Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath, and indeed the whole season of Advent is ignored by the general public, these days it seems.                                               
Not so when I was growing up. Yes, the municipalities put up the Christmas lights about two weeks before Christmas, but in our hearts, we knew it was Advent.                                            
Advent, the time of waiting for Christmas.
First came out the Advent Wreath.  My father would bring a small hand saw with him into the back yard and cut some greenery.  This was artfully arranged to cover the golden Advent wreath and from out of no where, my mother would whisk out brand new candles for the season.  The Advent Wreath was put in the middle of our dining room table, and stayed there in prominence until after January 1st when it was finally taken down and put away.                                    
Considering how easy it is to make an Advent Wreath, and how inexpensive they are now to buy, it seems a real shame that more people don't practice this tradition.   All you need is something round; a round plate, a wreath, anything.  You don't have to use the usual long taper candles either.  In the past, we have used fat pillar candles and candles in glass globes.  If you have little children, you could even use battery operated candles.                        
Decorate the wreath with evergreens, or we've used garland wrapped around the wreath.  We've left it simple with no adornment, we've put a small nativity inside the circle.  We've even hung it from the ceiling over the dining table.                                
A good book to read about Advent, and indeed many Catholic Traditions is "Through The Year With The Trapp Family Singers" by Maria Trapp.    
Why not give the Advent Wreath a try this year?

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Christmas Prayer

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [here mention your request]through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


The four candles :
* First Candle (purple)--Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope (Romans 15:1...
* Second Candle (purple) Bethlehem.candle or Candle of Preparation (Luke 2)3:4-6)
* Third Candle (pink) - Shepherd Candle or Candle of Joy
(Luke 2:7-15)
* Fourth Candle (purple)- Angel Candle or the Candle of Love
(John 3:16-17)
This Sunday starts Advent, and if you would like to have an Advent wreath this year, I thought I'd give you a guide on the candles and what they represent.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Joys of Chili

   Yesterday I gave you a chili recipe from my husband but I neglected to give you some ideas on how to use it.

     First off, you can have it the purist's way and just serve it in a bowl without any toppings.  If you want, you can top it with any of the following: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, oyster crackers or saltine crackers.

      The next day, using only the thickest and least watery parts of the chili, you can put the chili into a tortilla, with sour cream or ranch dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, shredded carrot, shredded cheese.  Try this once, and you'll be hooked.

       The third day, take any remaining chili and serve it over spaghetti.  Top with Parmesan cheese.

        The fourth day, there should be precious little of the chili left,  but try it inside a bowl of tomato soup, topped with shredded cheese.  Or not.

         Chili is really a grocery stretcher because there are so many ways to serve it, and things to serve it with.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Home Made Chili

        My friend Kat from the blog Homesteading on the Internet recent post on her husband's family's chili recipe made me think of my husband's new recipe.  It is not as hot as other chili's that he has made, and for my easily upset stomach, this is a good thing.  I really enjoy this recipe and Nathan even said it was okay to share it with you.

What you'll need:
                               2 pounds of hamburger meat
                               2 cups combined of chopped onions and peppers
                               vegetable oil to cook in
                                1 tsp garlic powder
                                1 large can of Goya black beans, undrained
                                1 small can of black beans, undrained
                                1of tomato paste
                                2 TBSP of taco mix
                                1/2 tsp of paprika
                                1 tsp chili powder
                                2 small envelopes of Goya Sazon
                                1 cup of water with a beef bouillon cube mixed into

                               Put about two tbsp of vegetable oil into bottom of dutch oven that has a cover. Brown the hamburger into it. Drain of fat.
                               Break up hamburger into small pieces, then add all ingredients. Mix everything together. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Let the chili simmer an hour or more, stirring occasionally.  If the chili gets to thick, add water a 1/2 cup at a time.
                               Serve.  Refrigerate with cover any leftovers.  Taste better every day after making it.

Note from Mary - this is delicious in a warmed tortilla and/or with shredded cheddar on it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Super Storm Sandy, What We did Wrong

As promised, a list of what we did wrong.

When we left this blog yesterday, the Bennett family was in the cold and dark, had two extra household members with them and had limited access to hot water and cooking utilities.

1. We didn't have enough batteries.  Although the batteries never ran out on us, if we'd been in the dark any longer, we would have, and we had no replacements.  Further, the crank radio was not made for comfort cranking and took an awful lot of cranks to keep it running.  In retrospect, it would have been better to have a smaller, battery run radio with a back up set of one or two to keep it running and depend on the crank radio for when things really got dire, which they didn't.

2.  The camp stove was a great idea, but on our fifth day, the first canister of propane ran out.  We should have had at least two canisters available to us.  Not that we needed to overload and buy great quantities of propane canisters, but we were cutting it a little too close.

3.  We should have had more wood ready to use in the wood stove.  Though we hadn't used it in three years, the amount of wood we were able to scavenge from our yard, that was aged enough to use was getting a bit thin.  And the wood stove really took the chill off the house and made the difference between miserable and somewhat comfy.

4.  We bought the wrong types of food.  We had soups and vegetables and beans.  What we should have had was stews, chili, hash, things that could be cooked in one pot because the washing of pots was limited and primitive.

5.   We weren't prepared to have visitors, so my sons did not have their own flash lights etc.  Not something that tells them that they are welcomed guests , if you know what I mean.

6.  For everything, we should have just had more.  The government website says to be prepared for two weeks, and that should be the bare minimum that we were prepared for.

7.  The dice game was a bust.  It was too easy to lose the dice in a dim house.  The Uno cards on the other hand were brightly colored, easy to see and provided a break to boredom.  I would like to add a few more simple board games to our collection.  I will look for the printing on the board to be big and have a minimum of set up and small pieces.

