If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Our Rockin' New Year's Eve

Our house is rockin' this evening. Young One has three friends over and they're playing Rock Band in the basement Kid Cave. I'm alternating between laughing at some of the singing and crying because I'm no longer anything other than the ride and pizza provider.

In the past, we've always had a seafood feast at home on New Year's Eve. Going out is way too expensive and I hate being on the roads this night. We'd buy a case of crab legs from a restaurant supply and then share with friends or family. It was fun, but this seems like a new tradition developing.

He's getting older and I can see the next few years as filled with gatherings like this. Pretty soon there will be girls here too, I'm assuming. I told D that if they play Seven Minutes in Heaven with the girls in my laundry room, I'll just die.

We're enjoying some Chinese food, a movie, and some guilt free Internet surfing while sharing some smiles over the giggles emitting from the basement. It seems a lot of people are staying home tonight. There were tons of people at the grocery store and at the library checking out videos. I don't know if it's the economy or if people are like us, and just want to stay close to home tonight. It feels like we've turned a page. New tradition, same location.

Funny how life marches on.

Happy New Year!

My Favorite Day--Yes Man

We went to see Jim Carrey in Yes Man last weekend. In the past, I never was a big fan of Mr. Carrey. There was something about him that gave me the willies. In fact, just thinking about him in that movie, The Mask, makes me slightly ill at ease.

My whole opinion of him changed, though, when I watched him with Jenny McCarthy and her autistic son Evan. He has parented that child, advocated for him. That and his comments about how he and Jenny are already married in their hearts won me over. “We love each other and we are married whether somebody said it or not. Whether we had some kind of ceremony or not, we believe that nothing outside of yourself can make your union sacred except you," Jim told Hollyscoop.com at the 'Yes Man' Los Angeles movie premiere. He added, "So that’s where we are, we love it and everybody keeps saying 'why not put the finishing touches on it' and my attitude is why ever put the finishing touches on it? Just keep it open, keep it going, court forever, that’s what were into.”

I'm still somewhat disturbed by the way this man moves his mouth at times. It does freak me out, still, just a little. But, that's neither here nor there.

The movie? Yes Man was just a fun story. Predictable, yes, but funny. Our family enjoyed it immensely. There's a little romance, quite a few belly laughs, and a butt scene that's worth the price of the ticket just to see your kid collapse in giggles.

Basically, the premise is that Jim's character, Carl is a no man. He says no to everything and is a pretty sad guy. He's lost his wife, works a boring job, and basically has no life. He runs into a friend he hasn't seen in a while who's in a frenzy of happiness. The secret to this friend's happiness? A self-help guru with the motto, "Yes is the new no." So, Carl goes to a seminar and he starts saying yes to everything. And, of course, his life changes for the better. There are some bump along the way, but all in all, it's a new, happy life for Carl.

We had a great time at this movie. No, it's not an Oscar contender. It won't be critically acclaimed, in fact, I think it's getting bad reviews. Which makes me want to bonk the critics on their foreheads and say, "lighten up!" It's a fun, family movie, that's lighthearted. Something that I think we need a lot more of in this day and age. I would say it's good for kids over 10. This film sparked a lot of conversations for us. Young One can tend to be a No Man, so this was a perfect movie to teach a bit.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Housewife--Stretch a Buck
Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergents last October. My powdered recipe is here. I'm loving the money savings and it works great. I made a 2 1/2 gallon bucket of liquid laundry detergent November 12. I'm just now making another bucket because I only have a few more loads left. It's lasted a long time and costs only three cents a load!

I'm amazed at how well this recipe works. It takes about five minutes to mix up and needs to stand for 24 hours to gel, but that's more than worth it when it comes to savings. A big plus, as well, is that it's a very environmentally friendly detergent, made from simple ingredients and pure soap. And, because I've been reusing the same bucket repeatedly, I'm using less plastic for packaging.

Lovely Liquid Laundry Detergent

You aren't out much, except a few minutes and a very small amount of cash, by just giving it a try! The ingredients are extremely inexpensive. You can find washing soda, borax, and Fels Naptha soap in your grocery store laundry aisle.

3 Pints Water
1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated
1/2 cup Washing Soda (Arm and Hammer, NOT baking soda!!)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
2 Gallon bucket to mix it in
1 Quart hot water Hot Water

Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints hot water and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 Quart Hot Water to 2 gallon Bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket completely with additional hot water, and mix well-- do not skip this step or it will become a solid! You must add a lot more water--just fill the bucket. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens. You may add additional HOT water if the mixture becomes too thick. Mix well before each use. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load. Makes 64 loads.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Resolution Schmezolution

'Tis the season to make promises to yourself that you just won't keep.

I've always wondered, does anyone feel anything, but guilt in a few weeks after the bar that they set too high comes crashing down?

Or is this really a great time of year for everyone? You know, self reflection, a clean slate, a new beginning for everyone that unites us all into one big hopeful crowd?

Maybe I'm a bit cynical. I never have made major New Years Resolutions. I take this time of year to look back on how quickly the last year has sped by, shed a tear when they do the montage of all the celebrities that have passed away this year, and then try to look at the New Year as a fresh start. I have high hopes, but no real concrete resolutions.

For the most part, I live my life without regrets. I don't spend too much time on over analyzing any failures, rather seeing it's best that I not spend too much time wallowing in negativity. It's from my mistakes that I have learned the most, after all. I do look around and laugh at all the resolutioneers crowding the gym and filling their carts with produce that they won't eat. And I do scoff at the plethora of weight loss solution commercials that crowd the airwaves.

Are you making resolutions this year? Does it help? Maybe I should take this more seriously!?!

I've Had My Fill

We had a delightful Christmas, filled with just enough of the family to feel loved and happy, but not enough to make us tear our hair out. Know what I mean?

I ate too much, though. Too much of everything. I didn't mean to. Nope, that's not quite true. I did mean to. About a week ago, I had decided that to hell with counting Points and holding myself back. Christmas comes just once a year and all that nasty rationalization that we do when we overindulge.

I'm finally feeling, after five days of too much rich food, that I just can't do it anymore. I can't face one more reheated plate of Christmas leftovers and I couldn't put one more cookie in my mouth if I forced it in with both hands.

Eating like that makes me feel like crap. I can't imagine how people can eat like this every day. Did I overindulge like this all the time before I had my light bulb moment of starting a new life? Not to this extent, I'm sure.

