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Hot Spot

June 24th, 2005 at 08:30 pm

Wooh, is it ever steamy tonight. Hot, and muggy as all get out -- gotta love Midwestern summers. Actually, I've rather been enjoying it -- despite the sweat dripping off my temples and down my neck as I leisurely sit here doing nothing more strenuous than typing tonight. Summer. I prefer to experience *IT*, in all it's sticky, stinky, sweaty splender. My husband, on the other hand, has been dropping broad hints about turning on the central A.C., as he has precious little heat tolerance, mostly likely having to do with the air-conditioned office he works in all day. Perhaps it is hard transitioning back into a stuffy hot house. Sigh, it really is an oven in here tonight, with little relief in sight (the forecast is for continued drought -- but that's a whole 'nother story). There isn't any breeze stirring whatsoever. Still, I despise air conditioning (makes me feel claustrophobic and disconnected to the world), and hate paying for it even more. So far, it remains off. But, if he is truly suffering perhaps we can compromise in some way. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm trying to concentrate on all the $$ we are saving by not running it....

Ba-ack....!

June 22nd, 2005 at 06:58 am

What a looooong time since my last update. It's a solid indication that I haven't been spending quite so much time online lately -- and that's not such a bad thing (because I really am more productive when I limit my computer hours, y'know?). Our family had a long-running, frenzied spat of eternal busy-ness and running around that ate up much of my free time there for awhile -- stuff like my son's performance, recitals, appointments, commitments, lessons, classes, games, etc, etc., etc. Even a terribly pleasant and enjoyable vacation away. Finally though, our schedules have wound down a bit around here, and we're comfortably settling into a somewhat more quiet summer routine. Ahh. It's nice.

I'm jumping back on the frugality bandwagon feet-first after a few notable lapses -- my son's soccer camp registration for instance ($$! -- to occur next week), among other things (including a number of not particularly frugal food choices when things were at their busiest a number of weeks ago, etc). Remarkably however, for our vacation the week before last, we spent an astonishingly small amount of money, aside from gas and a few fees and tolls here and there, etc, when we visited friends in western New York state. Our friends generously hosted our family for the entire week in their home on five wooded acres in a lovely hilly and scenic country setting. They enthusiastically cooked for us, and cheerfully shuttled us around for sightseeing and visiting (although we did also get out and about on our own as a family on several occasions as well). Avid healthfood advocates, all meals were outrageously wholesome and deliciously prepared, and eating out wasn't even an option -- so we spent hardly any money at all on food for the entire week (nor lodging either, obviously). We did make it over to Niagara Falls, the Canadian side (paying the toll for the bridge over. And back). Viewing the falls (very awesome!), is free of course --we even lucked out with free parking. But we couldn't resist getting all touristy and taking the boat ride, 'Maid of the Mist', that chugs into the 'horseshoe' for a closer look. Weeee, what an experience! -- totally worth the money (which really wasn't so terribly expensive anyway), I'd have to say. We also stopped by a gorgeous state park in our friends' area, for which we had to pay as out-of-state residents. Overall however? We spent an astonishingly small amount of $$ on our super fun, week-long vacation away.....

Since we returned last week, we've been hanging out at home and taking it easy. I've been hanging tons of laundry, and making a point of cooking out of my pantry these last number of days -- holding out as I am for the garden produce that should kick in in a big way very soon, and can hardly wait for. In the meantime, I've been busily spiking everything I serve with green onion -- lots of which I've been harvesting out of our little garden. I've also been able to season our meals with lots of fresh herbs -- sage, chives, dill, parsley, and basil from my wee herb garden here at home. Mmmmmm, summer....

Hair today....

May 12th, 2005 at 08:13 pm

So I did get my hair cut (well, trimmed I guess) this afternoon, and it wasn't cheap (!). But, figuring the last time I got a professional cut was 6 or 7 months ago, I guess it isn't too bad. I asked for an easy, wash-and-wear, long layered kind of style that can grow out gracefully -- because who knows when I'm going to get back there. And I can't *really* judge how it looks yet, because she styled it all fancy-like, complete with styling products - I promise it will NEVER look like this again, heh....

I have a wee headache. Hmmm, guess I'm nervous about this weekend.....

Week Blink

May 11th, 2005 at 08:27 pm

This week is flying by. I've been busy, busy -- digging and planting. Then digging and planting some more. Plus lots of tilling. By hand. Whew. It's hard work! But there is progress in my project of expanding the shade garden beds in my yard. Under the trees where sickly grass grew in pained, straggly patches, I have transplanted hostas and ferns, native columbine, solomon's seal, and wild geranium. My neighbor noticed me digging and offered her ostrich ferns -- she has them thick as theives over there, nearly to the point of invasiveness. They sure are pretty though -- a thicket nearly five foot high. Since I have a total three or four ferns in my whole entire yard, as big as it is -- she didn't exactly need to twist my arm. She just pointed out where they were a nuisance and let me have at it, while she went back into the house. I did have a small moment of hesitation when I wondered if I was going to regret introducing a potentially aggressive species over on my side. When it comes down to it, I guess I'm willing to take the risk because they're going to be a heck of an improvement over the patchy grass tufts and weedy dirt I currently have under my shade trees. And of course... they were FREE (just checked online -- found some priced at $50 for 10 ferns). Plus, this is the kind of fern that can be harvested and eaten as 'fiddleheads' -- so I'll know what to do with them if they decide to take more than their fair share of space. But, who knows if they'll even take off anyway....

I also broke down and did indeed divide my hostas, again. While I purchased some new hosta plants this past weekend, it was clear they were not going to be nearly enough to cover all the area I'm targeting. I was actually thinking of jumping in the truck and getting more, and then the cool hand of reason patted me on the back and pointed out the hostas planted from previous years. So, I grabbed the shovel and got to work. I think I have now divided them about as much as they can take this year. If I need to purchase another few plants to finish my project, so be it -- at least I did save some money once again by stre-e-e-e-tching my current plantlings.

