Tuesday, December 27, 2011

They don't waste any time, do they?

'Twas the day after Christmas
And the dollar store displays
Were packed tight with goodies
In various ways

But the goodies weren't decorated
With Santas and sleights
They were adorned with hearts
All for Valentine's Day!


Bad poetry aside ... the workers were busy yesterday. The remnants of the Christmas goodies (which was pretty much a box of wrapping paper, a box of tissue paper and a few bags of bows) were piled into a couple of boxes with a 50% off sign.

But all was not lost. I did score 3 rolls of wrapping paper for 50 cents each!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!




For all who celebrate this day, best wishes from us here at the casa de chaos. Hope it's a wonderful day with friends and family! And maybe tomorrow, we'll get some rest ... LOL!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas improv 2



I like to use tie-on tags for gift bags (makes it easier to reuse them, LOL!)


Unfortunately, I ran short of the card tags, but had plenty of sticky tags. I did happen to have a sheet of card stock used to make business cards. So, apply one sticky tag, punch a hole in the corner, and poof! One tie-on gift tag.


You could certainly cut cards stock or paper to fit (and color card stock would look pretty darn good). But I'm just on a mission to get stuff out of my house ;)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas improv 1



I ran a bit short of gift bags, and didn't want to delay gift wrapping to go buy more.

So, a white "shopping bag" and a bit of clip art saved the day.

(I printed it onto label paper so it would have adhesive, but I think double-stick tape would work as well.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What do you mean, we're out?



One of the pitfalls of keeping a "pantry" of anything is that sometimes you think you're better prepared than you really are.

Case in point: I've been wrapping Christmas gifts tonight. I looked for a small gift box .... nope.

Tape? Oh sure, three rolls. Ack! All three rolls are down to the end!

I can punt on the small box and use a gift bag instead. The tape is a different matter.

Well, at least it isn't Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stay safe out there

There've been reports of car break-ins and ATM robberies in my city recently. Seems that the holidays don't always bring out the best in some folks.

So, since it certainly isn't frugal to be robbed, or to deal with a smashed-out car window, here are a few safety tips for holiday shopping:


    When you park, roll up your windows, lock your car and take your keys with you.

    Always park in a well-lit area, close to the store or mall's front doors.

    Lock valuables and purchases in the trunk or cover them up so they can't be seen. This includes backpacks, GPS units and MP3 players. (It's not always possible, but consider single-store trips so you don't have multiple packages sitting in your vehicle unattended.)

    Shop during the day if possible, or take someone with you. (Maybe not the kids ...)

    Don't carry a lot of cash or many credit cards. Don't wear a lot of jewelry. Don't carry a purse or bag unless necessary. Keep your wallet in a front pocket.

    When paying, be discreet. Don't display the contents of your wallet.

    Have your car keys in hand when you leave the store.

    Look inside and under your car before you unlock the doors and get in, and lock them right away after you shut the door.

    Be aware of your surroundings both inside and outside the store. Look around before loading packages into your vehicle. If anything seems amiss, go back into the store and tell security, or call police.
ATM safety tips


    Visit ATM's only at well-lighted and populated locations; visit during daylight hours if possible. Using the drive-up is usually safer.

    If you see someone hanging around the area (on foot or in a car) leave the area.


Various sources, including Peoria, Ill., police; University of Oklahoma

Friday, December 9, 2011

Going with the flow

Howdy ... been off a couple of days trying to get some headway on Christmas ...

Anyway, looks like we're "downsizing" Christmas this year -- but not because of the economy. More like because of a couple of naughty little cats.

Actually, I expected it -- over the years, I've learned that young cats and Christmas decorations don't mix well. (For her first holiday, Senior Cat dared getting catnip coal by knocking over a fully decorated 6-foot tree.)

But hope springs eternal. So we put the (now 7-foot) tree up, sans decorations, and waited to see what our new residents would do. All went well for a while, until we caught Little Girl trying to climb it. Another look, and we realized why: Big Boy was sitting in the middle of the tree! (IMHO, any artificial tree that can hold a 12lb cat is darn well made.)

So, down with the big tree. Instead, we pulled out my late DM's tabletop tree, which after 20+ years has a bit of a Charlie Brown look to it. But a few lights, and lots of unbreakable decorations, and we got a tree.

Now, if I can just keep the little beggars from trying to snag the ornaments ...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas music downloads

Here's something a little different for your holiday music collection. The U.S. Army Chorus is offering 18 free MP3s of Christmas carols on its site.

http://www.usarmyband.com/audio/christmas_with_the_chorus.html


(If you like blues or classical, the site also offers MP3s from the Army's string and brass quartets, as well as streaming Internet broadcasts of concerts.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

November freebies

It's not quantity, but quality ;)

Head & Shoulders shampoo/conditioner
Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal
3 Twinings tea bags
Aveeno shampoo/conditioner
1 bottle Dr. Pepper 10

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garden report: All done

We took advantage of a recent weekend's mild weather to clean out the garden. It's sad to see the empty beds out there now.


Overall, it was a pretty good year. Couple of gallons of green beans (since the pole beans came in late, I was picking beans into the first week or two of November.)

The last of the green tomatoes are ripening now ... neat to have fresh tomatoes with salad after Thanksgiving.

It was a very good year for peppers. The cayenne produced enough that I won't be needing to plant any next year!!

We also dispatched one of our two pumpkins. This was a smaller one, so it only made about 6 cups of puree. The other Mr. Pumpkin was roasted and produced 10 cups of fruit.

I'm looking forward to some pumpkin soup!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Menu Monday: Cranberry applesauce

A good way to use your stocks of cranberries and apples. We had this at Thanksgiving this year instead of traditional cranberry sauce.

5 apples (we like Jonathan for the tartness) peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (don't worry about cutting them up)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Combine apples, cranberries and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer about a half hour, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft.
Stir in sugar and orange peel. Remove from heat and mash with a potato masher. Should be slightly chunky. If a bit tart, add another tablespoon of sugar.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Talk about sugar shock

In the "Oh, my gosh!" category ...

You've heard of turducken, which is a duck and a chicken stuffed inside a turkey. Here's the dessert version: a "Cherpumple."

Bascially, this is a 3-layer cake -- spice, yellow and white -- with A PIE baked into each layer. (Cherry, pumpkin and apple)

I don't particuarly want one of these ... but if you're feeling adventurous ... and have cake pans big enough ... here are links to the story, and to a recipe.

And if you do make one, please send me a photo!

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2011/11/cherpumple-the-turducken-of-the-holiday-dessert-table/

http://www.charlesphoenix.com/2010/10/cherpumple-monster-pie-cake-new-test-kitchen-video/

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!



I am thankful for all of you who have dropped by to read and to comment this year!


However you celebrate the holiday this year, I wish you a happy day.....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Today's tip

I found another use for the plastic coffee canisters!

My mini rose bush needed protection from below-freezing temps, so I turned one of those canisters over it. So far, so good!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

That didn't work out

I mentioned that the heating/cooling company offered me a special rate to clean my furnace ....

They haven't gotten here to do the job, it seems. They've canceled on me -- twice.

OK ... I get the message. Too bad, because we were a long-time customer.

I called another company that's running a special for new customers. They're supposed to come out next week. Wish me luck ...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

Thanks to all who have served. And a special thanks to the families of those who have served!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

October freebies

Was a bit light this month ... but I'm always grateful ....

Chex Mix (FAC)
Bumblebee tuna (FAC)
1 bag Fritos
1 cup Hardee's coffee
Kleenex
1 beer
Post-it labels, tabs
1 pkg microwave popcorn

Monday, November 7, 2011

Menu Monday: Chicken Paprikas

OK, BB, this one's for you:


1 onion chopped
4 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon paprkia
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2-3 lbs chicken pieces (to lighten things up, I use 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces)
1 1/2 cups water
8 oz of sour cream (Note: fat free sour cream works fine. Greek yogurt does not)

Brown onion in oil, add seasonings and chicken; brown. Add water, cover and let simmer until chicken is tender (45 minutes to an hour, depending on what kind of chicken you use). If the juices seems to be running low, it's OK to add a bit of water, but don't turn it into soup.
Remove chicken, add sour cream to drippings in pan and mix well. Return chicken to pan, add dumplings (see below) and heat through.