8.  We lost every last bit of food in our freezer.  Short of buying our own generator, which is out of the question for us, I don't know what I could have done to prevent it.  Maybe put in more ice packs to keep the food cold?  I don't know, but I'm done crying over spoiled meat.  It is something I will continue to think about how to prevent though.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Super Storm Sandy: Lessons Learned

  Like so many other people, I'm still a bit frazzled by Super Storm Sandy.  Unlike so many other people, my family was left relatively unscathed by Sandy.
     By two o'clock pm, the winds of Sandy were starting to intimintaly whistle around my home and I thought "Well, if it stays like this, it won't be too bad." No sooner than I had this pleasant thought, than there was a huge "BOOM" and our internet and electric left.  The house immediately became a few shades darker.
       The winds began to pick up and become more strong, more frequent and longer lasting. I was very happy that my husband's work had been cancelled and he was home and that my two son's from NY were visiting also.  I couldn't imagine being in a storm like Sandy alone, or with only people significantly younger than myself.
        That night, we ate a very simple and forgetable cold supper since my stove is electric. My body ached for my heated blanket, buy without electicity, it wasn't to be.
         The next morning, the storm was mostly over, and we expected to have our electric power back by that afternoon, the same as last year's October storm.
         It wasn't to be.  This time around, not only were we without electric power for nearly 6 days, we also were the last block in our development to get the power back.  I expected our sons to leave us and return to Long Island every miserable day because their area got almost no rain or wind and never lost cable, never mind electricity.  But they stuck it out with us.
         Well now I've taken stock of the situation and I'm ready to share with you what we did wrong, as well as what we did right.  May-be you can glean some information that will help you to be ready for when you are in a storm situation yourself.

Ready?  Here goes!

What we did right:

1. We removed every tree in our yard that could possibly fall on our house.  Other trees were drastically pruned to make them "lighter" in a storm. Note, we didn't leave pokey branches that would punch holes into the side of our house. Just lightened them up.  We did this months before storm season.

2.  We have an electric stove, so my husband bought a small, inexpensive "camp stove" to cook one skillet dinners on.  And an extra canister of propane.  This was done in the summer, before any danger.

3.   Because we live in shivering cold New England, we found out what was involved in putting a wood stove into our house legally.  We did everything by the book and had it done in late summer.

4.   We bought canned food for almost a full two weeks, extra toilet paper and paper towel, paper plates and plastic cups as soon as there was talk of a hurricane starting.

5.   Dear husband bought flashlight battery kits when they were on sale, enough for our family, and stored them under the sink.

6.   After last years October storm, WalMart was selling small battery powered lanterns for about four dollars.  We bought one, put it on a shelf in the bathroom and left it there in case of an emergency.

7.  We bought a deck or Uno cards and a package of dice and left them unoppened in case of a spate of no power so that we'd have games to play to relieve the boredom.

8.  We bought a crank powered emergency radio

9.   As soon as we found out the storm was supposed to hit the next day, we all put our cell phones on chargers to make sure we had a full charge when the storm hit.

10.  Had a huge collection of jar candles with easy access too and a collection of box matches.

Tomorrow?  What we did wrong!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dump Cooking

It seems like every ten years or so, a type of cooking becomes popular, promising that it will provide nutrition, save mom time in the kitchen and be easy clean up.

Anybody remember the “Meals In The Freezer” movement? Or the crockpot movement? Caserole Movement? One pule one cooking? Personally, I still practice all of these movements when I

can. I might not be able to have a full 30 day supply of dinners in the freezer, but it is still nice to have five meals in the freezer. Or even one, truth be told.

So how did I misss the “Dump Movement” of cookery? Oh did you miss it too?

The “Dump” method calls for you to have some recipes and supplies like zippered freezer bags, measured amounts of chopped onion etc on hand. Then quickly, because you are dealing with frozen food, package each raw meal and place it in the freezer to freeze solid. When you want to use the meal, let it defrost in your refridgerator all day and then back for about an hour in a caserole dish in your oven. Easy peasy. And the recipes seem really yummy.

The problem for me is one, the use of so many non safe to recycle freezer bags. Second, the components for some of the yummy sauces are bound to stick to the bag and be a real pain to try to get onto the meat. So for me, the “Dump Meals” as they are written, are out. I still plan to cook them, but not in my oven, I plan to get everything ready in my crock pot, and not have to worry about honey sticking to the bags.

But check out this wonderful website for some delicious Dump Recipes:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Happy Birthday America

This could have been the unexpected , double -dip of Fourth of July Celebrating if anyone wanted to take advantage of it. I guess the word wanted, could have also been replaced by the word able also. Nate was off from weekend to weekend, so if we had chosen, we could have really had a celebration that lasted all week, or two celebrations. We didn't though because we are suffering from Big Family Turned Small Syndrome, just like the child who can't play by himself, but must have many companions.

First one son couldn't make it, then the second son couldn't come either, third son was iffy, and I had to go to the hospital.

To paraphrase from “A Christmas Story” - goodbye meaty scent of BBQ, so long creamy tater salad, adieu toasted marshmallows, not even the heady smell of a charcoal fire.

We'll celebrate later in the month, even with some birthdays thrown in, but no double dipping this year... Just memories of a red bell grille, flag cakes of culinary kitchens passed, Frisbee and softballs and water balloons, fire fly hunting, and fireworks.

Happy Birthday America!!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Be Thankful!

Today as I'm reading the July 2012 Family Circle, I happened upon a short blurb about thankfulness.  It reads "Being thankful has been linked to deeper sleep and less anxiety but a recent study at the University of Kentucky shows that it also helps you to control your temper."