With all this planting I am now desperate for rain. Things looked really promising earlier today, and I rushed this afternoon and evening like a madwoman to get more plants in the ground ahead of the apparently approaching storm. But so far ....nothing. Well, we surely could use it around here. Looking at the doppler radar online for our area shows rain all around us, and a bunch of near misses, even rumbly thunder -- but no rain in our immediate area. Blargh, if we don't get some precip tonight I'm going to be irked....

As for the vegetable garden, the kids and I ran out there yesterday to have a look-see. The onions are very happy, and the potatoes, which had been bitten by frost last week, seem to be rebounding, thank goodness. We planted four tomato plants (with many more to come), and some cucumber. We also weeded some, plus I 'hilled' the potato rows a bit-- and watered everything down with the hose (nothing like a real rain though -- that's what it could really use).

On the spending front, still writing checks around town, although it's tapering off a little. Sort of. Except for today I guess --since I actually found myself clothes shopping. Something I rarely EVER do. In fact, I think the last time I shopped retail for clothes for me was, hmmm, probably about this time last year, when I needed an outfit for a spring event. Well, once again, warm weather arrives and here I found myself needing another outfit for an upcoming event. So off to Target I went this afternoon, and managed to pick up some warm-weather slacks and shirts and things that I can wear this summer -- and to this thing I'm doing this weekend. You see, I've registered to take a three-day, intense training workshop this coming friday through sunday, which, upon completion, will enable me to apply for a particular part-time position here locally. Yes, I'm pursuing employment, folks -- a job. And I want to make a good impression (might even seek a haircut tomorrow -- more $$ outlay, but could it ever use it ). Anyway, we'll just see how it goes....

Garden Galore

May 7th, 2005 at 08:13 pm

Hee haw! Been a spending freakazoid this past week or more -- writing checks all over town, like it's going out of style. Wooh....!

Oh, well. I can't say it's been especially 'frivilous' spending, for the most part at least. I did need to purchase this week the required parphenalia of DS's ballet I'd written about earlier for example (shoes, garb, dance belts, etc. Ca-ching!) -- which was pretty much unavoidable. I bought soccer photos (group and individual) of the kids for $15.00 each (as homeschoolers, we sort of count that toward 'class pictures' ) -- plus other little purchases like that. I've also done several little food shopping side trips, picking up the odd convenience item (or two or three) along the way when I felt just too immersed in our various involvements to properly cook....

Last but not least, today I opened my wallet wide at several different local plant sales, buying all manner of plants and seedlings for our home landscaping projects, to the tune of well over $100 (and I'm not done either). Not exactly 'nth-degree frugality'. Still? By far most of what I bought today consists of hardy native perennials (except for a number of hostas, plus ONE FLAT of showy annuals for my porch flower boxes) -- so really, I'm looking at this as an investment purchase. The new plants will be lovely, and will grow and last from year to year . I have such plans to expand our yard's natural areas this spring. And I want it done right, with enough plants to properly cover the barren spaces here and there that desperately need attention. No more incremental gardening by the inch -- done with that. I'm feeling impatient, and don't want to wait another 4 years of gradually dividing hostas and adding the occasional plant and seedling to have yet another chunk of yard FINALLY look the way I really want.....


Busy-ness

May 4th, 2005 at 06:35 pm

Argh. I'm beginning to feel a trifle scattered and disorganized these days, as typically happens when our familiy's activities and involvements begin to charge up, or the various things I commit myself to sort of all come due at once. I was feeling as though I had things comfortably together not too long ago -- now, I feel clutter and disorder surreptitiously lapping around the edges. The results will be some costly mistake somewhere along the line if I don't pay better attention (for example, I realized the other day I'd lost track of a bill, and will now probably pay a late fee (rolls eyes)...).

But I'm seeing progress on one of my volunteer projects at least, having worked on it yesterday and today. There's still a bit more to do. In any event, it will be nice to complete it and remove it from the house, 'cause it's a big, awkward thing that's taking up more than its' fair share of space around here. In addition, some of our family involvements (soccer season, the upcoming show, etc) will soon be wrapping up as well.....

On the garden front, we hadn't realized our little potato friends had *finally* decided to get around to the business of sprouting (one of the hazards of off-site gardening I guess -- can't keep as close of an eye on things), only to get stung by the unusually late frost we had these last few chilly days (Drat. There wasn't any sign of ANY potato action when I checked late last week. Who knew?!). I haven't seen them yet myself, but my father informs me that...they're 'black'. Well! (I'm thinking (hoping?) they'll pull through? But still, bummer...)

DS made dinner tonight -- his specialty, Spaghetti Aglio e Olio. Very helpful....

Ballet Allay

May 3rd, 2005 at 08:18 am

It's been busy this past week-and-a-half. Lots of things going on at once, and I'm trying to keep on top of it all. DS's dance performances are coming up quickly, and I still have several volunteer projects to complete for it. I will also need to make a few necessary purchases -- DS needs a pair of 'jazz shoes' as part of his costume that we'll have to pick up from the dance store this week, and new, clean tights. His teacher has also recently informed me, that DS is so big and skilled now she wants him to ditch the 'little boy' dance garb he's worn for years for class (tight white T-shirt, black bike shorts or leggings) in favor of a sharper-looking men's black unitard, a 'dance belt' ('supportive' attire for men), the whole nine yards. This is a sort of a 'promotion' in a sense I believe. As I understand, he's the only boy being asked to do change his class attire at this time. It will look very striking I know, and I think she's hoping it will set an example for the others. But it shall require some spending -- and dance shtuff is typically not el cheapo, you know? (Not that I have any reason to complain of course, since he's been on full scholarship with this studio since the beginning....).

