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April 24, 2013
February 13, 2013
I saw this poster at Renaissance Terrace, a local assisted living, and thought some of you local folks might be interested. It sounds like a fun night!
Did you get to go to the prom with your spouse, or significant other? Would you like to create that experience for memories to come? Well this is the event for you! This is a formal event with men wearing tuxedos or suits and the ladies wearing formal dresses or prom dresses. The tickets are $75.00 a couple and $40.00 for an individual. This will include all food, non-alcohol drinks, and entertainment. A photographer and other drinks will be available at an additional charge.
If you have additional questions or if you would like to attend please call 865-523-2920.
February 3, 2013
I’m a little like Garfield in that my favorite dish is lasagna. When family members were in town for a recent funeral, I made a big batch of lasagna to have for people visiting from out of town.
This isn’t exactly a low cal casserole. Consider using lean ground beef and whole wheat lasagna to help make it a little healthier.
There are lots of options on this recipe with the amount of seasoning, addition of olives, and types and amounts of herbs that you use. Feel free to adjust according to your taste buds and what you have on hand.
1 lb ground beef
1 onion (if you like onion, chop a large one, if you don’t, go with a smaller one)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Cooking spray or oil
1/4 c-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (again, add more if you like it and less if you don’t)
Tony’s seasoning, salt and pepper to taste
2 small containers (6 oz) tomato paste
2 c. water
1/2 c-1 c. chopped and drained black olives (this is completely optional. I didn’t add them to the batch I recently made because I wasn’t sure if people would like olives or not)
Dried or fresh oregano and basil (to taste, again optional). I added approximately 1/2 t.dried of each
1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
Lasagna noodles, cooked by package directions
10 oz cottage cheese or ricotta
1 small package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained/squeezed to remove most of the liquid
Mozzarella cheese (at least a 4 cup package but more if you like it really cheesy)
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdered stuff)
1. Cook the ground beef with the onion and garlic in a bit of oil or cooking spray. Drain completely.
2. Add the parsley, tomato paste, water, olives (if using), and bay leaf, and stir together. Begin adding your seasonings and dried herbs, tasting as you add a little to get the mixture right for your liking. Let simmer 1 hour or longer. Remove bay leaves. You can always stop at this point and either refrigerate or freeze the sauce to be used at another time if you choose.
3. Mix the cottage cheese or ricotta with the drained frozen spinach and egg.
4. Cook lasagna to al dente according to package directions. There are many people who choose to use their pasta raw, but I never find that the texture is right when it is completed.
5. To a deep casserole dish that has been oiled or sprayed with cooking spray, add about 1/2 cups of the sauce as the base layer. Then top with lasagna noodles and layer with the spinach mixture, mozzarella cheese, more sauce and another layer of noodles. When you get near the top, finish the layers with lasagna noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese.
6. If desired, cover well and freeze for another time. Be sure to pull out the night before you need it so that it thaws before cooking. Otherwise spray some foil with cooking spray to prevent the cheese from sticking and loosely cover the casserole. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45min-1 hour (depending on the size of the dish). In the last 10 minutes of baking, remove the foil so that the cheese is allowed to become a nice golden color. Enjoy!
February 2, 2013
(Photo—a slice of focaccia is shown on the bottom right. I’ll post the lasagna recipe soon! We took this photo in haste, right before devouring the meal with family and out of town guests. Sorry it isn’t a better shot for y’all.)
One of the easiest breads to make is focaccia. It pairs perfectly with almost any Italian dish, and it always seems to impress guests. Start to finish, it takes a little less than an hour, and it is well worth the little effort you will need to put into it. I also find it to be cost effective—compared to store bought Italian bread at about $2 a loaf, you’ll cut your bill more than in half if you opt to make this bread instead, especially if you use coupons.
1 pack dried active yeast
1 t. white sugar
1/3 c. warm water (110-115 degrees)—you’ll need more as you start to mix the flour into the yeast mixture
2 c. all purpose flour
Topping—good quality olive oil, fresh rosemary, and freshly milled or flaked salt or Italian seasoning
1. Mix the yeast, sugar, and 1/3 c. water together and let sit about 10 minutes. The mixture will foam a bit.
2. Mix the yeast mixture into the flour and then slowly start to add warm water until the flour is no longer raggy-looking, thoroughly wet but without being super sticky.
Note—mixing the right amount of water and flour together when making bread takes a little practice. If in doubt, err on the side of making it a little wet. When you knead the mixture (next step), you can add more flour back in to get it right. It is difficult to say how much water to add because so much depends on how humid your home is when you are making the dough.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 1-3 minutes. This step helps to start the gluten working.
4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, flip over so that both sides are covered in a bit of oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm part of your kitchen. Let sit for about 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled.
5. Punch out dough and knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Roll to about 1 1/2 inches-2 inches thick and place on a greased jelly roll pan. You can make it into an oval, rectangle or simply loosely form it on the pan. Take your fingertips and press them into the surface of the dough to dimple it.
6. Brush or drizzle olive oil on the surface and don’t be super stingy. You want there to be nice little pools of oil in the dimples without it being so runny that you have a mess all over your pan. Use a salt mill to sprinkle the surface with salt. If you do not have a salt mill, try using flaked sea salt or an Italian seasoning. While you can use regular salt, the effect isn’t the same. If you like, add little sprigs of rosemary to the top by gently pushing the tips of the leaves into the dough.
7. Bake at 475 degrees for 10-15 minutes, or until your desired crunchiness. You’ll want the bread to be a golden color and no longer spongy. Some people like their focaccia to be almost like a cracker and others like it to keep the bread texture. You be the judge.
8. Serve plain or with olive oil and freshly cracked pepper as a dipping sauce. This is also really nice with Caprese salad or an antipasto platter.
