

"Oh that's ok, I had some it was good."

"You had some?"

"Yeah, I didn't want to give it to our girl until I made sure it was ok so I ate some. I think I'll make some Popsicles with it or stick it in a smoothie if it turns out that it's ok"

"You mean if you don't get sick??"

"Yeah, I'm fine though so I think it's ok"

"You're actually testing the yogurt on yourself??"

I guess I was. Is this frugality's ugly side? Have I gone too far to save a buck and not waste food? Seriously, I had no reason to believe it was bad (I followed the directions) but I guess when you are dealing with a food product that relies on bacteria to do it's job maybe you should be a little careful. I saw no reason to waste my precious cream top milk from here.

Anyway, aside from the runny-ness it was delicious. Less tart that store bought (which is what I actually don't like about yogurt in general) and very creamy. I'll try again and make something out of the ones I still have. For organic yogurt it is a deal (even using the more expensive better quality milk.)

And for the record, I don't have a bee hive.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

No New Stuff Year-May Edition, I Am Victorious!!!

Time for the May roundup of my No New Stuff Year.

I am thrilled to report I purchased only 2 items new for the entire month of May:
-1 Tomato cage yesterday ($2.19)
-2 copper elbow joints for a mini trellis I made ($1-Yes Michael I realize you probably DO have these in your basement)

$3.19! That's it! And those really count as garden items and I will use those year after year! Aside from that I didn't buy ANYTHING NEW!!!

Now, that isn't to say I didn't buy anything. I did buy A LOT of plants for the garden. A lot!

And now that the garage sale season is in full swing, I have been having fun and spending (a little) money on second hand items. Items of note:
2 yogurt makers for $1.50 each
1 Enamel Covered Cast Iron Casserole. $1 (We've decided not to use Teflon coated pans and love enamel covered cast iron (Al la Le Creuset). This was a find!
A new set of pottery barn towels for $1.60 at an estate sale (truthfully people at an estate sale are not looking for towels so that is why they were so cheap)
2 Big bedroom mirrors with with wonderful frames. One $4 and one was $5

It's important to note (for me anyway!) that you can get carried away with garage sale items. I did not decide not to buy new items for financial reasons alone so I need to remind myself that more stuff is not always a great deal even if it is cheap!