So I have lots to do today -- time to start list making....

-get something in the crockpot for dinner tonight (check)
-maybe something in the bread machine to go with it (check)
-hang laundry (check)
-start more laundry (check)
-wash dishes (check)
-fold clothes
-get bills in the mail (check)
-make rice milk or some such for DH
-work on my project for the rest of the day (deadline looming) (check)





Under Pressure

April 29th, 2005 at 08:30 pm

Had a 'high pressure' pressure cooker moment today, literally! I have two cookers that I put into near constant use in my kitchen. One's an older-style 'jiggle top' Presto 4 quart, and the other a 'second generation'-style, T-fal 6 quart. They are terribly useful appliances. Both were gifts at different times from my parents. In fact, the Presto was a wedding gift, if I remember correctly, so I've been using it for nearly 14 years now -- the T-fal maybe half as long. Well, I was cooking up soy pulp this morning (leftover from my last batch of soy milk) in the T-fal, when something apparently clogged up the valve, because the next thing I knew hot, bubbling soy pulp was dramatically fountaining up out of the pressure valve AND the release in the cooker handle, and giving everything in that part of the kitchen a good spray. Blargh! I've had that happen before with the jiggle-top -- but never before with the T-fal (guess there's a first time for everything). I got it the pressure down immediately though, and everthing under control. Emptied and cleaned up the pot, checked the valves and so forth, then went on to other household tasks. Later, I set the cooker back on the stove, just to test it to make sure everything was still in working order. Only it wasn't. It wouldn't go up to pressure. Great -- now I'd done it. I love that thing, and I'd gone and BROKEN it! I was sick. Went ahead and called T-fal, and after being on hold for some time, spoke to the most wonderful phone service person ever. She talked me through examining my cooker (kind of challenging over the phone and all). Turns out, it was somehow missing it's small 'valve pin', as she helped me figure out. Find it, and the problem ought to be solved. But where in the world was it? A few hours had gone by by then -- I'd washed dishes, the kids and DH had mucked about the kitchen and sink. I looked for it everywhere in and around the stove and sink. Nothing. I even checked the compost bag sitting in there (lovely), thinking it could have gotten mixed up in that (which it hadn't). And then I thought, 'Of course! THe soy pulp!". I'd shoved the pulp back in the fridge, all mushy 5 or more cups of it. I grabbed the container and started spooning out small quantities, sifting through the pulp. Finally, in about the 6th spoonful, I felt a small foreign object. THe pin! And sure enough, my cooker was working fine again. I was so relieved. Because I'd actually taken a peek online to see what they were priced at these days, in case it needed replacing. OUCH --very glad that turned out to be unnecessary...!

'Bounty"

April 27th, 2005 at 07:47 am

Ok, I went and pulled my friend's Garlic Mustard, yesterday while she was at work. Oh, my -- what an 'abundance'. BUCKETS of it, The Enemy. Gobs and gobs right there in her small, modest yard, right here in town. More than I or any brave soul could possibly use, but I went ahead and pulled it all for her anyway. I felt compelled to do so as a public service. Which is pointless really, because the ground is likely completely saturated with gajillions of its' tiny, miniscule seeds (one small plant can produce hundreds of seeds in a season) just waiting to sprout up in their stead. Still, at least it looked a little better when I was done. And I did 'harvest' a good quantity of leaves for my own use. I noticed they seemed considerably more bitter than the ones I sampled several weeks ago -- the difference being that these were flowering plants and the ones I tried earlier hadn't flowered yet. So, it might very well be like dandelion greens, which are best when they first come up in the season before the blooms set (something happens chemically within the plant, sort of natural pest control, once that happens). Next time around, perhaps I'll try picking it earlier. I did cook with it anyway last night, spiking the 'tamale pie' with it that I made for supper. No one even noticed. Everyone asked for seconds, and beyond. (Granted, this was a famished, post soccer-practice crowd.) The rest of the leaves I blanched, to be chopped up and packaged today in small amounts for freezing -- to use in stretching my future soups and casseroles and the like (recipes that call for frozen spinach or whatever -- I can use part spinach, and part garlic mustard. Hey, free food...).

Also made more granola yesterday, finally. A big batch. And DS baked up a batch of delectable apple muffins yesterday, completely solo, for breakfast. It was a cook-sy sort of day I guess.... On the cool side, and pleasant to get the oven going. Plus, no spending of any kind. I didn't even leave the house (except to pick that garlic mustard) -- but that's a good thing. I sort of needed a day of few disruptions....

Garlic Mustard Madness

April 25th, 2005 at 09:54 pm

I know this is bordering on lunacy, but ever since I heard conclusively that 'Garlic Mustard' (incredibly invasive plant pest that's rapidly dominating our natural areas) is indeed edible (it's thought to have likely been brought over by early european settlers as a pot herb, escaping their gardens and spreading like wild fire ever since), I've been on a mission to get a hold of some myself and cook with its' troublemaking self (because really, isn't that the ultimate revenge....?). Happily, I don't have any yet in my yard (*crosses fingers*. Did have it at my old house though -- should have been taking advantage of the free greens!) -- however a friend several blocks over has buckets of it . I've made arrangements to run over there and pull it up asap -- maybe even tomorrow if it's not raining too hard. I did have occasion to taste it recently, and found it wasn't that bad -- garlicky/peppery, with a little zip -- but nearly as 'bitey' as say, arugula (which I happen to adore). I actually thought it was ok. They do say it's best early in the season, which obviously it still is -- and that's it's really quite nutritious (who knew?). It'll be fun to have something fresh to pick and cook with -- especially since our garden veggies have a loooooooong way to go. Anyway, some communities around the country afflicted with this noxious weed host garlic mustard 'cook-offs', and cooking contests (tongue-in-cheek of course) -- how's that for making the best of a bad situation? My community doesn't happen to be one of them (wish it was -- clever idea IMO), but I'll happily do it on my own. I intend to come up with something for tomorrow night's dinner, if I 'harvest' it in time. Hmmm, and perhaps I'll not mention to my family what they've eaten until AFTER dinner....(rubbing hands gleefully). I may be off my rocker, but I do get a perverse thrill from making 'something from nothing', as it were. KWIM....?