There's a guy, I can't remember his name, but he was featured in Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me documentary about McDonalds, who eats at least two Big Macs every day. He was recently featured on Yahoo News, why I don't know. Perhaps it's all the New Years Resolutions that are soon to be made. Anyway, I remember that any time I've ever had the craving for McDonald's Big Macs (and those times have been very few in my lifetime--we honestly rarely, if ever, eat fast food), I've always ended up regretting it. As in, clutching my stomach, moaning, and cursing the very existence of McDonalds. And drinking a bottle of Mylanta.

So, I wonder, these people who eat fast food several times a week, do they feel like I do right now all the time? I can't imagine.

So, it's time to get back on track. I'm tempted to throw away the rest of the leftovers, but the cheapskate in me can't do that. I guess I'll put them in the freezer. The cookies will disappear, I'm not interested any more. And when they're almost gone, I'll trash the rest of them. Why oh why I ever made homemade caramels is beyond me? The very thought of them nauseates me.

This feeling has got to be why New Years Resolutions are made. I just know it.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Still Believe

There's magic everywhere today. You can see it in the eyes of your children. You can see it in your family, your mom, your grandma, your siblings. We all have just a glimmer in our eyes today.

It's the magic of Santa.

I still believe in him and I'm not alone. Oh yes, I know, I've been told he's just a myth. I've been told, "there's no such thing." But, I still believe.

He's in the gift that you didn't quite expect. He's in the unexpected guest that you haven't seen in years. He's in the joy of the moment your children shake you awake. He's hidden in stockings and under trees. He's in the shared table and in the hands we hold while we pray. He's in the closeness of family, however small.

I've found him in church while the carols sing. I've seen him in the snowflakes as they drift down in a picture perfect white day. I've seen his work in between the lines of a Christmas letter from a friend. I've watched him dance in the eyes of my son.

We all carry a bit of Santa's magic and share it this time of year. I know, there's much much more to this day than just Santa and presents and magic, but I like to think Jesus wouldn't want his birthday celebration to be any other way.

May your day be Merry.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Trial Run

We got up early today. I think Young One was practicing for tomorrow's mad rush to the tree. I don't mind getting up early, as long as it's my idea! Christmas and Easter morning always dawn bright and early for us and we're pulled stumbling down the stairs by Young One, who most certainly has been lying awake for at least an hour.

We established the no presents until after 6 am rule after we were awakened before 5 one Christmas morning. Amazing how you learn as you go with this parenting thing!

A long time ago, someone I admire who also has an only child mentioned that Christmas can be kind of odd when there is only one child. There's not that Christmas of your youth, you know, the combined ripping open of packages and exclaiming that only comes when you throw together a group of young siblings. I don't agree with her at all. I do remember the combined joy, but I also remember making comparisons, fighting for mom and dad's attention, and the scoffing of my brothers as I opened my Baby Alive doll, a present I still remember in it's perfectness. My childhood Christmases are perfect in my memory, but they are MY childhood experiences, not Young One's. It's easy to get lost in comparisons when you have just one child. I constantly remind myself that he know only this experience and that it's my job to make sure his memories are joyful.

I love our Christmas mornings, however bleary-eyed I might appear. It's just the three of us, without any distractions. Our little family, perfect just the way it is. To criticize that would be to look God in the eye and laugh at His plans.

Today is delightful in it's perfect anticipation. I've always loved Christmas Eve. I get to spend the afternoon and evening with my extended family. Then we come home to savor the waiting. I'll wrap a few more presents for tomorrow morning. I'll make some cinnamon rolls and set them to rise for tomorrow's Christmas breakfast. I'll snuggle in close and enjoy the perfectness of my little family.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blue Christmas

I'm missing my dad terribly this Christmas. Dad died four years ago of pancreatic cancer. I was more than just his little girl. We were good buddies. In his eyes, I could do no wrong, and that's a beautiful place to be.

I don't know why I'm missing him more this year than others. Grief comes with surprising intensity at times. Just when I think I'm OK, it hits me, heavier than a ton of bricks. He's here with me, I know that. His teachings, his wisdom, his words, they all echo through me, through Young One, through my brothers.

My mom and I talk, and laugh, and shed a few tears over memories. My dad wasn't a perfect man. No one is. But, he is missed. I think everyone who has someone to miss, will miss them more around the holidays. It's just one more reason to hold those you love who are still here, even closer.

Do something for me, for my dad, this year. If you know someone that is alone, who has lost a spouse or dear one this year, include them in your celebrations. Reach out to them. For, I can't imagine going through this alone.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

This is the day I wait for with great anticipation every time we turn our clocks back an hour. This is the day when the days start getting longer! When we start getting more life giving sunlight and less of the dark winter nights.

Now, I know, it starts creeping back to us, that elusive sunlight, in just minutes per day. I'm still jubilant though. I'm a sunshine person. Days and days of cloudy weather can send me into a funk. The first time, after we set our clocks back in the Fall, that the sun disappears at 4:30 in the afternoon, I'm near tears.

Winter has officially arrived with this date, and for that, I am grateful. I do love the change of seasons and we've had one hummer of a snowstorm here, so there is no doubt that we will have a White Christmas. We'll have a few months of white here in lovely Minnesota! I'll be tired of the snow in a few months and desperate for Spring and green and garden planning. But, for now, I'll enjoy what we have.

And in those few extra minutes of daylight, I plan to turn my face up to the sun and smile.

Having done just that this evening, I'm glad I had this simple roast chicken in the oven. I hope you enjoy. Chicken is very Weight Watchers friendly and this one is extremely friendly to those of us that are so busy this time of year.

Lemon Pepper Slow Roasted Chicken
This chicken roasts in your oven at a low temperature for 5 hours. Be sure to plan for the long roasting time.

1 large roasting hen
1 lemon, quartered
Lemon-pepper spice blend
One medium-sized onion, peeled and quartered

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Wash hen inside and out. Place in a large pan that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray. Squeeze lemon quarters over bird. Stuff bird's cavity with onions and squeezed lemon quarters. Sprinkle bird liberally with lemon-pepper. Roast for 5 hours, basting with pan juices if you have time, don't bother if you're too busy. Let bird set for 10 minutes before carving.