January 30, 2013
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Recently I’ve been reading more about clean foods, our nation’s crazy food supply, agribusiness, and balancing family budgets with the goal of eating healthy foods. I don’t think that I’m alone in the sense of desperation when it comes to wanting to feed my family healthy, wholesome foods. Not only must I look at the grocery budget, but I’m also faced with the external pressures of media and marketing that make it seem so much easier to just pick up packaged foods. (99cts a box taquitos and frozen pizzas at $3.50, anyone?) At school our daughter eats limited foods because she doesn’t want to be made fun of—even what I consider to be foods that are somewhat mainstream now compared to when I was a child, like sushi and hummus, she won’t eat if I send them for fear of ridicule. Peer pressure abounds, no matter what age. Then, there are the demands of daily life to balance. Almost nine months pregnant now, I’m more fatigued at the end of the day when I would normally be preparing meals for our family. I have a flexible work schedule, which is the saving grace on most days that allows me time to squeeze in a little meal prep and shopping here and there. Then there are all of the labels. We can’t trust the word “natural” on a product to mean something from nature. GMOs are creeping into most of the foods that aren’t organic. The basics are no longer basics—sour cream might have 5 or 6 ingredients and fillers in it. Food fraud is becoming a hot topic with companies using other ingredients to keep their costs down—olive oil might also contain canola oil, pomegranate juice might be mostly grape.
Just when I found myself ready to rip out my hair and run screaming for the hills, I came across this quote by Voltaire, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I consider myself to be a fairly well read person, but I had never come across this quote before now. It was the splash of cold water in my face that brought me back to reality and calmed my nerves. Yes, all those problems I mentioned above exist. Yes, we live in an age where it is more difficult than ever to feed our family wholesome foods. However, if I strive for good instead of perfection, it takes away a lot of pressure.
So what does “the good” look like? I think that it is a work in progress. It involves incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our diet so that we eat less junk. It involves choosing local and organic whenever possible to make our foods cleaner. It involves doubling recipes and freezing extras so that we don’t rely on packaged foods. For a girl who likes to go “all in”, it involves finding some peace of mind in seeking balance instead of perfection.
What about you? One of the main complaints I hear from couponers is that the packaged and less healthy options are such bargains that they find themselves eating differently than they once did. What do you do to keep healthier choices on the dinner table?
January 28, 2013
As many of you know, we are expecting our second child in early March. We were thrilled when we learned that we were pregnant, and of course as things usually go, it was right after we had given away, sold, and consigned almost all of the baby and maternity gear that we had from our first daughter. I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch, though. I had learned a great deal from our first pregnancy on what to buy and how to save money on purchases:
1. Buy discriminately. The first tip is to not rush out and buy a bunch of maternity clothes in your first trimester. When you do decide to make purchases, think about clothes that will mix and match well, are basic colors that can be easily accessorized, and will work for the seasons of the year when you will be later in your pregnancy. This might seem surprising, but I have only bought the following new—1 pair black dress pants, 1 pair gray dress pants, 1 pair dark navy jeans, 2 maternity shirts. I had been given a gift card by my dad and have only spent about $20 out of pocket on maternity clothes for this pregnancy.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask. My birthday fell right after we told people about the pregnancy. When people would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, I wasn’t too shy to tell them that a gift card or some maternity clothes would be greatly appreciated. I was given a few more maternity shirts, a pair of blue jeans, and a belly band. The belly band is a handy-dandy little strip of fabric that looks a little like a big belt. It helps to extend the wear of your non-maternity shirts by covering your lower belly. They sell at Target for a little less than $20 and are well worth the expense. I’ve heard that some people wear them post birth to hide a muffin top or to keep from showing their tushie when bending down and wearing low cut jeans.
3. Don’t be too good for hand-me-downs. We love hand-me-downs in our family. Our daughter gets more of a kick out of wearing something that her super cool older cousins or friends from church gave her than something brand new. Like her, I really appreciated friends and family who shared their maternity clothes with me. While some sizes didn’t work and some were a different season, the pieces that I was able to add to my wardrobe really helped to expand it. If someone offers, accept graciously, and then do the same for someone else after you give birth.
4. Consider what you already have. Use little tricks to make your existing wardrobe work for you while pregnant. Dress jackets, cardigans, and button up shirts look great when paired with a stretchy t-shirt that fits over your belly. Stretchy waistbands on skirts and pants you already have may work for you for the duration of your pregnancy. Don’t forget that belly band I mentioned earlier—it helps to make your non-maternity tops work throughout your pregnancy. Wear longer shirts—my friend Honor always looked so elegant in long Indian style tunics that a friend had given to her. They weren’t maternity, but they looked good over her growing belly with a pair of leggings, jeans, or slacks. Don’t forget to accessorize to make the same clothes look a little different week after week. Use a rubber band to help you extend the wear on your regular pants and skirts.
5. Plus sizes and pulling from your partner’s wardrobe. During my first pregnancy, I found that there were a few plus sized options at Target that had options of extending the waistbands. These worked better for me than many of the traditional maternity clothes because I could expand them as I needed and they sort of grew with me. When I need something to work outside in the yard, I have pulled from Hubby’s pile of work clothes instead of risking ruining my maternity clothes with stains or grime.
6. Shop garage sales, thrift stores and consignment sales. Probably the most cost effective option will be to shop garage sales and thrift stores. Watch for the words “maternity clothes” in advertisements or shop bigger group sales that might be at churches. Don’t shy away from consignment shops and sales, though. Bargains can be had, especially on the 50% off days.
7. Use coupons and shop sales wisely. There have been some great Target coupons for maternity clothes lately, and if you pair them with sales, you can snag a deal. At the same time, I warn you not to be solely driven by price. If it is an item you might only be able to wear for a few more weeks before the weather shifts into a new season, it isn’t worth making the purchase. Also, if it doesn’t look great on you and it doesn’t make you feel good, DON’T buy it! Many pregnant women, myself included, feel a little self conscious about their girth. If you are wearing something that makes you look more like you are wearing a tent than wearing clothing or if the color doesn’t work with your complexion or if the pattern is something you wouldn’t dare wear if not pregnant, don’t waste your money.
