Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen: Quick Tomato Salad

Today I came home and had two thoughts:  what am I going to eat for lunch and what am I going to do with all of these cherry tomatoes?  The solution to both questions was Tomato Salad.

This is lovely served as a side dish or served on a crusty piece of bread as I did for lunch.

Quick Tomato Salad

Slice small tomatoes in half or quarter larger ones.

Salt & Pepper to taste.

1 teaspoon balsamic vineger

3 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped basil

Stir all ingredients together.  I don't like to refrigerate tomatoes as it ruins the taste, so make this fresh each time you are serving it.

God bless,

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Musings

First of all, a big thank you to the members of our Armed Forces. You make the ultimate sacrifices for us: leaving home and families, bearing the unbearable and facing injury and death.

Too many of our young people are dying because of our addictions to revenge and fossil fuels. So let's make some sacrifices too: less driving, no use of gasoline for recreation and, oh yeah, some good old fashioned biblical forgiveness.

My father entered the armed services when he was sixteen years old and retired when he was in his forties. He was a veteran of three wars and had been injured several times. He was provided the opportunities of getting his GED and attending college. He was a Lt. Colonel when he retired and spent the rest of his life as a 100% disabled veteran. In the end he was a fervent pacifist as only someone who has experienced war can be.

I love and miss you Daddy.

God bless,

Sunday, May 29, 2011


When talking with the funeral director ask whether your local newspaper will print a free obituary. You will be limited to a certain number of lines or words, but most funeral homes have a website where they will publish a longer obituary for free.

So, put the basics in the newspaper with a reference to the website. Make sure to request that donations be sent to Hospice or another group that assisted your loved one.

Be careful of the type of information you include in an obituary. Don't have the time and place of the funeral; criminals have used this information to burglarize the deceased's home while they know everyone is at the funeral. Also, never include birthdates or other specific information that would allow for identity theft.

It's sad, but true. The obituary should just be used as a notice for people who knew your loved one and already know the specifics.

God bless,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cremation Urns

My mother is being cremated, so I began talking with friends and looking on lines at cremation urns.  Most people pay at least $300 for an urn and it can go up into the thousands of dollars.  Neither my brother or I are interested in keeping Mom's ashes at home, so we really just needed an urn for burial.

It is not required that you buy an urn from the funeral home.  There are many online sellers of urns.  The one that I found that had an extensive inventory and the best prices is Mainely Urns.  They have something for everyone and their prices are reasonable.

Nowadays even Walmart sells caskets.  It is important to plan in advance for your funeral or for the funeral of a loved one.  Researching your options will keep you from having to make decisions during a stressful, sad time.

God bless,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mom Passed Away

My mother passed yesterday at the age of 83.  She never recovered after breaking her hip 2 1/2 months ago.  She was not practicing in any religion, so I pray that God will watch over her.

Some people may think it in bad taste, but I have learned and am learning some interesting things about the funeral home business that I would like to share in my next few posts.

In Florida, if your loved one is going to be cremated and will not be present at a service, it is not required that they be embalmed.  Our county (and most areas) only have one facility doing the actual cremations.  All of the other funeral homes ship the deceased to this one facility, then have them shipped back.  Bypass the middle man by going directly to the facility doing the cremations to make your arrangements.

The majority of cemeteries require embalming, but there are a few in Florida that allow "natural" burials.

The most important thing you can do for yourself and you loved ones is to do the research in advance.  If I was going into this without adequate knowledge it would be a very tough time to make decisions.  Now I can make the arrangements without having to make decisions during a difficult time.

Thanks for letting me work through my grief in a way I find comforting; by writing my thoughts down.  It helps me clear my mind.

God bless,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Frugal Garden: The Dooryard Garden Update

With Mom being so sick, my gardening efforts have been centered around my small dooryard garden.  As it's name implies, it is a garden just outside my front door.

It was traditional in the States to have a big garden on the property, but housewives would have a small garden within close range of their kitchen.  This dooryard garden would contain the herbs and some vegetables that a busy cook would need to quickly harvest to add to the pot.

All of my flowers are doing well and the tomatoes are producing beautifully.  The two little tomato plants I planted two months ago are covered in tomatoes.  We are eating the beautiful yellow and pink cherry tomatoes in salads and eating them out of hand.