Moday Musings.....

April 25th, 2005 at 07:49 am

Another busy weekend, despite the blustery cold temperatures. Overall, not TOO much spending activity however. On Saturday, DH and I together visited the co-op I recently joined, and splurged just a wee bit on irresistable snackies. Spent around $20, but that covered lunch as well as dinner items. Yesterday my kids sang in a chorus as part of a music festival in another town. Donations were being accepted -- it was a pleasant enough event, compelling me to open my wallet ($10.00)....

Speaking of the co-op, I was approached about an opportunity to possibly do some cooking and baking weekly for it (along with DS's help), in return for the largest available workers' discount (16%). I'm not entirely sure what all is involved with that (there's an orientation next weekend where I can find out more details, if I can get there that is), but apparently there is a need. Our schedule is busy but if we could work it in, DS and I would be happy to help out.

A sunshiney and brilliant blue-sky day out there --but also frigid as all get out. So glad that we weren't tempted by the fine weather of recent weeks to plant tenderish veggies in our garden. I've noticed a smattering of tomatoes and peppers growing in other plots hither and yon out there -- here's hoping they weren't zapped.

I made homemade soymilk over the weekend. In my opinion, it doesn't taste a good as my previous attempts. I don't know if it's the new soybeans I purchased, my method, or what. DH is fine with it though (mind you, he has no sense of smell due to an accident over a decade ago, and consequently a very diminished sense of taste) and he's the primary consumer anyway. I'll see what, if any, adjustments I can make to improve future batches.

We're out of granola again -- need to fire up the oven soon, maybe even today....(?).




Flora and Fauna

April 22nd, 2005 at 06:47 am

Earth Day today, and I'm feeling it as I celebrate my own little corner of Earth. I'm so thrilled with all the pretties coming up in my yard this spring. Little plantlings I've gradually put in here and there over time peeking up out of the ground -- it's like seeing old friends. And to watch them getting just a little bigger and stronger each year, and in some cases even spreading, all on their own accord, is a real joy. My yard is a perpetual work in progress, as it shall be for years to come. It's a large, town lot that was a neglected, patchy, overgrown mess when we first bought it 4.5 years ago. Ok, while many areas out there are still a mess and crying out for desperately needed attention (hello, 'creeping charlie'), other parts are shaping up nicely. It's all DIY of course, and we've really only had the time, energy, and money to work on small sections of it at a time. I've purchased and planted ornamentals, but as is typical of many transplants, often for the first few years they don't do much but look puny and delicate while they put their energy into root growth. I just had to plant, cross my fingers, and patiently wait. Doing it piecemeal this way is a slow process. Yet as I check out my little garden pretties this spring, I finally feel as though my incremental work over the years is beginning to show itself....

For the most part, I've tried to be responsible regarding the flora I've introduced into the yard. While not all of it is native (hostas, tulips, lilac, etc-- not native), I do, to the best of my knowledge, avoid invasive species (researching when necessary to be sure). And I've made a point of investing a bit of money every year toward native prairie and woodland plant species, of the kind that once commonly grew in our area but have been displaced due to development and sprawl and non-native gardening aesethics. Happily, there is an active local organization of prairie and native plant advocates that hosts an annual native plant sale (coming up next month), where I've purchased most of mine. These plants may not be not the cheapest around, still I feel they are a very worthwhile investment. Because they are native perennials, they are best acclimated to the area, requiring less attention than exotic species (watering, fertilizing, maintenance) to remain healthy. They are hardy, rarely needing replacement. Most provide sources of food for local wildlife, encouraging biodiversity while attracting beneficial bugs, birds, and butterflies and other pollinators. And, they're naturally beautiful. I put woodland plants in my shade areas, and prairie plants in the sunnier spots -- which expand just a little every year, cutting down on our mowing and watering. It's wonderful that natual and native landscaping is gradually gaining popularity among gardeners and homeowners. It makes economical, as well as environmental, sense.....

Rain Yay

April 20th, 2005 at 08:41 pm

We're getting a lovely soaking right now (with a little thunder/lightning and everything -- ooh!), which we needed in these parts. The kids and I planted the rest of our cool weather veggies out at the garden this afternoon, so the timing is right on. In fact, we were just putting the rest of the turnip seed in when the rain drops starting splashing. Then a mad dash home to get my clothes in off the line - oy! Well, we made it in time, sort of -- they weren't too terribly dripping!

We put in radish, carrots, beets, turnips, and peas. Some of the seed we planted today was rather on the old side, so who knows if it will all germinate properly. Anyway, we started with excruciating care, planting individual seeds just so -- but then the black clouds starting rolling in, followed by the lightning, and then the rush to hurry up already. Kinda sloppy there at the end. Perhaps it will be better if they *don't* all sprout -- less thinning to do, which I'm not very good at anyway. Because these are bound to be mighty crowded otherwise, heh. One thing's for sure -- our gardening style so far is pretty 'right-brained'. DS and I are planting things in there hither and yon, according to our whims, and without any real strict plan. Because I never liked strict plans. Alternating white and red onions in a circle? Sure. Making a 'rainbow' with the spinach and lettuce seeds? Why not? Lining a bed's perimeter with leftover turnips? No, make that HALF turnips. And the rest chioggia beets...!