8. Treat stains quickly. I’m a clumsy person; I always have been. I tend to spill things on myself when eating, but now that I have a large belly bumping up against things, I am even more prone to making messes. The worst thing about this tendency is realizing that I might have ruined one of the few pieces of clothing that fits on my body right now. Play both defense and offense when it comes to stains. Use an apron when cooking and wear the apron when eating if you are just with your family. Always put a napkin in your lap. Don’t eat in the car. Use splatter guards and lids when making messy sauces. Then, if you do spill something on yourself, treat it as quickly as possible.
9. Shoes. I so enjoy a beautiful high heel. There is something that feels elegant about a nice dress shoe, something so feminine about a gorgeous pair of heels. While there are plenty of women who are able to wear swanky shoes while pregnant, I am not one of them. I found myself coming home early in the second trimester after a day of being in heels almost cringing as I took each step. If you are anything like me, switch to a basic pair or two of flats that match most of your wardrobe at least mid-way through your pregnancy. I invested in a pair of black ballet flats that were so comfortable and matched everything that I very literally wore them out. If you are pregnant in the summer months, this should be fairly easy for you since sandals, low sling-backs, and flip flops are in season.
10. Underclothes. Watch in the lingerie aisles for bra extenders that will help to lengthen the amount of time you can wear your pre-pregnancy bras. Later in pregnancy, many women switch over to wearing nursing bras without an underwire. Yes, they make plenty of nursing bras with good support that do not have underwire so if you have a bigger bust size speak with someone at a maternity shop about fitting you. While maternity underwear are fine to have, they aren’t necessary. If you have bikinis or brief undies, you will probably find that you can wear them during most of your pregnancy. I wouldn’t, however, recommend thongs—maybe there are some folks who can pull that off, but…well, I’ll not comment further.
I hope that you find these tips helpful when shopping for maternity clothes. As always, if you have any additional tips or tricks under this category, please include them in the comments section so that all might benefit.
December 25, 2012
Today we celebrate Christ’s birth, and as part of doing so, I’m keenly aware of how blessed I am. Thanks in part to coupons, we are able to eat well and have a full pantry—many will be hungry today. We have a warm and loving family and sweet group of friends—many will be alone today. We were able to talk to family as far away as India and the Czech Republic today because of technology—many do not have clean water, heat sources, or electricity. We have a ridiculous amount of gifts that we have opened today—many will not be able to provide for their families. We work in fields that matter, making a difference to those we serve, and are able to provide for our growing family as a result—many are homeless or without work…. I could go on and on with this list, reflecting on the many, many ways we are blessed. Maybe even more than at Thanksgiving, Christmas always fills me with a feeling of overwhelming gratefulness. It inspires me to do better, be better, help more, give more freely, love more deeply, and while I know this sounds cheesy to some who are reading this, it will hit home for others of you. If so, I hope you’ll join me in finding ways now and in the upcoming year to be a blessing in the lives of others, whether it be through couponing, volunteering, teaching, or in some other way.
Merry Christmas to each of you, and many blessings now and always!
December 1, 2012
This year a few of my friends and I decided to make each other’s gifts instead of purchasing them at stores. We’ve done this a few times through the years, and it is always fun to see what each of us decide to make. The only downside is that I’m the least crafty of all of my friends. Yes, I know that I talk a lot on this blog about gardening, baking and preserving, but when it comes to making crafts, I am afraid that I lack that gene. I try—I really do. I know how to quilt and sew, but my finished pieces aren’t as delicate as what others might make. I know how to crochet, but I distinctly remembering the strong urge to throw the needles and thread across the room when I was learning. And as for making jewelry, the tiny beads and needle nosed pliers always make my fingers feel like that of a giant—dumb, awkward, and way too big.
I guess it runs in my family. Out of 8 sisters, my paternal grandmother was the only one who didn’t have sewing as a hobby. She did sew throughout her life, but I wouldn’t say she really embraced it until she started doing some embroidery work later in her life. Then, there is the famous story of my mother throwing away a perfectly good sewing machine because she was fed up with trying to sew. Now, these women had many, many other talents and skills and taught me a great deal, but sewing wasn’t something that they passed down to me.
My aunts tried. My friends have tried. I’ve even taken a few classes, voluntarily picking Home Ec as a high school course because I knew that if I didn’t take it I would never know how to sew. I took quilting with a friend, and I do enjoy it but again, my pieces aren’t what I would call heirloom quality. Sigh…
Now at this point in the story, you are thinking two things (I can’t read your mind, but I’m taking a guess here). You’re thinking, “She’s being too hard on herself” or “too modest”. Yet, you would be wrong. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these are skills that just don’t come naturally to me. I’m capable at finishing projects, but I don’t excel.
Then, I’m guessing the next thought is, “Why on earth is this lady writing a blog post to encourage us to craft when she is telling us clearly and plainly that she isn’t any good at it?” Well, the answer to that is that even I can come up with homemade gifts for people I love that turn out great, even with all of my ineptitude for crafting, even with my lack of patience for needlework and knitting…even me.
In what areas do you excel?
So, what do I do? I decide what I can do well and go from there. One thing that I do that many of my friends do not is preserve foods at home. Because they don’t, those little jars of goodies feel special to them (or at least they are good liars when they tell me as such). Even with my friends who do preserve foods, when I offer them something different from what they normally put up, it makes them smile. If home canning is one of your hobbies, why not try making a few extra jars and adding them to gift baskets this year?
Some of my favorite home canned foods to add to gift baskets are:
All of the ingredients for these three recipes can be found at the market right now (the wine you’ll have to pick up at a market that sells wine). All are fairly easy to make if you have some basic understanding of canning (see my “food preservation” tab if you don’t). The pomegranate jelly, for instance, takes only a few minutes to make once you have all of your ingredients and canning items out and ready to go.