You would think that being thankful would be relatively simple; be thankful for your health, for your family, for living in a free country.  People have even been thankful for summer skies, summer vacations and just the change of pace that summer brings.

But what if everything I've enumerated isn't something that you can be thankful for?  Then what?

It's very important to have something to be thankful for, or at least it seems like it, for your health.  So try using these as jumping off points to find something to be thankful for.

1.  Have a job?  Be grateful.  So many people don't.  If you are one of the ones without a job, why not try being an entrepreneur?  I would suggest Avon, or something that, like Avon, has a range of prices and so can fit anyone's budget.  Take out some books on guerrilla marketing and party plans from the library, and sell seriously!

2.   Do you have old family photographs?  Isn't it nice to be able to reminisce about times past? 

3.  Establish a weekly movie night, either with family, friends, a combination of the two, or by yourself.  With public libraries lending DVDs, there is no financial reason to not have a movie night!

4. Popcorn.  Be grateful unpopped corn is so inexpensive! And multifunctional.  It can be popped for your movie night, scattered in tomato soup, and robed in homemade caramel to make decorations of popcorn balls for your Christmas tree!

5.  Texting.  I'm grateful for the one line texts or voicemails that my faraway family and friends send me, often for no other reason than to say hello, they're thinking of me.

6.  Letters.  They take so much longer to write, they are way too expensive to spend now that postage for first class mail is just under 50 cents, but they are a delight, as are postcards.  Everyone of them goes into a paper mache box I have just for that purpose, to be savored over and over!!

What little things are you grateful for?  What little things warm your heart?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blue Moon

                     So after my encounters with deer eating my tulips, the allium did fine.  They looked like puff balls made of little purple stars, and the deer let them live long and prosper.  They are, I believe, in the onion family, so maybe the deer just knew they wouldn't like the taste after my delicate tulips? 

Gourds, squash, pumpkin? Your guess is as good as mine!
 The butterflies loved them.  And what came in the mail a few days ago but a catalogue that is dedicated to all types of tulips; ones that open, ones that stay closed, ones with ruffles, ones in whole rainbows of colors including blue.

My husband gave it to me, and then I think he waas disappointed that I didn't fling it open with the passion I would have in the past.  "I'm not planting another tulip." I told him.

"Oh sure you are." he encouraged me.  "They didn't eat all of our tulips."

And he is right.  I calculate that if we plant about 100 more tulips, we might get to enjoy ten surviving tulips.  Or the neighborhood deer will just throw bigger dinner parties.

To say our garden this year is saddly underperforming would be to put a better face on it than is actually happening.  The heirloom tomatoes that I grew under grow lights, in a hydroponic, nutrient rich water are just pathetic.  They are green, and that is about all you can say for them.  They are leggy, the leaves are tiny, the stems are puny.  It would be a miracle if anything grows on them.  The string beans that I started from seed in the same pots are doing much better.
       The squash, one plant from a packet of seeds, put out about 5 leaves, a yellow flower, and then stopped growing.  It is still green. It still has it's flower.  It just isn't growing.

     And are you wondering why I am letting clumps of grass grow in my garden?  Well first, you know the story, I am not feeling all that well and right now I can't do much gardening, BUT, those  
are not clumps of grass growing, but stands of early, dwarf (so the stalks only grow to 5ft high), sweet corn.  Yes! Today is the 21st of June and I am supposed to be able to harvest ears of corn from them for our Fourth of July Barbecue.  What are the chances, do you think?  This is a recent picture, I kid you not.  Lest you think that there is something wrong with the seeds or the plants, I got them from Burpees, and they were very highly recommneded.  Everyone I talked to had great results with them.  Except for moi!  I think there is something majorly wrong with our soil, even though my husband has
mixed peat moss into the ground, top soil and a bag of cow manure, not to mention all the Miracle
Grow that constantly lands on it from watering other plants. Someday I would like to take ALL the soil out of there for a few feet down and replace it with manure - horse, cow, chicken - and see if that helps at all!                                      
The bugs this year seemed to have started earlier than usual, and I can't stand on top of
them like I would usually to spray them with vinegar and water, oil etcetera, so they are having a feast as you can see on the picture of my new Blue Moon climbing rose from Burgess.  Not exactly blue, but pretty anyway.  I feel if it had had someone loving it better, like I would have usually, and    may-be added some iron to the soil around it's roots, it would have been bluer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               In the meantime, I got some free seeds with one of my orders.  One was for "Vine Peaches" and the other was for some type of super tomato with vines that are sturdy and reach to the moon and back.  Okay, not that far, but far beyond what the usual tomato would be.  I didn't care all that much about them, so I put them together in two hanging baskets, put them down on the sunny steps of my back porch, and mostly forgot about them while I was upset about those dratted heritage tomatoes in the front.  Well these plants are doing great!  They are green and lush and soon will be climbing onto the bannister of my back stairs.  It will be interesting to see what fruit I eventually get out of them.
Then, because I do think of myself as a writer, I began to write at a site called  It isn't a paying venture, of course not, when is it ever?  Right now I'm writing about P L Travers and Mary Poppins.  I've written other "lenses", it's what they call these short writings, and I'm enclosing the links in case you would like to check them out.

And please excuse all the problems I had with formatting today!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reuse It!

We're often encouraged to practice the three "R's": reduce, reuse, recycle. I think the easiest of the three to practice is recycle.  If you have a recycle bin, you can do it almost without thinking.  Of course

Recycle, or can you reduce?

recycling is better than having everything toted to a landfill, but recycling isn't as good for the earth as reducing, re-using and re-purposing is.  Briefly, a lot of fossil fuels are used in recycling.  To read more about it, please go to my left side bar and follow the link there or use this link.  Instead try to focus on these three "R's"; reuse, reduce and re purpose.

