Friday, March 30, 2012

Foodie Frugal Friday #7

Welcome to Foodie Frugal Friday #7 ! Fridays are my "day off" from my blog. Every Friday I will feature some recipes from across the web and blog-land.

I went to the grocery store  and found myself in the produce aisle admiring all the delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables. They all looked so good I wanted to buy everything! Then I started wondering what is actually in "season"? I live in Ohio and everything is pretty much dormant except for lettuce, spinach, peas and radishes...IF you were lucky and smart enough to start them early. Given that it is March that is a risky proposition. I did start my garden early but that was only after checking The Farmers Almanac, spying on following the old -tymie farmers around the area and dancing naked in the garden under a full moon with a goat. HAHAHAHA--just seeing if you were paying attention!
I found this great map/chart on Epicurious that lists the peak season produce by state--so that is kinda cool!
Can you imagine what is was like before the times of interstate transport? You wanted watermelon in January there was no market around the corner where you could mozy in and pick up out of season produce. When I do purchase produce I try to purchase ONLY those items grown in the US. Sometimes that means denying myself but it is worth it to support US farms. Most of the stuff in the local market is sourced from  Florida, Washington, Texas and California.

So what's in "season"? Artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, pears, apple, grapefruit, lemon and kumquats--just to list a few!

Bacon wrapped aparagus bundles!

Roasted broccoli with Parmesan and pine nuts...mmmm

Crunchy and flavorful chicken cabbage salad!

Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad

An apple pear salad with lemon poppy seed dressing? Yes please!

Oh Yum!! Curried beef stuffed squash!

Curried Beef-Stuffed Squash Recipe

How about a nice Kumquat and ginger cocktail?

Kumquat Ginger Caipirinha - Leblon Cachaca

Kumquats not your thing? What about the Grapefruit Moon?

Happy Weekend Y'all!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The one where I spill my guts to the world

This post isn't necessarily about my home renovations but is about the renovations of myself.  I felt compelled to share....

Once upon a time I used to be so energetic. Enthusiastic. Organized.  In the early (lean) years of our relationship I cooked everyday. At least breakfast and dinner. Always from scratch. I used to get up early in the morning to make breakfast for the hubbs and my daughter, make his coffee, iron his uniform and pack lunches for the day. Get the kid off to the babysitter or school and I would head out to college classes and my 2 part time jobs.In the evenings I managed to find time to clean, sew and craft!  I honestly do not know how I was able to manage it all. I guess it was the vigor of youth. It was the 90's. the age of SUPERMOM. And darn if I didn't try to be everything to everyone.
 As time went on and the demands on me and my time increased I began cooking from scratch less. Easy to prepare, ready made and GASP-- fast food found there way into our home. I stopped packing lunches. or ironing uniforms. No crafting. Papers and junk piled up. I was always sorting through stuff because I had become unorganized. Everything was hurry up, move, gotta go. For me and the hubbs our communication on personal level became a series of text messages and phone calls. For me and the kid it was notes on the fridge. It seemed like we were always in survival mode. There was no time to slow down. No vacations. There were bills to pay, a house to upkeep and boss to answer to. The voice inside of me whispering and eventually silent. Exhaustion was a way of life. The years passed so quickly, one memory blurring into the next. The years rolling  increasing their momentum, building to a frenzied crescendo and then breaking like waves on the beach. Shattering into droplets--This was the day we found ourselves alone as our daughter had moved out. 
We slowly re-adjusted from being a trio to a duo. The focus shifted from the kid to us. And our house. Our future. The ideal for my blog was born but I really didn't do anything with it. I was still far to busy working and just trying to make it through the week. Then in 2009 my employer announced our manufacturing facility would be closing. They gave us almost 3 years to prepare for the end. And I did begin to prepare financially. I had been downsized a decade before with very little time to prepare. It had nearly been the death knell for us. I vowed that wasn't going to happen again! Whatever work that had been going on in the house came to an abrupt stop. We began living in this weird limbo, going through the motions of everyday life. The day finally arrived in which I was NO LONGER gainfully employed.