Giving the gift of time
The next idea I have is to give others the gift of time this holiday season. We’ve all seen the homemade certificates for free baby-sitting or a date night courtesy of a friend or family member. Those ideas are great, but you don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to. One year, I decided to make a few of my friends who had toddler aged and newborn children some meals that could easily be frozen and pulled out to use whenever they were having a hectic day. You would have thought I was giving them gold bullion. I didn’t fully understand the looks of appreciation on their faces until our daughter was that age and I realized how tired a momma can be by the end of the day.
If cooking is a talent of yours, why not make up a few of your favorite recipes and bring them to friends a week or so before Christmas as a gift of time? Present them in a nice basket or wrapped in a pretty kitchen towel with a note that tells them the purpose of your gift.
Some of my favorite foods to make and give others are:
- Whole Wheat Banana Bread
- Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- Any soup recipe
- Any cookie recipe
- Vanilla sugar—take a quart jar and fill it with white sugar or “Sugar in the Raw”, take a vanilla bean and put in the jar (you can split it half way, but it isn’t necessary, and I find it neater if you do not), let it sit for a few weeks. Give with some nice tea and pretty cookies.
Figure out what types of crafts you are better at making
I’ve found that the best crafts for me to tackle are no brainers. I’ll spend an hour or so with our daughter working on something she can give to grandparents, aunts and uncles. Or I find an easy-to-do craft on Pinterest, and I give it a shot. The ones that I have the most luck with involve some sort of cooking or art and don’t have anything to do with fine motor skills.
Some of my favorite easy to make crafts are:
- Christmas tree handprints
- Christmas tree fingerprint lights
- Paint swirl globe ornaments
- Muffin tin crayons—take all of the broken crayons you can find in your house and clean the paper off of them. Add a few of the same colors to an old muffin tin that you never want to use for food again. I happened to have had one that had become a bit rusty, and it worked great. Fill the crayons about half way full in each tin and place in a low oven (175-200F) until the crayons melt. This will take about 10+ minutes. Set on a trivet to cool and once they have solidified, dip the bottom of the tin in ice cold water. They will pop out and are perfect gifts to add with colorful paper for the young artist in your family. Last year we added these to an index card, drew around them to make them look like they were ornaments, and gave one to each person in our daughter’s class.
Want something a little more sophisticated? This year I’m going to try these two crafts and see how they go. Note that I haven’t yet made them to give any advice on them, but I have my fingers crossed that they will work out.
I hope you’ll carve out a little time this holiday season to make a few gifts for those you love. Not only are they less expensive, they offer the recipient something more than just a gift. You are giving them a part of you.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
October 24, 2012
October 6, 2012
LET’S PAINT K-TOWN IN
ORANGE AND PURPLE PANSIES!
SHOW YOUR LOVE AND SUPPORT FOR
ALL THOSE TOUCHED BY
PROCEEDS FROM THE SALES OF
ORANGE & PURPLE PANSIES
Purchased in September, October and November at
Stanley’s Greenhouse and Plant Farm
3029 Davenport Road, Knoxville, TN 37920
Stanley’s Secret Garden
305 S. Northshore Drive
WILL BE DONATED TO
August 20, 2012
I thought that it was time for a money saving post. Lately I’ve been really paying attention to the older people in my life and how they interact with the world around them. In particular many of the lessons that I’ve been picking up have to do with money and being thrifty. Older generations have experienced high and low points in our economy and have learned a thing or two about how to ride those waves. I hope you’ll find the list below helpful in your household, and if you see tips that I’ve missed, I hope you’ll add them to the comments section so that all might benefit.
1. Waste Not, Want Not—In my opinion, this is the most important rule in saving money. I can tell you story after story of having observed this rule in action—from my grandfather building their house with reused materials from old job sites to cooking with older women who saved vegetable peels to later make stock.
I find that I’m much worse about being wasteful when I have a lot going on—busy days, traveling, times of illness. For me the goal is to be mindful of waste and to realize that it is a choice. It isn’t just a choice that exists in the moment of throwing something away, though. It begins when we make a purchase. I choose to buy a big bag or jar of something instead of individually wrapped purchases because of the trash aspect. I decide whether or not to purchase a larger amount of food at the grocery store based on whether or not I really think we will eat the leftovers.
How does reducing waste help with your budget? The answer is many, many ways. Look at any area of your budget where you are struggling and make a point to be conscientious this week about what you use in that category. If for example, your utility bill is high, watch how often you leave something electrical running when not in use, how much water you run when showering, etc. If your grocery budget is a little on the high side, pay attention to how often you throw food away and what you are throwing away. Make an effort to work on those areas first and then move on to another part of your budget.
2. A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned—I remember cleaning out my room as a young child with my mother. I was sweeping up and almost threw away a penny. She said, “Granddaddy Clyde would have said that every penny you save you also earn”. My granddaddy was a self made man who worked for the money he made in his life, and had he been alive at the time, she knew he would have told me to not squander what I have—whether it is a penny or a dollar.
Couponers know this rule, and we live it each time we choose to use a coupon for a product that we are purchasing. It is always amazing to me when I offer a coupon to someone in the aisle and they refuse it. Really? You don’t want to save 50cts even when I’m spoon feeding it to you? Would you walk by two quarters on the ground and not pick them up?
You can apply this to almost every area of purchase. When we have a purchase planned, we’ll often take a little time to check prices at a few stores, look for coupons or sales, and ask for discounts. This usually doesn’t take very long, and we have saved anywhere from just a few cents to hundreds of dollars by taking a minute to do so.
3. Look at the big picture—This is an area where I see older adults really shine. Purchase quality that will last. Think about your long term goals. Consider how your life will be different in another 5 or 10 years.
By thinking about your purchases, you are going to be more inclined to buy quality items that will last ten times longer than cheaper ones. My dad talks about having shoes older than I am almost ever week, and he’s right. When you buy good shoes that can be repaired and shined instead of needing to be thrown away when they tear apart, you have made an investment.
When considering your long term goals, think about money. Would I rather have a (fill in the blank) now or would I rather invest the money and have more financial security later? A lifetime of those decisions adds up.
