Sunday, December 30, 2012

Makes you go ... hmmm ...

 Went to the meat counter at one of the supermarkets here to take advantage of some sales ... and noticed that almost every package of meat had the orange "manager's special" sticker.

Yikes!  Everything's on markdown?

Nope ... a closer look showed that most of the meat was selling at its regular price ...   in fact, one item I'd come in to buy had to be remarked, because it wasn't showing the sale price.

New marketing ploy? Or did someone just get carried away with the stickers?   ;)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Merry Christmas to all!

  May this holiday find you in the company of those you love ...

 Have a wonderful (and frugal) day!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The incredible shrinking ....

First off, I'm still here, and since you're reading this, you obviously are, too.  We'll just assume the Maya ran out of stone when they made that calendar ...

Anyway ...

Looks like coffee packages are shrinking even more.  I was about to buy a certain name brand (with a coupon) when I realized that the "can" looked a bit smaller compared with the other brands on the shelf.

No wonder.  It was 30 ounces!  Let's see, that's down from 32 (or was it 31), which was down from 34 ...   The other national brand had 33-ounce regular cans, but their special blends were 27 ounces.

When I did the match, I realized that after coupon, I'd be paying the same amount for 30 ounces that I pay for 33 ounces of Aldi's coffee. 

Never mind ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Today's tip: Save those coupons

         If you get packs of coupons, or those monthly coupon books in the mail, do yourself a favor:  Take a couple of minutes to go through them, and save the ones from the service companies you use .... or might want to use.  

       I know we probably save at least $60 a year by using oil-change coupons from our usual garage.  And I saved $150 this year on my (grrr) recent car repair.  (The haircut coupons are nice, too.)

     Personally, I think the best coupons are the ones that say: "Free service call with repair."

       I don't know about your area, but around here, it seems like service folks charge nearly $100 just to walk in your door -- anything else is extra.  So getting that cost off the final bill can be a help ... and if you have a really bad year for repairs  ... it will help a lot.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bright idea: reusing a thermostat

    When the repairmen put in the new furnace, they also replaced the thermostat, leaving us the old one. 

    This particular thermostat, which we'd put in a couple of years ago, had a few bells and whistles ...  including a battery-operated thermometer.  

     So rather than throw it in the garage sale pile, I moved it upstairs.  (Where it it currently 71 degrees).  I may move it around, just to see how well the furnace is doing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When the repairman says ...

... "Ma'am, you need to come and look at this,"  You know you're in big trouble ...

    Yep, something else is broken here at the Casa de Chaos.  This time it's the furnace. 

   Started when the blower wouldn't come on ... I thought it was likely a relay switch, since the manual setting worked.

  The relay was blown, all right.  Unfortunately, the repair guy found something else: A cracked heat exchanger.  Definitely bad. Potentially fatal bad ... .

So in the space of a half hour ... we went from expensive repair to very expensive replacement.   (We did the AC, too ... I suspect it would have blown up just for spite next summer.)

I'm not really surprised; the furnace was old enough to vote, after all.  I would have liked to have gotten the dishwasher repaired first. On the other hand, dishwashers are optional; furnaces are not.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bread and butter

  The great pumpkin butter experiment was a success!

  The pie pumpkin we bought on markdown made 4 1/2 cups of puree, which translated to 2 1/2 pints of butter. 

   Next time, I may cut the spices down a bit.  I had to add the extra 1/2 cup of puree to soften the gingery taste.

  The butter is posing with a loaf of savory pumpkin bread I made, using the puree from our Halloween pumpkins.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Getting ready for Christmas

We've been decking the halls here at the Casa de Chaos. 

  I lobbied for a new tree this year to replace our tabletop tree.  We have a nice 7-footer, but I wasn't keen about chasing Big Boy out of it every hour or so ...

  Actually,I like this new tree .. it's prelit, which eliminates one of my big frustrations.  As for Big Boy .. he and Little Girl think it's just dandy.  They jump on the table and curl up under the tree. (I see a photo for next year's Christmas card, LOL!)

 But we got a not-so-merry surprise on the outdoor lights: 3 of the 5 sets didn't work.  Considered going to LED's, but we would have needed nearly twice the number of sets to cover the same area ... putting it out of the budget.

 In the end, we decided to replace one set of lights.  Skipped decorating one portion of the house, and used another style of lights (which we already had) on another. It looks pretty cheery!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

November freebies

A bit sparse this month, but always welcome:

2 beers

Bear Naked cereal

Maybelline makeup

1 small orange juice

3 bags of Twinings tea

Monday, December 3, 2012

Doing it the old-fashioned way

We're back to washing dishes by hand again at the Casa de Chaos. 

Seems our dishwasher ... our 2 1/2-year-old dishwasher ... is leaking.  (We've been  trying to replace all the original appliances, etc. Now we have to fix the replacements, too?  Grrr.)

Anyway, we  haven't been in a hurry to call a repair shop. (And yeah, it's off warranty.)  Been canvassing friends and co-workers, but not coming up with any names ...

Of course, the avid DIY'ers are saying, "hey, it's probably easy to fix .."  It probably is, but I'm not brave enough to start poking about in a nearly new appliance.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sometimes it works ...

Since the spice mixes turned out well, we here at the Casa de Chaos decided to try making flavored coffee creamer mixes.

The amaretto recipe smelled divine ... but in taste, it sort of lost all its almond flavor.

The pumpkin pie flavor ... just didn't translate.

Ah, well. It's nice to experiment.  Good thing it was just a couple of small batches, though....

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The pumpkin fights back

Cuz we just love to whack pumpkins here at the Casa de Chaos ...