Christmas Bread

I'm a mutt. I'm a Scottish-German-Swedish-Czech American. Hubby throws some Finland and Norway into the mix, so Young One is a real combination.
We celebrate the season with bits and pieces from all of our nationalities.
This simple Christmas bread is part of both of our childhoods. My mom always bought it and I have to say I never really liked it as a kid. Too much "weird stuff" in it. It took me many years to overcome my candied citron phobia. My father-in-law makes a particularly tasty loaf, and while mine is nowhere near the deliciousness of his, it's pretty darn close. It's delicious with your Christmas Eve meal and even better, toasted for Christmas breakfast the next day!
Some people frost this bread, but I prefer to top it with organic cane sugar. It melts into sweet, crispy goodness making the top of the loaf sparkle. The cardamom is absolutely necessary, so don't leave it out!

Yes, the name (pronounced Yool-Ka-Ga) will cause young children to giggle. Some say, Yool-Ka-Ka, but that is what made me laugh hysterically as a child. I still can't order a PuPu platter with a straight face. Sweet, dense, cardamom spiced dough heavy with golden raisins and candied fruit. Call it Christmas bread, call it Julekaka, just be sure to call me when you make it!
1 (.25 ounce) package active
dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110
degrees to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup diced citron or mixed
candied fruit

glaze: 1 egg, beaten and raw cane sugar

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, egg, butter, salt, cardamom and 2 cups flour; mix well. Stir in raisins, citron and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to greased top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down; divide in half. Shape each portion into a flattened ball. Place in two greased 9-in. round baking pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Beat an egg until frothy. Paint the loaves with beaten egg and sprinkle liberally with raw cane sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to cool on wire racks.

Freezes well.

There's Nothing Better than a Homemade Gift--Pistachio & Tart Cherry Chocolate Bark

My brothers always used to make almond bark at Christmas time. Melted white chocolate and almonds, melted together and spread thin until cool. Nothing fancy, but a delicious treat, nonetheless. I like to take this theme and expand on it. Simply delicious, there are many combinations that you can make. This one is my favorite.

Pistachio & Tart Cherry Chocolate Bark

Store in the refrigerator. Best when used within one month.

1 lb. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped--I use chocolate chips

8 oz. real white chocolate

12 oz. pistachio nuts (1 1/2 cups), toasted

8 oz. dried cherries (1 1/2 cups)

Place semisweet chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Place white chocolate in another bowl. Heat semisweet chocolate in microwave, covered with wax paper on high 2 to 3 minutes or until almost melted, stirring once. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth. Heat white chocolate, covered with wax paper, 1 to 2 minutes or until almost melted, stirring once. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.

Stir 1 cup pistachios and 1 cup cherries into semisweet chocoalte. On a large cookie sheet, spread chocolate mixture to about 1/4 inch thickness. Spoon dollops of white chocolate onto semisweet chocoalte mixture. Swirl chocolates together with a knife. Sprinkle with remaining cherries and pistachios.

Refrigerate one hour or until firm. Break bark into pieces. Store in tightly sealed container in refrigerator. Pack in decorative boxes, lined with waxed tissue paper or colored cellophane for gift giving.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

There's Nothing Better than a Homemade Gift--Sugared Cranberries

Sweet and tangy sugared cranberries make a surprising addition to candy bowls, your favorite apple pie recipe, cheesecake or baked brie. What a nice way to treat your neighbors, your mail carrier, or the paper delivery person.

Sugared Cranberries

3 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
3 cups water
3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup superfine sugar

Mix sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 1 minute, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, cool for 15 minutes or so, and pour into a bowl. Stir in cranberries. Cover and refrigerate for about 8 hours. Drain cranberries. Reserve liquid, strain out cinnamon sticks and cloves and use as a simple syrup to add a holiday touch to cocktails.

Place superfine sugar in a bowl and gently toss in cranberries, coating evenly. Place cranberries on a baking sheet to dry, about 1 to 2 hours. Store in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days or package for gift giving.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tis Better to Give

We believe in giving an allowance to Young One. A lot of people I speak with don't give their kids allowances. They figure they give in sometimes and say no sometimes. We tried that and it really didn't work. We gave in more than we said no. So, we started what we call The Ledger. It's Young One's little accounting system that he uses to keep track of his money. It's done wonders for our family. He knows when he can afford something. We no longer have to be the bad guys about not letting him have something. He gets to watch his money grow and best of all, he's learning some very valuable lessons about saving and giving.

Every week we give him a set amount for allowance. From that amount, though, he has to save a percentage for college and donate a percentage to charity. It's amazing how quickly that money adds up.

This year, he decided to donate to our local food shelf with the money he saved, and to do so in honor of his teachers. He decided that they all would appreciate his donation in their name instead of just one more gift card, homemade treat, or teacher themed present that they all are inundated with at this time of year.

I promised him that I would make sure his money could feed as many people as possible, so I hit Aldi while he was at school yesterday. Thanks to him, there will be soup, macaroni and cheese, and oatmeal for dozens of families.

It doesn't take long to add a few more items to your cart this time of year. Our area food shelves are struggling despite the generosity of so many during this season. Please take a moment in this busy time of year to remember those that are less fortunate than you. You may be surprised at just how many of your neighbors you may be helping.

Then mark your calendars for the less generous times of year. Just a quick reminder that you need to help restock the food shelves.


There's Nothing Better than a Homemade Gift--Citrus Salt

I think I'm sensing a theme here! I must need vitamin C because everything seems to be citrus flavored this year!

Lemon, lime and orange zest add bright, fresh flavor to gourmet sea salt. A great addition to any seafood dish from grilled fish to shrimp stir fry, and perfect for rimming margarita glasses too.

Citrus Salt

2 cups sea salt, grey salt or fleur de sel

2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest

1 tablespoons fresh lime zest

1 tablespoons fresh orange zest

Preheat oven to 225°F. Mix salt with zest and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Place in oven and bake 2 hours, or until zest is dry. Mine only took about 40 minutes, so check it often. Place in a food processor or blender and pulse until evenly mixed. I've only made this once, but I think next time I would just mix it all real well after it's cool and not pulverize it. Divide evenly and package in decorative containers for gift giving.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Want Spicy Roads

Just a news blurb I overheard this morning, but I thought it was fun.

A town in Iowa ran out of road salt. How this happened, I'm sure, will result in some poor chap losing his job. But, that's not the story.