This entire week I've been hoping to get to the dandelion and violet jelllies as is our custom to make every spring. It's not as though we don't have a fine crop, ahem. It's just been so, so busy around here that I haven't found that chunk of time we need to do it in. Maybe tomorrow. We ought to get to it here soon, because our lawn is starting to look shaggy -- and I don't want it cut before we harvest our flowers (because their 'heads' will be chopped off)! Thing is, with our non-powered (other than human effort) push mower? Cutting the grass is considerably more of a chore when it's long....

Co-op Scoop

April 19th, 2005 at 08:21 am

Yesterday, I 'rejoined' a little non-profit, natural- foods co-op/storefront here in our town. I tried it originally way back shortly after we first moved here some 7 years ago, but hadn't cared for it and eventually requested my money back. Lately though, friends have been mentioning how much they like it these days. It's under completely different management since the first time I joined, with a different store layout, different distributors, everything. I never did disagree with the general principal of the place, the politics, nor the way it's organized (discounts based on the amount of work hours). My issues were more with product selection (improved), limited store hours (improved), cleanliness (much improved), and certain snarkey people (who have since moved on as I understand). So I decided it deserved a second chance, joining up again with a $50 family membership. It will be a good alternative to the for-profit health food store here in town (rumors about which claim it doesn't treat it's employees as fairly as one might expect). I don't know how much 'work' I will be able to devote to it for the time being (more work/more discount)), but we'll see. I will continue to keep my current buying foods club membership as well, so as a family we'll be all set for options.....

Art Exposure

April 17th, 2005 at 07:11 am

Fun times yesterday. After kid soccer games in the a.m., DD and I found ourselves with the whole afternoon on our hands (the males in the family busy with other activities), so we set out to enjoy it together. First, I did treat her to a (very) rare lunch out, just the two of us (cheap mexican, and we kept our bill low) -- however, the rest of the day was full of free entertainment. Our town was hosting an annual, community-wide arts festival, and after a quick, spontaneous stop to fetch my mother, the three of us went on to see the sites. Galleries, studios, and business establishments all over town open their doors to the public during the festival, displaying art and works-in-progress, and giving demos. The stops on the tour are so numerous and spread out within the locality that it's impossible to see it all, so one must pick and choose. It was lovely to get out and about though, especially on a day as nice as yesterday turned out to be -- and fascinating. We visited the home studio of a lampwork glass bead artist, a pottery studio, painting galleries, a large artists' studio/co-operative, and the home studios of a professional glass blower and his sculptor wife (this last being my favorite stop because of the wonderful, idyllic environment the two artists have created from their modest old home and less-than-an-acre yard - - a private homestead/sanctuary near the edge of town, with two free-standing studios, lush blooming landscaping (ornamented with art tucked everwhere here and there), two ponds (with koi), flowering fruit trees, raised garden beds, chickens, a child's playhouse, and a gallery/shop. So cool!).

And, as always whenever I'm in an artistic environment, I naturally found myself itching to get back to my own creative pursuits -- temporarily shelved for the time being as my personal famiy life remains so busy and active. One of these days though .....

Late Irate

April 15th, 2005 at 07:35 am

Argh! Received a credit card statement in the mail yesterday, to see we were smacked with a big fat late fee of ...$35.00! Greeeeeat (hits hand to forehead). I deserved it though -- got involved with something and lost track of dates, then ended up firing our payment off in the mail with my fingers crossed. I know better than that! It couldn't have been more than a day or so late -- but of course, we all know there are no grace periods anymore. Sigh, do you know how far I can stretch $35??? Bleh, learned my lesson anyway.....

And, I got so caught up in other stuff yesterday that I entirely forgot to do any laundry at all. Happily, it appears to be another blue-sky, laundry-hanging day....

DS has been baking this week again though -- Lemon Poppyseed Muffins on Wednesday, and Swedish Cinnamon Twists yesterday. Delicious! The Twists (like cinnamon rolls, just a twisted shape) he passed out to family and friends, including his piano teacher. I'm delighted that he so enjoys cooking and baking.

DD has requested smoothie for breakfast. Sounds good to me. I'll be making some from cheap .20 cent-a-pound organic bananas, cantaloupe I got for free a few months back and froze, and homemade soymilk. How cheap is that....?

Off to make it.





Another Day, Another Dollar

April 14th, 2005 at 07:06 am

Looks like fine, sunny, laundry-hanging weather out there this a.m. -- good thing since I have a little catching up to do....

It just occurs to me this morning, that I have not stepped foot in a store, shop or business establishment of any kind since last Saturday. And I don't have any plans to do so today either -- so, barring any unforeseen circumstances this ought to be my 5th consecutive day of no-spending.

We received our monthly gas/electric bill yesterday. It's waaay lower than it has been in months, rather dramatically so (like, nearly 200$ less??)-- thanks to Spring I assume. What a relief. Our poor, neglected old house is a sieve in winter, our gas bills outrageous no matter how low we try to go with the thermostat. We'll need to try to do more about this next fall, in the way of weatherstripping, plastic on the windows and everything else (hopefully one day we can get the whole place properly insulated)...

Oh, and DH and I FINALLY got to our taxes last night. Why we always seem to put this task off I never know, especially since we usually get a return (eye roll). Hmmm, I guess because we despise it? Oh well, at least they're out of our hair ....





Soy Good....

April 13th, 2005 at 11:19 am

Yesterday, with its' rain and sog, was a good one to just stay put at home, which I happily did. Nowhere that I HAD to be. And I needed that -- I'm such a homebody, really....