 Ahem ... actually, my favorite supermarket had a markdown deal:   99 cents for a pie pumpkin. 

Couldn't resist, so took one home.  (You can never have too much pumpkin, right?)

This one however, was not going to be dispatched as easily as its larger brethren.   It took the services of a large knife and a rubber mallet ... thought we were going to have to use the power saw, LOL!

 But dispatched he was, and he yielded about 4.5 cups of puree ... enough to make a batch of pumpkin butter.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Don't get up Mom, we'll get breakfast

 So, what happens when ..

1) I forget to put the partial bag of cat food back on a high shelf in the basement.

2) The pantry door isn't quite closed.

 A couple of naughty kitties get into the pantry and help themselves to breakfast.  Or maybe it was a midnight snack.

They didn't eat all the food ... I put the last of it in other containers.   On the other hand, it was early evening before they were ready to eat again, LOL!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Have a happy holiday!

Wishing everyone a happy day with family and friends!  And may all your dinners be frugal ;)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In which I have become a hoarder ...

  Well, maybe not quite that bad...
 I am fond of a certain tea maker's brand of lemon herbal tea.  Been drinking it for years (it's very good iced with fresh mint.).  But lately, I haven't been able to find it at my markets.  And worse, I no longer see it on the company's website.

(Does this happen to you, too?  Do products you like just suddenly disappear?)

  Soo ....  last week, I was at a supermarket I don't shop at often.  They had one box of the tea on the shelf.  I bought it.

Over the weekend, I stopped at another location of the same chain.  This store had three boxes.  I bought them all.  And I must have been out of my frugal mind, because I paid full price for them.

Ah, well ... I have four boxes now. (Cue Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" whispering "precious ...") Hopefully, that will take care of my tea requirements ... until I find a replacement.

 Or hijack a tea truck ...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bye, Bye Mr. Pumpkin

  We've finished the annual whacking of the pumpkins here at the Casa de Chaos.

   Something new was added this year: We bought a small white pumpkin, which produced about 3.5 cups of puree.  I have to admit, cooked white pumpkin looks a lot like potatoes, or turnips ;)

    Not sure what I'll do with it yet .. I may try it in some pumpkin bread.

    The giant pumpkin from Aldi made 10 cups of roasted and 8 cups of puree.  I'm planning on using some of the puree to make some pumpkin butter.  Never done that before, but the apple butter came out so well, I got inspired.

In the meantime, I have lots of pumpkin seeds to toast!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why didn't I think of that?

    The nice things about Internet forums is that I still learn things ....

     Recently, one of my friends over on Stretcher said that when she cooked with apples, she boiled the peels and cores to make apple juice ... which she used for jelly.

     When I read this, I slapped my forehead and thought: Idjit!  How many cores and bunches of peels have you thrown out recently?

    But it's not too late, LOL!   The last couple of  times I've made applesauce, I've boiled the cores and peels (well, not the nasty, spotted parts ...) and made juice.

        Don't know if' I'll make apple jelly ... I was thinking about combining it with mulberry juice. Since apple has a fair amount of pectin, it might help the jelly set a little better. And given my track record for jelly making, I need all the help I can get.

       The juice has come in handy, however.  I needed a few tablespoons to make icing for cookies.  Used my newly made juice for it instead of buying a bottle.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Now how did I do that?

     Think I mentioned that I was sewing new curtains for the patio door.  

     Got them finished and up .. and actually, they look pretty good, though I haven't solved the problem of lining them, or putting up something else to cut the draft from the door.

     Unfortunately, I have a more immediate problem.  Despite all my measuring and planning, I discovered that the curtains are a good TWO INCHES short .... gaack!   There's obviously something I missed.

    Fortunately, it's easily fixed ... I just have to let out the hem.  And the old curtains washed up better than I expected, so they can go back in the window while I fix this.

     I'm still annoyed, though.  When I finish a project, I like it to stay finished.  Oh, well ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Please vote

     It's Election Day here in the U.S.

     And while I don't do politics here, I do want to ask everyone who is eligible to cast a ballot today.

    It's not just about the presidential race; there are candidates seeking to represent us in the Senate, the House, governors' offices, school boards, county and city councils ...

    So make a difference ... please vote.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Art for nothing

         At an art show recently, I came across a poster artist who, instead of giving out business cards, offered postcards featuring one of his works.

       I liked the card, so I took one with the idea of framing it for my desk at work.   (When it comes to decorating, I'm willing to stick anything in a frame.  I've done note cards, old stock certificates, my father's grade school diploma ...)

       But this postcard was a particular challenge.  It didn't fit a standard 3x5 or 4x6 acrylic frame .. .which I happened to have. Didn't want to cut it, and didn't want to buy a larger frame.

      Anyway, I was sorting through some junk, and came across an old nameplate from work.  (Seems like every time I've changed jobs ... or someone decides to redecorate or move my department to another part of the building ... I end up with another nameplate.)  Ahem ....   This particular nameplate (most recently used as a coaster) is two 6-inch acrylic squares that screw together.  So I took it apart, pulled out the name tag and slipped the postcard in.

     Actually, It's kind of nifty ... the squares really make the card stand out.
     And best of all, it didn't cost me anything!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tick tock, change your clock

I almost forgot ...

Just a reminder, that if you're on Daylight Saving Time, set your clock back one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday.

(And if you live in Arizona, disregard this message ....)

