Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
So, I went and picked up the produce last weekend for the freecycle folks. It turned out to be a bit different than I expected, but it really worked out for the best.
I got to the location at the time that I was told to, but the stand had thrown out all the stuff that would typically be picked up. They knew the regular folks were not coming, but hadn't heard that I was. I was so bummed as I had driven for a ways and had cleared my schedule for the next day to process whatever I could. They even checked to see if they could salvage what had been tossed, but it was all over in a dumpster and I wasn't about to try and rescue it. I do have some limits in my selective squeamishness!
The woman was so apologetic and really, she had done nothing wrong. She gave me her cell number and asked that I call if I ever do pick up again. Then she started looking around. They had a box of plums, a box of broccoli, and a box of eggplants that they were trying to sell for $1 each and she told one of the guys to load it in my van. Than she brought over 7 pints of blueberries. Then another guy brought over a big bag of oranges. Seriously it was like produce was being thrown at me!
So, I looked around their stand and decided I'd buy a few things as well. They are definitely in the market of moving lots of produce for not too bad of prices. They had stuff that is more iffy marked down even more and from there it must go to the $1/box stuff and then eventually if it hasn't sold it ends up with our freecycle folks. I picked out a few sweet potatoes and bunch of cilantro to get and was contemplating more when she told one of the helpers to just let me have them. It would only have been a $1-2, but I was so touched that she would do that! I couldn't ask for more things as I didn't want to appear greedy and I went home and enjoyed those sweet potatoes with my boys!
When I got home I looked everything over and was THRILLED to learn that the blueberries were organic. The ironic thing was I stopped to buy non-organic blueberries that same day, but the store I stopped at was out of them. Talk about having things provided! There were a few bad ones, but really they were in amazing shape. We ate about a pint, froze a couple pints and then used the rest to make jam and syrup.
It only took 1 orange to make the syrup and one was rotten. The other 6 are being eaten and are very yummy! The eggplants ended up in the compost. They were going too fast and I left them till last since they are our least favorite of the items we got. If they had been used that night I could have saved some, but really they were so spotty and soft that I just decided to let the compost bin have some goodies too.
The broccoli was a project. It was not the best looking broccoli I've ever seen, but I'm sure it has been around longer than I would like to think. The crowns that were in decent shape I blanched and froze. I ended up with A LOT of bags for us to eat. I also took the stems and cut out the softer core. Those pieces I froze as well as I'll use them (with the crowns) to make some really wonderful broccoli cheese soup this winter.
The load ended up being smaller than anticipated, but the produce was in decent shape and it was an amount I was able to handle. I am so grateful for this produce and for my ability to use it to feed my family so well!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I wrote this as a comment to Southern Hospitatlity's question about shoe memories and I thought I should save it here on my blog. I love these shoes, although I'd kill myself if I tried to wear them very often or for very long!
As I was getting ready to turn 30 I knew I needed to embrace it. I was single, owned my own home, had a good job and had no reason to stress over it (although many of my friends had when they hit the big 3-0). I threw myself a big bash with dinner for a ton of friends and drinks and cheesecake after at a martini bar. In order to really bring in my day with style I found some beautiful (and pretty cheap) turqoise heels with lots of sparkle! My little nephew (3 at the time) even pointed to them and said "pretty shoes" when he saw me getting dressed. The kid knows style!
Those shoes were so much fun that night and were not my typical style which made them even more special for such a special occasion. They helped me celebrate a wonderful milestone and just 2 short years later they were my 'something blue' when I walked down the aisle to marry my sweet husband. I love those shoes and will never get rid of them! Now, I don't know that I'll have much reason to wear them anytime soon as I am chasing an almost 1 year old, but they were my "Heck yah, I'm turning 30" shoes and then my "Forever I choose YOU" shoes. They are priceless and are a part of my history! They even have a picture in my scrapbooks.
I love shoes too, and typically now my favorite are flip flops. :)
What are your favorite shoes?
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Mike had a big trip to OH and PA at the beginning of this month to play for a bunch of libraries. Since he got back we've been going like crazy as well. We've got a family wedding, two more road trips, a little one with a first birthday to celebrate, and I've got to make coffee once or twice before the end of the month too. Twenty hours a week is needed to keep our benefits going strong!