Dumplings
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup water

Mix all ingredients together until you get a soft dough. (add more water if needed) Drop by half-teaspoonfuls into boiling salted water and cook about 10 minutes (or until dumpings are cooked through). Drain, then add to chicken/sauce mixture.

Note: This makes a lot of dumplings ... I tend to cut the recipe by a third ...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Time to fall back

Daylight savings time ends this morning. So remember to set your clocks (and everything else in the house) back an hour.

PS: Don't forget to check the batteries in your smoke detectors!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pardon me while I bang my head against the wall

The insurance company my employer uses has been sending me emails all summer. I needed to fill out a health risk assessment, it said, or face A BIG HONKING INCREASE IN MY PREMIUMS!!!!

I'd done my best to ignore them, but finally, the deadline approached. So I made a trip to my doc's office to get the results of my last physical. Then I spent a good hour registering on their Web site and filling out the survey.

Today, my company sends out a notice: It's changing health insurers next year!

And, oh, yeah, I could see a BIG HONKING INCREASE in my premiums ....

Gee, thanks ....

(Ya know, these decisions aren't made on a whim. Would have been nice to be warned .... )

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Craft alert!

Have a bunch of those plastic coffee containers around the house?

Wondering what to do with them?

Seems the folks that make them have a Web site that allows you to print out decorative labels. (They suggest using actual label sheets, but I suppose glue would work nicely, too). You can gussie up the containers for just about any holiday.

It even has a couple of flowery prints that I'd like to try -- methinks those containers would make dandy flower pots. I also think that covering it with clear contact paper would be a good idea ... just so the ink wouldn't be ruined by water dribbles.

Anyway, here's the link:
www.folgers.com/promotions/can-decorator.aspx?utm_source=oct-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=wakinupclub&cid=em_wuc_111031

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween greetings!

For those who celebrate, have a safe and frugal holiday!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The higher cost of entertainment

Add something else to the list of prices going up ...:

Got this email from the folks at Redbox: Starting on Monday, October 31, the daily rental charge for DVDs will change to $1.20 a day.* The price change is due to rising operating expenses, including new increases in debit card fees.

I was a bit confused by this reference to debit card fees ... but apparently the law that capped the swipe fee that banks are allowed to charge also raised the fees that can be charged for small transactions.

I suppose in the overall scheme of things, an extra 20 cents isn't bad ... unless you rent a whole stack of DVDs at once. On the other hand, it begins to make the competition a wee bit more attractive.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inadvertant negotiations

Sometimes, you get a surprise ....

I called our usual HVAC company to schedule the fall tune-up for our furnace (thought it would be nice to do this before we start getting snow).

Had a coupon for a $40 furnace "inspection." Is this the same as the tune-up, I asked.
Well, no. The company was charging $40 for someone to just look at the thing ...

Er .. so how much is a tune-up? $90, was the answer.

Since I had a competitor's coupon that offered an actual tune-up for $55, I decided to pass. When I told her no thanks, she suggested their service plan, which would bring the cost down to $80.

No thanks, I said again.

At that point, she mentioned that they had an online special ... a furnace tune-up for $45.

That was an offer I couldn't refuse. So I scheduled a call. We'll see how it works out ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Free pasta - sort of

Today is World Pasta Day!

To celebrate, some Italian restaurants are a pasta deal:

Fazoli's -- If you get their e-mails, print out the coupon to get a free spaghetti with sauce if you purchase a drink. (Note, this actually is good on Wednesday 10/26)

Buca de Beppo -- If you buy a small or large pasta or entree, you'll get a free serving of spaghetti and sauce, plus a 1 pound package of dry spaghetti to take home. (I suggest calling ahead on this one.)

Spaghetti Warehouse -- Like them on Facebook and get a BOGO coupon for a spaghetti entre.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Today's tip: online buying

Since the buying season is almost at hand ...

If you're purchasing any large items ... like power tools or electronics ... consider buying online at the store's site and arranging for pickup at the brick-and-mortar store (provided the store offers that service, of course).

I tried this on Black Friday last year. Got in and out of the store in no time flat, and no worries that the item would be sold out. It also avoids those nasty shipping charges ;)

And sometimes, you get a nice surprise. The last time we bought something, the item's online sale price was $10 cheaper than the sale price in the store!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thrift store musings

We've been hunting for some household items for the casa de chaos. Since the retail price of these items is more than we prefer to pay, we've decided to buy them used.

Now buying used is certainly an exercise in patience. Just because you want something, it doesn't mean that it will automatically become available at the thrift store, KWIM?

And since we're stopping in the stores on a regular basis, we've had to learn something else ... restraint! Thrift stores have all these cool things ... a nice shirt here, a holiday decoration there ... we could easily blow our budget and more ...

In the meantime, I have a new thrift-store mission, courtesy of a friend. She's teaching at a kindergarten in an area with some significant poverty.

She's asked us to be on the lookout for children's clothes. Little kids (as all parents know) can have some messy accidents. So the school keeps a supply of clothes on hand for such emergencies. Unfortunately, the clothing seldom comes back ... and the supply is dwindling.

So this I can do ... hey, I'm going to be hanging around the thrift store anyway ..

Garden report: We're out of time


All good things must come to an end, it seems. The weather report says that we'll get a hard freeze this week, so it's time to shut down the garden.

Bit by bit, I'm bringing things in: the peppers, the green tomatoes, the beans.
I've cut herbs for drying. Fortunately, most of them are in pots, so I can bring them in until we get another mild spell (and of course, we will ;)

I've got geraniums to pot up for overwintering, and my rosebush needs to be cut back and mulched. Now I've got to find room for all these pots!

Sigh. It's sad, especially when I see that the beans and the pepper plants are still flowering. But it looks like we're out of time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Menu Monday: Pumpkin drops

Here's a recipe for one of my favorite cookies:

1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (cooked, pureed carrots are a great substitute)
1/2 cup shortening (or oil)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar, pumpkin and shortening. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix in raisins (then nuts, if using).
Drop by teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Makes about 4 dozen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Good until ...

One of the supermarkets in my city is advertising "Good 'till New Year's" pricing.

Nice, but what happens after New Year's? Back to original prices, or even-higher prices?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Good news and bad news

The good news ...

From USA Today:

Consumers may catch a break on the price of gasoline and baked goods and sweets as the Thanksgiving-Christmas season approaches, thanks to a sudden tumble in worldwide commodity markets.

Flour prices have risen more than 50% this year, according to Jeremy Reichart, vice president of Orchestrate Management, which operates several restaurants and a food market in Des Moines. But they should fall in coming months, as the price of wheat has tumbled 25% since last summer, according to the Chicago Board of Trade.

Good news for baking season, but, I'm not too sure about the gasoline prices, given that in my neighborhood, they just jumped 35 cents a gallon.

The bad news ...

From the Los Angeles Times:

Warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp. will raise annual membership fees 10% amid rising costs.
The company will raise annual membership fees by $5 for U.S. individual, business and business add-on customers as well as for Canada business members. Those members will now pay an annual fee of $55.
U.S. and Canadian executive members, meanwhile, will see their annual membership fees increase to $110 from $100.

Not a big increase, but still ... ouch.



The full stories:

www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-costco-fees-earnings-20111006,0,3022819.story

www.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2011-10-04/consumer-prices/50662332/1

Friday, October 7, 2011

Well, duh!


The electric bill seemed a bit high this month, so we went on a 'vampire' hunt -- looking for things that draw power even when they're not used. (That is, besides the lights ....)



For starters, we realized that our now-busticated TV was still plugged in, happily drawing power for its "instant-on" feature. Ditto for the converter box.
I discovered that the breadmaker was still plugged in, also drawing power for its timer.


I also pulled out the Felaway diffuser, which is supposed to help calm skittish cats down. It had gone dry ... and unfortunately wasn't much help anyway.


We also yanked the plug on a couple of other appliances we weren't using, though I'm not sure if they were drawing any power.


Hopefully, pulling a few of these vampires took a small bite out of the bill ....







Wednesday, October 5, 2011

September freebies

Not a bad month ... got some unusual things.

1 cappuccino
Honey Nut Cheerios
Dannon Greek yogurt
Dove candy bar
1 beer
1 latte
Nieva body wash
Crave cat treats
BK chicken nuggets
Hardee's coffee
Stadium Jerky
2 Amazon mp3s

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday menu: Savory Pumpkin Bread

Here's a bread machine recipe for a wonderful savory pumpkin bread. This is good for sandwiches and makes great toast (especially with a bit of butter).