Friday, November 2, 2012

October freebies

Well, no, I'm not going to count the leftover tick-or-treat candy my co-workers brought in  ;)

Nescafe Mementos

Perky Jerky

Nectress sweetener

2 luggage tags

1 Powerade

2 beers

1 Purina dog food

Fructis shampoo/conditioner

1 coffee

1 pastry

1 donut

2 Doritos tacos (Thank you Angel Pagan for stealing that base during the World Series.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

  For those who celebrate, have a safe, fun and frugal day!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Drying options

Got one of these little numbers on my stock-up trip.  (Actually, the actual one is a bit more garish, LOL!)

  But it should nicely expand my drying capacity, especially when I hand wash things.

 Not sure where I could hang it for outside use.  Perhaps I could hang it on the porch and tell the neighbors it's a mobile!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lotsa tomatoes

  Been in stock-up mode here at the Casa de Chaos ... must be the change of seasons.

   Anyway, took the annual trip to my favorite salvage/bulk food stores to replenish the pantry ... which was getting bare spots in certain areas.

      I was definitely hoping for some good prices on canned tomatoes, since the garden wasn't going to come close to filling that gap this year.

      Found them ... in one of the two crazy deals on this trip.   A box of 18  cans of tomatoes (14.5oz) for $2.99!  The only catch ... no individual labels.   (So I'm going to be really annoyed if I have 18 cans of green beans, LOL!)

     Crazy deal No. 2 -- a 10 lb bag of  ziti for $3.90!  

    Guess what's for dinner?


Saturday, October 20, 2012

No sprouts

  Seems that another big grocery chain is no longer selling fresh sprouts because of contamination fears:

  I don't eat a lot of fresh sprouts ... unless I'm at a salad bar -- and now I'm wondering about that.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A seedy post

  No, no ... not gardens again ...  (and not anything else ... shame on you, LOL!)

  We're talking squash seeds here.  Roasted squash seeds, to be exact, which is one of my favorite fall snacks.

   I've found you can roast just about any kind of squash seed ... acorn, butternut ...  the thick Hubbard seeds may be the only exception. (I've practially burned them and they still don't get a crunch.)

   I like to soak the seeds in a sour-cream sized container of salt water (use at least a couple of tablespoons of salt) for at least 24 hours.  A couple of days is even better, just shake the container once in a while.

      Then, I drain the seeds (don't rinse) and spread them out on a cookie sheet.  Roast at about 250 degrees, stirring occasionally for about an hour, or until the seeds are crunchy.

     At my house, the seeds are the foundation for trail mix ... a good way to use up those tiny bits of raisins,  nuts and chocolate chips that might be hanging around the pantry.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


 I've been pushing a bit harder these days to use what we have on hand, rather than buy something new:

For a recipe that called for buttermilk, I used the old lemon juice in fresh milk trick. Worked well, and I saved the $4.49 cost of a can of buttermilk powder.

For another recipe that called for a pumpkin pie spice mix, I hit my favorite online recipe site and figured out how make my own, using spices already in my pantry. Saved $3+ by not buying a premixed tin.

         Found out that using leftover spinach instead of cabbage in a soup recipe worked just as well.

     I did strike out on substituting powdered milk for a recipe to avoid making a special trip to buy fresh milk. Oh, well, at least the milk was on markdown.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dinner for a rainy night

On my own for dinner tonight, so I combined:

2 cups of homemade chicken broth, left from another dish (plus another 1/2 cup water)

1 carrot, thinly sliced

1 stalk celery

A handful each of frozen chopped onions and peas

Salt, pepper and garlic powder

Let the mixture cook until the carrots were tender, then added 1/2 cup of leftover rice.

Soup! I had two  bowls, with some homemade bread. And there's still enough for one more small bowl.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Garden report: All done

    Shut the garden down over the weekend ... we had freeze warnings, though we just escaped with frost.  But at this point, there wasn't enough left to worry with in the main garden.

   So, maybe a dozen and a half green tomatoes (lost another 6 to bugs and critters), a half dozen peppers and a few green beans. 

   The tomatoes and peppers are sitting in a box ... they'll ripen soon enough.

    Pulled most of the basil for pesto ... will need to cut more parsley and mint to dry.

   I do have some lettuce in pots that's about ready to harvest, so we'll have homegrown greens a bit  longer.

   So, we'll enjoy what we did harvest ... and hope for better next year.


Monday, October 8, 2012

All things apple

   Things are just applicious here at the Casa de Chaos.

    Made the annual run to the apple orchard, and not only bought some "eating apples," we sprung for a half-bushel of "seconds."

    It was rough year for apples here; the prices are up. To be honest, the regular apples don't look much better than the "seconds."

    Anyway, so far, I've made applesauce, apple butter and we've had apple pie and apple bread. 

    Still have plenty left, though ... better haul out more recipes!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bright idea: Binder clips

  I've discovered that these little beauties can be very handy in the sewing room.

   I needed to hold a tape measure steady at one end while I measured a couple of long pieces of fabric.  Tried a spring clothespin, but that wasn't holding the tape as tightly as I needed ... so grabbed the binder clip in a pinch (ha, ha) and it worked!

   I suspect it also would be good for holding stacks of fabric (like quilt pieces).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

September freebies

Another eclectic month ...

1 pair sunglasses

1 sunscreen

3 pens

Tricalm creme

2 bandage holders (with bandages)

1 Arnold Palmer half&half

1 No.5 energy drink

1 Powerade

Monday, October 1, 2012

Garden report: closing early

  I'm keeping a close eye on the weather reports again ... the forecasters are predicting a hard freeze by the end of the week. 

  Had a feeling this was coming after our early frost ... but still, this is very early for us ... I normally don't worry about the freeze until Halloween.