So I putzed around in the kitchen with the leftover soy pulp (AKA 'okara'), from the batch of soymilk I made last week. First, I pressure cooked it to make it thoroughly digestable --then I seasoned it with spices, plus a bit of chopped green onion, and fresh sage and chive from my waking herb garden. I added ground oats to the mixture for a little extra 'body' -- then shaped it into long little patties/strips, and baked them on oiled cookie sheets. The results were very "health food a la the 1970's" -- but not bad, not bad at all. Very veggie burger-ish. In fact, the kids and I nibbled on them all afternoon, with DH taking the remainder for lunch today. In any event, the entire soymilk-from-scratch experience was encourging enough to inspire me to purchase bulk organice soybeans from my co-op yesterday (a 25 pound bag, hello), because we could save so much $$ by just making our own. Sure, it'll be another thing to do around here - but what's one more thing ...?

Speaking of pressure cookers, I had an interesting experience this week with one of mine. I lurve my pressure cookers, all THREE of them (one's a canner, actually) -- putting my two kitchen ones into near constant use. Well, I blew the jiggle top off one of mine on Monday -- only the second time to do this in my 13 years of pressure cooking. Heh, it was pretty funny actually. I was cooking black beans, and probably a piece of bean skin got stuck in the valve. I *KNEW* it wasn't sounding quite right, and seemed to be taking longer than it should to get up to pressure -- anyway, the next thing I knew the little jiggler thingie went flying across the room and I had a geyser of black bean steam hitting my kitchen ceiling. I turned the stove off immediately of course, but it still took awhile for things to simmer down. No harm done, not even much of a mess -- just a reminder to be... oh, a bit more mindful next time? Ahem.....




Rain Gain

April 12th, 2005 at 08:32 am

A rainy day! I'm actually quite happy about this because it's been awhile. The water hasn't been turned on yet out at the gardens, and our stuff was at risk of drying out. So now everything is getting a good soak, including the lettuce and spinach seeds that we planted yesterday. This does mean of course however, that the weed seeds will now also be waking up as well. I know from experience that we'll have our work cut out for us in that department -- it gets INSANELY weedy out there.

Also, we discovered our cabbages and broccoli chewed upon by critters. I doubt now that we are going to get by this season without fencing of some sort, bleh.....

I 'liberated' more of our neighbor's plants (bluebells and lillies) yesterday afternoon (from what is essentially the apartments' parking lot), transplanting them to happier places in the front of my house (and the rain is doing them good as well). The bluebells are beginning to bloom -- lovely. Heh, and to think I actually BOUGHT a few bluebell plants when we first moved in here....



Monday Musings.....

April 11th, 2005 at 08:25 am

Yesterday a friend gave me another big bag of clothes for my DD that her DD had outgrown - very nice, name brand clothing with hardly any wear. She's been doing this for the past two or so years, which I gratefully accept. As such, I have absolutely no need to purchase my DD clothing of any kind -- new, used, or otherwise (in fact, DD probably has too MANY clothes now at this point -- we need to weed through it all and pass a good deal of it on). DD loves it of course --it's like Christmas everytime my friend drops off another bag....

Anyway, we had a fantastically busy weekend and ran around bunches -- but spent relatively little $$$ overall. The kids had parties, games, and playdates all weekend long, so there was certainly no lacking in terms of good, old-fasioned entertainment.....

One thing that has been weighing heavily on my mind these last few days however, concerns our neighbors a few doors down our street. It seems they are splitting up after 20+ years of marriage. These are responsible people/parents and I know they have their reasons and respect that -- still, it makes me very sad. Their DS happens to be my DS's best buddy, and has been since we moved here going on 5 years ago. Now he's moved with his mom to the other side of the neighborhood -- a good 10 or so blocks away, when he was only 4 doors down. All of this has me dwelling too, on the financial costs of divorce as well as the emotional -- the obvious legal fees notwithstanding. Two incomes that once supported one household, will now support two distinctly separate ones, with duplicates of everything. The (ex)husband stays behind in their enormous, 4 -5 bedroom house down the street (for which he will now need to 'cash out' his (ex)wife's equity) -- a huge, sprawling space (with two big additions, one they only just put up last fall) for one lone, newly single man and his weekend-visiting DS (an older DD is away at college). The whole situation leaves me pensive, and it feels like a loss. Sigh.....

DS and I ought to try getting in the garden today. The forecast is for rain this afternoon, and it would do well for us to get more planted ahead of it.....

Veg Heads

April 8th, 2005 at 08:14 pm

Broke down and went shopping this morning for fresh produce. We were down to our last two carrots and odd orange and lemon or two. I was trying to see just how far I could go with simply cooking out of my pantry and freezer, and did quite well for the most part (last night I made veggie gyros with a lamb substitute I made from tofu, plus ww pitas, homemade hummus, and canned beets). But it was time. Voracious vegetarian family without fresh vegetable matter -- well, that's just not going to work. I was running out of ideas. So this a.m. I ran by our neighborhood mom 'n' pop corner grocery store, and stocked up veggies and fruit of all kinds (including organic bananas for .20 cents a pound and other deals), to the tune of about $40. It turned out to be a lot of food for that price (-- still, how lovely it will be to harvest our own organic garden goodies....!)....

And good news on the gardening front -- the taters are planted! All six varieties (Irish Cobbler, Red Norland, Red Pontiac, Purple Viking, Kennebec, and Green Mountain) in the ground, finally. I also planted collard and cilantro this afternoon. Spinach, lettuce and peas are next. The beds are all fully and totally prepared now -- the soil loose and beautifully worked up, just waiting for seed. We'll try to get in there again in the next several days and finish up with our cool weather crops. I can hardly wait to install the tomato and pepper seedlings I'll be getting from my dad -- but of course that wont be for another month or so. Speaking of my dad, when I mentioned our broken gardening tools to him -- he generously gave us an extra pitchfork he had for keeps, plus a hoe to borrow for the time being. What a nice dad.