Those shampoo and conditioner bottles, what can you do with them, besides put them into the recycle bin?  What about finding a shampoo and conditioner that come in bulk sizes, say a gallon container (check the warehouse stores like Sam's or BJ's) and then refill the smaller bottles from them?  I really can't think of any way of re purposing those bottles, but if you can, I would love to hear about it! 

How about the cardboard tube inside of toilet paper or paper towels?  The first strategy is to reduce.  With paper towels, it is quite easy to replace their use as much as possible by using rags, sponges and dish towels.  However, I can't imagine anyone wanting to reduce toilet paper use in that way, not to

                                          Reduce?  Reuse?  Recycle? Re purpose?

mention how unhygienic it would be, and the massive amounts of bleach, actual soap - not laundry detergent - and hot water to clean them for toilet duty again.  One solution could be to buy larger rolls of toilet paper to reduce the actual amount of toilet paper used.
      Another idea is to re purpose the cardboard tube.  There are a lot of sites on the Internet that will tell you how to make Kaleidoscopes for the kiddies or to use them to separate cutlery by taping the tubes together.  Not having anyone in my home that would enjoy a kaleidoscope, and preferring to use an empty, cardboard wine cooler carrier for my cutlery, I'm not particularly receptive to purely crafty uses for anything that I try to re purpose.
   I have seen where the paper tubes have been cut into approximately 4 inch sections, and the bottoms cut to have four sections, then bent over each other like you would close up a cardboard box, filled with dirt and used to start seeds.  They can be planted directly into the ground because the cardboard will disintegrate into the ground.

                  Re purpose?

        Perhaps the easiest and conversely, the hardest things to re purpose is old clothing.  I am of course talking about clothing that is too stained, torn or worn to donate to a charity.  Clothing in good condition should always be donated. 
        Clothing can always be torn or neatly cut into handy squares to use for cleaning, dusting, in the garage etc.  But what if you have enough rags?  T-shirts can be neatly torn into strips, and then crocheted or knitted into chair pads or little rugs for in front of the kitchen sink or bathtub.  Look up on the Internet t-shirt quilts for more uses for t-shirts.
        Jeans can be selectively cut so that the worn parts are excluded.  Good, heavy duty pot holders can be machine sewed from them.  Also heavy duty bed covers can be machine sewn from the squares that would fit nicely in a boy's room or the room of any teen for that matter.  Book covers and tote bags can be machine sewn from salvaged denim.  Even a durable picnic blanket could be pieced together.  These projects all take time, but they are not challenging and you've already paid for the denim material when you bought the jeans, so the project is free.

         Sweaters and afghans that are worn can be unraveled to use the yarn again.  Sweater arms from children's sweaters can be used over the handles of pots and pans along with pot holders for extra protection.  Of course, never leave anything on a pot, pan or kettle unattended in case of them catching fire.
        Take a good look at the items to be thrown away or recycled in your house.  Can any of them be re purposed?  Take a good look.

Some ideas:

  • egg cartons - the cardboard ones can be 3/4 filled with sawdust and a 1/4 filled with wax to use as fire starters in a fireplace or outside grill.  Tear off one or two as needed.  Please remember to use proper precautions. 
  • egg cartons - foam - give them a good wash in soapy hot water and use them in your drawer to coralle small items like paper clips, screws, clips, spare change etc
  • egg cartons - clean well in soapy water, and bring with you to a picnic for your kids to use as a Kala game board.  The pieces can be pretty shells or pebbles that they find.
  • egg cartons - especially foam - bring to your organic grocer or to backyard farmers for them to use again for selling eggs.
  • egg cartons - cardboard - use to start seedlings
  • mint tins - decorate if you wish - use to keep small items in your purse in one place (tweezers, nail clips, spare change etc)
  • mint tins - decorate if you wish - use to store needles, lengths of thread, pins etc for a portable sewing kit. Leave in your purse, desk at work or in your car.
  • Crystal Lite concentrate containers (and containers like it) use it to cold crayons and a few papers for an on the go coloring tote for your children or to coral things like hair accessories, or in the bathroom to hold all the little toiletry samples we're always being given.
  • plastic cocoa container - use it to store all the envelopes of ingredients like gravy, chili mix etc and keep it neatly on the cupboard shelf. If shelf space is limited, I have removed the back pockets of worn out jeans, added a clip magnet to hold it to my refrigerator, and stored all those envelopes in the pocket.
Do you have any tips to share?


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Carmelite Sisters Reflect on "For Greater Glory"

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles rarely go to the movies, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to be a part of a premiere showing of For Greater Glory. Seventy-five of our sisters immediately said "yes" to the gracious invitation of Archbishop Jose Gomez. Why? Because it was during those days—the days of the horrendous religious persecution in Mexico in the 1920s—that our community began. Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, affectionately known as Mother Luisita, had already accepted fifty-five sisters into the new community.
It was on July 31, 1926, that President Plutarco Elias Calles started enforcing the anti-clerical laws throughout Mexico. The following day, August 1, 1926, all religious services were stopped throughout Mexico. No more Masses. No more marriages. No more first Communion. No more religious practices of any kind.

To read more

Carmelite Sisters Reflect on "For Greater Glory"

Monday, June 4, 2012

Replacement Therapy

Have you been going through your spending looking for a place to make some cuts and save money?  Star Bucks put a store in my town a few years ago, about the time that I got cancer.  After my numerable operations, I was no longer able to drink coffee, but if I hadn't had those operations, I can tell you where a healthy chunk of my weekly budget would be, at Starbucks for a mocha latte, yum!  That is until I realized how much of my money was going to Star Bucks, and that I would prefer to keep that money in my pocket, that is.