So, enjoy your family, enjoy the summer and let's all take a moment and relax at some point!
See you again in a few days!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sometimes you just can't please everyone!
I love freebies and good deals, but I think we all do well to read the fine print, follow what it says, and be grateful for what we are given. Today I am grateful that so many people support Starbucks and by doing so keep my family covered with health insurance. I am also grateful for those who came today and were grateful for the generosity of Starbucks in promoting the new no artifical colors, flavors, trans fats or HFCS pastries. And gratefulness continues for those who realized that we were all working very hard for them and tipped us!
Read more grateful posts here at Heavenly Homemakers.
Monday, July 20, 2009
If you come in to any Starbucks between open and 10:30 am you can get a FREE morning pastry with the purchase of any brewed or handcrafted beverage. In other words, buy anything we make or brew (not counting bottled juices and water) and you'll get a free pastry. Now it only goes until 10:30 or until the pastries run out, so I wouldn't wait until 10:30 to come in. You do need to have a copy of the e-mail that was sent to registered card holders or a copy of the facebook invite or the thing from twitter or at least be able to show us it on your cell phone. As long as you bring in any of those things you will be a pastry. So order a tall coffee ($1.75 here at my store) and you'll get a $1.95 pastry! Not a bad way to start the day :)
Here is a link to the facebook invite. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=111190617889
Hope to see you at Starbucks tomorrow! Don't forget to be nice to your baristas as we will probably be working really hard. Tips are always great too :) And yes, I am one of 4 working this event at our store tomorrow.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Have a great Saturday,
Friday, July 17, 2009
Mike is not really a drinker. In fact, you could say he is not a drinker of things alcoholic. However, the man does love him some Root Beer. He's tried micro brewed, specialty and even generic. He has a few that he is partial to and a few that he is not interested in. His favorite is A&W. That's right, give the choice he would prefer to drink A&W Root Beer! And of course, the only way to enjoy A&W is in a frosted mug.
Small problem, the mugs are not cheap. You can buy them at the drive-ups or on-line, but you are going to spend $11.99 in order to have one shipped to you! I probably would have bought one for him at some point as it does make him very happy, but we had some glass mugs and it was hard to justify spending money on the A&W mugs when we could use what we already had.
Enter Freecycle. You just never know what will pop up on that group. And lucky for me-- actually, lucky for Mike--up popped one A&W mug. Typically I would not be willing to drive across the city for one glass, but this was for my hubby and I knew he would love it. So, I drove to pick up 1 A&W mug. The sweet people remembered that I had said my husband was a huge fan and decided to give me 2 more mugs with the 1 they had offered up. Yipppeee!
These mugs actually are a whole different breed than the glass mugs we had. They are MUCH thicker and do hold the cold a lot better. The 2 mugs they added in are taller and look to be a lot bigger, 20 ozs, than the 1 they had originally offered, 14 ozs. The little one is actually Mike's favorite because the glass is so much thicker and it really chills the root beer the best. In fact it often gets the floaty chunks of ice when you add the root beer. They work great for floats too!
Nothing beats free, except when free REALLY makes someone's day. Mike loves telling the story of coming home from a hard weekend of playing and seeing the mugs sitting there. I think he fell in love with me a little more that day! We store them in the freezer and there is no treat for him like having a cold A&W in his mug!
A quick tip if you have frozen mugs stored in your freezer (and you should, trust me on this one). Store the mugs upside down. Why? Well, if your freezer is like ours there are lots of freezer bags and containers of stuff. If you store them right side up you may find a bit of yucky in the bottom of your mug or worse, floating in your root beer. If they are store upside down they are always super clean inside and ready for your favorite beverage!
Any Frugal Finds for you lately? Let me know what deals you are scoring! Check out some other great deals here at Rhoda's.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
So, I'm going through many, many magazines that I had saved over the last few years. I've got back issues of O, Real Simple and Money Magazine. I'm trying to go through them again and get any information or recipes out that I feel the need to save. Then I'm taking them to work for people to browse while at our Starbucks. After that they are going in the recycling at work unless other people take them home first. I love the fact that they are living at least one extra life!