Soy Joy....

April 7th, 2005 at 08:25 pm

I have a big batch of homemade soymilk simmering on the stove right now as I type. I haven't made my own in years, but have had these old soybeans in a jar in my pantry for ages -- and finally decided it was time to actually DO something with them (mainly because I need the big glass jar I was keeping them in, in order to store a chunk of my 50 pounds of bulk-purchased brown rice). Homemade soymilk is supah cheap, and it's really not that difficult or time consuming to make. Hmmm, maybe I should go back to making my own again on a regular basis. Still, the kids haven't had the homemade stuff in their recent memory, so who knows how they'll receive it. DH will obligingly use it up though -- on the granola I made a few days ago.... And of course, there will be the leftover soy 'okara' to deal with (note: not 'okra'). This is what's left behind after the straining the soymilk -- essentially blended up, cooked soybeans. There are various things one can make from okara -- I'll just google up a few recipes and go from there....

More gardening today out at our plot. T'was more on the overcast and cool/blustery side of spring weather, but DS and I could hardly be deterred. We're having too much fun. This time we prepared our potato bed, by measuring out and digging trenches, plus hoeing out any and all clumps. We're ready to plant the seed potatoes anytime now --although I'm still trying to figure out if we ought to do the 'pre-sprouting' thing or not. That's were one lets the potatoes sit around on trays in the warm, lighted house for a week or so. It's said doing this can give good results -- but bleh, potatoes-potatoes everywhere. And trying to keep our ever-curious, free-range house bunny out of them during that time too. Huh, not likely. I'm thinking of just getting them in the ground tomorrow instead, and being done with it. That's the thing about potatoes -- you plant them, and then mostly leave them alone for the next ... oh, 50 - 70 days or so .....



More Gardening Fun....

April 6th, 2005 at 07:35 pm

The kids and I were back out in the garden this afternoon, for more scratching around in the good dirt. So far their enthusiasm shows no sign of waning. We did more soil prep -- digging and raking and smoothing, even getting a wheelbarrel load of manure on (the first of many more), and working that in. So far so good, and the kids, particularly DS, are quite proud. A few mishaps however -- first, our only pitch fork broke, and then awhile later, our only hoe! Um, two of our most important garden tools? Was it *really* necessarily to have them BOTH break on the same day?? On what was only our second day of gardening at that??? Okaaaaay. So now it looks as though we will be needing to invest in some new tools (sort of a two steps forward, one step back kind of a thing I guess you'd say...). Hmmmm, perhaps I can find tools through Free-cycle or something.....

In all, a busy day on our end, so dinner called for something simple and quick -- spaghetti and sale-purchased sauce, with homemade vegetarian 'unmeat'-balls that I made a big batch of a few months ago and froze (in meal-sized quanities), and peas. Ahhhh, easy but good....!

Dandy Dandelions

April 6th, 2005 at 07:24 am

Did a little foraging in my yard last night, as is my yearly spring custom. The dandelions are emerging, but are not yet blooming en masse, so that's the best time to pick the greens (once they flower they are unpalatably bitter). I'd made lentil soup in my pressure cooker, and while it was cooling off I went out in the yard and picked all the dandelion I could find (which wasn't a HUGE amount at this point -- guess that's a good thing, although there's probably more to come). Ordinarily this would be a kid job, but the rest of the family was at soccer practice and the sun was setting so it was up to me. I then washed them carefully and chopped them a bit, and added them to the pot. In any event, typically my main motivation for picking them every year is simply to make sort of a point to myself and my family -- but last night I found myself actually NEEDING them, since I didn't have any greens on hand to serve with the soup (no celery even -- running low on fresh produce). Besides, I really like the specific combination of dandelion greens cooked with lentils. As does my family apparently, since there were no leftovers.....

Dirt Mirth

April 5th, 2005 at 04:23 pm

We ventured out to our garden for the first time today, finally. The kids were extremely excited and chomping at the bit to dig right in (as it were). DS and I did figure out a most basic preliminary garden plan, marking the general areas of 'paths', 'beds', and 'rows' . I tried my best to let my son do most of the leading, while I made suggestions here and there, since this is very much our project together. While we had worked out a few ideas on paper these past few weeks, actually seeing our little plot of earth up close and personal in the patchwork of community gardens was rather like facing a blank canvas, and many of our original musings just sort of ... evaporated. Instead, we hastily made some quickie decisions, then got down to the business of what my son was MOST itching to do -- dig, and PLANT. Which we did -- cabbage, broccoli and onions (all purchased seedlings). We also have a number of packets of seeds to put in that we did not get to today, as well as our seed potatoes, but these will come next. At least we've gotten a start. Anyway, we planted our onions and cabbages together (in proximity I mean -- although he and I did work together to plant them too)-- as suggested by the proponents of companion organic gardening. We'll see how that goes.

Now if only it were to gently rain tonight to water our new little planties out there, I'd be much obliged.....

Monday Monday .....

April 4th, 2005 at 11:38 am

Sheesh, is it just me -- or does anyone else miss that hour we midwesterners lose when we spring ahead for daylight savings? Don't get me wrong, I'm entirely appreciative of the longer daylight hours it brings -- but still, somehow it takes awhile for me to adjust to the new time, even though it's ONLY one hour difference! Eh, mondays are typically a little 'off' for me, KWIM -- but today feels even more so than usual....

Nevertheless, I need to shake off the cobwebs and get in gear. It's INCRECIBLE outside, and there's much to do around the house after slacking most of the weekend, heh. Namely, wash/hang/fold laundry, specifically sheets and covers -- as well as any other number of household chores on the list. I also need to make another big batch of granola today, seeing as we're all out again. It would be good to get around to preparing our potatoes for greening/pre-sprouting as well, since we're to be planting them soon. And, speaking of plants, there's more 'plant rescue' I could be doing too, but that will probably have to wait for another day.....