   So it looks like this week's big project may be to shut down the garden.  Not that there's a lot left at this point ... maybe a dozen or so small tomatoes and a few peppers.

  I do feel badly about my mum, which I overwintered from last year and planted in the spring.  It's grown quite large, but hasn't bloomed yet.

  I'm not sure how hardy it is, but I'll cover it and hope for the best.


Friday, September 28, 2012

A crafty idea

  Saw this idea over on the White Cloud site ...

  It looks pretty easy -- just cover an oatmeal container with paper, add a bit of ribbon and you've got a nice holder for extra TP.

 (I think, however, I'd keep the lid, but then again, I have 4-legged marauders in the house.)

  I've decided this would be a nice addition to the half-bath.  However, given my track record on completing projects, I'd be better off just using the unadorned oatmeal box, LOL!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This ever happen to you?

     Those of you who sew will appreciate this ....

      I was hurrying to make some headway on my new patio curtain. (I know, I know, first mistake :)
 Kept having problems with the bobbin.   Couldn't get the thread to catch ... and when I finally did, it made a mess of my seam.
      Finally took the bobbin out to look at it ... idjit here had the wrong bobbin in the machine.   I have 2 sets ... one that I use to hold that extra thread from sewing projects (you know how it goes ... not enough to wind back on the spool, but too much to throw away.).  The other is the set that actually works in the machine.

     Once I got the right one in, thing went much better ...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Early winter?

  I've been watching the weather closely here at the Casa de Chaos.   The weather report is calling for a frost in the next couple of days -- a full two weeks before we normally worry about such things.

  In the meantime, I've picked a half-dozen tomatoes, and about a half gallon of green beans. 

  Still to come: an eggplant, another small cuke and some peppers.

  I planted another crop of lettuce in  pots -- they sprouted and are growing nicely. (But will have to come in if there's frost.)

  The harvest will be modest this year, but I'm happy to get whatever I can.  I'm just hoping to nurse a few things along until the freeze hits ... which may be sooner than normal this year.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A pie keeper

One of the things that came from my late DM  was this microwave pot ... kind of a dutch oven.  It hasn't gotten much use here because the previous microwaves were too small for it.

  Anyway, I found a new use for it ... impromptu pie keeper.  The lid nicely holds a pie plate, and I just turned the pot over it. Much neater than trying to wrangle plastic wrap over a cream pie. 

It's a bit tall, but should I have a nice, fat pie ...

Oh, the pie ... I just got a box of instant vanilla pudding from the pantry, and alternated layers of pudding and fresh banana slices in a baked pie crust.  Top with whipped topping.Yummy!

(Now someone please remind me that the next time I used whipped topping, it's less messy if I just top each slice, rather than the whole thing.  After the first two slices, the poor thing kind of fell in on itself.)


Sunday, September 16, 2012


Can't say that spending part of my Sunday recaulking (or resealing?) sidewalk/ step/driveway joints is all that much fun.
  But, we finally had comfortable enough weather that I could stand to be outside, and the goop could cure before the rain and cooler temps hit in.
   So, an hour or so, and $3 for the goop might save me a few $$ down the road.
    Besides, I'm superstitious enough to believe that the home team will do better if I don't watch.  (and sure enough, they won!)

Monday, September 10, 2012

New place to use coupons

Just discovered something interesting ... the Dollar Tree stores are now accepting coupons.

Now admittedly, it would be a shot in the dark, given the items the stores carry. Still, a few name brands do show up occasionally.

So it might be worth it to bring the coupon binder along on the next trip. Who knows? You might score some really cheap cereal or shampoo.

Here's a link to their policies .... scroll to the bottom of the page. (And my usual disclaimer: Check with your local store to make sure they are with the policy.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

August freebies

 Kind of an eclectic month ...

1 package Hungry Jack hash browns

1 Powerade

1 cup coffee

2 packages sunscreen

1 beer

1 Tom's deodorant

Thursday, September 6, 2012

They'll hunt you down ...


Mr. DW and I have been off on a road trip ... and have come back to a mountain of laundry and mail, not to mention grass that badly needs to be cut (we got rain while we were gone, hooray!)

Anyway, a funny thing happened on this trip.  I was standing in a national park, taking in a very nice view, when my cell phone began beeping with a text message.

Now I don't like to hear my cell phone go off while I'm on vacation.  It usually means something bad has happened.  So with more than a little trepidation, I open up the message ....  and it's from Meijer! (for those of you not in the Midwest, it's a supermarket/department store). Just a  note to remind me that I could save even more if I clipped my electronic coupons for an upcoming sale.

I suppose I should have been annoyed, but I found the whole thing to be hilarious. Guess sometimes you can't get away from it all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bright idea: A calling card

 I stole this idea from one of my neighbors. 

 She dropped by to ask if we'd keep an eye on things while she and her family were out of town.  When I asked for her cell phone number, she handed me a little business card with hers and her DH's numbers.

 I thought that was kind of cool. (And much easier to keep track of than a slip of paper, LOL!)

 It certainly would be easy enough to do -- just download one of the free templates out there, fill in whatever information you need to give out, and print on card stock.   Presto!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Saving on prescription drugs

     I wanted to pass along this Web site I recently discovered that does the comparison shopping for prescription drug prices.

    It seems pretty easy to use. Plug in the name of the drug and your ZIP code, and it will return prices for at least some of the pharmacies in your area.  (One of the stores in my area wasn't listed.)

  Oh, and it does do generic pricing, and can point you to coupons from the drug makers that might bring the cost down even more.

 The drug price I checked looked accurate, but I can't guarantee that all of them are up to date ... so best to call the pharmacy before you get that script filled.