What pleasure we get from these small gardens.  I love to harvest every day and dead head the flowers to keep them blooming.  We have our two favorite herbs, basil and cilantro, nearby to snip with our kitchen scissors.

Even after the big garden is fallow for the hot summer months here in Florida, I will keep the dooryard garden going with heat resistant flowers and herbs.  And I will enjoy it every time I enter my home.

God bless,

Compare Gas Prices

With gas prices rising and falling so quickly it can be hard to find the lowest prices when you need to fill the tank.  Especially, if you are a miser like me and only fill the tank every two or three weeks.

One source of prices is Gas Buddy.  You can look up gas prices by zip code or city and, if you are interested, enter the gas prices you have seen.

Just think of it, if more people entered prices on a regular basis, we would never need to fill up our tanks, then see a lower price at a gas station several blocks away.

God bless,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Preparing Pasta For Casseroles

First of all, thank you for your patience.  I am recovering from my surgery, which went smoothly and busy caring for my mother, who was just referred to Hospice.  My posting will be occasionally sporadic, but hopefully beneficial.

In order to cut down on preparation time when making casseroles that contain pasta I have learned to bypass the step of boiling the pasta.  Fill a bowl or the casserole that you will be using with very hot tap water.  Soak your pasta in this water for twenty minutes.  It should now be soft enough to use when constructing your casserole.

Twenty Minutes in Hot Water
This method works well in casseroles that use wet ingredients, such as lasagna.  You will still need to boil pasta for dry ingredient casseroles like macaroni and cheese.  Add a little bit of water to the bottom of the casserole before baking if you are unsure.

During the summer, with such hot weather, it is nice to avoid heating the kitchen with a hot stove top and boiling pot.

God bless,

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No Posts For A Few Days

On Thursday I will be having surgery to remove my gallbladder.  I have had gallstones for eight years and managed to keep them under control with a herbal remedy called Stone Free.  However, I have been unable to deal with the increased gallbladder attacks in the last year.

Fortunately, my brother is here visiting and will be able to care for our mother, so this seemed to be good timing.

So, I will not be posting for a few days.  Please keep me in your prayers.

God bless,

Simple Smoothie Mix

Thanks to a BOGO sale and some hefty coupons I decided to buy some new frozen smoothie mixes made by a yogurt company.  They are expensive and normally would not have been within my budget.

What a surprise when I took the bag out of the freezer and opened it up.  It contained frozen pieces of bananas, strawberries and yogurt.  Period, that's it.

So, here's the plan:  On a sheet pan, lined with parchment paper, place slices of banana, halved strawberries and teaspoonfuls of yogurt.  Place in freezer until hard.  Remove pieces from pan, place in zip lock freezer bag and store in freezer.

To make smoothie for one:  Mix one cup of milk and several pieces of mix in blender.  Keep adding frozen chunks until you get the consistency you like.  I made a presentable soft ice cream with this method.

So easy, so simple and so frugal.

God bless,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Experimental Dishcloth

I've written before on how important I think it is for us to learn the old, pre-industrial crafts.  Even if we only make one thing, at least we have learned a skill that may one day become a necessity for our family.

One of my experiments was to make a cotton dishcloth from scratch.  I did not grow the cotton, but purchased unspun cotton from a fiber craft supplier.  I set up my charka, an indian spinning wheel, and spun a light weight yarn.

Spinning on the Charka

Then I began to knit myself a basic dish towel.  I used wooden knitting needles that I had made myself while attending classes at the Fiber Arts Studio in the Threefold Community.  I had been so enthused while spinning I was able to knit two towels.

Just Like Great, Great, Grandma's

I know that I will spin cotton yarn again, but will I use it to make a common dish towel?  Probably not, but who knows, someday it may not be optional.

Definitely Rustic

By the way, these dish towels have lasted beyond any that I have purchased and they are used hard.

Try something new.  The teachers of the old ways are out there.  Look at your local historical societies and re-enacters.

God bless,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Eating Humble Pie

Thank you to the readers of this blog that let me know that I was not censored, but was a victim of a system malfunction. I should not have assumed the worst.

The missing post is now back on this blog, for those of you that want to read it.

I will work on tempering my quick retorts and make sure I know what is happening before I speak.

Can I get whipped cream on my humble pie?