They are experiencing icy roads down South in Iowa and so what did they do? Local company, Tones Spices, donated a lot of expired product to cover the roads. What did they have to share?

Why garlic salt of course!

Imagine smelling that everywhere.

You've got to love those resourceful Iowans.

There's Nothing Better than a Homemade Gift--Sweet Orange Body Scrub

I've been making this body scrub for ages. It's so much more inexpensive than purchasing it and I think it works great. I scented this batch with sweet orange essential oil, but you can choose your favorite scent. This goes together quickly so quickly and you can package it as gardener's hand scrub or body scrub, depending on who you're giving it to.

Super Simple Body Scrub

2 cups Epsom salts or organic cane sugar

1 cup canola oil--or any other scentless oil, like sunflower oil

8 drops of your favorite essential oil-- or more, to desired scent

food coloring

Stir first three ingredients together until well combined, add food coloring in a color to compliment the scent you used. Since I used sweet orange essential oil, I used a peachy orange combination of food coloring to color it. Package in unbreakable containers--no glass in bathrooms!! Use anywhere you'd like super soft skin. Rinse off completely, being sure to rinse shower or bathtub well as oil can make surfaces slippery.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Save Handmade!

Handmade Wooden Toy (above) found at Little Sapling Toys on Etsy.com

My dad used to say that you can't legislate common sense. Here's another attempt at doing that. Have you heard about this?

"We're all for strengthening the safety standards of mass-produced toys, clothes, and accessories made in China, and banning toxins like phthalates and lead. But this year, congress passed the ill-conceived Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act, a law which goes into effect in two months and will absolutely decimate the small toy manufacturers, independent artisans, and crafters who have already earned the public trust.

With this act going into effect February 10 2009 so many people we love will be affected: Moms who sew beautiful handmade waldorf dolls out of home, artists who have spent decades hand-carving trucks and cars out of natural woods, that guy at the craft show who sold you the cute handmade puzzle--even larger US companies who employ local workers and have not once had any sort of safety issue will no longer be able to sell their goods. Not without investing tens of thousands of dollars into third-party testing and labeling, just to prove that toys that never had a single toxic chemical in them still don't have a single toxic chemical in them."

Read more about it here and be sure to take a few minutes to take action. This is so wrong!

There's Nothing Better than a Homemade Gift--Tangerine Sugar

This one is so easy and it impresses everyone. It's delicious too.

Tangerine Sugar

The bright citrus flavor of this sugar is ideal for sprinkling over grapefruit or stirring into iced tea. You could even dip the rim of a martini or margarita glass in it. I think it would be great sprinkled on buttered toast, but I haven't tried that yet.

3 tablespoons tangerine zest--If you don't have a Microplane Zester, you must purchase one! I use this gadget at least a couple of times a month.

3 cups sugar

Place sugar and zest in food processor. Pulse until you see flecks of zest evenly distributed throughout the sugar. Divide evenly and package in decorative containers for gift giving.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

There's Nothing Better than a Homemade Gift--Pumpkin Butter

Got a few minutes and need a few last minute gifts? I'm going to post a few quick recipes and ideas over the next few days. Time is short here, as I'm sure it is where you are!

I whipped this Pumpkin Butter together in about 5 minutes last night, and let it simmer for a half an hour. Cool, place in cute jars, label and it's done. Delicious on toast, muffins, waffles, cornbread. YUM.

Pumpkin Butter

1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree--I used the pumpkin puree I made from this year's jack-o-lanterns
3/4 cup apple juice--I think apple cider would be much better, but I didn't have any!
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves--I didn't have any and the store I went to was out, so I substituted apple pie spice from Penzeys (which if you haven't checked them out, please do! Great spices!)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir frequently.
Transfer to sterile containers and chill in the refrigerator until serving.
Pecan Pumpkin Butter Appetizer Dip
So delicious, your guests will wonder what the secret ingredient is!
8 oz cream cheese
6 TB pumpkin butter
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 TB crumbled, cooked bacon pieces
2 green onions, finely chopped
Beat cream cheese with pumpkin butter until smooth and creamy. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Serve with crackers or pretzels.

My Computer got the Flu

I got hit with a computer virus. Not just a simple one. Nope, I got hit with one that rewrote 2800 documents and took most of my pictures. Some of what I lost was backed up on our desktop, but not all. I have no idea even what I'm missing, although I do know that all of it is irreplaceable.

During the season of giving, I wonder what would provoke someone to develop such a thing. I mean, what do you get out of this, other than a bunch of really bad Karma shooting back at ya? Do you sit, in your parent's basement, cackling with glee as your middle aged paunch jiggles? You worked so hard on creating this. Think what your hard work and dedication could have done at a job (because I know you don't have one). Think of how much good would come your way if your creativity was focused on good deeds.

I'd like you to know, dear Virus Writer, I haven't cried over this. I refuse to give you the satisfaction. I know, you are a lonely, sad, miserable human being (most likely with a small weiner, bad skin, and a Star Trek collection). You'll never be anything.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our Fiscal Fast-- a Quick Evaluation

"Are you kidding me? You didn't spend money for a whole week?" This is a comment from a friend of mine when I told her about our Fiscal Fast.

It felt bizarre to be spending money again on Friday. Almost like when you travel to a foreign country and you come home and OUR money looks funny. It looked funny to me. Swiping my check card was weird, in fact, I had trouble finding it in my wallet.

So, what did we learn?

  • First and foremost, we realized that we've been overbuying groceries. Not we, it's me. I take full credit for that. I'm a produce-a-holic. I go overboard in the produce department. And we had stuff in the back of our pantry that I had forgotten I purchased. I think we're going to have to get pull out shelves installed. It's too hard to see everything that we have and I have been purchasing things that I already had on hand. So, know what you have, buy what you need, and know how much you need. Lesson learned.
  • We learned that we can entertain ourselves very well without spending money. Our library is a great resource. We found ourselves reading more. Young One pulled out toys and games that he hasn't used in forever.
  • We learned that we impulse buy more than we thought we did.
  • We learned that we eat out too much on the weekends.
  • We learned to look closer at every purchase that we make. I honestly thought we were doing that, but I think we could look even closer.
  • I had my first Starbucks coffee in probably a year or so. It's pretty overrated at best and so expensive. I felt guilty knowing that I just paid $5 for a cup of coffee and, meanwhile, there are hungry people not to far from the coffee shop. I tried to think of it as a treat. It was good, but I think I make a mean cup of Joe myself and for a fraction of the cost.

