Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Reviews

I’ve been evaluating my spending and consumption habits for months now. Since I don’t work outside the home anymore, my job is managing the household. Society seems to take a dim view of the term “housewife,” but I realize that what I do at home (or don’t do) makes an enormous difference in our quality of life. My husband likes that I’m at home. I like that I’m at home, too.

Part of being the manager of my home is scouring the Internet and other sources to educate myself on all sorts of things, from how to make yogurt and cottage cheese at home to raising chickens in a suburban environment. Yes, I said raising chickens

On Monday I borrowed a book from the library which I’d originally intended to buy. “America’s Cheapest Family” by Steve and Annette Economides turned out to be a disappointment. I liked watching this couple on Fox News, but I was less than charmed with the book. Everything in it seemed hackneyed. I didn’t learn anything new. I’m so glad I didn’t spend $11.99 for the used book on Amazon.

One tip they provided was the tired old idea of buying the newspaper on Wednesday for grocery sales. You don’t have to buy the newspaper. I can view the sales circulars for my grocery stores; Kroger, Food Lion, Harris Teeter, and Farm Fresh on line. I read my newspaper daily, on line, free of charge. I save a lot of trees.

I’m glad that I went to the library, though, because right next to the book I wasn’t so crazy about, I found a gem “Living Well on One Income in a Two-Income World” by Cynthia Yates. Cynthia shares what she calls “New Principles for Smart Living” as follows:

Adjust your attitude.
Live within your income.
Organize your world.
Learn prices and become a savvy consumer.
Roll up your sleeves.
Use things up.
Do not waste.
Use your creative genius.
Presentation is everything.
In all things, honor God.

Although there are tips in the book, her basic premise is to educate yourself and re-think how things can be done more cheaply without sacrificing quality of life. I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


This is the smaller of the spare bedrooms, which has a bit of a gardening theme. I use dollar-store decorative birdhouse as a tie backs for the curtains and have two treasured pictures hung on the walls. One is made up of very old seed packets. The other is underneath the shelf, a print of a young husband and wife praying over a field. I love both.
The bed was my grandmother's and the shelf was to the right of her sink for fifty years. It always had rosary beads, a special holder for a used tea bag, her vitamins, her heart pills, and a little statue of St. Francis on it. I found the shutters in my garage when I moved in. I bought the little table from a tag sale and painted a checkerboard pattern on top.
So speaking of seeds, did you ever have a feeling that you should go do something that doesn't make sense? You just can't shake it off though, you feel like you just HAVE to do it. Yesterday, I just HAD to go to Walmart to look at seeds. That part of Walmart isn't heated and it was 28 degrees when I got my little urge...pretty cold for Virginia.
I've learned not to ignore that little feeling, because it is typically the Holy Spirt. I bundled up and drove over. They had organic seeds for two dollars a pack, regular seeds for $1 a pack and an entire display of seeds for 20 cents a pack. 20 cents a pack! I couldn't believe it. I scooped up all I needed and started seedlings today.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Homemade Yogurt and Pizza

For all of you bloggers and lurkers out there who are hoping for a Kim from Daisy Cottage-style gorgeous blog post, this isn't going to be one!

Folks are worried about the economy and complaining about food prices. One of those people is a friend of mine whose husband eats lunch out EVERY DAY during the work week. This astounds me. If you can afford to spend over $1,400 out per year on lunch, the economy hasn't hit you yet.

Over the last year, we have vastly reduced the amount we spend and continue to look at ways to do even better They have been small changes, things like buying cheese in bulk and doing the shredding at home, buying regular carrots instead of baby carrots, shopping at the Dollar Store and Big Lots, eliminating diet soda, etc. The small changes led to the big change of cutting our grocery bill in half.

The last four pics represent a very successful attempt at making yogurt without a special appliance. I found the recipe here:

Unlike the recipe, I did not buy a candy thermometer. I heated the milk to just under boiling when the bubbles formed at the sides and let it cool until my pinkie felt comfortable in the milk, but it was still hot. That would be Annie's thermometer, I guess. I let it sit overnight on the blue heating pad you see with a towel over it. If the yogurt isn't think enough for you, let it sit in a sieve lined with at paper towel or coffee filter for about a half hour. It came out just perfect.
One of the biggest changes is my commitment not to waste food. For several months, I have used up every morsel of food that has entered our house, as well as composting every bit of that which is not edible. That's not spoiled food, mind you, there hasn't been any spoiled food. It is the papery skins of onions, carrot tops, celery bottoms, etc. I have carefully utilized food in such a way that nothing has gone bad. That's the way it should be, but has not always been, here at the house at 256.

Americans waste an appalling amount of food with no excuse. It isn't that we don't have electricity of proper storage methods. We are simply lazy and inattentive when much of the world goes hungry. There's an interesting blog about it here: There are moral implications to wasting food, as well as economic ones.

In my new effort not to waste food came last night's dinner, whole wheat pizza with dough made from the breadmaker. My recipe makes two small pizzas. I found it here:

I use whatever I need to use up in the fridge for pizza. Yesterday I had: a small amount of cooked, crumbled sausage; 1/4 of a package of sundried tomatoes; several onion halves; about 20 black olives, two tomatoes getting slightly soft, some pine nuts; some mozzerella and some ingenuity.

I carmelized the onions, which you can see in the first pic. I don't always use marinara sauce on pizza. This time, I brushed both pizza doughs with EEVO. I put black olives, sun dried tomatoes, sausage, fresh tomatoes, parmesan, onions, and mozzerella on one. I put black olives, 1 box of frozen spinach, two cheeses, onions, garlic, and pine nuts on the other. I topped both with crushed red pepper and Italian seasoning.
Last year, I would have thrown out the onions, the tomatoes, the pine nuts, and the olives. I'm glad that economic necessity prevented that this year. I hope you also enjoyed the shot of my cell phone. I have no idea why I left it in the shot.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Eggs and I

I was having such a good frugal day on Monday. I went to the Dollar Store and got a great deal on shaving cream, some spices, and a replacement for the funnel Bruce decided to throw out, for whatever reason.

Then on to Farm Fresh, in the next parking lot over. Consolidating trips to save gas, don'tcha know. Got rutabagas, cabbage, and fruit that was on sale. The rutabagas and cabbage sound grim and Oliver Twistian, but we love both. Boneless chicken breasts on sale...rock on. Good price on eggs...way to go. Get three dozen. Request Monday military discount. Call to ask hubby to pick up windshield wiper fluid instead of Windex when he gets the dog food, thank you, Debra:

Rush home to pop pre-made dinner in the oven: meatballs parm. Good job. Dinner will be ready on time. Carry all the food up the five steps to the house. Talk to sister on phone. Consider that if my sister and my phones were wiretapped, we would shock many. Smash six eggs while distracted. NOT FRUGAL!

Last year I would have thrown them out. On Monday, I thought about them. I could scoop them out, nuke them and mix them to supplement with dog kibble. I could make a stir fry now for tomorrow and use the eggs in an "egg drop soup" effect.

Eureka! I can make up three breakfast sandwiches for Bruce. I can do that and still talk to Kerry on the phone. I made a plain omelet and added a few bacon bits I had left over. I cut the omelet into three. I had buns in the freezer from a bargain shop last pay period. Added slices from a leftover tomato and a tiny sprinkling of grated cheese and voila!

Now before I get some comments, I broke the eggs when they slid out of my hand into the kitchen sink. It was a smooth move reminiscent of dumping the compost from under the sink all over my sneakers and the kitchen floor on Sunday when I went to take it out to the composting pile. I was fragrant. I would not use eggs that came from the store broken, because they could have salmonella poisoning.