Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Size Matters

I made my first pie in the new oven and it is also my first pie of the 2015 apple season.  I wait for fall -- specifically October, to start baking apple pies.

My favorite pie apple is the Northern Spy.  It won't be in season for another week or so, but it's close cousin 20 Ounce works just as well.  The size of the apple corresponds to the name.  These boys are big.  They are also firm, and the perfect blend of tart and sweet.  This pie was made using two plus one small fruit I found in TBGs car that must have rolled out of his lunch bag last week.

Believe it or not, six apples -- the number I could fit into a three pound bag, cost only two bucks.  I'm headed to camp this weekend to get more -- and hopefully the Northern Spy crop will be harvested too.
Due to the lack of time, I cheated and used a frozen crust.  I peeled and cored the apples and TBG threw the discards into the Vitamix with asparagus ends and pumpkin guts so that Teddy would have veggie slop.  I managed to make dinner (using my stolen salmon -- three fillets meant they cost me a penny a piece), get the pie started and snacks for the dog done with the help of my guy.  Once dinner was out of the oven, I was able to get the pie right in.

The oven worked very well.  My pie was not in the least bit soggy or under cooked.  In fact, it was quite crispy and flaky for a store-bought crust.
I seized another deal based on size.  These small grill drip pans were 75% off because it's the end of the summer grilling season.  I grabbed all ten from the shelf at $1.25 a piece (normally five bucks).  My plan is to use them in our toaster oven at camp.  They are the perfect size and I cook a lot of meals in the thing.  This will open up many delicious meal possibilities.  It was nice to see thirty eight dollars taken off my food bill and to also score something that will be very useful while I was at it.

It would have been tempting to buy other sizes on a deal like this, but I wanted these because they are a perfect and odd size (sorta like me).  With five trays to a package, we'll have enough for a couple of summers... especially if I can wash and re-use them sometimes.

I was lucky to find them and they will be very useful.  Size matters!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Lunch Stuff

I've been trying to get back into the habit of eating a salad with most meals.  That is especially true of lunch.  Salads are a good way to fill up and if I do it right, I can have lunch made up ahead of time without worrying about soggy lettuce.

By putting the dressing in first, I can then add "buffer" ingredients before the lettuce goes in.  I've posted about this before and then I gotten out of the habit of doing it.  Well, I'm back at it.

I also have made up pasta salad in advance the past few weeks using whole wheat pasta.  This batch has one of my dollar salmon fillets from the Dollar Tree.  We were invited to dinner on Saturday and I pulled together a tomato, grape, onion, feta and vinaigrette salad.  There was some left-over so that got tossed with the pasta and fish.  One container stuffed full like this will provide me with three lunches if I bring a salad.  I'll eat a lower calorie and higher fiber lunch if I split my plate like that.

I've been pretty good about putting the salad together each night and then in the morning, I don't have to make lunch.  Just grab the salad and put it in a bag.  I leave the container of pasta salad in one of the fridges at work until it's gone.  I'll have to buy more salad stuff mid-week, but I should be set with the pasta salad for the rest of the week.

Another bonus this time of year are apples.  We've found a new kind - Autumn Crisp and they are awesome -- a lot like a Honey Crisp but a bit smaller and a little thinner skin.  They are the perfect size for snacking.  I did bake my first apple pie tonight.  I'll post about it tomorrow.  It's not fair to report on it if I haven't tasted it!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My Fish Story

I believe in karma and I have this story to demonstrate why...

Last month I got home from shopping and realized my order was short one bag.  That meant I was missing a bag of frozen shrimp and a bag of frozen peppers and onions.  The manager at Tops would do nothing for me.  That is typical of Tops.  Since I need to shop there to get chicken backs for the pup, I couldn't boycott the store.

Tops has horrible customer service but they also are sloppy with their jobs in other ways.  Take the instance of the shelf label in their seafood case today.  Bags of salmon and cod were labeled with a tag indicating they were three cents each.  I grabbed seven bags of salmon and three of cod.  I knew the freezer could hold no more.  It was obviously a mistake -- not a case of discontinued product.

I high-tailed it to the checkout so I could get there before anyone else caught the mistake.  My total included almost fifty bucks of seafood which the cashier then had to call an front end person to go back and check.  They did a forty night dollar void and gave me the packages for three cents a piece.