But before I replaced my Star Buck's fix, I would try to think of something to replace my fix with.  Not something that would cost the same or nearly the same amount of money my Star Buck's cost, that wouldn't make very much sense and I wonder if it would be worth the effort expended in the first place?  Or would I slowly resume the same habit again?

I would try to figure out when I was most likely to buy my Star Buck's.  Did I buy it on Wednesday, the middle of the week, or to celebrate Friday - the end of the week, or to make Monday's less Monday-ish?  Did I buy it when I was driving the kids and the decibel level was at leaf blower level, or on the long trip to the doctor's office?  Or did I buy it just because it tasted good?

Once I figured the when and why of buying Star Buck's, I would start figuring out how could I replace the habit in a satisfactory way.

If I simply wanted to replace Star Buck's, I could buy some Coffee Mate, prepare coffee with it and spin it in my blender with ice.  The savings would be significant.

But what if I wanted not only to not drink Star Buck's, but wanted to stop drinking coffee all together?  Then I would start experimenting.  Could I replace a cold, sweet latte with hot or warm tea?  Could I replace it with herbal tea that I made into ice tea?  These ideas might not be instantly appealing to everyone but rather an acquired taste.

However, after trying the teas as a replacement for a few weeks and still not enjoying it, it might be time to admit defeat, even a temporary defeat and try something else.

Seltzer or club soda might make a good replacement .  You could even try stirring a few teaspoons of concentrated juice into it to flavor it.  Or maybe even plain water with lemon or lime juice mixed in.

It takes a while to change habits, and the longer you have had a habit, the longer it takes to change it.

Some things to remember:

1  If you take something away, make sure you replace it with something else.

2   It takes time to change habits, and each person is an individual.  Don't judge yourself by someone else's success or failure.

3   You might give in to temptation.  Don't beat yourself up about it.  Just resolve to get back on board, that day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

cheapest family

Previously I wrote about the blog "Living on a Dime."  I felt that it was a good website that sold a product, but also was generous with ideas, tips and recipes for free.

Another website was suggested to me, Cheapest Family of America.  While this is a slick website/blog with a lot of information on it, I left disappointed.  Yes, there were a ton of free tips, but these tips tended to be repetitive and sent in by various tipsters.  Many were just a twist of a previous tip and makes me wonder if every tip gets posted?

Then there was the blog itself  where many of the blog posts, after a scintillating first few sentences, could only be read by paid subscribers.

This website was too slick for me to feel comfortable subscribing, both because of the lack lustre tips, but also the constant up-selling.  What if I subscribed and then was told the continuation of a blog post could be found in one of their books?

I realize that The Cheapest Family in America has been seen on the Dr.Phil show and Good Morning America.  I wasn't able to see either broadcast, and may-be the books that they have written and pushed are great.   I don't know.  I'm only reviewing the blog site, which I found very disappointing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Small Appliances

How many small appliances do you have?  Without thinking too hard about it, I can think of five in my kitchen without having to think too hard about it: coffee maker, hot water kettle, toaster, microwave, rotisserie and I have more in my cupboards.  And I have had many that haven't been deemed worthy of moving with us: small waffle iron, ice cream maker, pressure cooker.  It might sound funny, but I would happily give up my microwave oven too.  I use it mostly for reheating, and I don't like the soggy way most foods come out of it preferring to use a non-stick frying pan and pot cover.  It's not as fast, but the quality of the food coming out is so much nicer!!!  Plus, I don't like the way using my Corning Ware and Pyrex in the microwave makes them shatter instead of break over time.

 Would you give up your microwave?

Among the small appliances that I have and would buy again are:

1.  Hot Air Popcorn Popper, with the caveat that the popcorn doesn't shoot out of the machine, which no matter how careful you are to have a bowl under it, still sprays the area and floor with popcorn. 
2.  my bread machine is worth every penny.  True, I don't use it everyday anymore, but it is so easy to use and foolproof, that I know that anyone in my family could use it.  The bread machine also gives you the option of replacing some of the wheat flour with oats, rye and many other flours that are being made available these days.

3.  My husband didn't like my sandwich maker, so when it wore out, it wasn't replaced.  I am thinking of replacing it now that my kids are adults because of how quickly you can make an omelet in it, without having to stand over it like you do when it's in a pan on the stove.  Also the pizza pockets made with tortilla's are delish, as in pretty much everything you put into it EXCEPT cake and brownie mixes which I think are complete yuck!
      In this same class are the donut makers , which we bought my daughter for Christmas and have been very pleased with.  It turns out a bunch of mini donuts without tying up the oven or making a big mess to clean up after.

4.  It does take up a lot of room, so it sits in my dining room, but I love my rotisserie!  It makes the best rotisserie chicken and roasts.  I can use it to cook that night's dinner, or I can use it to cook dinner for a later night, while I'm using my conventional oven.

5. I love my slow cooker for days that I am not feeling good.  I just need to spend about 15 minutes to brown meats and vegetables in a frying pan on my stove, then dump all of it into my slow cooker with about a scant cup of water, and bullion cube, cover on medium and dinner is ready that night with no more effort on my part.

6.  My husband has a big orbital mixer, but it is too heavy for me to drag out so I love my powerful, little hand mixer for the smaller jobs like beating eggs, mixing pancake batter etc.

What are your favorite small appliances?

Sunday, May 20, 2012


These are what is left of the tulips after the neighborhood deer decided to have them for a night time snack.  Do I like deer?  Mmmmm, not so much anymore.

Yesterday was national "Take Your Child To The Park And Leave Them There" day.  This is a grass roots idea by American parents that feel like today's children are not given enough independence and are hovered over by their parents way too much.  So the idea is for parents to bring their children to a pre-picked park at 10 am, offload them, and leave for a half hour, hour or two hours - whatever feels good to the parent.  This way, the children can join together for independent play without parents micro-managing everything.