Today I wanted to share a tip I found in the Real Simple from August of 2005. They did a piece on other uses for appliances that many people have around the house. Some were very obvious to me (using a Crock-Pot to keep hot cider or cheese fondue warm during a party), but others made me go "Why didn't I think of that?" The ideas that really appealed to me had to do with an ice cream maker. Maybe the heat caused these ideas to sound so yummy to me?
So what can you do with an ice cream maker other than make ice cream?
*Make slurpees! Pour a 12 oz can of cola (or other flavor soda) into the machine. Run for 10-15 minutes and when a thick slush has formed scoop into two glasses and slurp away! I'm thinking Mike would LOVE this done with root beer.
*Make margaritas! Pour all your favorite margarita ingredients except the alcohol into the machine. Once frozen add the tequila and triple sec and start the party!
*Make frozen hot chocolate! Make your favorite hot chocolate (homemade or instant) and pour into the machine. After about 20 minutes you can sit back and enjoy the yumminess!
*Make a frozen lime rickey? No idea what this is, but it sounds pretty good. Pour 6 oz of seltzer, 1 oz of simple syrup and 1 oz of lime juice into the machine. Freeze for 15-20 minutes and give it a whirl for yourself!
Don't these sound interesting? I realize that you are using some electricity, but if you compare the price of having some yummy unique treats at home to going out for a 7-11 Slurpee or other frozen goody you are saving some real money. We do not have an ice cream maker, but I think I'm adding it to my rummage sale list!
What fun summer treats do you enjoy? Find more great tips at Tammy's Recipes!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
So what to make? Thank goodness for my habit of shopping when things are on sale and preserving and having things in the freezer. We had some frozen hamburger patties from when the meat was 1/2 off and needed to be frozen right away. I took it home, made it into 1/4 lb patties and flash froze them. Pulled 6 out and started defrosting them. I had a bag of homemade hamburger buns that I could pull from as well. (I promise I'm going to do a whole post devoted to making and storing these...they are wonderful!)
Okay, now we need some sides. I pulled a bag of corn out of the freezer for an easy veggie side dish. That day spent doing corn paying off again! I had some potatoes and decided to give this dish a whirl. I've read about it from two different mommy bloggers in less than a week. Can't be bad, right? It was great! And if the oven would be on to make the potatoes than I might as well make some corn bread. I grabbed a bag of the homemade mix that I keep around.
Everything getting prepped. Crisp ready, potatoes boiling, corn thawing! Sorry for the not great shots, but I was in a hurry! No after pictures as they were here and we were talking. : )
Monday, July 13, 2009
Then use your cute little princess to chop up all the garlic and onions and dice up the red peppers.
Get all the supplies lined up and ready to roll! Start the water bath now as it takes some time to get to a full boil.
Start boiling the tomatoes for a minute or so to make the skins come off easier. Peel them into a big bowl if you can't have a canning colander. (This is from over a month ago now, I could skip the peeling part now thanks to my fun twins!) Put your favorite cutting board into a big jelly roll pan to make clean up WAY easier later. Chop, chop, chop the tomatoes and get ready to have some fun! Of course, you can freeze the watery tomato juice for soup.
Saute the garlic, onion, and red peppers in some olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook. Let them cook down until you get a nice sauce consistency. Add basil, oregano, salt, pepper and whatever other spices you like in your tomato sauce. Can it all in quart jars adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each jar to ensure higher acid content. Water bath for 40 minutes, remove and let cool. Check seals after cooling to be sure they have all sealed, remove rings, wipe jars down and then take pictures of your accomplishment.
I seriously think I am getting addicted to posting about canning! These were done right before the pears and I ended up with 5 quarts of this yummy tomato sauce as well as enough for lunch that day. The other two quarts are peaches/nectarines that we got the same day. This was all done with produce that we picked up from our freecycle connection. When I saw what I had gotten it just made sense to turn it into sauce right away. Some easy, quick, yummy pasta meals coming our way!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Restaurant.com is a site that offers certificates to restaurants at pretty good prices. You can buy a $25 gift certificate for $10 and a $50 for $20. We've gotten $10 ones for $3 in the past as well. When you log on you enter your zip code and it pulls up all the restaurants in the area and you can browse what is available that fits what you'd like to eat.