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'm just saying ...

  It would have been nice if my home state's health department would have issued its salmonella warning about cantaloupe before we'd already eaten one and three-quarters of another .  Ah well, at least no one got sick.

 (BTW, that isn't a nationwide recall.  Just Indiana and Kentucky. Don't want to scare people unnecessarily.)

This kind of stuff tends to happen here at the Casa de Chaos.  We once got a warning about a recall of ground turkey ... after we'd already eaten it.  (Fortunately, I'm pretty careful about making sure meat is completely cooked.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Repairs on a shoestring


Had a pair of those "outdoorsy" pants that had a piece of elastic in the leg hem so you could cinch them at the ankles.

 The elastic finally gave out, but I didn't have any on hand that would replace it.  So to rescue the pair of now-droopy pants, we pulled out the stash of shoelaces.  Amazingly, there was a pair that matched color-wise.

I threaded them through the hems, then reinstalled the little cinchers and tied the laces off.   Thought I would  have to trim them, but they fit perfectly.

(And I'll be nice and skip the jokes about loose ends ....)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My odd bargain

     One thing I've learned is that bargains can pop up in the darndest places.

     Case in point:  We finally used up the industrial-size bottle of hand sanitizer that we use to refill the various small bottles in the car, house, office, etc...   Unfortunately, my favorite warehouse club didn't have any, so I've been hunting.

      We happened to swing by the household cleaner aisle of the big-box hardware store the other day, and found lots of sanitizer.  They had 44 ounce bottles of the stuff ... the catch was that they were refill bottles for commercial dispensers.

     But they were 50 cents each!

     So, you'd better believe I grabbed a couple of those babies.  Took em home and poured one (and half another one) into the industrial-size bottle.    I may have to call my friend, the teacher, and offer her the rest for her classroom ... unless I want to start bathing in the stuff.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Bright idea! Kitty litter holder

      I was looking for a covered container to keep some kitty litter in.  (Not keen on lugging 40lb bags of pine pellets around.)

 But I couldn't find a small tote or covered bucket at a price I was willing to pay.

   I was looking for something else in the basement when I came upon a solution:  A foam cooler!

   I popped in a kitchen-size trash bag, filled it part way with pellets and popped on the lid.


(I still may spring for a plastic container, but this will do for now.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Garden report: Drought edition

  We are harvesting things from the garden here at Casa de Chaos, but the drought and ungodly hot temperatures have really taken a toll.

    My romas, which got a head start, are growing to normal size, but the other tomatoes, which should be, oh, tennis ball size, are more like golf-balls.  

   The yield is way off, too.  Right now, I've gotten about a dozen tomatoes ...

The green beans didn't produce much after the first pick, but started flowering again once the 100+ temps broke. My biggest problem right now is bugs ...  

     My peppers, I fear, aren't going to produce.  They're flowering, but no fruits.  And at least two of them are dying.

     I have a pickle-size cuke and lots of flowers.  The eggplant is flowering, but not much going on.  The basil, however, is growing wonderfully.

     I'm hoping that with the temps cooling down some, things will pick up again. (and a delayed first frost would be nice, too).  Otherwise, I fear there won't be much for the freezer this year.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Menu Monday: Mom's Ham-Bean & Sausage soup

   This is one of my late mother's recipes.  It's a good way to use a ham bone, and while I can't say it's heart-healthy, it's darn good!

1 ham bone with scraps

1/2 large onion, chopped

1 lb smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch rounds

1/2 pound northern beans (or 2 15 oz cans)

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon black pepper

(optional) 1/2 head small cabbage, shredded

Put all ingredients in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. If using dried beans, cook until beans are done. If using canned, cook for about an hour.

At this point, pull bone from soup and pull off any scraps (which will go back into the pot.) Discard bone. Add 1/8 teaspoon of salt if needed. (I find the ham and sausage add enough salt, but YMMV)

Bring soup back up to a boil and add dumplings, cook until dumplings are tender (15 to 20 minutes).


2 eggs

2 cups flour

dash of salt

Mix flour, salt and eggs in a bowl until eggs are absorbed. If needed, add water, a little at a time, until you get a soft dough that can be pinched off.

The broth will thicken up quite a bit with the addition of the dumplings, almost like a stew.

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Things that make you go ... Hmm ...

       Milk was on sale for $2.58 a gallon at the supermarket (not my usual go-to place, but didn't want to drive out of my way.)
       But half-gallons were on sale at 4/$5 ... equalling $2.50 a gallon.

       Hmm ....

Monday, August 6, 2012

5 small zucchinis, and how they grew

Five small zucchinis, purchased on markdown for $1.25. Here's how I used them in several dishes:

1 went into a stir fry (along with lots of other fresh veggies.) The result made 1 dinner and a couple of work lunches

1 went into a loaf of chocolate zucchini bread. (Ahem ... see previous post.)

1 was sauteed with a couple of potatoes, onion and garlic to make a side dish for dinner.

2 were the stars in a zucchini/black bean/ tomato/rice dish that also made 1 dinner and a couple of work lunches.

Not bad for a buck twenty-five!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

July freebies

Another interesting month.  It stikes me that some of this stuff isn't all that good for me ...

1 dozen eggs

4 Milky Way bars (FAC)

2 pks Skittles (FAC)

1 2-liter Pepsi

2 bottles Lipton tea

1 Starbucks Refresher

1 Meow Mix wet food

1 personalized pen (which I ordered last year and had given up on)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mixed metaphor

I love browsing the sales flyers. I never know what I'm going to see, like this gadget.

