Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Good Neighbor Is Like a Warm Cookie!

Especially when they bring you warm cookies!!

This morning my neighbor Susan baked these LUSCIOUS Strawberry Shortcake Cookies from Martha Stewart and had her husband Gray bring them over to us warm.

I truly don't think I've ever been delivered warm cookies before! I've delivered but never been the recipient. It really made my day and made me feel all WARM inside. (Could be because I ate 3 cookies right away!!!)

What a sweet and easy way to make someone feel special!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Seriously Stupid Mascara

This morning I got an email from Walgreens announcing what I think has to be the worst idea in makeup in years, if ever.

Mabelline has just introduced a vibrating mascara wand. High-end beauty brands such as Estée Lauder, Lancôme and Prescriptives have all released vibrating mascaras in the past year as well.

The cost of this ecological disgrace is $15. Despite the fact that I would be hard pressed to pay $15 for a drugstore brand mascara, I have to wonder at the little battery impeded into the wand. How pray tell does one get that out? My guess is that you don't. My guess is that we'll now be throwing countless little batteries into landfills all in the name of eyelashes.

Is that truly how we want to spend our resources? On eyelashes??? Mine look pretty darn good and I use my hand to apply my own mascara as has every woman in the world up until the past year.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Look At Your Utility Bills

I read a lot about saving money. Books, magazines, blogs. It's a subject I find interesting and of course, useful.

Ok, I'm going to admit something kind of embarrassing right now. I hardly ever, Ok, I never, look at all of the pages of the Gas & Electric Bill. I generally bitch inwardly about the large cost of it (especially in winter) and try and conserve where I can/when I can. This is hit and miss though. For instance, I have an energy and water efficient dishwasher-I still only run it when it's full. I'm sure that saves me money, I've just never figured out how much.

One tip I come across quite often is to run large appliances during "Off Peak" hours to take advantage of lower rates. I've never looked into this and have always assumed that the savings was minimal. Turns out, the savings is NOTHING AT ALL. (at least for my area-YMMV and I would strongly advise you to look at your bill)

While I was able to determine from their website, that there are "peak" and "off peak" hours (7:00 am-11:00Pm is peak) there is no difference in the price that I am charged for using energy depending on the time I am using it.

I also noted that electricity accounts for 30% of the bill, while natural gas accounts for 70%. So, while I've been walking around crabbing about all the lights being on and weighing the pros and cons of switching to florescent lights in all the lights now or when they actually burn out, I've been ignoring ways to save gas.

We currently have a (old) gas dryer, (new) stove, (old) hot water heater, and of course, we heat with natural gas. Almost anyone I know can tell you our house is chilly in the winter so I'm doing what I can with that one. (although more weatherproofing for next season would probably be a good start) My dryer use will go down drastically in the summer while I line dry our clothes) and I should probably focus on hot water and stove/oven use. We grill a lot in Summer. (Of course you need to buy propane for that.) but often, like this evening, my husband grilled the main dish along with the side dish. I've actually not given that much thought to cooking and hot water usage.

I can tell this is a whole new project for me! I'll share my findings as I go!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Pasta For Karley

Since my Vodka sauce recipe slightly derailed my friend Karley from her new trek into being a full vegetarian I thought I would post a pasta recipe for her that is meat-free and also delicious!

Penne with Greens, Olives and Feta

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (I used some that I dried from my garden last year and just soaked it in water beforehand)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel (I just used lemon juice from a bottle)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large bunch greens (such as spinach, mustard greens, kale, or broccoli rabe; about 1 pound), thick stems removed, spinach left whole, other greens cut into 1-inch strips (about 10 cups packed)-I used broccoli rabe. This is a great reminder that the season for spring greens is upon us (or soon to be in some areas.) A perfect time to score some good greens at the farmer's market!
  • 12 ounces penne
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)

Mix parsley, lemon peel and garlic in small bowl; set aside.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add greens and cook just until tender, 1 to 6 minutes, depending on type of greens. Using skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer greens to colander to drain. Return water to boil. Add pasta and cook just until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot; add greens and 3 tablespoons oil and toss. Stir in olives, feta, and enough reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with parsley mixture and serve.

This is CRAZY good and can be made in one pot! We loved it. The day after I made this we also served chicken over the top for leftovers and it was excellent!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I get by with a little help from my friends.....