Think ahead. My grandmother, who was a real estate agent, encouraged us when we were looking for our home to watch for homes with 2 or more full baths and 3 or more bedrooms. She said that even if we decided to move sooner than we thought, the resale value would be higher than if we bought a smaller house that just fit the two of us. While we don’t have a grand estate by any means, we have a comfortable home that has fit our family nicely. Other friends I know didn’t have the same advice and have either had to move or expand their homes when they had children.
4. Repair instead of purchase new--I have a friend whose family lives in one of the nicest neighborhoods in our town. The kitchen while quite nice is a bit of a blast from the past. The stove was probably purchased with the house, but I’ve eaten many a delicious meal at their table. Her mom had an argument with a repair man a few years ago because he said that he couldn’t fix their washing machine because parts are no longer made and she would have to buy a new one. With a little research, she found the parts and hired a different repairman to do the work—she showed him!
This rule is a take off of rule number three because most of the items that can be repaired were ones that were made well in the first place. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case with products made today. A few years ago, I watched the You Tube video called The Story of Stuff that beautifully illustrated the why behind products not being made as well. Do a little research, check Consumer Reports and other reviews, and ask friends what they think of products.
Finding people who know how to make repairs is becoming more and more difficult, but it is worth the effort. I find that word of mouth is the best way to make those connections. My cousin first told me about the cobbler down the street, and I have referred countless people to him.
5. Share—You could replace the word share with barter, swap, or loan if you prefer, but I like the word share because it brings with it a sense of community. Hubby has some power tools that he was given as gifts and hand me downs, and a few weekends ago he was outside making some cuts with the saw. The college guys across the street came over and said that they had been working for a few hours to make some cuts with a hand saw and asked for his help. He cut their work time dramatically and it only took him a minute or so to help them.
When I came home to write this post, my neighbor was outside picking up crabapples off of the ground. He said that his aunt had been making crabapple jelly and told me to hold on a moment. I ran into the house and grabbed a pint of the applesauce I recently made, and we both smiled when we made the exchange.
By getting to know your neighbors, participating in your house of worship, being friendly towards others, it makes your life richer. Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that you get to know someone with the underlying motive to get something out of them—that’s not what friendship or community is about. It is about working together and giving a darn about your fellow man. It is about helping someone else out or sharing your abundance with someone else who might enjoy it or need it. And if you ask me, our world could use a little more of that these days.
I hope you’ll find these tips helpful. I’m sure there are many more that could be included, and think of this as a good starting place. Happy Saving!
July 22, 2012
Howdy folks! It has been ages since I last posted, and all I can say for myself is that I’ve been enjoying the summer with my family. Since the Independence Days Updates are my favorite types of posts, I thought I’d take a minute to type one up.
April 29th was the last of these posts. At that time I had been focused on planting the garden and enjoying the first of the harvests. All I had preserved to that point was strawberry jam and dehydrated strawberries.
Fast forward to today. Our weather in East TN was very dry and hot earlier in June and then in the last couple of weeks we have received a number of rain showers and the world is turning green again. We were away on vacation in late June and early July, and after I returned I have found myself less and less interested in the garden. I could say that it is the abundance of weeds that multiplied like rabbits while we were gone, or perhaps blame it on the humidity, or that our days are filled with other priorities, but the truth is that I’m just not a huge fan of hot weather. I become lazier and lazier with my outdoor chores when the temperature peaks. I try to go out in the early morning or later at night, but I find that it feels more like a chore and less like a form of recreation. I yank a couple of weeds, force myself to not let the fruits and vegetables rot on the vine, and then I retreat to sit under a fan.
Why do I mention this in a post about gardening? Because I want y’all to understand that you do not have to be perfect to garden. There are lots of ways to undertake having a garden, and I think many people hesitate to plant one because of this idea that they will do it wrong. Home and garden magazines and shows depict photos of gorgeous landscapes without a weed or shriveled leaf in the shot, but that isn’t the reality for many of us. Some gardeners I know just plant a few tomatoes each year or a handful of flower seeds, but they enjoy their garden just as much as those that spend hours and hours toiling away.
The garden has always been a faithful friend to me. Each year I find myself less and less interested in it when the weather turns hot, when by the way I probably “should” be spending more time in it. As the fall nears, I return to the soil and spend hours of meditation there again. Just like a friend who has been away, we become reacquainted with one another. I give to it, and it gives to me. While the harvest of fruits and vegetables isn’t as plentiful, the meditation and peace I receive in the fall and spring is much richer. I suppose it might always be that way, and I’m sure I’ll have more zest for the garden as the weather cools.
Now for the Independence Days Update:
Plant something: I planted another wave of Blue Lake Pole Beans and Marketmore cucumbers. I added some watermelons, a couple more tomatoes, a couple more bell peppers, and a few more hills of crookneck squash. I had seeded more melons and squash to go in the ground, but when we were away, those plants all died. The eggplant that I had planted before we left isn’t looking too good. It took a hard hit while we were away, and despite the fact that it is sprouting more leaves, I’m not convinced that it will flower and fruit in time for a harvest this year.
I never planted the figs in the ground. With the bathroom project taking up so much of our time this year, we didn’t have a good chance to make a front garden bed like I had envisioned. I transplanted them to larger pots, and this will allow us to move them into shelter in the coldest days of winter.
Harvest something: Possibly the biggest delight in this category have been the blueberry bushes. I can’t recommend highly enough that you plant blueberries if you haven’t yet. They have a sweet little flower, their leaves turn to red in the fall, and they take only a few years until they really start producing for you. This year has been our best crop. At first the berries were a little mealy but as we had more rain they have become sweeter and plumper. This will be the first year that I won’t have to go picking at a farm. We’ve frozen well over a gallon’s worth so far, I made jam, and we’ve had plenty to eat and bake into recipes. Yum!
We picked radishes, asparagus, spinach, lettuce and peas until the weather turned warmer in May. The cabbages and bok choy held off a little longer but started to bolt and wilt in early June. We’ve had a good crop of onions this year, and they have been sweeter than previously. I could yank them for storage, but I instead prefer to just pick them and use them as needed. We had onions that we could harvest all throughout last winter, though it was a milder winter for us than usual.