God bless,

Friday, May 13, 2011

Frugal Home Remedies: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an interesting cross between vitamin and hormone. Usually we metabolize the vitamin D that we need through exposure to the sun, but it is also available in capsule form and as a food additive. Vitamin D is hard for your body to absorb, so sun exposure is the most effective way to ensure that you have adequate levels.

I learned about vitamin D recently when I was diagnosed as having very low levels in my system. Since D is stored in fat cells it is slowly replenished in our bodies when taken orally. As a result I now take a prescription only dose of D, three times a week.

And the benefits of vitamin D? It is essential to good brain function, affecting memory, mood, depression and anxiety levels. Without good levels of D you can suffer from extreme fatigue (trust me). I have read of some people saying that restoring their vitamin D levels literally changed their lives for the better.

Several times a week, get a half hour of sun exposure on untreated skin before 10:00 am or after 3:00 pm. If you do suffer negative symptoms ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels. Ensuring that you receive adequate doses of D is an easy fix for some frustrating physical problems.

God bless,

Missing Post

Interestingly enough, yesterdays post has been deleted from my blog. I can only assume that it was because of my reference to a popular television show. I am very disgusted that this happened.

I apologize to my readers. I try to post a minimum of every other day.

God bless,

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Couponers: Don't Clear The Shelves

Well, I watched Extreme Couponing last night and once again I saw two women upending displays to take all of the product the store had.  Maybe the show should be titled Extreme Bad Manners or Extreme Selfishness.

If you do get to attend one of the excellent seminars offered by True Couponing or Southern Savers one of the first things you will hear is how uncool and unGodly it is to clear a store's shelves of the sales items.  If you do want to buy a large quantity of an item call the store to pre-order.

As I have said before, it is up to us to use our couponing skills to be frugal keepers of our homes and to benefit others that are less fortunate than us.  We want to portray our religion in a good light by demonstrating good behavior.  I would be mortified to hear someone say, "Look at that Mennonite.  She took all of the pasta and didn't leave any for others".  Live the Word!

God bless,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Frugal Home Remedies: Beets

For years when dear daughter and I were working with horses we saw them being feed beets and beets products.  In Florida it is difficult to keep horses in good physical condition, so beets were fed to them to help them have the energy to stay in good condition.

Fast forward to today.  After developing problems with my gallbladder I began to research natural remedies  for gallbladder and liver health.  Lo and behold, the lowly beet appeared again.  Filled with vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, beets are incredibly good for you.

Not only are they vitamin powerhouses, but they are high in sugars and carbohydrates without being high in calories.  So, they are a great source of energy, but not fat production.

When cooking beets cut off the top portion of the stems, but don't cut into the beet itself.  Wash thoroughly and boil the beets until fork tender.  Now peel them (this will help keep the staining beet juices to a minimum) and slice.

Wait Until They Are Cooked

My favorite way to serve beets is pickled the same way I make cucumber summer salad.  Mix 1 tsp. salt, 3 Tbls. white sugar and 3 Tbls. vinegar together.  Add thinly sliced, cooked beets, stir and let sit in the refrigerator overnight before eating.  Delicious!

Add beets to your garden and diet for gallbladder and liver health, plus increased energy.

God bless,

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Decorate With Vintage Seed Pack Images

With my mother in a rehabilitation facility, I struggled with how I could decorate her room.  I keep fresh flowers on the dresser, but we are not allowed to use nails to hang pictures.  The Contact temporary hangers are good for framed pictures, but I wanted some decorative art on the walls that I can change according to the seasons.

While toodling about on the internet I decided to look for vintage Easter card images.  Low and behold, there were quite a few open stock images available.  A rule of thumb is that if you can print the image by itself without any accompanying text or web page detail it is more than likely open stock.  If it is on someones personal web page assume that it is a privately held image.

I printed the images on card stock from my HP printer and they turned out very well.  I cut them out and needed to find a way to put them on the walls without framing them.  School teachers know about blue tack (sp?) temporary adhesive.  It is a putty that you soften in your hands, then pull off small pieces to stick on the back of a picture.  You press the picture with the blue tack onto the wall and it sticks up quite firmly.  To remove just pull the picture off and roll the blue tack off with your fingers.