I'm fortunate that I get a lot of good stuff free! (or for a very low cost.) Personally I think it's because people know I like and will take free stuff. I'm not squeamish about secondhand. I go to garage sales and happily purchase things for my use. This is not embarrassing to me at all.

(on a Small side note, a friend was once very embarrassed to offer me some of her clothes she didn't want. (some with tags still on them) she was giving ME the clothes and SHE was embarrassed! I wasn't and still happily wear her jeans!) I would rather spend nothing, create no waste, and put someone else's money to good use any day of the week!

I also hope it's because I try and relocate my things to good homes as well, when appropriate.

Ok you can probably tell by the picture what my freedbie is.

This is THE BEST FREEBIE I have ever received. Our friend Michael called with the offer from one of his friends. SOMEONE I DON'T EVEN KNOW. Apparently they offered it to to Michael but he already has one. He knew we didn't and thought of us. Saturday I took my girl to grandma's house and when I got home this wonderful thing was in my yard.... Seriously wonderful! My brother, Michael and their friend Chris had moved it and set it up for my girl. I cannot thank them enough!

It felt like Christmas around here. For her and for me! My girl didn't see it until Sunday and she has been on it ever since!

-New slide to replace cracked one. $69
-Trapeze to swing on. $34
-Friends and Family who go out of their way for you and your little girl: Priceless!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Don't Buy Mexican Tomatos

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll know I'm a strong proponent of buying locally, whenever possible. (In the interest of full disclosure I have been unable to find a substitute for, or way to curb my lust for the banana!)

Sometimes locally means from my hometown, sometimes it means, from my country. I try very hard NOT to eat something from another country when the very same thing is available from my own country AT THE SAME TIME.


There are tomato farmers in Florida plowing under perfectly good tomatoes because they can't sell them. The recession has hit them hard as a tomato isn't seen as a necessity. Along with that, DIRT CHEAP tomatoes are coming in from Mexico. Because of this influx, tomatoes have been selling for $4-$6 a box. It costs $10 to grow them.

I realize people want to get the most for their money-I certainly do. I realize in hard times people have to make choices, I do too. But we need to realize that buying dirt cheap veggies from other countries does more to hurt our overall economy than it does strengthen our personal pocketbooks. Not only are more and more farmers being forced out of farming. But now those people are less likely to contribute financially to their own communities. I'm guessing that tomato farmer isn't going out to his local restaurant any time soon. I'm guessing that restaurant may not need to hire your college age daughter this summer because demand is down. And I'm guessing your college age daughter is going to have some trouble paying for her books next fall. It's all connected.

In scary economic times we need to do what we can to support ourselves but we need to try and manage that in a way that isn't detrimental to others, and in the long run, to ourselves as well.

In many parts of the country the growing season is quickly getting underway-Please consider buying locally gown fresh food. It' s better food, it's fresher, it has not traveled thousands of miles to reach you, and you will be helping your own community.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Little Old Italian Lady Vodka Sauce

Last night at my In-Laws house we had this wonderful vodka sauce for dinner.

No, she's not the little old lady, she got the recipe from a friend down in Florida who IS your typical little old Italian grandmother.

It's actually a pretty reasonable thing to make if you already have vodka. (And, if you are like me and have canned tomatoes and home grown garlic, it's even cheaper!) It's also quick to put together so you could have this on a weeknight without too much fuss.

Vodka Sauce For 1lb Penne

2 TBSP Butter
2 Cloves Garlic Minced
1 Small Shallot, chopped fine
1 qt jar of tomato puree. (You can use the 28oz can)
3 oz prosciutto chopped
1/2 cup vodka
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated cheese

Melt butter and sautee the garlic and shallot 3-4 min. Add prosciutto, sautee 5 minutes. Add tomato puree simmer 15 min. Add vodka and simmer until the smell of alcohol is gone, about 10 min. Add cream and grated cheese, stir until heated through and cheese is well incorporated into sauce. Serve over penne.

Some fresh Basil would be great over this, but no one had any and it was still REALLY wonderful. I think the prosciutto is what really makes this. The woman who gave my mother-in-law actually chops the onion, prosciutto and garlic in a mini chopper but we did not try that last night.