I was hurt. I was angry. I was relieved. I was confused. What were these emotions?  I knew this day was coming, so why did I feel overwhelmed? It has taken me a while to sort all the mental and emotional clutter but I finally realized what was the heart of the  issue. Much like when  my daughter left home I was bereft and adrift. That is because I identified as her mother. Although I no longer have a child at home--I am still a mom.  The transition from family unit to empty-nester was managable because I was still working. I was still slightly grounded. The transitioned from employed to unemployed  knocked me for a loop... because my identity was my job. Whoa-- My job?  Really?! 
I suddenly felt less interesting. Like I had less worth. What was there to keep me grounded? My daughter was grown, married and out the house. The hubbs is still working. All the people I interacted with on a daily basis for nearly 10 years...GONE. Yes, I know there is technology for communication but it was the interpersonal relationships--the face to face- that helped me hold on on until the end...and then there were none.  I put on a happy face and acted like everything was fine. In truth it was not. I was numb. I was a woman with out a country to coin a phrase. Even though the job (and plant closure)  was incredibly stressful there was familiarity in the mundane and routine.
Days faded into nights, then became weeks and finally months. Slowly the haze is burning off and I am beginning to awaken from the stupor of fear and doubt. Maybe some of this can be attributed to the  melancholy of wintertime blahs. Perhaps with Spring I too feel reborn and rejuvenated. New beginnings all around?
Don't get me wrong I have some LOVELY, WONDERFUL friends. They have been so supportive. So to has my hubbs, daughter and the rest of my family. I just DIDN'T want to be  that person. Miss Negative Nellie --Complaining, scared, unsure and doubtful. I was so sure any admission of my fears would be a sign of weakness. I already felt like such a failure. Every time I said "oh I'm fine, no worries". The words rang hollow. The mask  false bravado stayed in place all the while I contemplated my future (or lack thereof?)  I  truly believe my little blog was a life preserver. Attached to which where these tenuous threads to other bloggers. Unknowingly providing me a lifeline by offering communication and friendship The difference between blogging and interaction with my friends/ family  is there were no preconceived notions or expectations. NOT THAT ANYONE made me feel that way. It was my perception of what I thought was expected of me? Does that make any sense?
So is my my blog my new identity? No. What it has done is give me confidence to try new things around my house. To share my triumphs and failures. To let the voice of me which had been silent, change to a whisper to loud and clear. To no longer feel the need to be SUPERWOMAN.  I simply can not be all things to all people. What I can be is true to myself.  I can be a good mom, wife, daughter, cousin, niece, sister, aunt and friend. I just can't be those at the same time. I have learned it is ok to to say I don't know what my future holds. It is ok to uncertain. (It is NOT ok to be  paralyzed by uncertainty.) I have also learned  (or remembered) I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit. And that my supporters (friends and family, etc) are more understanding than I give them credit. With age comes wisdom or so I have been told....
So thanks for letting me vent and spill my guts. And if their is anyone out there is feeling down, feeling full of self recriminations, feeling scared, unsure  and overwhelmed. It is ok to feel that way. Just don't become mired in it. Reach out. Talk to someone. Talk to me. I have been there. Remember you are not alone. No one is truly ever alone. Everyone stumbles and falls. It is okay for a hand up. Believe in yourself. It is powerful stuff...

So now that life as slowed considerably and I have had my epiphany-- what has changed? Everything! The hubbs and I are having real face to face conversations. I am cooking and baking more. Which is great because I actually find solace in it (not working in my crap-tastic kitchen but it's ok that is isn't perfect. It gives me a goal). I have reconnected with friends. And family. It kind of  like my brain and life have been rebooted. Me-version 2.0, haha. Am I still unsure of my future? Yes I just have less fear now. Because I have to believe it will be ok.

So to all my friends, family and bloggie buddies--Thanks for being part of journey of self discovery. (And I will try to keep the gut spilling to a minimum in the future)  Now excuse me, while I go get mop and bucket to mop my guts off the floor...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tried and True Casserole

The air was a bit nippy today and felt decidedly more winter-ish than Spring-ish.  Due to a lack of planning on my part (big surprise there--not!) I was woefully un-prepared for dinner. We are REALLY trying to watch our pennies, so take out was not an option. I did a quick run though of my pantry's contents and realized I had all the fixin's for Creamy Chicken Ramen Casserole. Don't shudder and flashback to your starving college days. It is surprisingly good, quick and very economical.