You enter your info and print out the certificate so there is no waiting and you can use it right away. Some certificates do have fine print, so make sure it works for you. Often you cannot apply it to liquor or you must have a certain amount on your bill to use it. For example you may need to spend $35 on food in order to a $25 certificate. They do have an expiration date, so make sure you do not procrastinate too much!
Mike and I have used these to try restaurants that we wouldn't have spent the money on otherwise or we weren't sure we'd like, but wanted to give a chance. Overall we've had good experiences with our restaurant.com certificates. We always follow the fine print and we often used the minimum to take home a lot of extra food!
A few notes of caution. I gave a certificate to my sister for Christmas one year and when they went to use it in their hometown the restaurant told them they were no longer participating. They did adjust the bill to basically honor the certificate, but I would make sure to call and verify that the restaurant is honoring them if you are going to spend much money on certificates for a certain restaurant. I also got an e-mail from restaurant.com letting me know that a certificate I had not used was no longer valid as the restaurant was no longer accepting them. (I never got an e-mail from them for my sister's situation.) They offered to let me pick out a different one via e-mail, but I was never able to get it to work. In all fairness I tried to e-mail them once, but didn't follow up. I was disappointed, but am hopeful that if I was more persistent they would have come through on their promise to replace my gift certificate.
Now why am I writing all of this? I just found out there is a special running that makes this deal even better! From now until July 31st you can get 50% off of all their gift certificates. So if it is a $25 certificate that would normally sell for $10 it is only $5. If it was a $50 that sells for $20 it is now $10. I'm thinking that this is a great way to get a nice date night out without spending a whole lot! Even with the fine print stuff and a nice tip you could easily eat out at a nice place for $20-25. That is a deal that works for me!
To get this deal enter promo code WDMAG at checkout.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Then it came in a big, bad way. The first day of summer and for a few days following it felt like the hottest, most humid summer weather we ever have in Wisconsin. In fact, we got as hot and hotter than it was all of last summer. This was after being 10-20 degrees colder than normal even the week before!
Then it got cold again. Seriously, what the heck was going on?
Now, now it is summer. The kind of days that make us Wisconsinites so happy. The kind we live here and put up with -30 wind chills for. The kind that make so glad to live here! There is a bit of breeze, a beautiful sky, cool nights for sleeping, warm days that get right to 80, but with very little humidity and no need for air conditioning.
This is summer and I am so grateful! I LOVE this weather. And to top it off I am off for 5 days in a row. Such a wonderful day!
To see other things that inspire gratitude head over to Heavenly Homemakers. It is Gratituesday!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Pre-parade antics with Mike
Friday, July 3, 2009
A fun find to share with you this Friday! I've been wanting an apple corer/peeler/slicer since last fall. We picked apples off a tree that was headed for trimming and did we ever bring home a ton! It was great as they were free, had not been sprayed and were Golden Delicious apples. When you make applesauce it is recommended to combine multiple types of apples for the best flavor. However, if you can only do one type Golden Delicious is the one to go with. It is a sunny, yummy apple flavor and all those apples turned into lots of applesauce! And a crisp or two as well.
Mike prefers smooth applesauce with no peels or such blended in. I also knew we'd be feeding this sauce to the little one when he started solids in the middle of the winter. So, I peeled apples. I peeled and cored and cut up apples. I had a 5 week old baby and I peeled and peeled and peeled apples. It took me a long time, but we ended up with a lot of applesauce in our freezer. (This was before I had my canning stuff.)
This year I have had some issues with my wrists when I do something too much in too short of a time. (Maybe from peeling all those apples? I sure hope not.) So, I knew I could do smooth applesauce with my canning colander if I found one, which I have. We grew up doing only tomato juice with it, so I am excited to give mass applesauce production a try! I also really hoped to find an apple corer/peeler/slicer though. We like apple crisp and other apple desserts that are made with sliced apples. If I had a corer/peeler/slicer I could make lots of those types of apples for the freezer and not have to do all the work myself.