I did harvest my first 'vegetable' though, just a few minutes ago. For lunch I threw together a big pan of fried rice, using leftover rice and assorted odd-and-end veggies and beans (plus tofu), etc. For added flavor, I picked a big handful of the chives and the chive-like other stuff (not sure exactly what it is -- we call it 'chinese chive') we planted several years ago in our herb garden that is already coming up, and chopped 'n' tossed that in too. Looks so green and pretty, with lots more to come. w00t!

Spud Luv....

April 2nd, 2005 at 09:57 pm

Our seed potatoes arrived today! That was lightning fast delivery --DS and I ordered them just a few days ago. They're old varieties, organically grown -- shipped from a small independantly-owned family farm I found on the internet. They were reasonably priced I felt (shipping did add to the overall cost. Nicely and securely packaged though). While it's possible I might have been able to get generic seed potatoes cheaper at a gardening center or some such place here in town, I do prefer heirloom garden plants and seeds whenever possible, and organic ones at that. Anyway, DS and I are looking forward to our fun potato project -- we have quite a sampler to enjoy. I'm hoping we can get into the garden this week for at least some tending and planting, if it dries out enough. The ground's still a bit wet from the recent rains to do much of anything, with more weather to come later in the week so they're saying. We may only have a day or two window of opportunity this week to get anything accomplished out there. But of course, it's still early -- there's really no need to get impatient (not yet anyway...).





It's official!

April 1st, 2005 at 08:40 pm

The car is SOLD!!! The buyers came by today with their check at noon, and drove it away -- yay! This was not the original couple who had looked at it last week, but some friends of theirs they had recommended it to and who checked it out Monday night. So, it was only the second party to look at the car, and still by word of mouth. I'm so relieved that we didn't have to resort to actually advertising it, and deal with the dozens of phone calls, the phone tags, the repetitive questions, the scheduling of partially-interested strangers (some creepy) to come by and see it and then never follow up, and so on. We're really pleased with the price they offered too. A big chunk of it went immediately into our savings/emergency account, another big chunk will go to cc's. The whole amount would wipe out the cc balance -- but, since our cc interest rate is fairly low at the moment I'm willing to beef up the savings a bit at this point, and continue to work on the cc, which ought to go fairly quickly now. Anyway, it's wonderful to have it all taken care of. We're happy, and the buyers seemed happy. We took good care of the car over the years -- it's still in great shape. We'll miss it!

Rescue Mission

March 31st, 2005 at 08:08 am

(...First, just a note to thank those nice, anonymous folks who voted with their kindly ratings of my savings journal here. It gave me pretty stars by my name -- thanks so much!...)

What a gorgeous day yesterday. It was a real taste of summer, drawing us all outdoors for much of it. The wind was warm and strong. I hung laundry -- heavy stuff like towels, pants and sweaters. All of it dried like *that*! (snaps fingers)...

The warm temps and sunshine inspired me to do a little of what I call, 'plant liberation'. The property behind us is an old house like ours, but subdivided into apartments for student housing. The back yard is graveled over and has essentially become a barren parking lot -- a pretty unsightly view for us (we are planning to finally put up a privacy fence this summer). Except that just on the other side of the line between their property and ours, bluebell and lilly seedlings still try to push up through the gravel, as they are right now. So, for the past few springs I have very discreetly reached over and dug them up, to transplant elsewhere on our property. Is this stealing? Well, probably. Trespassing? Yes, technically -- however, I prefer to call it 'rescuing'. Poor unappreciated things -- all driven over and abused. Bluebells are native, and are always lovely. The lillies are just the boring orange asiatic ones, but still -- they make quite a impressive display when they explode together in bloom like they do. And they do well in poor soil -- exactly what we have on the one side of our house where I've transplanted them. That spot is bare, and the plantings ought to help brighten it up considerably (AND they wont be trod upon by cars either).....

While the kids were at their lessons yesterday, I did find myself doing a little 'window shopping'. I ventured into 'Tuesday Morning' and perused the shelves, spending nothing despite the special additional 20 % limited-time discount they were offering on already discounted items. But, the consignment shop next door got me, and I left with three pairs of second-hand shoes/sandals in good condition for $25. Not too bad really, considering -- and hey, I dont' run across my size everyday (somewhere between a 10 and 11 -- I know, big feet!).....



Garden Goody

March 29th, 2005 at 11:02 am

DS and I found out this morning, that our plot in the community garden has been upgraded from a 'half' to a 'full' (we were on a waiting list). This is a happy turn of events, since it will allow us more space for some of the 'viney' things we have in mind for the garden -- cucumbers and squashes and the like. I will need to go into the park district office to pay the difference, and as of now we are up to $42 rental for the season (plus an additional deposit). Anyway, DS and I will be sitting down this afternoon to do some basic planning. One thing is certain, we'll have to invest in some sort of deer protection (-- netting perhaps? They're thick as thieves out there. And voracious as all get out....)

Since we're coming in a little late, I'm not sure how much time we'll have to mail order seeds and supplies, etc. I much prefer planting heirloom varieties over commercially manufactured hybrids, but we'll have to see what we can scrounge up. In any event, I'm willing to pay a little more for heirloom and organically produced seeds (promising myself to save seeds this season for next season). Plus I'll have to comb through my seed collection from previous garden ventures -- they're getting old by now, but hopefully a number may still be viable. We can at least try sprouting them and see what they do. My father will provide us with lots of seedlings (heirloom and hybrid) for peppers and tomatoes. LOTS of seedlings -- so, we'll be quite covered as far as those cousins in the nightshade family are concerned....


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