Directions for 1.5 lb loaf

6-8 ounces of water
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons dry milk
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Measure all ingredients into bread pan, in order. Place machine on basic setting and whatever type of crust you like. (I do medium)

I use fresh pumpkin with this, and I've found that either boiled or roasted pumpkin works well. Just make sure it's smashed into the consistency of canned pumpkin. (lumps aren't good)
For a fat-free version, substitute applesauce for the oil.

(and if someone wants the measurements for a 2lb loaf, message me and I'll send them along).

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Garden report: Going slowly


We're still harvesting here at the casa de chaos. It's like the garden is trying to get a second wind ... some of the bush beans are producing again, and the pole beans are finally providing a handful at a time.

Still have plenty of peppers and tomatoes ... and my eggplant has snapped to it --- it's producing three more fruits.

Only problem is ... I'm running out of time. We may see a light frost tonight, and heavy frost could hit within two weeks.

I've been pulling tomatoes as they start to ripen ... they can finish the job inside where it's warmer. Otherwise, all I can do now is keep an eye on the weather reports ...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Free coffee!



Today is National Coffee Day!

And it's a perfect day to get some free caffeine! Among those offering a free cup of joe are:

7-Eleven: From 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., participating stores in the U.S. and Canada will give away free medium-size cups of hot coffee, any flavor.

Krispy Kreme: Guests can receive a free 12 oz cup of the House Blend at U.S. and Canada stores.

Thorntons: Get a free cup from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. (for folks in the Midwest).


There are some reports on the internets that McDonald's has been giving out coffee this week, but I can't find any proof of a national giveway ... just for some select areas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Updates

Just a couple of follow-ups:

I mentioned wondering if the pumpkin shortage in the Northeast would raise prices here in the Midwest. So far, prices look to be the same, if not a bit lower ... time to clean out the freezer, LOL!

I finally got through to my doc's office and got the test I needed. Decided to drop by yesterday since I hadn't heard from them about the results ... (sigh). But the results were great! So I'm doing the happy dance!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When it rains, it pours!


Funny thing about the universe ... the minute you plan for a big expenditure, a lot of little ones start popping up, too. It's like everything in the house starts yelling: "Me! Me! Pay attention to me!"

We no sooner hired the painters for the outside work, than:


  • The TV screen went dark (got sound, no picture).


  • My cell phone screen has an odd splotch ... broken pixels, methinks.


  • The water filter leak defies our attempts to fix it ... so it's got to come out.


  • The toilet needs new 'innards'.




  • Of course, that doesn't include the chain saw that has to be replaced and the lawnmower that a new handle, and the new floor for the kitchen ...



    Sigh ... one thing at a time ...

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    It finally gave out



    Can't believe it's been almost 2 years since I did this post about the Velux blanket that I salvaged:

    http://dodgeandweave.blogspot.com/2009/10/reclamation-project-blanket.html

    Well, time caught up with the old blanket ... it started getting threadbare at the top. I had another piece of fleece to use for a patch, but I decided to wash the blanket first to see if it would survive.

    It didn't. In fact, it made another **$%@!! mess in my washer.

    But in case you were wondering, the fleece strip survived just fine. I cut it off before I threw out the blanket.

    Maybe I will make that fleece pad for the cats after all.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Another pumpkin shortage

    If you live in the Northeast (as if you haven't had enough to worry about this year), expect your jack-o-lantern or pie pumpkins to cost more.

    Seems like Hurricane Irene decimated the pumpkin crops there, and the markets are buying pumpkins from the Midwest to make up for the shortfall.

    I also wonder if those of us in the Midwest will see higher prices, too, since farmers are selling off their surplus ...

    Maybe I should check prices before I get in a hurry to use up the pumpkin in my freezer.

    The full story:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/APbfdf9e238f2c490d82e01402e9f8d509.html

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Menu Monday: Instant oatmeal/whole wheat pancakes

    Here's a good way to use any instant oatmeal you may have:

    1 egg
    1 1/4 cup milk
    2 tbsp. oil
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    1/2 cup all purpose flour
    1 tsp. sugar
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 packages instant flavored oatmeal (or other whole-grain cereal, but not cream of wheat)

    Soak the oats in the milk for about 10 minutes. Beat egg, then add oil and oats/milk mixture. Add flours, sugar, baking powder and salt to liquid. Mix gently until all ingredients are combined. Cook on lightly oiled griddle.

    Makes about 12 medium-sized pancakes.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Off to the market


    Recently, during a quick stop in Cleveland, Ohio, we got to see a real, live city market. The Westside Market was opened in 1912, and has continued to serve its urban neighborhood.

    The times, I suppose, have forced some changes -- the market is only open four days a week. But there was a good crowd the day we were there.

    I thought it was fascinating to walk around and look at all the various foods offered for sale. Cleveland has held on to its ethnic heritages, so it there were plenty of foods represented, from Italian to Eastern European.

    Unfortunately, we couldn't buy anything perishable, but we did hit the coffee stand and a bakery for breakfast (and some cookies to take home). Also got a good deal on some produce (which is in a separate building).

    It made me nostalgic for the city market in my hometown, which can't seem to make a go of it as a real market ...

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Ring-ring, ring-ring

    Dear Doc:

    You know that test you'd like me to take? I've been trying to call your office to schedule it, but I can't get a human being to answer the phone! Ten minutes of the "Our staff is busy loop" gets old ... especially at Day 3.

    Enough,
    From your about-to-be-former patient

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Today's tip

    Had a small crisis: The zipper pull on DH's pants pocket (the one with the wallet) broke off.

    Emergency fix: A small safety pin made a good stand-in.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Power up!

    Did something cool this past week ... we were invited to test-drive an electric car. (Since this wasn't a blog-related event, I'm not going to mention the name.)

    The car I got to drive was a cute little blue number. I'd seen photos of this vehicle, but in person, it looked smaller, closer to a sub-compact (but still cute).

    Inside though, there seemed to be plenty of room. Instead of a traditional shifter, there was something that resembled a large button. And there wasn't an ignition key ... just a starter button.

    I hit the starter button and heard ... nothing! Well, almost nothing ... the air conditioning fan came on. Otherwise, the only clue I had was the now-lit dashboard display.

    Once on the road (and these folks get props for allowing us to use city streets), I have to admit this car was fun to drive. The ride was very smooth; steering was easy and responsive.

    And this baby is peppy. Even in economy mode, it took little effort to break the speed limits ;)

    So, great car. Drives well. Good for the environment. Sign me up.

    But wait! There's a catch ... the price. $35,000 to $37,000, plus up to $2,000 to install the charger in my garage. (BTW, the range, I'm told, is about 100 miles on a full charge. And at the moment, there aren't a lot of public charging stations out there.)

    Ouch! Frankly, a near $40,000 investment is way, way out of my price range. And some quick calculations show that at current gas prices, we'd likely save $8,000 over 100,000 miles. To be honest, I'm not sure how much we'd save on things like oil changes, though I'm not sure it would be enough to offset the extra costs. I'd love to see some real-life analysis on that.

    Right now, the bottom line is that we won't be early adopters at the casa de chaos. Maybe once the technology becomes more popular, and the prices go down ...

    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    August Freebies

    L'Oreal cream
    Spenda Essentials
    Snapple
    Coke
    Cottonelle wipes
    Suave body wash
    Kashi cereal
    1 bottle water
    Wisk detergent

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Oh, boy, did I mess up

    Try as I might to be frugal, sometimes I do some absolutely boneheaded thing that will cost me $$

    Case in point: I had to make some hotel reservations recently. I was doing it online, and the Web site was giving me trouble.

    Anyway, got it done, put aside the reservation sheet and went on my merry way.

    Not long before I had to leave, I discovered that the reservations were not for the day I'd intended. They were for the day after I'd made them. Why didn't I notice this before? Good question; wish I could answer it.

    And obviously, it was way too late to cancel. (Not to mention that I had to scramble to make new reservations.)

    &(^&*%$$'!!!!

    There is a happy ending. I contacted the hotel and explained the situation. They're giving me a free night for a future stay. So great customer service on their part.

    As for me ... a big lesson in paying attention. Grrr....

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    Menu Monday: Southwestern sauce

    This makes a great salad dressing, or use it on sandwiches or wraps ...