1 lb boneless chicken breast , diced  ($4.99/ lb)
2 pkgs of creamy chicken Ramen style noodles ($0.29 each)
1 can of cream of chicken soup ($0.69)
8 ounces of frozen mixed vegetables (green beans, corn, peas and carrots) ($0.79)
2 ounce bag of french fried onions ($0.59)
1 small bunch green onions ($0.39)
pepper and garlic powder to taste

Dice the rinsed chicken. Saute in a large skillet or medium sized sauce pan with 2 tbs of oil. Use 1/2 of 1 packet of seasoning mix from Ramen noodles to sprinkle over chicken while cooking. When chicken is no longer pink add 1 1/2 c water to pan and remainder of seasoning mix. (I only use 1 flavor packet due to the sodium content) Add to this the ramen noodles, broken into chunks, 8 ounces of mixed vegetables, cover with lid and allow to cook until vegetables are tender. Add 1 can cream of chicken soup. Stir well. Add additional water if needed. Heat thoroughly. Add garlic powder and pepper to taste. Garnish with french fried onions and minced green onions. Round out with a side salad ($1.50 for an 8 oz bag).

Comfort food that is tasty and frugal! Enjoy!

Shared with...

How to Nest for Less

Funky and Frugal Finds #7

Welcome to Funky and Frugal Finds Monday #7

I found some more pristine LP's. I remember as a tween going to my Aunt's house and always playing the Jackson Brown's "Running on Empty" Bread is for the hubbs since he is child of the 60"s/70's. Damn hippie, lol
St. Vincent de Paul, $1 each

I found this awesome water color, terrible mat and no frame but it really spoke to me. It is kinda of moody. Muted and stormy. I LOVE it!
New 2 You, $2.20
This is an Ida Pellei canvas to print. I didn't score the best deal on it but it was definitely with in the comparative cost. Ida Pellei was very popular in the 60's. Canvas to print transfer usually run $25-$50 depending on subject matter and size. Mine is a  fairly large  print 28X22. I love the baskets and sunflowers!
Goodwill, $20
This is an Andrea by Sadek blue net porcelain teapot. Popular in the 80's. It is missing the lid but has a solid brass handle. I plan on using for a potted plant. I love the vivid blue
Valley Thrift $2

Any funky and frugal finds you want to share?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sown and Harvest #5

Welcome to my Sunday post dedicated to all things garden, landscape, and plant related.

Spring abounds! I cannot believe how amazingly warm the weather has been for March in the Midwest! Everything is growing like gangbusters which unfortunately includes the weeds and grass! I feel as if I no longer have a yard. It is decidedly looking like a prairie. The weedy stuff is up to my knees in a few places around the yard. The hubbs already came across a thicket of what appeared to be poison oak which he removed for me.  After the hubbs mowed grass for his mom he came and mowed for us. I should probably go offer to help rake but I won't because I am working on my blog. Ha!
To be honest while the hubbs was mowing I finally got lazy tuckus in gear and was weeding and prepping the beds around the shed (aka the future home to my potting shed). I cannot believe how quickly the rose bush leafed out. The darn thorns got me a a few times.
However  the thorns were the least of my worries. While cleaning out the straw and pulling weeds I came across this guy. And NO this is not a zoomed in picture. IT WAS FREAKING HUGE!! When the branches on my lavender plant actually moved because this spider was crawling on it...that is a big ass spider! We came to a mutual understanding--after I stopped screeching and backed away it was decided as long as it stayed where it was I wouldn't have to obliterate it.....eeewwwwww!!
I have to say I LOVE LOVE the raised garden bed we installed.  Only 2 weeks until  I will have radishes and lots of lettuce!
How is your gardening going this spring so far?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

An Unexpected Bonus

My goodness--what a storm rolled through last. You would never know it this morning. Beautiful blue skies, sunshine, singing birds, bleating goats (the neighbors), barking dogs (mine and another neighbors) and kitty cats basking in the warmth on the porch.
The view from my south facing living room window
Opened my mail to find a nice surprise. I received my final bonus payout from my former employer! Waahoo! Money I wasn't expecting. Do I do the responsible thing and put in the bank for savings? Do I spend it? (I do need a new cushion and canopy for my swing...or maybe just a new one. And some new solar lights...hmmmm)

Ummmmm...I wonder if the hubbs would let me buy this? siiiggghhhh 
Ok back to reality...this is more in the realm of possible. Cottage cute!
Great American Woodies 4-ft. Cottage Classic Savannah Swing & Wood Arbor Frame 
Crackle glass solar lights? I'm in lurrrvveee! 
It was already a good day. Now it is even better! Have a happy Saturday!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Foodie Frugal Friday #6

Welcome to Foodie Frugal Friday #6 ! Fridays are my "day off" from my blog. Every Friday I will feature some recipes from across the web and blog-land.