I dunno. I suppose this has its uses, but it looks darn strange to me...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's tip

I'm out of ideas for coffee cans right now ... so let's go to milk jugs!

I cut the bottom off and use it as a holder for the toilet brush. It tucks right into the corner, and when it gets yucky, I just toss it into the recycling pile.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I was really hoping to replace this graphic  with one of a dollar bill going up in flames ;)

Anyway, an update on my car woes:.

The garage I took it to told me that the car's control module ... it's computerized brain... had died. And while they could replace it, they didn't have the means to program it. So it had to go to the dealer.

The dealer's folks said, "Yep, they're right." Then gave me a 4-figure price to do the work. (the part by itself is darn close to $1,000.)

Gulp and double gulp!

Two bright spots: I got a discount because the car wasn't ready on time (part didn't arrive). I also came up with a coupon for 15% off any service, which knocked off some more. (Still couldn't get the bill under 4 figures.)

I've been reminding myself that things happen. And this is why we're frugal, so we'll have $$ to cover the unexpected. . And life will go on ... .

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Don't waste food

Made some chocolate zucchini bread the other day. (recipe link is here) But the second I tasted it, I realized I'd made a boneheaded mistake.

I forgot the sugar.

Ah well, I wasn't about to waste the goodie, so I started looking for ways to salvage it. So here's what I did:

) I've rolled it in powdered sugar. (Not bad.)

2) I've served it with ice cream on top. (This is good!. The ice cream melts into it, and it tastes a little like a shortbread.)

 I'm also thinking this is a good way to use up some frozen whipped topping, or maybe a nice cherry-mulberry compote to pour on top.

And next time, I'll remember the $%! sugar!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Averting planned obsolesence

While I'm off dealing with my dead car today, I'll leave you with the tale of my printer...

My workhorse brand-name printer flashed a new message: Waste ink absorber almost full.

Eh? What's that? A look at the owner's manual mentions nothing.

So, off to the Internets. My printer brand has a foam pad under each cartridge that sops up the excess when the print heads are cleaned. Apparently, the cleanings are tied to a counter. When the counter hits zero, the printer stops working. (Oh, no you don't: I just refilled the ink cartridges!)

Along with this delightful news were instructions on how to reset the counter and clean the pads.

(I did find a mention of this on the company's Web site. Their take: Have it serviced. Yeah. Right. The printer cost $35. Something tells me the bill would be higher than that.)

So I gave it a try.  To start, I pressed the power and resume buttons in the order suggested to reset the counter.

Now for the pads: I could reach them, but couldn't get enough leverage to get them out of the holders. So I tried a suggestion: Wrapped a bit of rag around my finger and pressed on the pads to soak up the ink. It worked pretty well.

Put the cartridges back in. Printed a few test pages. Yahoo! No waste ink message.

 I think it's fixed (she says, crossing her fingers).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Do they really come in threes?

  Odd things going on here ....

   The workhorse printer sent out a "waste ink absorber is almost full" message. That's a new one on me, and I discovered something interesting.  But  more on that in the next post ... (yes, I'm a tease, sorry ;)

    More urgently, when I headed  to work yesterday, the car wouldn't start.  Had lights, radio, etc, but when I turned the key -- silence.  Second try, it started, but the low-tire warming light began blinking incessantly.  I turned it off, got out and looked at the tires just to make sure I hadn't developed four flats..  When I tried to start it again, no go.  DH tried to jump-start it, but that wouldn't take.
        Long story short, got the car started (with a constantly blinking tire light and flashing tail lights)        The garage folks listened to the symptoms and said, " Sounds like an electrical problem, and we don't do electrical. Here's a place you can take it to." (On the other side of town ... )
         So, the car's back home until I can get it to the shop on Monday.   I can think of a couple of good things: 1) The car died in my driveway, not out on the road.  2) The garage was honest enough to say they couldn't fix it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Here we go ...

Some not-so-cheery news from the government ...

From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom
Vilsack warned consumers Wednesday the worsening
drought blanketing more than half of the country will
lead to higher prices for everything from hamburger
meat and bacon to breads and cereals later this year.

The searing heat and sparse rainfall, which has depleted lakes and reservoirs and left some farmers helpless as their corn and soybean crops wither away in bone-dry fields, has left the country suffering through its worst drought since 1956. Especially devastated has been the Midwest, where much of the country’s corn, soybean and other crops are grown.

Livestock producers, in an effort to minimize future losses, are expected to begin reducing their herds because of high feed costs. While the glut of meat should benefit consumers in the near-term, the reduction in cattle, swine and other livestock could come back to bite shoppers.

So what do we do?  The same as always.  Stock up when prices are lower and stretch what we have harder than ever.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sandwich math

We like sub sandwiches here at the Casa de Chaos, but even the 6-inch basic subs can run around $5, depending on the shop.

But a basic sub is easy enough to make at home. Ten bucks for deli turkey and ham; $1.99 for a pack of 12 hoagy rolls (both from Costco); $1 for a head of lettuce; $2 for a pack of tomatoes.
 I won't count the cheese and the condiments, since we usually have those anyway.

So, for $15, I can make a dozen 6-inch subs. A dozen subs at the local shop -- at least $60! Admittedly, it's not the super-premium or Italian dinner between bread types of sandwiches. But it's pretty darn filling.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I've been "rolled"

It seems Big Boy has learned a new trick: unrolling the TP.

Came home to discover an entire new roll of TP in a pile on the floor. Then he was caught red-handed (or is that red-pawed) working on the replacement roll.

(Where does he get these ideas?  I only let him and his sister watch PBS!)

At least he has a good work ethic ... he keeps at it until the job is done.

