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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....


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.....


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...!


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.....