I say the same thing can be done by parents simply sitting on a park bench and reading, which is what I always did.

If you are worried about your child being thirsty, well don't be.  Children are always hungry or thirsty, they can be that just as well unsupervised in a park.

Anyone ever here of dehydration or heat stroke?

Worried that your child might get hurt and need help?  Well being alone in the park will teach them how to go to a totally unknown person to ask for help, teaching them self-reliance and independence.

Who this kindly, unknown adult will actually be, I don't know, because presumably, all the parents will be gallivanting for an hour or so anywhere except the park.

Abductor or pedophile anyone?  And just think, on this holiday they don't need candy or a puppy! The child comes to them!!!!

But heavens, don't worry, child abduction is at a 40 year low!!  What is the reason for that do you suppose?  Do you think that humans have just evolved in the past 40 years to be nicer people?  Or do you think cases like Etan Patz (still missing since 1979), or Adam Walsh (dead) changed society, making us more observant, more vigilant and much less trusting?  May-be the statistics need to be interpreted a different way.

And yet, for all that vigilance, we still have had Sandra Cantu (kidnapped from her street in 2009, found dead about a month later), Shawn Hornbeck (riding bikes with friends on a dirt road, kidnapped 2002 and recovered 5 years later),  Jaycee Dugard (2001 from her bus stop, recovered 18 years later), Jorelys Rivera (2011, kidnapped from apartment complex playground, found raped, beaten and murdered).

Lastly, as my husband says, if the child that is taken is yours, the statistics don't mean a thing!

What do you think?

Some other blogs and what they think:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Needed: Magic Pot

  It has become painfully obvious to me, what this family needs is a magic pot.  A pot that you could place on the stove with moderate heat, throw in a couple of chicken breasts, a cup of water, a handfull of vegetables and abra cadabra!!! A dinner acceptable to every family member is ready in a half an hour.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Old Foodie: Light-bulb Moments and Solar Cookery.

I just had to share this post from this blog.  They were being frugal even in the 1800's!

The Old Foodie: Light-bulb Moments and Solar Cookery.: My recent post on Simulated Baked Goods stimulated a little email and blog correspondence. It clearly triggered childhood memories for a fe...

A Visit to a Back Yard Farm

My son is more disturbed than I am, I think, about the book I just recommended to you called "Slaughterhouse..."  He has just about eliminated meat from his diet.

This morning he got up early and drove about a mile to one of the local back yard farms that own about a dozen hens.  He got to see the hens, see them foraging through the yard - pesticide free, thank-you - got to see their hay filled, flat, clean nesting boxes and saw their feed - corn and wheat free.

He was very impressed with the cleanliness, the health of the chickens and the feed.  It was like what we had when we had our own backyard farm in South Carolina.

Even at the early hour, the woman was almost out of fresh eggs and could only sell my son 6 of them for $4, not an astronomical price.  You would know if you raised hens yourself how much time goes into cleaning the hen house and keeping the bedding clean and how much organic, pesticide and anti-biotic feed costs.

His omelet was delicious!! You can not believe how much tastier, how much yellow-er it was!!  Truly this is the wave of the future and the end to anemic yellow-ish eggs and cruel treatment to hens that must sit in a wire box, on a slanted floor all of their life.

In fact, if I did not have active cancer, we would have our own little hen house again.  I miss our chickens!!

Above all, cruelty free

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Living on a Dime

   As long time readers know, this blog likes the themes of  re-use, recycle, and frugality so you can imagine how thrilled I was to find the blog Living on a Dime !  The main theme is frugality, and after spending literally hours on the site, I find that I agree with most of the advice and ideas.  The site is written by a mother - daughter team that have experienced hard times and generously share what they have learned to get through them.  Through it all, you will not find one ounce of self pity.

    The duo has written a few books, available as hard copy books, or as e-books including a housekeeping-recipe book and a grocery shopping book, but unlike other sites that I have encountered, the ladies don't hoard all the advice in their books and use their site as a come on to buy their books.  The site has advice columns, recipe sharing, ideas on how to save money from the family finances and even house keeping tips.

    The ladies were asked, what is the best way for the family living paycheck to paycheck to start saving money?  The answer was the same as the advice that I've been giving: stop eating out!  Have an idea of what supper is going to be that morning, or if you can make a weekly menu, know even a week or more beforehand.  Have suppers waiting in the freezer for nights that you are too tired or home to late to cook supper.  Remember my advice of making a double sized dinner a few nights a week, serving one and freezing the other?  At an average of spending $50 or more for a family of four to get a fast food dinner, imagine your savings!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just Disgusted

My son is reading this book:

He told me about it and I read some of it.  I am shocked, disgusted, disheartened, teary eyed and in no state to talk about it.

If  you have any ideas on what actions the average American can  take, please share them.

My Poor Garden!

      Way back when the weather was cold, the days were dark and the ground was brown and cold, getting seed catalogues gave me a feeling of hope. 
       One day, the ground would be warm and green, the skies would be blue and the sun would shine warmly on the earth.  And by gum! If I wanted a garden come summer, I'd better pick the right seeds now!
     So I did.  I picked a packet of indeterminate, old fashioned tomatoes that would mature in colors of red, pink and green.  I picked gourds that I could make into birdhouses later.  I got a precious packet of about 8 seeds for large pumpkins.  They aren't the huge ones that you see winning weight contests, but about as big or a little bigger than the first pumpkin that I ever grew in my life, which was in last years garden, and pictured on some of my blog posts.  I bought green beans and they sent me a bonus packet of vine peaches, which I never heard of before, and a type of tomato that grows on 10 ft high stalks.
      In April, I put some of the seeds in a special doo dad that you can buy for the Aero Grow.  Some grew weakly, some didn't grow at all and some grew quite well.  But I'm thinking, maybe I planted them a little too soon, because the tomatoes became leggy despite pinching them and the stems are none too thick.
      So now we are in the first week of May, and I've transplanted them.  They are not looking too great.  I didn't take pictures, but just imagine a bunch of leggy, limp plants.
      For all my planning,  I might be actually buying tomato plants at Lowes this year.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Daybook Page In May

From my window - rain drizzles down the window pane.  Looking further, the woods behind us are a lush green.