This summer we have been disappointed with our squash and beans. I’m not sure if the neglect of our trip or the lack of rain or late planting or all of the above is to blame. Others I know have had good yields on these crops, so I’ll blame it on the head gardener of our household. The great thing about friends having abundance is that as they become sick of cooking them, they have been kind enough to pass their bounty on to us.
The beet harvest was a good one this year. The beets were plump and sweet, and I was pleased to have so many that I harvested.
Other foods harvested—one Jenny Lind cantaloupe that was a volunteer from our compost bin. What a nice surprise! Tomatoes of all sorts, herbs, a few flower arrangements, a few puny cucumbers, and some bell and hot peppers.
Preserve something: I learned about a farmer who had wild blackberries for sale through the local Weston A. Price Foundation group, and I jumped on the chance to buy some. I made a couple of large batches of jam and froze a few pints. (Can I take a moment to say how much I’m liking the Ball Flex Batch Pectin? It is so nice to not have to have a full batch worth of fruit in order to make jam! If I have a smaller amount, the recipe tells how much pectin, lemon juice, and sugar to add—perfect!)
A friend blessed us with more beets. I had already made about 7 quarts worth of pickled beets but unfortunately had overcooked the beets. They were not as crisp as I normally would like. A friend from church called the very next week and said she had more than she could use. I was tickled to can another 10 pints worth, and this time I did not overcook them!
The same friend has shared squash and zucchini and corn with us. I made a hot and mild batch of Frugally Farming Family’s recipe for Squash Pickles. I add a couple of jalapenos in place of some of the bell peppers to give it a little kick. We so enjoyed this on hot dogs and sausages last year! After we gorged ourselves on the corn, I removed the kernels from the cob, blanched it, and froze it for later in the year.
I mentioned making Blake Blueberry Jam and freezing blueberries—other than that, I can’t think of anything else I’ve preserved.
My goal this week is to work on peaches.
Waste not: A friend from church passed some winter clothes and jeans on to our daughter. I passed the maternity clothes from when I was pregnant with our daughter to a sweet neighbor who is expecting in October. I also gave a few hand-me-downs to a friend for her kiddos.
I finally decided to let go of the many boxes of baby clothes that we had stored, and I was so pleased when Little Red Hen Consignment Tagging Service agreed to help me with tagging them. Kristen has been so great to work with, and I look forward to seeing how my very first consignment sale goes!
Want Not: The main areas where we have been building up our storage is in canning the harvest from our garden and the bounty from friends’ gardens.
Eat the Food: I’ve really been enjoying squash casserole lately. This recipe is one of my treasured ones because the card is written in my mother’s script. It is her sister Hobby’s recipe. I’ve tweaked it only slightly—you can see my revisions below.
5-6 Yellow Squash, quartered and sliced, cooked in a bit of bacon grease with Nature’s Seasoning and a bit of onion if desired. Since I don’t add water, there is very little liquid to drain and so I don’t usually bother to do so. Transfer to a mixing bowl so that it cools slightly so as to not scramble the eggs when you add them.
1/2 stick butter
1-2 cups of grated cheese (I just add a couple of handfuls)
3 raw eggs, beaten
Stir and add bread crumbs on top. I use Italian bread crumbs and add just a slight sprinkle to the top. Cook for about 20 minutes at 300 or 400 degrees.
Build community food systems: I have worked in the church food pantry a number of times since my last update. We try to support local farmers through our purchases. I organized and worked the VBS for our church. We fed about 100 people each night. This year we only had the napkins as waste (tumblers, plates, and silverware were all washed and reused). I had brought cloth napkins the first night, but we quickly learned that the benefit of using them was greatly outweighed by the cost and time put into cleaning them each night. We also asked church members to bring cucumbers from their gardens to add as a veggie for the kiddos—they loved this!
Skill up: I attended a few very interesting conferences—one on Hoarding and another on Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. Both were extremely helpful to me in my work as a social worker. As for other day-to-day skills, I can’t think of any brand new ones.
May 24, 2012
The garden is FULL of bok choy right now, and this is one of my new favorite treats. I even like it cold!
Note that this recipe is quite loose. If it doesn’t look like it has enough sauce, add a little more. If you don’t have as much bok choy, adjust the amount of sauce down or serve over rice to soak up the extra sauce. Cooking doesn’t have to be tough—feel free to experiment, adding other seasonings if you like. I think that this would be fantastic with some red hot peppers cooked into it. Yummy to my tummy!
Bok Choy (I used about 6 small heads thoroughly cleaned and pulled apart with just the bottoms trimmed off)
Soy Sauce (for that amount, I used 1/2 cup Kikkoman)
Ginger (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried, but fresh would be oh so good)
Garlic (I used a clove, optional)
Coconut Oil (I used a little under a tablespoon)
Toasted Sesame Seed garnish (optional)
1. Heat coconut in a heavy pan or wok on high heat but don’t let it reach the smoking point.
2. Begin the very quick stir fry with the garlic followed almost immediately by the bok choy.
3. As you stir the vegetable, add the soy sauce that has already been mixed with the ginger powder or fresh ginger.
4. Cook just until the leaves start to become tender but the ribs are still crisp.
5. Plate and garnish with the sesame seeds if desired.
May 23, 2012
I made this for a sweet neighbor who helped us out with a part of our bathroom remodel. It occurred to me that I hadn’t posted this recipe on the blog yet, and it is definitely one you’ll want to try if you haven’t yet. It has a ton of sugar, a ton of butter, and a ton of love it in=don’t feed to diabetics, folks on a diet or people you don’t love. It is a Southern staple that was found at almost every potluck I attended in my childhood. Enjoy!
I *think* that this was my mother’s recipe. It is in a file of family recipes but I can’t remember if it were hers or another relative—hate I can’t give proper credit where it is due.