Sigh. I'm sure there are other uses for unrolled TP. I just fear that the paper towels are next.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Something's been added

    You'll notice something new on the blog today ... that "Tips 'n Tricks" graphic over on the right, which will provide a daily tip.

    I haven't started accepting advertising or corporate sponsorship ... I just saw this feature offered and thought it might be a neat way to add a little extra info to the blog. (Hopefully it will be useful info!)

   Please let me know what you think ...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Free stuff

 A little luck for Friday the 13th..

If you're going to be near a Starbucks, drop in between noon and 3 p.m. today for a free Refresher.  Haven't had one, but I understand it uses green tea extracts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Random notes

Just a few observations from shopping:

Wow! It's time for back to school shopping already? I'm seeing the school-supply sales ads, and the racks of uniform clothing are at the front of the stores. (Most of the schools in my area - both public and private - now require a uniform of sorts)

I took back that leak-stopping spray that didn't work. Too bad, but now I know. ;)

For those of you with Costco in your area, they now offer a printer ink refill service. Prices run $7.99 to $9.99, and it seems like good quality ink. You'll probably do best if you have a name-brand cartridge to refill; they wouldn't do a generic cartridge at my store.
Is there some company out there that still makes white, er, unmentionables?   Just askin' ....

Monday, July 9, 2012

Menu Monday: How do you cook corn on the cob?

Saw a blurb on Yahoo! the other week about the best way to cook corn on the cob. Their suggestion: bring the water to a boil, put the corn in, let it come back to a boil, then shut the burner off and let it sit until dinner is ready.

What caught my eye were a couple of comments that suggested cooking the ears in the microwave. Now I usually cook frozen veggies and whole potatoes in the microwave, but hadn't tried ears of corn.

So, I wrapped 2 ears in paper towels (cotton towels would work too) and got both packages soaking wet. Set the microwave for 8 minutes at full power and let 'er rip.

The corn was definitely steaming ... and it came out perfectly. I'll definitely be doing that again.

How about you? How do you cook corn on the cob?

Friday, July 6, 2012

So, they're just a bit shorter, that's all

Ever have a piece of clothing that did something unexpected?

A few years ago, I bought a pair of denim pants made of some sort of non-cotton fabric. The first time I washed it, the darn thing shrank -- by nearly a whole size. I muttered some choice words and threw it in the garage sale pile.

Fast forward, and I came across them again while digging through that pile after I lost some weight. (and no, we won't talk about why I still have a garage sale pile).
I tried them on, and they fit in the waist (yes!). But now they were too short! Looked like I was ready for a flood.

So, I cut 'em off to capri length.  I liked the results so much that I grabbed a pair of khaki pants that had frayed along the hemline and cut them into capris, too.

So, two additions to my summer wardrobe at no cost!  Maybe I should dig through that pile again, eh?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July

Wishing everyone a happy holiday!   For everyone in areas impacted by drought ... stay safe! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

June freebies

Kind of a light month ... heavy on the beverages, LOL!

1 Snapple

1 bag corn chips

2 small SunDrop sodas

Tresemme shampoo, conditioner

1 energy drink

1 Dove deodorant

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Garden report: We've got beans!

Looks like my watering wasn't in vain:   The green beans are coming in.   Picked my first handful today, and more are coming.

 Also got a trio of small onions from one of my reclamation projects -- a store-bought onion that sprouted before I could use it.

 I see lots of little tomatoes and a smattering of peppers.  The cucumber is flowering, though anything it produces will likely be bigger than the plant itself. 

 Nothing yet from the eggplant ...

 The bad news:  The triple-digit temps fried my salad greens, and nearly got my mint.   The mint at least, is recovering nicely.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I think this means you should stock up on pork

From the Wall Street Journal ...

CHICAGO—The recent heat wave in the U.S. Midwest has helped lift hog futures out of the mud.
Lean-hog prices have surged 21% over the past six weeks as scorching temperatures have caused hogs headed for slaughter to carry less weight. Leaner hogs mean less meat per animal and smaller supplies of pork. This has accentuated a seasonal increase in prices that usually happens this time of year.

    And while we're at it, keep an eye on the price of  other meats, as well as corn products,  since the Midwest's corn producers also are getting slammed with hot, dry conditions.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I'm gonna need more ink

I've noticed an interesting trend ... things are coming without instructions.

I bought an electronic gadget that needs some setting up. There was absolutely nothing in the box ... no manual, no quick-start guide, not even a mention of where I might find the information.

I had to go to the company's Web site, where I finally found a link to the owner's manual. It was all there in PDF form ... and if I wanted a copy, I'd have to print it out myself. All 64 pages of it.

Yeah, I know, it's cost cutting, though it seems more like cost-shifting to me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Well, duh!

    I'm the first to admit that organization isn't always in abundance here at the Casa de Chaos.  Things don't always get put away properly, so they sit around.

  Case in point:   We've got a couple of insulated bags that we pack work lunches in.  I've had no good place to put them, so they get tossed on a table (which has way too much junk on it anyway.)

  I was digging through a junk drawer when I came upon a self-adhesive hook that no longer stuck.   Thought it about it for a moment, then grabbed one of those adhesive strips ... the kind that come loose when you pull on the bottom.    Applied the strip and stuck the hook onto the cart that holds my bread machine.
      Presto!   A place to put the lunch bags.   

      So why didn't I think about this before?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today's tip: More coffee can uses

   And yet another use for plastic coffee cans :)

   "Recycling" water for plants? Put a coffee can next to the sink to catch those ice cubes and other dribs of water that might go down the sink.