I hit Aldi, Cub Foods, and Target on Friday and saved a ton of money with coupons. Did the same at Walgreens. BUT, I did something different this week. Unless it was something we really needed, I didn't buy it. A coupon is only good if it's cheaper than another brand and if you need it. If I can get free items or items that we use frequently like shampoo, toothpaste, soap, etc for super bargain prices, then I'll purchase them. Just to purchase because it's a deal, isn't really a good use of our money right now.

We were able to purchase several gifts for charity this year because of our Fiscal Fast. A young man from Young One's school is going to have a great Christmas because we sacrificed a little for a week. That feels great!

I'm sure we learned a lot more, but for now, this is what I can think of.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Favorite Day--Smells so Sweet

We've been candle making. A while back, a friend and I went to visit a beekeeper. My friend bought a case of honey to give as Christmas gifts. I came home with a grocery bag full of beeswax bricks, candle wicking, and a mold.

Our boys love to hand dip candles and I bought a taper mold for the extra wax. What a sweet scent the wax makes. I can hardly bear to melt the bricks, but it must be done. They're so beautiful.

We melted the bricks on the stove in an old pot put on top of simmering water and then placed them in a tall can for dipping. We placed the can in a rice cooker filled one quarter of the way with hot water and kept the cooker on. We used a Hunt's spaghetti sauce can for the wax and it worked great. Early in the dipping, we realized that the wax on the wicks was melting off when it was re-dipped, so the boys came up with the idea of dipping it in cool water between wax dips. (The alternative is to wait a bit before re-dipping, but they were too impatient for that!) That worked great, but distorted the candles from neat, layered tapers to grotesque lumps. In other words, the boys LOVED them!
I wish I had pictures, but I had forgotten my camera that day. I'll see if one of my friends got some. The boys were so proud and they actually burned very nicely despite being a bit hideous to look at. No, I don't mean that in a negative way. It's the way they WANTED them to look. "Mine looks like a monster zombie dude." "Mine looks like a mutant turkey leg." "Mine is melted vomit." "No, MINE is melted vomit after eating school lunch!" Eleven year old boys. Gotta love 'em.
We used the excess wax to make tapers in a silicone mold. The mold is basically a silicone tube that you run wicking through from the bottom. Pour in wax, allow it to cool for 30 minutes or so. We found using the frigid outdoor air speeded up the process. Then you have to tug harder than you think you should (it actually feels like you're going to pull the wick right out). And out, pops a beautiful, golden taper candle.
We have a little extra beeswax left. I think we'll make ornaments or something out of it. Any excuse to smell that sweet scent again!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Our Fiscal Fast, Day Six

What a bizarre day. I spent most of it shuttling my mom around to physical therapy. She needed a prescription refilled at Target, so I made her get out and go in with me. She's been housebound, hospitalized, or a nursing home inmate for so long, I thought that maybe a little tough love to get her out of the car and back into life would be helpful. Turned out, it wasn't that hard to get her out of the car. She almost bounded out at the entrance to Target. Well, bounded as well as one can bound, cavort, gallop, friskily skip, dance, etc on a wounded knee only three weeks after surgery and only a few days into feeling a might better after an terrible infection.

I'm rambling. I'm also stuck on the word bound. Is that really a word? It's kind of like that time I walked around a Bible book store with some college friends repeating the word Bible until it didn't sound like a word anymore. Bible Bible Bible Bible. Bound Bound Bound Bound.

What does all this have to do with our Fiscal Fast? A great deal. Bear with me here for a moment.

You see. We were shopping. Scratch that. She was shopping. I was helping. It was bizarre. I mean, there I was exclaiming over things that Young One would just adore and that I would have to return to pick up for him once the spending freeze was over. And then, She, my darling mother, decided that she would just buy that stuff and give it to him herself. I couldn't argue with her she is a poor old lady with a walker and a cane (ha, if you knew my mom, you would laugh too!). I did protest that I had that particular DVD in mind the minute he came home from the theater exclaiming that it was the all time best movie in the entire history of movies and that he couldn't wait until it came out on DVD because he was going to use his allowance money and that he would memorize every special feature and possibly the entire script so that he could speak along with the movie and that Heath Ledger (God rest his soul) is and always will be the most superior Joker of all time and he was sure that he would want to be Joker for Halloween, not Joker with the painted face, but the ultimate Joker with the mask and the real necktie and the real vest, not just the printed one and that he knew that forever and ever this would be his all time favorite movie.

Deep Breath.

In other words, today, I probably would have dropped quite a bit of money at Target. It just seemed that everywhere I turned there were things that Young One would just love for Christmas and that, being Target, everything was relatively inexpensive. He's not asking for much, if anything this year. And, being eleven, was a bit perplexed by the fact that this was so. He just found out the magical secret of Santa Clause last year, so perhaps this is part of it. So, I told him that it was part of growing older and that soon you realize that it's not about the receiving, but the giving and that he was getting to that age. Christmas should be about the giving, and I'm excited to surprise him. Not spend a lot of money on surprises--what kid wouldn't just love a pony?-- but opening each gift as they were intended, gifts, not fulfillment of a list of requests. THAT to me, is so much more fun. At a certain age, if you make a list, you can pretty much tell what's in each and every box by the specific shape or jingle when you shake it or whatever, anyway. So, this year, for me, the giving to him will be so much fun, since he's not dropping ANY hints this year (that HE'S aware of anyway!)

(I'm not sure I'm being clear here. I had my first caffeinated coffee today in ages and I feel like I could type enough words to cover the world!)

I think what I'm trying to say is that I've never gone out shopping with the intention and the dedication and sheer will to not spend any money. This was really eye opening. I don't shop for recreation. I will shop AND buy for fun, but not just go out looking. It was bizarre. And I survived and mom survived and, although she got really tired walking around and looked about ready to fall over by the time she got back in the car, I think she's getting to know the world again. Hopefully, in a few more weeks, I will no longer have to chauffeur her around town.

I'm starting to think that this fast just might do what I hoped it would. I think I am going to be much more mindful of my spending. Even more so than a cheapskate like me thought. I think I'm going to focus more on what we actually need and I've found out this week, it's a heck of a lot less than I thought it was.