2 regular depth pie crusts
2 c. white sugar
2 T. all purpose flour
2/3 cup buttermilk (I prefer Cruze Dairy Farm buttermilk)
5 eggs lightly beaten
2 t. vanilla extract (I just give it a big blop into the batter and don’t bother to measure it)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter melted but not super hot
1. Blind bake the pie crusts. While preheating your oven to 350 degrees, heat the pie crusts in the oven (poke a few holes in the crust to let the steam escape if you choose). By cooking the crusts for about 7 or 8 minutes, you’ll start the cooking process and prevent the crust from being mushy when the pies are finished. Remove the pie crusts and set them on the counter while you mix the rest of your ingredients.
2. Mix all other ingredients but note that if your butter is super hot, it is best to temper the eggs into the mixture to prevent them from scrambling. I usually add the coldish buttermilk to the sugar, flour, and extract mixture, then add the butter, mix thoroughly and then add the eggs. I don’t bother with an electric mixer and mostly use just a fork. You could get fancy and use a whisk if you want to make yourself feel more like Julia Child. It isn’t necessary though. The main thing that you’ll want to do before adding the mixture to the pie crusts is to run a rubber spatula around the sides of the bowl and the bottom to make sure everything is incorporated.
3. Divide the mixture between the pie crusts fairly evenly and place them in the oven.
4. Bake about 35 minutes at 350 degrees. It helps to rotate them at about 20 minutes if you can manage it without spilling the mixture. The finished product will give a very slight jiggle in the middle. Let cool on the counter. Devour.
Note that this is an especially good recipe. OK, I was going to say for whom but when the list became too long, I decided to abbreviate it to that. ;)
April 29, 2012
We had another cold spell just after my last Independence Days Update, and I was glad that I had delayed planting. It was nice to have a few colder days to cool off the house. Other than a short test after moving some duct work and one half of a day of AC when we were working and it was super hot, we haven’t needed to use it this season. When things were so hot so early in the year we were afraid that we might be running it more often, but that just proves that you never know what will happen until it happens with East TN weather.
I realized when buying plants this weekend that gardening is an easy way to use some energy to get our home in order. With the bathroom remodel fully underway, the inside of the house is a little bit of
organized semi-organized chaos. By focusing some of my attention outdoors it makes me feel like I’m doing something to bring order to our home. If the inside doesn’t feel as comfortable and relaxing, then at least I can get the outside closer to being that way.
Above you can see a photo of the vegetable garden. The peas are starting to flower, and we look forward to enjoying them straight from the vines. The bok choy and Chinese cabbages are starting to fill out and they just might make it to eating size before the heat zaps them. I planted them a lot later than I normally would have, and I’ll be pleased with whatever they yield. I’ll pick the first of the spinach and lettuce later today, as it is starting to become bigger. When looking at the garlic, I realize that I should have planted a lot more (I had it, just didn’t get it in the ground). The asparagus bed (rear left in the photo) has yielded quite well this year and is just now starting to thin some. The radishes (in the rear right bed on the photo) have been so abundant that I’ve been able to share some with neighbors. Some of our broccoli overwintered, and I’ve been tickled to pick a little here and there to add to various dishes. Unfortunately not a single carrot decided to pop out of the ground. Maybe it is just as well, Hubby found rabbit burrows near one of our purple plums and anyone who has read the story of Peter Rabbit knows how that would have turned out.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on the saying, “You reap what you sow” a lot. I’m rereading the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with Hubby, and in the chapter about proactive people this message rings true. Then when reading a magazine talking about health, diet, and organic gardening, the phrase is again emphasized. Looking at our own little garden plot and how I could have very easily planted more garlic and never did makes me think about how true the saying is in so many areas of life. So (pun intended) I am trying to sow more—more love and friendship to those whom I care about, more seeds in the garden in looking towards the future, more healthy meals for our family, more exercise and sunshine for a healthy body and mind… Sowing—tis the season!
Now for the Independence Days Update:
Plant something: I planted the first round of beans (Blue Lake Pole Beans and Christmas Lima Beans). I’ll add more in the next couple of weeks to fill in spots in the teepee areas. A couple of tomatoes, 4 bell peppers, 2 jalapenos, some of the leftover cucumber seeds from last year (Marketmore from FedCo), and 3 hills of zucchini. I’m not even half way finished with the planting, but the beauty of the Independence Days Update is that if you plant a little here and a little there it seems less like a chore.
Harvest something: Asparagus, radishes, green onions, flowers for arrangements, chives, parsley, and broccoli
Preserve something: I made the first trip to pick strawberries and have canned a couple of batches of jam, along with freezing and dehydrating some.
Waste not: A friend at church passed some hand-me-downs to our daughter, and when we opened the bag to see the cutest cowgirl boots ever it was so exciting. We shopped the church rummage sale, added to our children’s book library, and bought a few books for another friend. Used bamboo for teepees in the garden instead of purchasing new cages. Spurred by Money Saving Mom’s recent organization posts I’ve been cleaning out at least 7 things a day from our home. Some go into the garage sale pile and some go to friends or relatives who could use them.
Want Not: Nothing new in this category.
Eat the Food: STRAWBERRIES! Lots and lots of strawberries. Strawberry popsicles, strawberry and spinach salad, strawberries plain, strawberries in yogurt… Our daughter said yesterday as I was putting some on the table for lunch, “Strawberries again??” I remember somewhere in the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book the author wrote about a similar experience with fruit—the luxury of eating as much as you want and almost reaching the point of tiring of them. Then the season ends and as soon as they are gone you start to miss them.
Build community food systems: I passed some radishes to our neighbor. A church friend brought us about 30 or so small banty eggs. They are so cute when served sunny side up.
Skill up: Not much in this category.
April 15, 2012
April arrived and with it a bit of cooler weather was present in East TN. We even had a frost, something I hadn’t expected would happen after record days of heat. We brought the flat of eggplant in but the frost was rather mild in our area and nothing else was hurt.
Easter wasn’t as pretty this year. Most of the spring flowers had finished blossoming, and I was scurrying around the yard on Easter morning to try and make a bouquet for the church hospitality table. I improvised by adding a few small limbs from the plum and Japanese maple trees to help fill out the arrangement of yellow irises, clematis, and a few daffodils.