      The blue ones with the built-in handles work nicely for this ...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A public service announcement

     Came across a nifty Web site the other day:

     It's the creation of six government agencies to provide a "one-stop" site for finding out about recalls.  The site covers cars, boats, consumer products, food and more.   There's also a mobile app for those who want to get the info on the run.

      Probably a good site to check in on once in a while ... seems like the number of recalls is growing.  I recently read that more than 2,000 products were recalled last year.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Greetings, you're canceled

     Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time ....
      Last year, we took out an e-card subscription thinking it would save time and money in sending birthday cards.
      Small problem ... few folks opened them.  Don't know if it dumped in their junk mail file, or they thought it was spam.  So we'd send e-mails ahead telling them a card was on the way.  They still weren't opened.
        Anyway, we aren't renewing the service ... that $ can be used elsewhere.  For the couple of folks that do like e-cards, we'll just buy them individually. 
        For the other folks, well,  Happy Birthday ... whenever it may be ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Garden report: Who invited you?

I was checking my garden  ... and have you ever looked at a place and realized something was missing, but not quite sure what it was?

It took a minute, then I realized: my geraniums were gone! Both of them!
A little digging, and I found them ... they'd been bitten off nearly down to the roots!

 I strongly suspect the resident bunnies are at it again. It's been dry, and they're eating anything with water content. Hopefully, the plants will recover ... and this time I'll douse them with red pepper.

Otherwise, things are going nicely. My Roma's are in bloom, as is one of my pepper plants. The beans are coming up, but I'm having more trouble than usual with bugs. I 've had to replant in a couple of spaces because the little plants got chomped on.

The cooler weather has extended the lettuce season, and the onion and garlic tops are very nice additions to my salads and soups ...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Menu Monday: Lemon mint tea

      Not a formal recipe, but it's one of my favorite summer drinks:

       Place 3 bags of lemon tea (I personally like Lipton ... ) and 3-4 sprigs of fresh mint (wrapped in a cheesecloth and tied, or placed in a coffee filter and tied)  in a 2.5 quart container.   I like mine unsweetened, but this is the time to add sugar if you like it.
       Fill with boiling water and let steep for several hours ... or even overnight.  Serve over ice.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Not quite as advertised

I gave in to temptation the other day .... a certain big-box store had a display of all those Made for TV items ... from the green-coated pan, to the sticky roller that picks up pet hair... (and the fact that I recognize these items means I watch too much late-night TV).

So I picked up a can of the spray that's supposed to stop leaks in your household items, nasal passages, etc ... I've got a couple of hoses that have sprung leaks and this looked like a handy way to fix them ..

Yeah, well. ... First results aren't promising. I sprayed the hole in one hose and let it sit for 2 days. When I turned on the hose this afternoon ... Bingo! The little geyser was still there!

Dunno. Too hot outside? I will give it one more chance, and if it doesn't work ... it goes back to the store for a refund.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Er, have you ever?

In the interest of frugality, or in repurposing something ... have you ever done something you'd be a bit embarrassed to admit to in public?
Yeah, I just did.

Er, no, I'm not going to say what it was ...

Monday, June 4, 2012

May freebies

A pretty good month ...


Gevalia coffee


3 loaves bread

Tide Pod

Rachel Ray dog food

1 pkg M&Ms

1 can tomato sauce

1 box muffin mix

1 BK smoothie

1 BK frappe

1 Pepsi

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Free doughnuts!

For those in need of a sugar fix: Friday is National Doughnut Day, and to celebrate, several places are offering free ... or almost free ...doughnuts.

For those of you with LaMar's and Krispy Kremes, those stores are offering a free doughnut of your choice. (I've never been to LaMar's, but I do love their Doughnut Day sign.)

Dunkin Donuts is offering a free doughnut with a beverage purchase. And Tim Horton's has a Facebook coupon good for a free doughnut with any purchase.
     Your local doughnut shop may have some goodies too, be sure to call ahead.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice ....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just add water

The younger cats here at the Casa de Chaos, Big Boy and Little Girl, are normally good eaters. (BB, who vacuums up food, reminds me a lot of a teen-age boy, which I suppose he is.)

Their kibble comes as little triangles (perhaps cats love pointy food). But apparently when these two munch, they break off the little points, which pile up in their food bowls.

I don't know if they can't grab the little pieces, or don't like to eat crumbs ... they just gave me puzzled looks when I point to the growing pile.

So, the other day, I added a bit of warm water to the crumbs and let it sit for a bit. (Anyone remember that dog food, Gravy Train? Same theory.)

Well, the now-soft food was a hit! They cleaned their dishes ... then demanded their regular portion of dinner.

I don't know why it worked ... don't even know if it will work again. But at least I didn't have to throw out a dish of food.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Food stamp challenge

     Noticed in the news last week that chef Mario Batali (Food Network, et al) and his family had taken a challenge to eat on the average amount of food stamps given to a family of four -- $124.00  or $31 per person per week.
       Turns out that even celebrity chefs have to use the basics of bargain shopping: going to more than one store, depending on protein sources other than meat. He even admits that shopping organic went out the window pretty quickly on this budget.
       Admittedly, my first thought was that my average food spending comes in under the food stamp average. But I also realize that I have a pantry to back me up, and the financial ability to shop for that pantry ... a luxury that I might not have if I were having to use food-stamp benefits.   And feeding kids is much different than feeding adtuls...
       Anyway, I'll give him kudos for trying. (Wish he'd included some recipes with that grocery list.)  Check out the link that leads to his grocery list and a video.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Bring on the pies ... and muffins ... and quick breads ...