    1/4 cup sour cream
    2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    salt and ground pepper to taste

    Measure all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until blended. Keeps nicely in refrigerator.

    Lighten this up by using fat-free or light sour cream and light mayo..

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Today's math problem

    A 200 ounce bottle of detergent advertises that it can do 112 loads of laundy. But the lowest mark on the measuring cup (for light loads, you see) holds 2 ounces of detergent.

    But if I always used the 2-ounce measurement, I'd only have enough detergent to do 100 loads.

    Does this mean I should use 1.66 ounces per load to get the 112? Or do 12 loads at 1 ounce, then the other 100 at 1.8 ounces? Ugh. Too much math for me.

    Got a better idea ... I've marked the cup at the 1 ounce point. If that gets the laundry clean, I'll use that much ... then I'll get 200 loads.

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Making appliances last

    Just wanted to pass on this story, which has some common-sense tips on maintaining appliances.


    http://financiallyfit.yahoo.com/finance/article-113328-10701-2-how-to-make-home-appliances-last-longer?ywaad=ad0035&nc


    Personally, I agree with keeping the dryer cleaned out. I'm religious about cleaning vents and lint traps, but dang, that lint can build up everywhere. Biggest shock I ever had was when a repairman opened up my old dryer .. and it was packed!

    Also, on newer refrigerators, the condenser coils are sealed (at least mine is). I'm not sure just how you'd clean it.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Menu Monday: Ginger-curry lentils and chicken

    Had a request for this:

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 medium onion, chopped and peeled
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    1 cup lentils (dried or canned)
    1 tablespoon chopped ginger root
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced

    In a pot or deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
    Stir in 2 cups of water, lentils, ginger, curry and salt.

    If using dried lentils
    Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender (you may need to add more water.) During the last 10 minutes, add the chicken and allow to heat through. Remove chicken. Place lentils in serving bowl and top with chicken slices.

    If using canned lentils
    Add chicken to mixture, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Serve same as above.

    Now, I have to add a tip: Be careful if you use green lentils. I did, and it gave the chicken a ... well... a light green hue. It was still quite tasty, and very filling, but it was ... green. So if your family might accuse you of serving very old chicken, go with the yellow, LOL!

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Garden report: harvesting

    Slowly, but surely, I'm harvesting veggies.

    After a lull, the bush beans are producing again. And I no longer have to wonder about my Kentucky Wonder pole beans -- they're flowering. (yes, pun intended!)

    My bell peppers aren't overly prolific, but the banana peppers and the cayenne peppers are doing nicely. My red peppers are coming along, though I suspect I have more flowers than actual fruit.

    My tomatoes are ripening ... the yield's a bit off, not sure if the weather is to blame, or I need to shore up the soil a bit more.

    I've planted some turnip greens to replace my lettuce, and need to replant cilantro
    I need to dry more oregano and basil (or make pesto)

    The bust: My Black Russian tomato just didn't take. I'll likely pull it and plant more beans (which will help the soil.)

    And a note to my eggplant: The first fruit you produced was mighty tasty. Now, can I have another?

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Thinking out of the 'box'

    We're talking kitty litter today ... (so if you're a bit squeamish ... I understand. We'll see you in a day or two.)


    I knew when our cat population went to 3 that we'd have to add another litter box. But hey, the el-cheapo clay litter always worked well for my other cats. Scoop often, wash the boxes every couple of weeks and all was well.

    Well, things change. With two active young'uns and with senior's box in a more trafficked area, it became apparent that cheapo clay wasn't going to cut it. Too messy ... too .. er smelly.

    So began the Great Kitty Litter Hunt. First up: baking soda in regular litter. It helped, but not enough. (BTW, I don't buy artificially scented litter .. don't think it's good for the cats or my allergies ... but that's just me. Your mileage may vary.)

    Next, a less-expensive brand of scoop litter. Again, it helped, but not enough, and it kept migrating outside the box ... even worse than the non-scoopable stuff.

    Recycled paper pellets? I've tried that before, and odor control is a problem.

    Wheat? Too dusty, I read.

    Corn? Way expensive, probably because the demand for corn is high.

    So that leaves ... pine. I bought a bag of store-brand pellets and gave it a try.

    So far, so good. It doesn't track as much as the sandy stuff. Odor control is pretty good. After some "What is this stuff?" looks ... everyone seems to have adjusted.

    Truthfully, I hate having to pay 3 times as much for litter ... but if it works ...


    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    It's that time AGAIN?

    I was out shopping today, and guess what I saw?

    Halloween decorations.

    Thanksgiving decorations. (Or maybe they were fall decorations ... but there were definitely turkeys ...)

    You know what's coming next, don't you?

    Anyone want to lay a bet on whether the stores start playing Christmas carols before or after Labor Day?

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Things are cooking

    I've been cooking here at the casa de chaos this week.

    It all started with a rotisserie chicken (on sale and with a store coupon .. ca-ching!)

    Got 2 dinners and 2 lunches out of it.

    Then I took a cup of meat and used it for a curried lentil and chicken dish. (It's not the prettiest dish I ever made, but it's tasty.)

    The lentil dish made for 2 dinners, and some left over for work lunches.

    Then I "picked" the rest of the meat and put it in the freezer for stir fry, or a fast dinner.

    Next up, sausage & bean soup. Can't be quite as stretchy: Just two dinners and 2 work lunches.

    In between, I blanched 10 ears of corn for the freezer.

    Now I just have to figure out what to have today ....

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    More shrinkage

    I wanted to buy some flashlight batteries at the dollar store ... only to discover that instead of 4 D batteries in a pack, there now are 3!

    Seems kind of awkward ...

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Things that make you go hmmm ....

    I've noticed something interesting about the sales at my local supermarkets. Seems like everyone is advertising "quantities"
    Buy 10 items from this list and get $XX off your order.
    Buy $30 worth of these products and get $X off your order.

    I'm not sure if this is a reaction to extreme couponing (since most of my area stores now limit how many coupons they'll double, etc.), or if it's an attempt to keep folks (like me) from "cherry picking" the sale items, or if it's just a way to entice us to spend more $$ at their store.

    To be honest, I find it a bit annoying. I don't feel like spending extra $$ just so I can get an extra 50 cents or so off the items I do want.

    Maybe it's just a marketing fad ?

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    July freebies

    Not a huge month in quantity, but got some nice things:

    Chi-Chi's salsa (FAC)
    Chex mix (FAC)
    Kashi TLC pita crisps
    Aveeno shampoo and conditioner
    1 Glad trash bag
    1 cup coffee (Hardee's)
    Fiber Choice weight management
    Jif to go
    Wrigley's 5 gum

    Sunday, July 31, 2011

    Clothesline 'rules'

    A friend passed this one along ... if you grew up with (or still use) them, you'll get a kick out of this:

    THE BASIC RULES FOR CLOTHESLINES:

    1. You had to wash the clothesline before hanging any clothes - walk the entire lengths of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.

    2. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang "whites" with "whites," and hang them first.

    3. You never hung a shirt by the shoulders - always by the tail. What would the neighbors think?


    4. Wash day on a Monday! Never hang clothes on the weekend or Sunday for Heaven's sake!

    5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your "unmentionables" in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y'know!).

    6. It didn't matter if it was sub-zero weather ... clothes would "freeze-dry".

    7. Always gather the clothespins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left on the lines were "tacky!"

    8. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothespins, but shared one of the clothespins with the next washed item.

    9. Clothes off the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.

    10. IRONED?! On Tuesday . . . Well, that's a whole other subject!

    Fortunately, we lived in a flat with a basement ... and a coal furnace, so no "freeze-dry" clothes for us.
    What is this "ironing"? LOL!

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    Saving more at the $ store

    Saw this story on the internets, and it does have some good points on buying dollar-store items rather than the name-brand stuff. But I think he could get that bill down a bit more. (Sentences in italic are from the story.)


    Fabric softener sheets - Brand-name dryer sheets can often be used more than once, which is not the case with the dollar-store brand.
    Cut them in half ... you still get twice the mileage. I've found a half sheet will take care of a full load. Even better -- combine a coupon and sale to get the name-brand sheets for less than $1. Then cut them in half and use them twice. You'll save even more.

    Toilet cleaning bleach tablets - Who doesn't love these?
    Er, I don't. Better idea -- take a splash of that bleach or the dishwashing detergent from the dollar store to clean your toilets.