Had Tops been willing to sympathize with me the day I was shorted a bag of shrimp, I would probably not have taken advantage of them in this situation.  However, given the unit/shelf pricing rules in our county, they were obligated to give me that price.  I could have done much better if I'd let the sale close out and then went to customer service.  I'd have gotten the price correction along with ten times the amount of one over-ring.  I wasn't prepare to be that greedy.

However, I do now have a freezer full of fish that I paid thirty six cents for.  What a fish story!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Point of Reference...

I just wanted to post what our yard looked like three years ago when we first moved in.  That tree was one of the first things to go.  It cost about $1500 to remove it and have the stump ground down.

When it is all said and done, we've spent about 15K on the yard (if not more) over three  years to get it where it is today.  I'm not sure if the cost of painting the house and the garage is included in that, but that was another job we tackled.

A lot of stuff remains to be done inside:  the basement needs to be upgraded -- and I suspect we'll have to drop $$ on an electrician.  We need new kitchen cabinets, counters and floor.  The hard wood on the first floor needs to be refinished.  Our micro bathroom needs to have the tub and surround pulled out, new tile/shower, new sink, new floor and new potty (in other words, a full remodel).  The carpet upstairs needs to come out and the hardwood re-finished.  We know there is a layer of linoleum in the hallway.  All of the upstairs needs a fresh coat of paint.  I'd also like to have all of our bedroom furniture refinished. It's gorgeous old stuff but it's beyond the point of shabby-chic.

While we would like new HVAC to better address the lack of return vents upstairs, that's not going to happen until the furnace or central air dies.  The shingle on the outside of the house needs to eventually be replaced and our driveway is badly cracked -- which is probably the next major project that we can't ignore.

Over all, the house is actually in good condition.  Since we keep it clean and do preventive maintenance and take care of problems when they arise, nothing is critical.  It is tempting to want to fix it all at once, but that would cost a fortune. Then it would probably all need to be replaced at the same time!  The only decorating task I have felt like dealing with lately is the curtain situation in the dining room.  If it was just me, I'd have let that go longer.  Small things like that don't cost a lot so I don't fret over them.  But I'm now going to concentrate on socking away a couple of thousand so we can do the driveway.  That will make our lives easier ( a level, crack free driveway is easier to remove snow from), and it will make our outside living area even more attractive.

There will always be something that needs to be done, and I don't have a master plan.  But I'm OK with that as we are still very happy with our little house and our small lives!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Pear Tree Bites the Dust

A rule I've been trying to live by, is if you can't maintain something correctly, get rid of it.  We've been talking about taking down the pear tree in our back yard for a few years now and it finally happened today.  This is the second pear tree I've had chopped down.  The last one was at our old house.  In both cases, they were just too close to the house and they were also making too much of a mess.   A foundation doesn't need to be challenged with growing roots and the back pavered walk way has challenges of it's own.  If we stick to our vision for the next year or so, we'll be re-doing the driveway and the tree would have been an issue then.  I'm glad to have it gone now -- no leaves to clean up!  While it yielded a lot of fruit, that was a pain too.
The area is nice and open. Jimmy Jam took it down and he picked up every twig and leaf.  He even hit the area next to the foreclosure house and took care of yucca and daffodils that came back (in spite of having been entirely cleaned out last year).  I had visions of building a bench along there but want to see what happens with that house.  Apparently the bank is trying to sell it again, this time through a real estate agency.  There is a broker's name listed on the door and I plan to call him in another week if the lawn isn't mowed soon.
Our back yard patio looks so much bigger -- we take the "open concept" idea very seriously.  The fish that's on the stump is a garden fixture and Jimmy seems to put it in the middle of whatever job he finishes outside.  If I ever see one like it in a garden store, I'll have to buy him one of his own.

In my fantasy world, this area needs a hot tub.  Maybe we'll do that but right now there are higher priorities.  We will deal with the stump at a later time -- probably once we know what we're doing with the area, or maybe when it comes time to pave the driveway.  Regardless, that's one more thing of the "To-do" list for the house that I'm glad to see done.