I also learned that I really don't like tagging along on a shopping trip. In fact, it remind me of the eternities that I spent as a child having to run errands with my mom. Perhaps she's just paying me back for the time I took all the price tags off of the canned goods in her cart while she wasn't looking. (Remember price tags?)


What Do You CARE Anyway?

I'm so tired of gay people having to fight for the same rights that everyone else in this country. I am tired of so called Christians preaching words of hate and manipulating the Bible to meet their needs.

I'm just tired and I can't imagine how tiring it must be to be someone who, through no fault, NO CHOICE, of their own, is treated like a second class citizen in this great country of ours.

If I were gay, and I married a woman, what would you care anyway? How would my legal marriage affect you in a negative way? If I had children, they'd still talk to your kids at school and tell them that they have two moms, even if I wasn't married. And you know what? The kids wouldn't care.
If my company insured my partner, it would cost you less money in the long run as uninsured people cost tax payers millions each year. Legal systems would be freed from unnecessary probate in the event my partner died.
But, I'm not gay, so why do I care? Because it's not fair. Because my brother's really good friend, who's been with her partner for dozens of years, has less rights than I do. Because my mother's neighbors who have been together over 20 years, still hide, still struggle. Because it's not fair. It's not fair.

I want to know, why do YOU care so much? Can someone please honestly answer that? Because honestly, it's about as un-Christian as it comes to openly hate others like that.

Don't speak the Bible to me, I'll counter you verse for verse. My Bible is dog-eared, written in, underlined, and most importantly, read and used. I spent years in college studying it. You want to quote verses? Bring it on. You want literal interpretation of the Bible to become the norm? Then read Deuteronomy. We'll have to start stoning women again. The Bible says insects have four legs. Seen any of them lately? I could go on and on.

The ultimate message of the Bible is love and when you use it against any of God's children, you are sinning. Oh yes, you are. Face it.

God is love. Jesus preached love and tolerance. He lived amongst those that you turn your faces from. Jesus hung out with the prostitutes, the lepers, and I would pretty much bet there were a few gay people there too. He loved unconditionally. Please don't call yourself a follower of Christ if you cannot do the same.

Gay people come wired that way. Just like eye color, handedness, and the color of the skin, it's all programmed in from the time sperm meets egg. It's not a choice. Would you choose to be persecuted, ridiculed, attacked, beaten, sneered at, stared at, and denied the rights of any other citizen of this country? Would you choose to live in fear?

Gay people have been around since the dawn of time. I pray for a future where it will no longer be an issue. In fact, I'm very certain that the fights of today towards equality and the legislation aimed at segregating people will be just be silly memories to our children.

Families are families. Love is love. So many gay families take the children that the rest of you have cast aside. The broken down, used up foster kids floundering in the system become whole again with the love of two parents. Who cares if they're the same sex?

So, put your hate away. Go back and really read your Bible with new eyes, cause you're doing it wrong and God is watching.
The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."Mark 12:31

So, Oprah's Fat Again

I sympathize with her, not so much over the weight gain, but because her struggle is such a public one. I want to like Oprah, I like who she appears to be on TV. I doubt, though, that we could be friends in real life. She's driven in a way I am not. She chose a life without children. I can't imagine what we would talk about.

This morning, her weight was discussion on the radio, on The View, on the radio again. It was written about on blogs. I'm sure it's been water cooler conversation at people's jobs.

I say, good for you Oprah. You finally spoke about what we've all watched happen in the past year or so. I remember you mentioning your thyroid problem and yes, that contributes. But, good for you for announcing it in your own words before someone else got a chance to.

We Fat Chicks do that. We mention our fat. We let it out first, sort of discussing the elephant in the room (pun NOT intended). We make jokes about it. We want people to know we're working on it, we're on Weight Watchers, we love aerobics, we talk about the dangers of dessert. We become the punchline to our own jokes before someone else can say something that we might ruminate about later.

I can't imagine what it must be like to fight the fat battle in the public eye. Perhaps at this point in her career, she's just able to put it out there and let it go. Perhaps the being in the public eye IS a motivator for her. I don't know.

I don't feel sorry for her for gaining weight, for falling off the wagon. That is part of her journey. What I think must eat at her (pun AGAIN not intended) is the relentless commentary. The play by play, so to speak, of her gains and losses. That must be brutal.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Our Fiscal Fast Day Five

I can't get past the thought that at the end of this Fiscal Fast we may just go nuts with spending. I keep thinking to myself that, "On Friday, I've really got to_____" Fill in the blank with order Christmas cards, order gifts online, go grocery shopping, stop in at Walgreens, maybe we'll go out to eat, I need to get some new pants, Young One needs another pair of gloves, come to mention it, so do I, I need to go to Target...

Will this spending freeze actually result in our spending more money at the end of it, kind of like celebrating your weight loss with a blow out at a buffet? (And no, I've never done this.)

I guess time will tell.

My Favorite Day
Sugar and Spice and Why Frosty has a Cancer Stick

Excuse me for a moment while I remember fondly the cute little, blond haired boy who's made a gingerbread house with me every year since he was able to stand on a kitchen chair to reach the counter tops. His lips would be stained bright red from some crimson candy, snitched when he thought I wasn't looking. He loved to engineer the building of the house, thought the frosting was like cement, and his sticky fingerprints all over the house's exterior were priceless to me.

Fast forward a few years and we have Barack Obama looking out one of the windows and one of the snowman has a cigarette. (Now, I had a hard time with this at first, until the laughter became contagious. After all, Frosty, DID have a corncob pipe, so I'll let this candy cigarette pass this time!!) Gales of giggles erupted as we put it together. There was more candy eating than there was decorating. My counter tops are still sticky.

Good times.

You'll find my gingerbread and frosting recipes below. Making the gingerbread from scratch is not hard and it smells delightfully Christmasy. I formed the pieces using a gingerbread house mold that I got at a thrift store for a buck, but you can just cut them out using a template found online OR challenge your creative side and make your own design!

This is one of our traditional Christmas activities. We haven't missed a year and have included dear friends in our gingerbread house construction. It's one of my favorite days!

Gingerbread House Dough

Don't be intimidated by the length of these directions. It goes together really quickly. Make it a family project and you'll have a great, messy, fun time! I DO NOT recommend eating any gingerbread house (however tempting).