I am reading - Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  Before that I was reading Sleeping Murder by the same author.  Before that I read Claws and Effect by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown, a Mrs.Murphy Mystery.  Mrs Murphy is a striped tiger cat.  These are very good books despite a cat being one of the main characters. This is the second book I've read of the series.  Before that I read The Distant Hours by Kate Morton which I really whole heartedly recommend.  Distant Hours is a modern Gothic, Victorian novel set in the 1990's - so modern times.  The author has written another book, titled something like the Secret Garden or the Hidden Garden.  I plan to find that book also and read it!

I am grateful - as always for my family.  I pray that God blesses them for everyday of their lives!

I am angry - that I have a beautiful flower garden in my front yard that the deer find absolutely delicious!! They come in the early morning, and when their indelicate chomping wakes up my daughter and she yells at them, they don't leave!  Humans hold absolutely no terror to them, and my flower garden has some ragged leaves and stems without flowers!!!

I can hear - snoring from our 8 year old Lab Louis, who is fast asleep on the floor near me.

I can smell - nothing!  No scented candles, no air freshener, no doggie farts.  Sometimes nothing is good!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It All Started With Liver Pate

   Have you ever tried liver pate?  Probably not.  The liver pate that I am absolutely in love with is made by Sells and comes in this easy to remember red and black can.  I'm sure the can hasn't changed in looks since I was a kid and my mother introduced me to it.

Liver pate doesn't have a great reputation among modern folk.  We mostly are chicken and beef eaters, with the occasional foray into pork.  When was the last time you ate lamb?  For most of us, the answer to that question is sometime in our childhood when our mothers made it for some holiday meal.

I've had a real hankering for Sell's Liver Pate, but my husband had been unable to find it in any of our local grocery stores.  So I went on the Internet to see if I could find a store that carried it.  That's when I came across a wonderful blog called Daves Cupboard and a blog all about Sells. 

The next day I came across another wonderful blog called What's Going On at the Mother House.  It reminds me of another blog about natural living the I like called Homesteading on the Internet, but for the life of me, I can't get back to the Mother House blog.

I've searched and searched.  I've found a lot of blogs that haven't been written on in literally years.  I've come to realize that the blog-o-spere is a vast, vast universe of blogs; some brimming with life, some holding on and some that are just dead-as-a-doornail.  Getting there on your own is a crap shoot unless you have a live link.  Without being on many bloggers blog list, your blog is but a twinkling planet out in deepest, darkest, coldest space.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fifty Two

I refuse to admit I'm more than fifty-two, even if that does make my sons illegitimate.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The JackA$$ Parent

Lately, tonight actually, it has occurred to me that to every pair of parents, there is the "Jerk" parent also known as the JackA$$ parent because they don't care if they are considered a JackA$$ or not and then there is the cool parent, the "with it" parent, the la-di-la nothing will ever happen parent.

Kids prefer the "cool" parent and are annoyed to strongly antagonistic toward the Jerk parent.  Therefore most parents would like to be the "cool" parent, and sometimes the Jerk parent can pull off being the "cool" parent for a limited amount of time.

Strive to be the "cool" parent.

How can you tell whether or not you will be the cool parent?  I believe that clues to your later parenting skills show up during your childhood to teenage years and even into adult pre- parent years.

For example, if you and your friends were about to go swing on a gate, okay, I see I have to explain swinging on a gate.  Back when I was a kid, there were gates here and there among the empty lots that made up our lives.  Some were gates from defunct, small family farms and those were useless for swinging on.  They were usually made of wood and wire, not balanced, and usually hung one end into the dirt that once made up the driveway.  They took a ton of pushing and prodding to move and were more effort than what they were worth to get any kind of a ride.

Then there were the gates that once closed on the front yards of a family home.  They were usually made of wood planks placed next to each other and secured by a cross beam top and bottom to keep everything sturdy and secure.  They were meant to be secure and last a long time and they were perfect to stand on, push off with a foot and ride that short arc until the latch slammed into the post that completed the doorway with a resounding CLANG! and a bump that told you that the ride was over and it was time to move the gate back to it's first position for another ride.  The really good kids, of which I wasn't, could get a toe hold on either side of the gate and get a "swing" from side to side.  Except, that usually gave you a ride into the thorny remains of the rosebush that once graced those gates. 

It got to the point that I enjoyed "swinging" so much that I once "swung" on the gate of a neighbor's house that was beautifully balanced, gave a great, smooth ride, but the problem was the house wasn't vacant.

"Hey you kid! Stop swinging on my gate!"

And I stopped, because I was essentially a good kid that really hated to be yelled at.

So, if your first reaction to swinging on a gate was to check for splinters or rusty nails, instead of yelling "Yippie! Another gate to swing on!"  I think that shows a predisposition to be the Jerk parent instead of the Cool parent.

Or, when taking your younger siblings to the beach during summer vacation, you made sure they were all coated in suntan lotion, and then as a group went searching for sea shells and then building a sandcastle instead of  yelling  "Only go out into water up to your knees.  We'll meet back here at 3."  I think you are showing signs of being the Jerk parent in the future instead of being the Cool parent.