The Lorax is probably quite unhappy with me today!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Low Budget Grooming

Last month I used a pedicure gift certificate from my birthday, which was in March.  Finding the time to go was difficult.  Once it was done, one toe was really sore from having the nail and cuticle cut.  I liked the way my toes looked and kept after them for another few weeks -- but it was just too much work!

This past weekend I bought nail appliques to see how they would stack up against polish.  By the time I was done with all of my weekend chores, my nails were trashed so I cut them shorter.

The reality of my "beauty" life is that I'd like to do more and I'd like to look better, but it's wasted with the activities I need to do.   While nothing really trashed my pedicure, it's just not worth doing now that my toes aren't on display anymore.  The look of well manicured nails is all well and good (and I really like it), but with all the cooking and cleaning, polish doesn't hold up -- and it takes forever to get it off.

I'm sticking with the basics -- which for me is a ridiculous grooming regimen.  No one should go to bed without flossing her teeth but that is not enough for me.  Nope, I've got to scrap around my gum line to make sure no plaque or bacteria can settle in.  A cheap set of dental implements can be found at Dollar Tree or in the super market -- my set came from Tops on sale.  Three years ago, I purchased a Braun epilator and that is preferable to trying to shave my legs in the shower.  Truth be told, I use it on my arms and face so I can de-fuzz.  The older you get, the more body and facial hair you grow!  A couple of months back, a battery operated callous remover was introduced into the mix.  It works pretty well and is preferable to the manual kind.  With no time to soak my feet and even less appetite to spend money on any sort of fancy scrub, the light abrasion before taking a shower works fine. 

There are plenty of ways to get soft skin and one thing that helps, is scrubbing.  Since I don't want to waste water, I scrub with a natural bristle brush before I get in the shower and follow my scrub with a buffing using a cheap car-washing mitt.  This is something that I try to do twice a week and works out well because I take a shower at night.  After my shower, I'll moisturize and push my cuticles back.  Rather than buying cuticle lotion, I make my own using the odds and ends of eye creams, samples, glycerin, conditioner -- anything on hand that isn't fit to put on my face anymore.  Right now, I'm mixing some out-dated eye cream that would probably give me pink-eye if used as intended.

It is not always easy to fit all of this in -- especially when days get crammed so full.  I should also be thinking about touching up my roots.  But let's not go there!  Were I an affluent lady of leisure, I'd go to a spa or salon and enjoy myself.  Instead, the task of grooming is a real chore that I admit I don't particularly enjoy having to do for myself.  However, since none of  us have an automatically self-grooming body, it's my dirty job to do.  If only I were a "Real Housewife" instead of a low-budget workin' woman!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bathroom Strategy

 Since I don't have time to keep each room in the house clean, I have to try to keep up with some of them daily.  My plan for the bathroom has been working OK so far.  I keep a pitcher of baking soda next to the toilet.  The last person to leave in the morning dumps a healthy dose in the bowl and gives a quick scrub and then lets it sit until the next time the potty is used -- which is generally when TBG gets home for lunch.  A little sprinkle after each flush helps too. We spray the shower with vinegar/water after each shower and squeegee it down.  I have a brush on the tub which I used to scrub around the drain when the water is waiting to go down.  That helps me get scum loosened from around the water line.  I pour a little bit of fabric softener around that area once it's drained, scrub lightly and then rinse. Fabric softener removes soap stains really well.

For the sink, I keep a sponge on the side of the tub along with the brush (hidden by the shower curtain).  The sink gets wiped after each use -- and sprayed with vinegar if necessary.  I like to just give the faucet and handles a spray every time because that keeps water spots from forming.

While these things don't get done every single time, if they're done with enough regularity, the bathroom doesn't get too gross.  I need to find some place to keep a small broom but so far can't think of any place.  Either that, or I'll get one of those cheap "electric" brooms to add to my growing floor cleaning collection...  between camp and home I own over a dozen.  I need something just to do a quick zip of that room because if there is ever a part of the house that collects dust, lint and hair, it's our tiny bathroom.

The fact that it is so small does make it quicker to clean.  But it also means every surface gets a lot of traffic.  With all I had to do this weekend, at least scrubbing the tub, sink and toilet with caustic chemicals was not on the list.

And I swear, I'm not Felix Unger!