April 15th is the day of the year that I affectionately call “Magic Planting Day”. I’m looking forward to having my hands in the soil much of this week.
Now for the Independence Days Update:
Plant something: I haven’t planted anything since my last update—that will change very soon.
Harvest something: Asparagus, radishes, green onions, flowers for arrangements, rosemary, chives, parsley, and broccoli
Preserve something: Asparagus has been blanched and then frozen. Last year I was so glad that I did this because we enjoyed frittatas, omelets, and pasta dishes with asparagus well into the summer months.
Yesterday I made both pomegranate and fig jellies. I noticed that Three Rivers Market had both organic juices on sale, and since I received an additional 10% off because of my member discount this weekend, I was inspired to try it out. For years I grew up enjoying fig preserves that my aunts from TX and LA would make for us. My grandfather had fig trees in the back yard of his home in Memphis, and we would always try to eat them before the squirrels found the ripe ones. It remains one of my favorite treats, and next weekend we plan to add a few fig trees/bushes to the yard. I know we won’t be able to expect much of a harvest for a few years, but I think talking to the farmer from whom we plan to buy the trees about the fruit, whet my appetite for them.
This recipe was the only one that I found using juice to make fig jelly. I didn’t have quite enough juice so I added 1/2 cup 100% grape juice that I had leftover from Wednesday night to the mix. It was VERY loose when I made it, and after having cooled for a few hours it was still sloshing around in the jars like juice. I placed it in the fridge and overnight it thickened but is still quite a loose jelly. We’ll see how it tastes this morning.
Waste not: I’ve updated here and there about efforts to reduce waste at our church when I feed the kiddos at the children’s program. The first step was the addition of real plates over paper plates. Then we had some cups donated for them, and bowls trickled in here and there. We had a large supply of forks, knives and spoons. The last piece was napkins. We had been using the recycled paper napkins for a long time, and I mentioned to a friend a church wanting to start collecting cloth napkins for them. The next weekend she brought me a large bag that she had cleaned out of her home, and they have been perfect! With additional efforts to recycle and compost at the church kitchen, we have reduced the waste significantly. Love that!
Want Not: Nothing new in this category.
Eat the Food: Y’all saw the update on the rosemary quail recipe I posted to the blog. Other than that and enjoying the traditional foods that we make for Easter, I can’t think of anything new in this category.
Build community food systems: I participated in the 10 Days of Real Food Knoxville Challenge. I visited the opening day of the New Harvest Farmers Market—so happy to see the market open again! I’m trying to expose the kids at church to a greater variety of foods and less junk, and I’ve been pleased with the response so far.
Skill up: Most of the books I’ve been reading lately are on finance and leadership (and fairy books with our daughter—lots and lots of fairy books!), so I can’t really pinpoint any new skills I’ve developed from having read them. While not really a skill, I gained a tremendous amount from a long discussion with a local farmer about the fig trees/bushes we plan to plant next week. She was a wealth of information and so encouraging! Talking with local experts is one of the many reasons I enjoy attending the farmers markets.
April 12, 2012
Last night at church, we had a special meal. I thought it might be interesting to serve the kids the types of foods that Jesus might have eaten. Now, I realize that not all of the foods are exactly historically accurate, but the point was to give them a feeling for what food might have been like in His time. We served the meal in courses, a couple of bites of each food at a time, explaining the significance of the food and telling what Bible stories we knew that related.
Fish—we were blessed to have a fisherman in the congregation donate some freshwater fish to the meal. One child in the group volunteered and told the story of the Loaves and the Fishes.
Grape Juice—well, you didn’t think we were going to serve them wine did you??? We told the story of the water turned to wine.
Cucumbers—cucumbers are mentioned in the Bible (Numbers 11:5) as having been eaten in Egypt. We reviewed the story of the Israelites being in slavery, the journey to the Promised Land, and Moses.
Dates—Date Palms are mentioned multiple times throughout the Bible, and we talked about them perhaps being like a candy bar during those times. They are packed full of natural sugars, which most of the kids really seemed to love. I was surprised when I asked about the different foods and who had eaten them before. Only our family had tried dates before, so it was a new food for almost everyone there. Love that!
Olives—A child in the group volunteered to tell the story of Noah and the Arc and how the olive branch related.
Hummus—This was the loosest connection to Biblical times. I couldn’t find any specific historical reference to hummus, though it was reported to have been eaten in Egypt, is a Kosher food, and that chickpeas were abundant in the area.
Bread—we used a flatbread, again discussing the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes
Yogurt and honey—There are references to yogurt (not necessarily by that name, though) in documents from thousands of years ago. We talked about how our ancestors used yogurt and cheese as a food preservation tool. We talked about how honey is referenced in the Bible many times. We discussed the antibacterial qualities, how it is the only food that does not spoil, and how ancient man would use it for cuts and scrapes.
It was such a fun night, and the kids seemed to get a kick out of trying the different foods. Not all of the kids liked everything on the plate, nor would we expect them to. The point was for them to be exposed to the foods and better able to picture how life was different in those times. We had a great time, and it was well worth the effort that went into preparing the meal!
April 10, 2012
New Harvest Park Farmers Market Opening Day!!
Thursday - April 12 - 3:00 p.m. until 6 p.m.
Cooking Demo at 3:30 by PSCC Culinary Institute
Strawberry and Tomato Bruschetta
Arugula and Radish Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Grilled Asparagus and Benton's Bacon Quiche
Gardening With Neal and David at 4:30
Join UT Extension Agents Neal Denton and David Vandergriff at the demonstration garden for expert gardening tips
Clear Springs Farm
Colvin Family Farm
Grassy Creek Soaps
Mitchell Family Farm
Mountain Meadows Farm
Seven Springs Farm
Sherie's Garden Style Salsa
Snow Creek Home
The Laughing Girl
As always, the playground and walking track will be available for your enjoyment!
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