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cups molasses
2 eggs, beaten

In large saucepan, melt shortening on stove over low heat. While shortening is melting, in a separate bowl stir together flour, salt and spices (if using for cookies, add 1 tsp. baking soda). When shortening is half melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until completely melted. Add sugar, molasses and beaten eggs. Mix well and quickly (to prevent eggs from cooking). Add molasses mixture to flour mixture. Mix well. Dough will be soft. Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to handle.

Place in mold and bake as mold manufacturer directs or:

Remove dough from refrigerator when firm enough to handle. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough onto aluminum foil. To prevent aluminum foil from slipping, wipe counter with wet sponge then smooth aluminum foil over damp counter. This will prevent the foil from slipping while dough is being rolled out. Working with a small handful of dough (about the size of a baseball), roll dough onto aluminum foil that has been sprinkled with flour. Sprinkle dough with flour to prevent dough from sticking to rolling-pin. When finished rolling and cutting, LEAVE your piece on the foil and simply lift the foil and place on cookie sheet.

After baking and cooled, simply remove the foil from the back of your baked piece. IF DOUGH IS TOO STIFF, MICROWAVE FOR 10-15 SECONDS TO SOFTEN THE DOUGH. Roll dough to about 1/8” thickness. Place gingerbread house pattern pieces onto dough and cut-out dough pieces (don't forget to cut out windows). A pizza cutter works great for cutting out walls and roof sections. Remove excess dough pieces. Lift entire piece of foil and place on large cookie sheet.

Place cookie sheet in oven. Check frequently to prevent burning. Bake until golden brown. Large pieces may bake as long as 14 minutes. Smaller pieces might take 6 – 7 minutes. To prevent from sagging, bake roof sections until dark brown, almost burnt. When dough pieces are done baking, remove baking sheet from oven. Quickly lift foil from baking sheet and place on a flat area for gingerbread pieces to cool. If pieces have distorted while baking, while still warm, run knife or pizza cutter along sides of walls/roof sections to create a straight edge. If pieces have curled up during baking, while still warm, gently push edges down to lay flat. With gingerbread pieces still on the foil, let cool overnight. Next day – gently peel foil off of gingerbread pieces. You are now ready to assemble, or add windows!

Unused dough may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks (bring to room temperature and knead briefly to use again).

Royal Icing - Cement Frosting

3 tablespoons meringue powder
6 Tablespoons warm water
1 pound powder sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon Vanilla or Almond flavoring

Note: 3 egg whites may be substituted for 3 tablespoons of meringue powder. Omit the water if using real egg whites.

Because this frosting dries quickly, and very hard, this is the recommended frosting to use for gluing together the walls and roof sections. Keep all utensils completely grease-free. Combine all ingredients, mixing slowly with stationary mixer until peaks form. Beat at high speed for 7 to 10 minutes. This is important for the frosting to be soft enough to use with pastry bag.

This frosting is fast drying – keep bowl covered with a damp cloth. If icing is too thick when using fine tubes, add a few drops of water. For thicker icing, beat in a little extra confectioners sugar.

Store leftover frosting, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for weeks. Re-beat before using again (if using real egg-whites, the frosting will not keep its cementing properties after the initial beating).

This recipe makes about 3 ½ cups of glue frosting.

Frosting Tip: When working with egg whites or meringue powder, keep all utensils grease-free. Any oil or grease will break down the frosting mixture. Note that the "decorators frosting" contains grease (shortening). When decorating, it is helpful to keep one bag exclusively to be used for "glue frosting", and another bag to be used for the decorators frosting. This helps to keep grease away from the "glue frosting".

Monday, December 8, 2008

Just Ducky

I think these ducks got a little lost on the way to the pond, but we sure enjoyed watching them gobble up the birdseed spilled under the feeders and scamper through the snow.

Our Fiscal Fast Day Four

Here we are on day four of our Fiscal Fast, seven days, without spending any money.

This has been such an interesting experiment for our family. I have a feeling we're going to do this again and again. Maybe not for a whole week, maybe the next time we'll shorten it up. So far the benefits have been:

  • Cleaning out the cupboards, the refrigerator, and the freezer.
  • Using our brains and not our money for entertainment
  • Being more resourceful
  • Young One has learned tremendous things so far. I'll detail more at the end of the week, but I think he's looking at money and how he entertains himself in a very different way.
  • And the bank account is looking good!

The biggest thing I've noticed so far, is that we spend a little here and a little there and it all adds up. I was in a huge rush to get out of the house this morning. If we weren't on a spending freeze, I would have grabbed an Egg McMuffin and coffee at McDonalds. That's something I rarely do, but I just didn't have the time to eat this morning. I didn't though. I grabbed some cinnamon raisin bread and after dropping Young One off at school, toasted it at my mom's house. I had to take her to two doctor's offices and to a medical supply store this morning. When I dropped her off at the first doctor's office, she suggested I go shopping for a bit. I probably would have if I wasn't on this fiscal fast. The other day when we were out at the library, we headed home to have lunch. Quite often when we're out as a family on the weekend, we'll eat at a restaurant and/or buy snacks. Trips to stores for quick errands can result in impulse buys. It just all adds up.

I think I will be much more conscious of that kind of spending now.

This has been a good thing for our family.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Our Fiscal Fast Day Two

I wouldn't consider us materialistic people at all. We shop at thrift stores, we don't have a lot of unnecessary stuff. We don't have to have the newest or the latest thing. We have a house full of antiques, but mostly because they were hand me downs or inexpensive purchases. We rarely hit the malls and aren't big on shopping.

This Fiscal Fast we're on caused some troubles today on the home front. Young One was out of sorts all day. I had planned a day of fun freebies. A trip to the library, to hang out and look at some of the ginormous books that we'd never carry home (or be allowed to check out). I thought we'd pick a few movies, maybe check out a museum pass (basically free entrance to many of the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area museums), and take out a few movies. Young One wanted none of this. He pouted, chose one Simpsons DVD, and then glowered from an armchair behind a giant Spiderman book. I nixed the idea of heading to a free museum. I didn't want to deal with the PoutMaster all day long.

We had planned to make our gingerbread house, an annual tradition, this weekend. But, it was a hard sell. I mixed the dough myself and put it in the refrigerator to chill. Time for a mother son talk.

Basically, he told me that he was sick of this no spending money thing. That he wanted to go out and do something fun and that most definitely involved spending money. That Christmas couldn't come fast enough and he just wanted to buy a video game or go to the movies, or go to an arcade, or go out for lunch at some kid paradise. And he knew he couldn't. And it sucked.