    Zipper sandwich bags - And because the bag is going to be thrown out after one use ...
    This suggestion tends to make some folks go ballistic, but it is possible to wash bags. Even if they get one extra use, it's still one less box to buy ... and less landfill fodder. Another option: Try reusable containers. (Full disclosure here. I use a combination of bags and reusable containers for lunches. We do wash bags.)

    Bleach spray cleaner - These counter cleaners are kitchen and bathroom must-haves ...
    Buy a spray bottle at the dollar store. Pour maybe a quarter cup of the bleach in, and fill with water. Or make up a vinegar solution with the same proportions. Voila! Instant cleaner.

    Anyway, the full story is here:
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/First-Person-Our-7-Favorite-ac-4043021979.html?x=0

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Revved up









    Had a bit of frugal fun over the weekend ... braved the heat to attend a classic car show, a fundraiser for a local charity.




    The problem with seeing classic cars these days, is that I'm old enough to remember when a lot of them were new!




    Not the one on the right, though, LOL!









    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Menu Monday: Mulberry muffins

    Found this on Allrecipes.com a few years ago, and it's been my go-to recipe for using up mulberries.

    Mulberry muffins

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1 pinch salt
    1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
    1/4 cup skim milk
    2 tablespoons applesauce
    1 egg
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    1/2 cup mulberries

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix sour cream, milk, applesauce, egg and almond extract. Stir in flour mixture until batter is smooth. Fold in mulberries. Spoon batter into greased or paper-lined muffin cups.
    Bake 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    The recipe says it makes 6 jumbo muffins ... I usually get at least a dozen smaller ones.

    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Napkins anyone?



    One of my projects this summer has been to sew up some lunchbox napkins.

    We've used cloth napkins at home for a couple of years, but we were still using paper napkins for lunches. It finally got through my head that we're not only throwing things into the landfills, we're spending $$ (well, a small amount of $$) that could be used elsewhere.

    So, with a lot of measuring and a bit of sewing, I re-purposed some soft cotton fabric scraps. The napkins are a bit smaller than the average dinner size -- they're 12 1/2 to 12 1/4 -inch squares, but they do the job.

    Knew I had a hit when DH asked me if he could have one of those classy napkins for his lunch ;)

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    I'm not sure what to make of this

    Was in the grocery the other day and turned into an aisle where an older woman and a young lass of about 8 or 9 were looking at the paper towels.

    When the woman picked up a package, the little girl exclaimed: "No! You can't get that one. It's not on TV."

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Well, that didn't work

    Ever see the infomercial about the product you allegedly can spray on hoses, pipes and the like to stop leaks?

    I was thinking about that the other day when my hose sprung a leak. And while I was in the garage, I happened to notice a can of pruning sealer.

    Hmm. Looked like kind of the same stuff. And the can said it could be used to waterproof flower pots.

    Why not? So I sprayed the area of the leak, and let it sit for a couple of days.

    Turned the hose on ... and the water shot right out of the crack in the hose.

    So much for that ...

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Garden report: We've got beans!



    Been doing a bit of harvesting here at the casa de chaos. My bush and wax beans are starting to produced. Picked about a quart so far; looks like we'll be getting plenty.

    I'm a bit puzzled about the pole beans. They're climbing nicely, but no flowers, or no signs of flowers. I know they come in later, but I figured I'd see something by now.

    Picked 1 bell pepper and two banana peppers. Hoping I'll see more than 1 fruit from each of my bells ... otherwise, those will be expensive. My cayenne seems to like the front garden just fine.

    Thinned out my cilantro, basil and oregano. Still have some salad greens, even in this heat.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Anybody know how to patch a screen?

    Is there some sort of not-obvious way to repair a window screen?

    Seems Big Boy loves to swat at bugs .. and his claws have done a number on the screen. Don't want to replace it until he calms down a bit...

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    June freebies

    Some very nice freebies here ...

    Breakstone double cottage cheese
    2 Garnier shampoo & conditioner
    5-ct Zyrtec
    1 bag Iams cat food
    Oscar Meyer deli combo
    Fiber choice
    Miralax
    1 Alpo
    Stride gum
    Wellness dog/cat food
    Oscar Meyer sandwich combo

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    Happy July 4th



    It's Independence Day here in the U.S. Wishing everyone a safe ... and frugal ... holiday!

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    The Durham wheat blues

    From Bloomberg:

    Unrelenting rainfall may have slashed U.S. planting of durum wheat to the lowest level in more than 50 years, fueling a surge in the price of pasta and noodles as mills scramble for supply of the grain.

    Wondered how long it would be before we started hearing about more price hikes related to this year's disasters.

    Might be time to pick up some extra pasta (and I'd suggest an extra bag of all-purpose and bread flour too, if you use them). Either that, or try the low-carb diet, which might be tough considering current meat prices.

    The full story:

    www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-24/pasta-price-may-surge-as-swamped-north-dakota-cuts-durum-supply.html

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    Some things are worth it

    High school reunion

    $40 for fees

    $35 for a tank of gas to get there and back

    Connecting with old friends: Priceless

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Menu Monday: Ginger-Curry Chicken

    My fiddle on a recipe I found:

    1 tablespoon chopped ginger root
    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    3-4 tablespoons water
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

    In a small bowl, stir together ginger, lemon juice,
    curry powder, garlic, salt, cinnamon, water and
    cayenne.

    Place chicken in a baking dish (one with cover if
    possible). Pour ginger-curry mixture over chicken
    (add a bit more water if you want more sauce)
    Cover and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until
    chicken is done.

    Serve with rice, couscous or lentils.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Garden report





    Things are moving right along. I'm about to harvest my first banana pepper!



    Also, the bell peppers have teeny-tiny fruits, as does one of the Roma tomato plants. Lots of flowering going on, and the pole beans are slowly climbing up the trellis! My basil and mint are doing well, and the cooler weather is allowing the salad greens to hang on.



    I have had some setbacks. A good number of Lima beans did not sprout. I'll replace with more bush beans.



    My Black Russian tomato plant is looking sickly, so not sure if it will survive.



    My oregano and cilantro seeds didn't sprout, or barely sprouted, so I bought plants to replace them. (I do intend to get my $$ out of them -- I've already harvested some for various dishes)



    In the meantime ... I'm still picking mulberries!

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Well, something's changed

    There's an grocer and a superstore here that have been notorious for being extremely unfriendly to Internet coupon users. After several bad experiences, I've taken most of my business to the superstore that is very coupon-friendly.

    Anyway, in the past month, I decided to try an Internet coupon or two at the two stores. (And was prepared to not buy the item if there was a problem.) You know what, they took them. No "We don't take those," no staring at the coupon suspiciously and examining it from end to end, no attitude. Just a simple swipe over the bar code scanner.

    Wow.

    (Not that I'm planning to take all my shopping to those two stores ... I still have price issues with them.)

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Today's tip

    Went in to take a shower today and noticed that my plastic shower curtain was hanging at an unnatural angle.

    Turns out that two of the holes had been torn from the hooks. (And gee, why do I think a couple of furbabies were responsible for this? Hmm.)

    Anyway, I quickly needed a temporary hook (or 2) ... I spied a couple of clothespin hangars (hook on top, clothespin on the bottom, used for drying hand-washed stuff). I pinned two of them to the curtain, and voila! Instant curtain hooks.

    Course, now I have to figure out how to repair the curtain ...

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Silver-plated lining

    As part of my decluttering efforts, I finally took a good look at the silverware drawer. Besides the stainless that DH and I have collected over the years, there sat a jumble of very tarnished flatware that I'd inherited from my late mother and aunts.

    The flatware is nice enough, but outside of a couple of pieces, I never use it. Frankly, it's a pain to keep clean. (Don't think it's dishwasher safe.)

    So, what to do? Maybe this is worth something, I decided. So a bit of research later, I discovered a couple of things:

    1) It's silver plate, not sterling. Seems Wm. Rogers flatware was very popular in the first half of the 20th century.

    2) So far, it's not worth much. Apparently there's not enough silver to make it worth selling to a metals dealer. As for collectors ... there are lots of unsold listings on eBay and other sites. There is a large company that sells/buys flatware patterns, but it only seems to be buying odd pieces, like serving forks.

    So I'm still sorting .. and learning ... Ultimately, it may just land in a box. Unless I can come up with some killer craft item using flatware!

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Time to cut the cord?