Easter is over, so I decided to change Mom's decorations to vintage seed packet images.  I just googled "vintage seed packet images".  Vintage seed packets are quite beautiful.  You can find bright, vibrant colors and soft pastels.  They are all works of art as they were hand painted/drawn by artists, not photographed as they are today.

Bright and Cheerful
This would be a great way to get your children involved in decorating their rooms.  They could find, print, cut out and hang the art to their hearts content.  The only drawback is the cost of color printer ink, but I have noticed that the newer printers use ink cartridges that are less expensive.

Peaceful Pastel
Or you could decorate with framed images in a room that has an environment that is harmful to standard art, such as a humid bathroom or hot kitchen.  Some people use vintage images printed on regular paper for decoupage.  Please do make sure that they are open stock images.

Have fun enjoying the everyday art of our grandparents.

God bless,

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen: Homemade Salad Dressing

Are your refrigerator door and pantry shelves stocked with bottles of various salad dressings? It is so simple to make your own fresh salad dressing each day using your pantry's basic ingredients.

When mixing your own dressing follow this simple rule: one part acid to three parts oil. Get creative by using flavored vinegars, citrus juices and different varieties of oil. Then add flavorings such as garlic/onion and various herbs/spices. Finish with salt/soy sauce/worchestershire sauce and your favorite pepper.

I like to mix my salad dressing in the bottom of my big salad bowl or put the ingredients into a small jar to shake. You can store any leftover dressing in the jar in the refrigerator. Remember this is fresh, without preservatives, so it must be refrigerated.

Dress the salad just before serving to keep the greens crunchy. If you do wanted a wilted lettuce salad heat the dressing before adding to the greens. Wilted salad is traditionally made with bacon and bacon grease in place of the oil.

There is another, very serious, reason for making homemade dressing. Some bottled dressings have Propylene glycol alginate added as a thickener. Propylene glycol is the main ingredient in anti-freeze and is considered to be a toxin. So, if you must buy dressing, read the label carefully or, better yet, buy organic.

God bless,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Pantry: Focus On Ingredients

When setting up a pantry it can be so tempting to shop the sales with coupons and fill your shelves with packaged convenience foods.  Shopping with coupons can be a real money saver, but focus on buying staple ingredients to build the bones of your pantry.

Olive Oil
An ingredient can be used to make a variety of dishes, not just one.  Olive oil can be used in baking, to saute foods and to make condiments (salad dressing, mayonnaise).  Vinegar is used to add flavor to dishes,  in condiments and to preserve food.

Sugar is eaten too often in our country, but it is valuable for preserving food and as a baking ingredient.  Add other sweeteners that your family enjoys such as honey, molasses, and maple syrup.

Bulk Flour
Grain products are essential in a well stocked pantry.  Flour is used in baking, pasta, noodles, and tortillas.  If you have a grain mill you may want to store unground grains to make your supplies even more versatile.

Bulk Rice
My family eats rice on a regular basis.  Other grains may be your family's favorites.

Versatility, nutrition and your family's preferences should be your focus when choosing the basics for your pantry.  I haven't mention the dried and canned fruits and vegetables you may want to store.  Or the dried dairy products most families can use.  You know your family the better than anyone.  Develop a pantry well stored with the ingredients that will allow you to prepare meals you all will enjoy and thrive on.

God bless,

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Frugal Garden: Tomato Colors

First of all I need to brag a little;  I just picked my first tomatoes.  They are yellow cherry tomatoes and taste just like candy.

First Tomatoes!
My grandfather was a tomato lover.  He had nine children, worked three jobs, but still found the time to grow tomatoes of every size and color.  It was his way of de-stressing after his very busy days.

Tomatoes come in many colors.  We all are familiar with red tomatoes, but pink is just a lighter version of the reds.  Some other colors are purple/bronze, bicolors/stripes, oranges, yellow/gold and white.

Different colored tomatoes have different tastes.  The darker the tomato the more acidic is the tomato.  The lighter tomatoes have less acid, so they have a sweeter taste.

The differences in acidity affect how you should use the tomatoes.  The higher acid tomatoes are better for canning, while the lower acid tomatoes should be eaten out of hand.

It is so much fun to experiment with growing different varieties of tomatoes to find the ones that taste best for you and your family.  It's a wonderful way to enjoy the colors and flavors of nature created by our Lord.

God bless,