As you may remember, I keep a list of things I'm looking for and last weekend I was apple to cross apple corer/peeler/slicer off my list! I found a new looking Pampered Chef one at a massive rummage sale. The owner had never used it and wanted the space in her cupboard back. She didn't have the directions, but thought it should work fine as they'd never done anything to it except store it.
Here are some pictures of its first trial run.
So I spent $4.00. New they are selling for $31.50. Oh, and mine came with the stand. That is extra, of course. The stand sells for $14.50. So my little $4, never been used stand cost the nice rummage sale lady about $46 and she even put it together for me before selling it to me for $4. One more thing to cross of my list! The directions are even on-line so I was able to figure out how to use it very quickly. And I found out it can make spiral fries out of potatoes...how fun!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Just a quick post today to show you a few pictures of my canning adventure from a few weeks ago. You may remember that I mentioned having pears from some of our free produce. However, I never showed you how it turned out! I ended up making diced pears and pear sauce.
I didn't take any pictures of the case of pears that we got or of me peeling the pears. So sorry, but it would not have been too exciting anyway. Just know that it was a wooden case with Argentina stamped on it and the pears were all wrapped in green tissue paper. Can you believe these pears came all the way from Argentina? Crazy how far our food travels. There were some good ones to eat and a bunch of them that were really yucky. The majority were somewhere in between! I wanted to can diced pears, but knew that many of the pears would be best suited for sauce. I kept a big measuring cup with some lemon juice water next to the cutting board and threw any dices that were fairly firm in there. The rest of the pears were chunked up and put in my enameled cast iron pot which also had a bit of lemon juice water to prevent discoloration. You can see the diced pears waiting patiently in the picture below.
After I cooked the softer pears down a bit I used my Kitchen Aid Hand Blender to puree it to a smooth consistency. This blender was not a frugal find, but it was a gift from my husband and it is well used and loved!
The next step for the sauce was the addition of cinnamon. Did you know that most cinnamon in the US is not actually from the bark of a cinnamon tree? It is Cassia. Not sure what that is all about, but it tastes good! Penzeys Spices are wonderful and flavorful. The company is headquartered right down the road from where I work. Again, not really frugal, but I have a wonderful friend who gives me a gift box of some spices every year for Christmas. I love it!
I ended up with 3 pints of diced pears canned in a light syrup. These were cooked in the syrup for 10 minutes and then water bath processed for 15 minutes. Exactly 4 quarts of pear sauce is what a full enameled cast iron pot holds! These were water bathed for 25 minutes. It was not a hard process and will give us yummy fruit options this winter when pears are $50 a pound...just kidding, but you get the point I'm sure.
Anyone out there canning anything yet? I'm learning a lot and learning fast. I love it and I'd love to hear your adventures.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
So I shuck the corn out on the deck and put the ears into the dish rack. I fill it up pretty full to start, because once I'm rolling I'll have less time to come and clean the ears. I do have some time though, so I do not worry about getting it all done at once. I get all the husks off and try and rub the silk off as well. I do not worry about getting every single strand off, they do not hurt you! Did you know that there is a strand of silk for every single kernel of corn on that particular cob? Fun fact for the day. The husks all go into the compost pile when I am done.
The next step is blanching the corn. I used to do that with hot water, but learned from another woman buying lots of the sale corn that you can use your microwave. It saves on lots of hot boiling water heating up the house! I do 4 ears at a time and put the microwave shield over them to help them steam. They go in for between 5-8 minutes depending on how strong your microwave is. The slight cooking helps them freeze much better than if you just did it raw. There is lots of science behind this, but I'm not going into it now, we've got corn to finish!
I find that as I work I can de-kernel the cobs faster than the microwave can get them done and then cooled in the ice water. This extra time is great for going and shucking a few more ears or even for beginning to package them up. There is a real rhythm that makes it go pretty quickly once you are working! I have been able to do a years worth in just one day both of the last two summers. This year I only got about 30 ears done so far, but I'll be doing more when I find some and hope that then I'll be able to do it all at once again!