    Warning: Rant!

    The phone company is now on my "you know what" list.

    In the past two months, the combined DSL/landline bill at the casa de chaos has jumped by $8.50. Oddly enough, the actual increase is only $5, but higher prices mean higher taxes.

    Wondering if this is the start of ever-escalating price hikes ... as more folks dump the landlines, those of us who are left are going to have to pick up more of the costs of maintaining them.

    Admittedly, we're sort of stuck with the Internet option. Dial-up's too slow for our needs, so it's either DSL or cable (unless we want to steal the neighbors' wireless ... No, not really). And I dumped cable because of lousy TV service ... not sure I want to entrust my Internet to them.

    But I'm really considering dumping the landline and replacing it with a pay-as-you-go cell phone for the house, and just buying the DSL. Lots of pros and cons to be considered ... but it's sure something to think about.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Well, it seemed like a good idea

    Ever do something that you thought would save money, but turned out to be a mistake?

    Last year, we decided to get a subscription (with one of the national card companies) for e-mail greeting cards. We figured we'd get our money's worth in postage and time saved.

    Eh! Turns out most of the folks we sent cards to never opened them. They were afraid that it was some sort of spam or virus carrier. Or it got sent to their spam file and they never saw it.

    As for the younger members of the family, seems they don't pay attention to anything that's not on Facebook, or Twitter or texted to their phones. (and frankly, said company has very poor instructions for sending cards to FB ... never could get one to go there.)

    The subscription is up for renewal ... I think we're gonna pass.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Redecorating

    I decided to try a new look ....

    You like?

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Menu Monday: Mulberry bread

    It's mulberry season here at the Casa de Chaos again! Which means I'm on a mission to get the last of last year's berries out of the freezer.

    One of our favorites around here is ..

    Mulberry Bread

    1 cup mulberries (cranberries also work)
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    2 Tablespoons margarine, melted
    1 egg, beaten
    2 cups flour
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 orange
    1 Tablespoon chopped nuts

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Sift dry ingedients together
    Grate rind from orange, squeeze out juice. Add water to juice to make 3/4 cup of liquid.
    Add rind, liquid, margarine and egg to dry ingredients; mix
    Fold in mulberries and nuts
    Pour into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan
    Bake at 350 for 1 hour

    Notes: Don't worry too much if you don't have fresh oranges. I've used 3/4 cup of frozen or bottled orange juice or even orange drink. Then toss in a tablespoon of dried orange peel.
    As for nuts ... walnuts or pecans work equally well.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    May freebies

    A very quiet month

    Taster's Choice coffees
    Breakstone cottage cheese
    Uncle Ben's Ready Rice
    Dove men's deodorant

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Not going "buy" the book

    Something's obviously wrong with me ... I went into a used bookstore that was having a 20% off sale ... I had $$ to spend....

    And I bought ... nothing.

    I don't know ... maybe it was because I didn't find anything on my list. Maybe it's that pile of books on my cabinet that I've barely been able to touch. (I joke that I'm saving up my reading for retirement, LOL!) Maybe it's that I've been in decluttering mode lately ....

    Maybe I should go take my temperature.

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Garden report: Good to go!


    The garden is in!

    This year's lineup:

    Tomatoes (3 varieties)
    Peppers ( 3 varieties)
    Beans (5 varieties)

    Everything has gotten, er, plenty of water with our torrential rains this past week. But my reward: The beans are sprouting. I also see tiny peppers on a couple of plants, but not sure that they'll survive.

    Hopefully, the wacko weather (50s one day, 90s the next) won't mess things up too badly.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Free doughnuts


    June 3rd is National Doughnut day!

    Interesting holiday .. it was founded in 1938 in part to honor the Salvation Army volunteers who handed out doughnuts to the "Doughboys" of WWI.

    Anyway, to celebrate:

    Krispy Kreme is giving away a free doughnut of any variety.

    Dunkin' Donuts is giving away a doughnut, provided you buy a beverage. (Personally, I hope it can be something other than coffee ....)

    If Tim Horton's participates this year, I'll update ...

    Also, check with your local shop ... they may be giving away goodies, too.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    The wrap-up



    Attended a graduation party over the weekend, given by friends for their eldest son. (A great young man ... we're delighted for him.)

    Anyway, we decided to give him a gift card (maybe he can buy a couple of pages of a college textbook). I could have bought a card, or made a card to tuck the gift into, but wanted to do something a little more interesting.

    I found this scrapbook paper at http://hubpages.com/ and decided to make an envelope. I took apart an envelope to use as a template, then printed out the pattern on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. Almost a perfect fit!

    For the enclosure card, I printed out a gift tag from http://www.freeprintablegifttags.net/. Actually I cut off the "To" and "From" portion, but there was still enough room to write a short message and sign it.

    Used a mortarboard sticker from my stash to seal the flap and put a small silver bow on it. Presto! One dressy envelope.

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    New additions to the family

    I've been AWOL this week, getting ready for a happy event:

    We have new furbabies!!!

    We adopted two kittens this weekend; a brother and sister, about 7 months old.

    They were on sale, too. (Well, more like B1G1F. The shelter wanted them adopted together, so we got them both for the single adoption fee.) We did think long and hard about adding a 3rd cat to the house, and decided that we could swing it (though I will be paying lots more attention to cat food and litter coupons and sales)

    Of course, they are funny and adorable. They spent their first afternoon here looking out the window and chattering at everything that flew by.

    So I've been putting away all the shiny things and such, trying to kitty-proof the house ... something I haven't had to do in oh, more than a decade. Good excuse to house-clean, though.

    They haven't met Big Sis yet. (I can't really call her Younger Cat any more ...) Right now she knows something's going on, but doesn't seem overly bothered.

    So the new adventure begins!

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Cereal deal

    If you're a member of Vocalpoint, and you recently received the sample of Kellogg's Mini-Wheat Touch of Fruit, here's how to score 2 free boxes of cereal:

    Use the B1G1F coupon that came with the sample and get, well, 1 box free.

    When you buy, look for the specially marked "Try Me Free" package and send in the rebate form (along with UPC and cash register tape) to get the 2nd box for free. (Or at least for the cost of postage.)

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Garden notes



    A few odds and ends from this year's garden extravaganza:

    Did a bit of repurposing to create a trellis for my pole beans this year. I had the metal poles from one of those over-the-toilet bathroom storage units. (The shelves have been gone for years.) Pounded those into the garden and laced some leftover fencing to them. Presto! One trellis!


    I'm trying to put more edible landscaping into the yard, so as an experiment, I slipped a cayenne pepper plant between the flowers in the front garden. Hopefully, the neighborhood bunnies won't munch on it. Of course, if they much on the peppers, they'll be ruining at NASCAR qualification speeds!

    Speaking of plants, the basil and the cilantro are sprouting. Nothing yet from the parsley. The lettuce is ready to thin out, so we'll be having fresh-grown salad!

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Stamp Out Hunger Day


    This Saturday is the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers (and other fine folks).

    Donating is easy: just bag a non-perishable food item (no glass or expired food, please), and leave it at your mailbox. In some areas, your letter carrier may have left you a bag ... if not, I'm sure they won't mind if you use one of your own plastic bags.

    Please help if you can: Things are still tough for many people, and food banks are feeling the strain.


    For more info, go to www.helpstampouthunger.com/ (And pass this on!)

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    Monday Menu: I'm jammin'

    Even though my jelly-making abilities are rather suspect, I decided to use up some fruit by making jam.

    So I rooted around the internets and came up with this recipe, which I proceeded to fiddle with:

    3 cups fruit
    1 cup water
    1 cup sugar

    Combine the fruit and water in a saucepan and boil over moderate heat for 15 minutes until the fruit is softened. Process in a blender or food processor until smooth. (I use one of those submersible blenders .. the kind that looks like a boat motor. That way I can process it right in the pan)

    Return to the saucepan and add the sugar. Boil 30 to 40 minutes until thick and the proper consistency for a jam. Pour into a sterilized jar.

    I just pop this into the fridge after it cools. The process turns 3 cups of fruit into about 1 cup of jam.

    I tried it with mango and pineapple, and it came out really well. The original recipe called for 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla. Frankly, I don't think it added anything and just darkened up the jam, so I won't do that again.

    Then I tried it on my jelly nemesis: mulberries. With this, I threw in 6 drops of raspberry extract along with the sugar. The jam is rather ... er .. seedy, but I think it will turn out just fine.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Don't spend it all in one place...