Here in the Midwest the weather has been abnormally warm for March. In fact we have exceed two historical record highs. Instead of feeling Spring-like it has felt decidedly like summer. So much so our AC has already been turned on. AND NOT by me! The hubbs  actually turned it in . Normally we fight over it and  the no AC until Memorial weekend rule is in effect.

Since the weather is decidedly summer-esque so shall be my foodie frugal forte.... In the words of Yogi Bear, "Hello, Pic-a-Nic Basket!"

Oh Yum--Doesn't this look awesome?  Cherry tomatoes, asparagus and Mozzarella. Cool and delicious!
Asparagus Mozzarella Salad Recipe 
A  tasty Muffeletta sandwich 
Marinated chick pea salad
Marinated Chickpeas Recipe 
Cheesecake is ALWAYS the perfect dessert
Marble Cheesecake Squares Recipe 
Ice cold lemonade
Picnic Lemonade 
 I would love to have this as my picnic quilt! I love the postage stamp quilts!

This picnic basket is adorable! My suggestion go to a  thrift store for your picnic basket. Most often you can find them for under $15. Otherwise for new one  plan on spending $40 and up for the rattan variety. (And that is just not frugal)
And you gotta have some cute (unbreakable) dishes for your Picnic right? 
I really want to go on a picnic now. Can you just imagine--fresh air, sunshine, yummy food, total peace and relaxation. Like a mini vacation without all the expense and hassle of a real vacation. What could be more frugal than that?

 Happy weekend y'all!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chump change artwork makeover

What does $3 and some change getcha?

In my case I got 2 crap-tastic pictures. But wait ! There's more!  Remember how I talked about releasing my inner dude because I am decorating a man cave for the hubb's BFF? I was trying to find dude-ly art that wasn't Nascar, a buck, a babe  or a pick up truck. So I went for boats and water. These are kinda manly ...right?

Picture #1 was a cheap-o print framed in an even cheaper fake tacky goldi-sh metal-plastic frame. I sorta ripped it apart before I remembered I needed a before picture.  oops!  It was originally priced $1 at Goodwill but it was 50% off day so I got it for  $0.50

Add to this 1 worn and very blah solid oak picture frame. This was serendipitous because I had this in my garage for some time. I had picked it up for $2 and miracle of miracles it was a perfect fit!
Using 100 grit sandpaper I gave the frame the twice over to remove the gloss/ lacquer so my paint would have something to stick to. I tacked it off when finished. I am left with a very dull  looking frame. But that is about to change.
This is the first sanding. Notice there is still a bit of glossy appearance in 2 small areas? A 2nd  pass eliminated that.
Out comes the hammered bronze paint (it is what I had on hand AND the "hammer" finish hides any imperfections on the frame).  Just remember SAFETY first when spray painting. Avoid open flames, spray in a well ventilated area and use PPE  (Proper Protective  Equipment). I am using a half face respirator equipped with organic vapor cartridges. Any Home Depot or Lowe's will carry respirators and replacement cartridges specific to your application (painting, dust/ particulates, toxic dust, multi-purpose, etc) Prices for replacement cartridges to a full kit can vary from $14-$50. Remember this is a small price to pay to protect your health! (And sorry for the VERY bad picture of me)  
Here's the frame after 2 thin coats, looking kinda snazzy!
Here it is clean glass and everything. Looks almost classy right?
Well I said there was more and here ya' go. Picture #2 was priced at $2 but because it was 50% off day at GW I got it for a buck! Yahoo! This one is an actual photograph which is why it was more expensive than the other. The picture frame is solid wood (but black) and didn't work with the rest of the stuff going in the space.
The back was papered over so I couldn't remove the glass. Instead I used 3 sheets of printer paper, taped them down and painted in place.
They almost look like they go together. Not bad for $3.50
So I asked the hubb's BFF (for whom this artwork is intended) what he thought of these and HE LOVES IT! Wah-Hoo!  Of course both the guys were completely impressed with my thriftin and handy dandy skills. The best compliment I could get though is when they said. they looked like they would easily cost $20 apiece or more and they looked kinda classy. Haha, I'll take it! 

From Crap-tastic to Fan-tastic! i'm telling you there isn't anything a little paint can't gussy up!
Me=Thrifty Rockstar! (Modest ain't I?)

Linking Up to the following:

How to Nest for Less


Beyond The Picket Fence

Home Stories A2Z

Fine Craft Guild

shabby creek cottage