I am ............ sad to say, the Jerk parent.

I've been parenting for 30 something years now, so I've had lots of experience of  parenting different age groups.  I'm parenting adults, new adults, teenagers and a pre- teen.  The hardest to parent is the new adult.  The pre-teen still is fooled into thinking I am a saint straight from heaven meant to parent her, the teenagers are going through the stages of oh-my-gosh-this-woman-knows-nothing-who thought-it-was-a-good-idea-of putting-her-in-charge-of-cats-let-alone-humans?  to coming out the other side thinking not-as-dumb-as-I-thought-fairly-benevolent.  But then there is the new adult,
he doesn't think I am all that dumb, but pretty naive. He's benevolent toward me.

He, like everyone else in this house, has a curfew.  I know a lot of cool parents are sucking in their breaths and thinking "oooo,hooo. An adult with a curfew. Not good."  But I figure it this way, I am, who I am.  I need my front door locked and all inhabitants accounted for before I can go to sleep for the night.  I'm not making any adult live here, all adults are free to live where they can afford.  But for me, this is a house rule. 

So the adult missed curfew, and I stayed up another hour waiting.  Now, I am good about missing curfew up until a half an hour.  After that, I start to get nervous.

My dear husband is saying "Honey, he's fine, you need to go to bed."

Now we've been married long enough that I am not going to snap at my beloved for something he says unless it's reaaaaaaaaalllly bad.  In Nate's mind, Bart is fine.  In my mind, how do I know he isn't lost from coming home from a particularly tricky location?  How do I know that the truck hasn't broken down?

I text him.  "You are SERIOUSLY past curfew."

Another hour.  I call his cell phone.  It gets answered by his voicemail.  I leave a message about wanting to go to bed, please call me.


I wait another half hour.  I call him get voicemail.  Call him again, get voicemail. Call him, get voice mail. Call him and tell him on his voicemail that if he isn't home by the hour, I will then call the police to find him.

Jerky thing to do, right?  Didn't  I say I am the Jerk parent?  Right?

He was home before the hour, and it ended up that his Android phone battery had died before my constant calling of his voice mail. 

"Pretty good thing I got home before the hour huh?" Bart grinned before telling me about his night.

Yeah, because I would have called the police.

We both knew I would have.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Don't Think I Should Just Write

I've been told that I would always have something to write about if I remembered to always write about something that made me angry something, something that made my blood boil, something that was in the news.

Well the big story in the news these days seems to be either about children being betrayed by adults they should be able to trust or about infidelity between married people. While it's true that these stories to get me angry to make my blood boil and are in the news, so they are current, I just don't want to write about them.

So now what do? Have nothing to write about?

What I've decided to do is to write about something that makes me mildly annoyed; the making of supper every single night.

I've been married 32 years, minus the two years I've had cancer and I think it would be safe to say I've made supper seven days a week, four weeks a month, 12 pounds a year for 30 years. Of course that doesn't take into account the nights that I got all off from cooking; the nights I was sick, we ate out, or had the night off for whatever other reason. But how many suppers have I cooked in the last 30 years?

It gets repetitive after a while. There are only so many times that you can make meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, baked chicken, and stew before it all starts to taste the same. And that is when the problems begin.

When Nate and I got married, we promised each other that we would never eat organ meats like kidneys, liver, brain or tongue and never, never ever, lima beans. Those were the parameters and Nate promised never to be a picky eater on until...

He developed a hatred of mushrooms, peas,faux Chinese food. He didn't like macaroni and cheese, hot tuna fish and then tuna fish at all.

One day when I was cooking stroganoff I needed Nate to go to the store and buy the sour cream I had forgotten. He purchased it as I asked, but was in horror that I was going to put sour cream in our dinner.

Now he knew what he tasted in the stroganoff that he didn't like – sour cream!

I can live with not putting ingredients into our food that neither of us like and I've sacrificed not eating mushrooms in our meals for over 20 years but I don't like having to read recipes to him so he can single out ingredients to leave out.

One rare night lately, I was going to make supper. I say rare because since the cancer it has been harder and harder for me to cook. I had the ingredients I was going to use on the counter next to the stove.

"Oh no! Don't put beans in it." Said my son.

"Don't put tomatoes in it!" Said my daughter.

"Okay." I said. "I won't put beans or tomatoes in it, I'll put in onions and frozen peppers instead."

"Yuck! Don't put peppers in, they are slimy and soft." Said my third child.

Then the vegetarian stepped in. "Do you have to put hamburger in it?"

I realized, the only ingredients left were water and two bouillon cubes.

That's when my husband stepped in.

"Cook supper the way you want to cook supper." He said.

And just when I thought he understood, he questioned me on what spices I was going to use!

So these are the new rules for the cooking of supper - 1. Have all the ingredients you need on hand 2. No one gets to stay in the kitchen with the cook and/or comment on the ingredients and 3. No one gets to ask about what ingredients are being used 4. If you didn't cook the meal, you don't get to complain about it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year to my dear readers!  May this year be filled with health and happiness, good fortune and overflowing with cheer!

The Christmas tree has been taken down and all but the most cleverly hidden of decorations  have been put away.  I feel a bit badly about that since the actual Christmas season has really just started. But with me going for chemo agqin, who knows when I would get the energy to take down the tree if I waited till later?  And a Easter Christmas Tree in the spring would really be disheartening!!!

So I'm a bit sad to be losing our elf this quickly, and I've been reassured that elves belong to winter folklore if I really want to keep the elf.   I think a clean break is best though, especially since my cats love to kidnap the elf!

Its so sunny and warm, wouldn't it be great if the rest of the winter was this way?


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