    My laugh for the day ...

    I got this message about an account:

    You just received a dividend from xxxx. The money is now available in your account. Use it to shop online, or keep it in your balance to earn more dividends.

    Amount: $0.01


    Yep, I can go buy that yacht now, LOL!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    April freebies

    Not a bad month at all ...

    Propel water
    Breathe-right strips
    Sundrop soda
    Dove men's care deodorant
    Dove men's care body wash
    EmergenC blue
    Stevia cane sweetener
    Glad trash bag
    Valspar paint sample
    1 Pepsi Max
    2 Starbucks coffees
    1 grapefruit
    Jell-O Temptations
    International Delight coffee creamer

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Menu Monday: Cinnamon muffins

    Here's my fiddle of another recipe:

    2 cups all purpose flour

    1/2 cup sugar

    3 tablespoon baking powder

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    2 teaspoons cinnamon

    1 egg

    1 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)

    1/4 honey

    Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. in another bowl whisk the egg, sour cream and honey. Stir into the dry ingredients until everything is moistened.

    Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 400 for 15 to 18 minutes

    These came out very light and spongy, though that may be the fat-free sour cream's doing. You can also adjust the cinnamon to taste.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    And you could see this coming, right?

    From the Associated Press:

    Households reeling from gasoline near $4 also face bigger bills for everything from changing their babies' diapers to wiping their noses to treating themselves to ice cream.

    Major makers of everyday consumer products and groceries say they have to raise prices to offset soaring costs for their fuel and the materials and ingredients that go into their products.

    The list of companies saying this week that they are raising prices is long: Kimberly-Clark Corp. (Huggies diapers, Kleenex facial tissue); Procter & Gamble Co. (Pampers diapers, Gillette shavers); Unilever PLC (Dove soap, Ben & Jerry's ice cream); Colgate-Palmolive (toothpaste, soap); and PepsiCo Inc. (soft drinks, Frito-Lay snacks).

    Same song, second verse. What does it mean? More store brands, more coupons, more loss leaders ... and fewer trips to the grocery.

    To see the full story:

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ipPXLy3D7nv7Q1WusB08Zf7e7nQQ?docId=d5b5d2f36ccc49c0bf15516b24cde3ca

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Hey, it works for bald guys!

    My gardening efforts this week have taken a strange turn --- I've been doing grass transplants.

    Last year's drought and nasty winter did a number on our lawn -- lots of bare spots. Poor thing looks like one of those relief maps in a geography book. Overseeding hasn't helped a whit.

    Ironically, there are places where the grass is growing happily, like my front garden and my vegetable garden plot. (I'm seeing a definite trend here ....)
    So, while the ground is nice and wet from our incessant rains, I've been pulling up the chunks of grass in the gardens, and planting them in the worst-looking places in the front lawn.

    Will they grow? More importantly, will they spread? Darned if I know. On the other hand, those chunks would have ended up in the trash, so might as well put them to good use.

    Stay tuned.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    What's in your cupboard?



    Over on DS, we've been talking about "Extreme Couponing," then there's the pantry challenge thread.


    Both of them kind of inspired me to go take a peek in my pantry ... just to see if there's anything hiding in there that I'd forgotten about.


    Er, yeah ...


    1 box of grits ... oops ... I'd thought I was out, and put it on the grocery list.


    1/2 bottle of corn oil. Better check to see if it's still usable.


    1 box of corn muffin mix, expiration date in 2009. Not sure if it's good to use either, better check ...


    2 half-used bottles of red wine vinegar ... no problem .. I'll just combine them


    Not as bad as I thought, but it still means I should keep an eye on things.

    Sunday, April 24, 2011

    Happy Easter


    Wishing a lovely day to all who celebrate ....

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Frugal benefits

    I've been doing the weight-loss thing the past few months. (I admit it, it's doctor's orders.)

    So far, so good .. nearly 20 pounds off. (We won't talk about how much to go ...)

    And I've found a frugal benefit to weight loss -- my wardrobe is expanding! I recently raided the garage-sale pile and reclaimed 2 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of work pants, and a couple of belts. Woo hoo!

    I'm hoping to do another "shopping trip" again, soon!

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Because Earth Day goes better with caffeine




    If you're looking for some free java, grab your travel mug:


    Both Starbucks and Caribou coffee stores are offering a free cup o'Joe if you show up with a reusuable mug on Friday... (check the sites for any restrictions/regulations).


    And if you have both stores in your city, your coffee breaks should be extra enjoyable, LOL!

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    It never hurts to ask

    A few weeks ago, I'd mentioned that we were facing some large medical bills.

    After some consideration, we decided that one of the procedures wasn't billed correctly. We were thinking it should have been a screening procedure ... which would have been covered 100%

    So, we asked the insurance company to review it ... and they agreed!

    So our bill was cut substantially .... It's still a big gulp, total-wise, but it's better ... much better.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Monday Menu: Tuscan Chicken

    This is a recipe I converted from a microwaved version:
    4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    2 (15oz) cans white beans (Great Northern or cannellini) undrained

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1 tablespoon rosemary

    2 teaspoons garlic powder

    1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    1 tablespoon lemon juice

    8 oz fresh spinach (or turnip greens or kale)

    Saute chicken in olive oil until cooked; remove from pan.


    Add the beans (with liquid), lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, red pepper flakes and salt to pan. (If sauce seems a bit thick, add 1/4 cup of water) Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to simmer.


    Return chicken to pan. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little water to the mixture.


    After 30 minutes, add spinach to the pan and mix into the beans. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.


    Serve with grated parmesan cheese if desired.

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Seemed like a good idea at the time


    My Esty listings expired last week, so for now, I'm out of the handicrafts business. Not that I had much of a business to begin with.

    Hey, I thought there would be a market for porch goose clothes .. shows you what I know.


    And part of it was my own fault; I could have done a better job of promoting it. I wasn't willing to spend the $$ to "feature" it on the site, but I'm sure there were other methods.


    But it's all good. This was a low-budget operation, so I'm not out much.


    And there's an upside: Goosie has a new wardrobe! .


    I have an idea about other things to sell, so the shop will be back up at some point ...

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Egg-actly

    Just a note: In a number of areas, eggs are -- or will be on sale -- in anticipation of Easter.

    If you were able to get the 55-cents off 2 dozen coupon that recently ran on SmartSource, you can pick up a couple of dozen for an even better bargain.

    I was able to snag them at 72 cents a dozen ...

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    So what do we do with it?


    We've been updating cookware here at the casa de chaos.
    Kind of fun to see those nice, shiny new pots and pans...

    But we've got a problem: We can't seem to part with the old stuff.

    A few things had to be taken out of circulation -- the big fryer with the peeling non-stick coating, the enameled pots that chipped, and starting to rust.

    So what to do?

    Well, the fryer, minus handles, became an oil pan for when DH changes oil in the mower.

    The large enameled pot (which actually belonged to my grandmother) will make a cool flower pot.

    Everything else goes into ... er ... storage.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Garden report: lettuce begin


    Finally, something to report: The lettuce is going in!


    I've been slowly planting my containers with lettuce and other salad greens. My garden soil still (after all these years) has too much clay to grow greens, so I put them in containers and use them as "microgreens."


    This year's crop: lettuce, arugula and 2 "blends."


    In addition, I have a bonus: volunteer lettuce. Had a plant last year that I allowed to go to seed, and it apparently dropped seeds all over my front garden.


    I'm not planting anything there for the moment, so I'll let it go and see how much of a crop I get.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Whoever you are, thanks!


    Lucked into a bit of good fortune during my weekly shopping trip ... once again due to someone who left their coupons behind.


    I noticed a pile of catalinas (along with a pile of receipts ... that I really don't understand) sitting next to the (what else!) catalina machine at the self checkout. As I looked through them, I found a $3 coupon off any order of $40 or more.


    Hey, that's me!


    A couple of others I couldn't use ... then ... $1 off any meat or seafood purchase of $7 or more.


    Ca-ching, says the woman with the $10 package of chicken breasts in her cart.


    So, combined with the $9 in coupons I already had, I knocked $13 off my order. I'm still off budget for the week, but at least I'm $4 closer!