This opened the door to a very interesting conversation. We talked about how fun can be had without money. That we have a house full of things to do and that if we get bored enough, we'll get resourceful and start finding things to do. We talked about how much money we have spent in the past without even thinking about it and that we have to be more mindful of our spending. We talked about how we're very fortunate to have all that we do and to have the income that Dad brings home. We talked about what it would be like to have nothing.

We talked about how we'd like to share our abundance.

We talked about how long it is until Christmas. And how, even as an adult, it's difficult to wait for things. We also talked about how time seems a lot longer when you're a kid and how I could remember what an eternity it could be until your birthday or Christmas.

We talked about the superiority of Rock Band over Guitar Hero.

We talked about Homer Simpson's obsession with donuts.

And then, we talked about how keeping busy will help the time pass. And we talked about the importance of discussing our feelings and how pouting and grumping around doesn't work very well. We talked about the importance of communication.

Then he and his dad went out and had some man time, drooling at ginormous TVs, and playing demos of video games. I baked the gingerbread house pieces while they were out and thought long and hard about whether we really are materialistic. Maybe we've been in denial all along?

The Five

Big flakes of snow are falling outside. It's so beautiful. I'm taking a break from cleaning to post.

And in the time it took me to start this post, the clouds have passed, the snowflakes are gone, and the sun is shining. You gotta love Minnesota!

I haven't had much time to concentrate on my Five Senses lately. I'm a little behind posting this!


The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

Angela delves into the world of online dating and meets, who she thinks, is the perfect man. He's a sailing instructor in Maine. She pictures a quaint existence in Maine, matching the little seaside cottage she has tacked up on her bulletin board. Losing her job, she packs her old car with her belongings and heads North to her online love match. Of course, things aren't what they seem. But, she gets the life she's dreamed about, it just doesn't happen the way she expected it to.

I adored this book. Yes, it's chick lit. Yes, it was predictable. But, it was exactly what I needed to read during this busy time in my life. I'll definitely read more of Kline's work.


The Greatest Hits (Remastered) Crosby Stills Nash

The Best of Blondie Blondie

I hit the first few albums that were on my iPod while cleaning. These two kept me bopping while dusting, vacuuming, and picking up our second floor. I haven't listened to Blondie in years! I still have The Tide is High stuck in my head.

I'm also listening to the Christmas hints that Young One keeps dropping into every day conversation. We don't allow Christmas lists in our house--just screams of selfishness to me. Our goal is to celebrate the season, not the presents. AND to learn that presents shouldn't be asked for, but given. As an only child, he has so much. It's a unique challenge that parents of only children have. Probably doesn't sound like much of a problem from the outside, but we're trying to teach selflessness, not selfishness. So far, it's working very well. He's a very generous and appreciative child.


Pine boughs. That scent is so delightful this time of year.


The annual, after Thanksgiving, bowl of Turkey Rice Soup made from the turkey carcass (that word, ew, but what else can you call it). Young One just loved it. I wish I would have made a bigger pot. But, after our dinner, freezing some for my Grandma, and delivering some to my mom, there was only one bowl left--and I enjoyed that for lunch today!

I gave my basic poultry soup recipe here. Instead of dumplings in the recipe, just add, rice and cook until done. I strained out the onions and celery so Young One would eat them. Well, here's the scoop, I made turkey broth by simmering the turkey carcass, onions, celery, carrots, and bay leaf in a big stock pot filled with water. I strained out everything and then defatted (is that a word?) the stock by using a gravy separator (which you really should get if you want to cut the fat out of your diet). Then I returned some of the stock to the pot, added more carrots, some peas, and some rice. I seasoned it and it simmered while I labeled and froze the rest of the turkey broth for future use. (And did a load of laundry, and scraped an unknown substance off the counter tops, and sorted through the mail, and talked to Young One about a video game that I really don't get, but his enthusiasm for it is contagious-- you know, I did Mom stuff.)


Dried orange and grapefruit slices. I do this every year, just before Christmas. I like to make garlands from them or fill clear containers with them. I love to wrap presents with brown packing paper or use plain brown market bags with string handles (I buy them in bulk online).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Our 7 Day Fiscal Fast In Progress

It's only day one and I'm already surprised at how many times in the day I've thought about spending money. I haven't acted on it, of course, but it has been really surprising to me how many times I've thought about ordering something online, running an errand that involves spending money, or just trying to get a jump on some Christmas shopping for Young One.

Probably not the best idea to start this spending freeze during the holidays. Or maybe it is. Maybe this is the BEST time to try this experiment.

While making some Christmas presents today, I realized that I didn't have enough of one crucial ingredient for the end product. Ugh. I thought I was going to have to wait. But, no!!! What Cheapskate Guru Jeff Yeager said in his book would happen. You just might finally use something that you haven't had the need to or didn't even know you had. I searched my cupboards, and sure enough, I did have a second box of the missing ingredient.

Looking into my pantry, I am amazed at how much food is really in there. Much of it has been there for a very long time. Bought for a recipe and not used, purchased on sale at a can't be missed price, or just impulse buys. My pantry is full. And I'm very excited about it getting some clearing out this week.

Young One is fully on board. We talked to him about this experiment last night and at first he seemed a bit worried. We assured him that we have plenty of money, that this is just something we're trying to clear out our cupboards a bit and to focus more on experiences and not stuff. Once that was talked about, he was just fine. I watched him start to ask for something or to go somewhere a couple of times, but then the gears shifted in his brain and he remembered our fiscal fast, and we ended up talking about something else.

I got to thinking this afternoon that I have the luxury of making this fiscal fast a choice and that so many people in our country, in our world, do not have the choice or the ability to live this way on a whim. It's day to day life for them. This week has already been very enlightening.

D came home tonight letting me know that he needs to get a haircut in preparation for a very important sales pitch next week. We did agree that work related expenses would have to continue (client lunches, gas for the commute, etc), I think he should let me cut his hair. I'm pretty good at it. I've been cutting Young One's hair for years. This would be the one time, though, that the clipper guard popped off and he ended up with a runway down the middle of his head. I guess I'll allow it. Client pitches mean you've got to look good. I'll let this one slide.

Something to think about: only 1/3 of the world's population is well fed. The rest are nutritionally deficient or starving.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!