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Monday menu: Paprika potatoes

    Here's a quick side dish:

    1/2 lb potatoes, cut into chunks

    3 tablespoons melted butter

    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

    1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

    1/4 teaspoon paprika

    1/4 teaspoon black pepper

    Place potatoes in saucepan, cover with water and boil until soft. Drain. In small bowl, combine butter, garlic powder, salt, paprika and pepper. Pour over potatoes, stir (gently, please) until coated.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    March freebies

    A good month, helped along by some FAC deals:

    1 Excedrin Migraine


    1 Excedrin


    1 Dawn


    (FAC) 2 Country Crocks (FAC)


    1 Duncan Hines brownie mix (FAC)


    Miracle Whip Purina BeyOnd cat food


    Purina BeyOnd dog food


    Philadelphia cooking creme


    1 McD's oatmeal


    1 Reach toothbrush (FAC)


    1 Reach floss (FAC)


    Cosmetic bag from Target (with 2 shampoos, 1 conditioner, 1 lip balm, 1 lip gloss)


    John Freida shampoo/conditioner

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    How to stretch a chicken

    I'm a big fan of the rotisserie chickens sold at the 2 big warehouse clubs. For $4.99, I get a large, juicy, cooked chicken for about the same price it would cost me to buy a raw one and cook it myself.

    (Do note that I mean warehouse-club chickens ... other folks tend to sell pigeon-size birds that cost a lot more.)

    Even though I bow to convenience, I believe in getting as much mileage out of that chicken as possible. Here's what I did with a recent purchase:

    Meal 1 - A few slices of breast meat made sandwiches served with soup.

    Meal 2 - Warmed half of the chicken for dinner.

    Meal 3 - Warmed the other half of the chicken for dinner. (I didn't add anything, but you could use a bit of BBQ sauce so switch things up.)

    Meal 4 - Took the bits of meat off the carcass and made chicken and dumplings.

    The carcass went into the freezer -- we'll use that to make stock. Admittedly, your mileage may vary: I'm only feeding 2 folks. (I have friends who need 2 chickens just to feed their crowds ... never mind leftovers.)

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    A 'Twilight Zone' moment

    I had a rebate check from my credit card that's partnered with Costco, so decided to get some groceries and stock on some household things.

    At the checkout, the clerk said: "That will be $30.27." I looked at the rebate check and saw it was -- $30.27!!!

    The clerk was amazed ... said she'd never had anyone come out even before.

    She and the lady behind me in line said agreed that I should go buy a lottery ticket -- that this was a good omen.

    So, for the heck of it, I did buy a lottery ticket. And I lost. Didn't hit a single number.

    So much for omens ...

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    That Easter ham is going to cost more

    In case you haven't noticed at the grocery, (yeah ... right ...) it's official: meat prices are jumping.

    From Bloomberg News:

    Meat prices are rising in the U.S. at a faster annual rate than forecast a month ago, as increased demand for pork and beef exports erode inventories and high feed costs discourage livestock producers from expanding herds.

    The retail cost of meats will increase 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year, including a gain of as much a 7 percent for pork, the most of any major food group, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said today in a report. Beef prices will rise as much as 5.5 percent, or 1 percentage point more than the government forecast on Feb. 24.


    The story blames higher exports and farmers' reluctance to expand production because of higher corn prices.



    I've noticed that pork sale prices here have gone up by about 20 cents a pound; chicken's gone up, too. And I fear it may go higher as demand increases.



    What to do? I've already cut back: beef is pretty much a fond memory here at the casa de chaos. If I do buy, it's a small piece on markdown that is cooked in something stretchy -- like stir fry.

    So, I'm shopping the markdown bin even harder; taking another look at fish; stocking up when I find a good sale; and looking for new places to shop. (Our local international stores occasionally have good meat prices).



    We're also doing more meatless meals -- more vegetable soups, more pastas, more pancakes, more eggs. We'll adjust, as usual ...



    The story can be found here:

    http://www.blogger.com/www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-25/meat-inflation-accelerates-as-demand-grows-for-u-s-beef-pork.html

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Pet food deals


    If you have a pet, here's a couple of meal deals for them.
    • The SS 3/13 inserts had a coupon for up to $3 off on a box of Purina One BeyOnd cat food. This sells for around $2.50 in my area, making it free. (If you don't have a cat, please consider donating the food to an animal shelter or pet food pantry.)

    • Iams is running a deal where if you purchase any size dog or cat food, you mail in a rebate form for a free bag (up to 4 lbs) of food. Check for the tearpad at the stores. If they don't have one, go to http://www.iams.com/.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Disconnected?

    I gulped at the headlines announcing that T-Mobile and AT&T struck a deal ...

    I've been a very happy T-Mobile pay-as-you-go cell phone customer for a few years now. Good value, good coverage for my needs. ...

    We'll see what AT&T has to offer ... meanwhile, I think it's time to research pay-as-you-go plans again.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Menu Monday: Minnestrone

    I was asked if I could post some recipes, so I'll try to make it an occasional Monday thing.

    Here's a quick and easy minestrone:

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 medium onion, chopped
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    1/2 lb (or 1 bunch) of greens coarsely chopped -- kale, spinach, collard greens or turnip greens.
    1/4 teaspoon thyme
    1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1 can white beans (I use great northern)
    1 can diced tomatoes in juice
    salt and pepper to taste
    4 cups water

    In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat oil. Add onion and garlic with salt and pepper and cook until onion begins to soften.
    Add tomato paste and stir until onion is coated.
    Add greens, thyme and red pepper flakes, cook, stirring until greens begin to wilt.
    Add beans and tomatoes, including liquid from cans, and the water.
    Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until greens are tender.
    Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grated Parmesan if desired.

    I tend to throw in a bit more garlic and red pepper flakes while it's simmering because we like the soup to be on the spicy side...
    If you don't want a lot of greens, feel free to use a half, or even a quarter of a bunch.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Happy quilting


    As a wannabe quilter, I want to wish everyone a happy National Quilting Day!


    In honor of the day, the National Quilting Association offers a free quilt project -- this year it's a Log Cabin pattern.



    I'll also pass along my favorite site for free quilt-block patterns: (including the one pictured here).

    http://www.jinnybeyer.com/ (look for the Quilter's Design Board)


    Happy quilting!

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    No coupons for you

    Dear Red Plum:

    I've finally gotten used to getting my weekly coupon insert in the mail with the grocery ads.

    But last week, the thing I always suspected would happen, did happen: I got the inserts, but no coupons.

    I called your customer service line (mainly because your e-mail isn't all that user-friendly) and was told that I'd have to take it up with the Postal Service.

    OK, I realize you can't send coupon inserts to everyone who asks, but the "it's your problem" attitude bothers me. You have more to lose than I do.

    So ... I've decided that if your coupons arrive in this week's inserts, OK. If not .. hey, I can always use your competitors'.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Ditched the dish

    Well, I did it ... cancelled our satellite TV. So in a day or two, we'll be without paid TV service for the first time in ... er, decades.

    Actually, they didn't fight too hard to keep me. Offered $10 off a month for a year, then offered the basic package, which didn't have any of the channels we usually watch.

    I think we'll be fine. We'll still get local channels through the antenna (including several local weather channels). Many shows we watch are online, and we have a stockpile of the shows that aren't.

    So, I'm looking forward to saving some $$$ ... let the adventure begin.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Spring forward


    Just a reminder .. Daylight Saving Time starts at 2 a.m. Now we all get to lose an hour's sleep!

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Free CPR class

    I want to pass this on: The Red Cross is offering free 1 -hour CPR classes in 100 communities across the nation on Saturday, March 19.

    Check this link to see if the class is offered in your town:
    http://www.redcross.org/savealife

    Unfortunately, it's not in my city, but perhaps it's in yours

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    February freebies

    Short month, and a short list:

    Beneful dog food
    Vitamin D chewables
    Greek yogurt
    Highlites puzzle/stickers
    Covergirl foundation
    1 Yoplait yogurt
    Maggi chicken soup mix
    1 Zone Perfect bar
    1 20oz Coke
    Eon 'Sharp' water

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Tuna deal

    For those of you who live in the Midwest, there's a good Starkist Tuna coupon deal over at Meijer.

    At my store, the 2.6 oz pouches of Chunk Light sell for $1.17. Grab the printable coupon over at Red Plum for 75 cents off 2 pouches and pair it with the Meijer Mealbox coupon for $1 off 2 pouches.

    Total cost for 2 pouches: 59 cents!