Friday, February 27, 2009

A great day!

Since I rambled here about how much I despise Sallie Mae, I feel the need to share my experience yesterday with CitiBank.

I have a credit card with Citi and, if you look back to see, I have a balance of over $7,000 on that card. It is one we are working to pay off. And the current interest rate was at 28.99%.

Well, yesterday I got two phone calls from them. I missed the first because I was in the shower, but got the second on my way home from work. The most pleasant person in the world answered the phone the make sure I was aware that I overlooked an extra $13 on my payment and to inform me that I was currently past due. I apologized and said I didn't realize my payment had gone up. We make an automatic payment of $250, so I didn't notice that the amount due had changed to $263. I inquired as to why it changed. He said something about "changes to the agreement" to which I replied, "oh, they upped the interest rate again, great."

He then informed me I could opt out if I wanted to, but I would have to cancel the card at the end of it's current cycle. I didn't have to pay it off, but I could no longer use it. This is a card I got myself and have had for a few years. It has a nice rewards plan and I'd like to keep it after I pay it off for emergencies and things like hotels and online payments, which I told him. I also said it would be nice to keep it without an interest rate of 30%.

To which he promptly said well, if you make your payment today to bring the account current I can give you an APR of 8.49%. WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Of course! And I made a beeline for the computer as soon as I got home and paid another $50. Plus, today at work we got a $100 safety bonus (before taxes) for going three years without a lost-time injury, so it's paid for too!

I couldn't believe it. I barely even asked to lower it and he did, just like that. Just because I whined a little. There's a lesson here folks, just ask. I was especially surprised when I heard on the news this morning that Citi is being helped out by the government. They're in bad shape and they still slashed my interest rate. Thank you Citi for a very different customer service experience than what I am used to. I thanked the gentleman and explained that I was impressed and really appreciated his helpfulness. What a day.

We also installed a new toilet in our upstairs bathroom. No more pink toilet, now it's just the tub, sink and walls. We went from a 5 gallon ancient beast to a new 1.6 gal Cadet3 from American Standard. With and elongated bowl and 16.5" height, just for Hubby!

The evening wasn't all rosy though. I managed to drop one of the flange bolts down the drain and had to make an emergency run to get a new bolt and a water supply line (we knew that would have to happen but were prepared to wait until today). I can't believe I'm going to say this, but thank God for Walmart. The only place to get plumbing supplies at 10pm. I didn't get a picture, but I will soon. It makes the whole room look better.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Recipe holder

The other day I came across a very nice looking recipe book holder that sits on the counter and immediately thought, "Oh, I need that!" But I don't. I know I don't. I very rarely use a cookbook and when I do, I usually put it on my kitchen table because I don't have a lot of counter space. I also have this ingenious little device that I utilize almost every day. (The paper clip and paper, not the soup cooling on the counter, sorry).

I have paired the trusty clothespin with a box of paper I saved from the garbage heap. About two years ago, we had some things printed at work to be used in the warehouse. They were supposed to be printed on bright yellow paper, but the printing company got mixed up and did it on white. Two big boxes filled with half sheets of printed paper were going to be thrown out. My boss knew I wouldn't like it and asked me if I wanted them to recycle. And of course I did.

First, I paired the pages with a bunch of cereal boxes I had saved up and made some cut notebooks for Christmas gifts. Then I gave one whole box to my mom. She homeschools my sisters (3 at that time I think) and I knew she could use the scrap paper for a lot of different things. I have kept the other box and still have about 3/4 of it.

I recently discovered that these pages were a perfect size for recipes! If I find something I like that isn't in book I own, I write it on one of these pages and when I need it, I just clip it up to the cupboard, easy peasy. When not in use, these bad boys are stored via binder clip in the back of my calendar. This makes them easy to sort through for when I'm planning meals. I also keep blank pages there because you never know when you'll run across something yummy. I have been slowly converting all of my random sheets of paper over to this method and it has been making my life just a little bit easier! I used to use magnets on my fridge to hold the loose pages, but that's on the opposite side of the kitchen from my stove and my spice cupboard.

So, to sum up what ended up a long post. I have found a cheap and easy way to keep my recipes at eye level while also keeping paper out of the landfill! Now I just need to find a use for the rest of it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom & Pa!

Today is my mother's birthday as well as my grandfather's birthday. Happy birthday to them both!!

Happy Birthday Pa, wish you were here in the cold :)

Miss Ang

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A happy new arrival!

They're here!

My seeds arrived last night, and I can't wait. I get to start seeds this weekend :)

And, my adventures in cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot were interesting. It gave a new meaning to falling off the bone. I think the only thing holding it together in the end was the skin! I got a lot of meat from it, but it was a greasy, gross, disgusting process. My husband tried to cut into it and it just collapsed from the inside out!

The meat wasn't that good though. So I think I will save roasting chickens for the weekend so I can roast it in the oven. It takes more to get the meat off the bone, but it tastes much better, in my opinion.

For this roast, I simply cut up some potatoes and carrots, added 1 cup of veggie stock and some onions and celery. I rinsed and patted dry the chicken then sprinkled it with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. I cooked it on high for 1 hour while I got ready in the morning and then on low for 8 hours.

I'll be making a bone broth this evening.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Menu Monday

This morning I managed to make two breakfasts, pack two lunches (one had to be heated up) and put dinner in the crockpot. All between 6:50 and 7:30. And I read some email. Crazy! This week's plan centers around the chicken in my crockpot right now.

Monday - roast chicken with potatoes and carrots
Tuesday - chicken tacos
Wednesday - pork chops and asparagus
Thursday - chicken noodle soup
Friday - something with chicken and broccoli, I don't know what yet. Any suggestions?
Saturday - dinner at my mom's for her Birthday
Sunday - home made pizza

It's a little chicken heavy, I know. I do have a couple of beef roasts in the freezer and my mom just gave me some ground beef she ground herself (yeah mom!), but I'm thinking chicken this week!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More on composting and Freebies

I spent a little more time this morning looking around for info on my new purchase and found a link for it here. Apparently my wonderful $39.99 (or $39.88 or whatever) purchase of the SoilSaver Compost Bin retails for $199.99 on Amazon! Craziness. I'm very excited, and a little part of me wants to go get a second one for ferret poop too. I just hope Kira can get there and get one before they're gone today.

And yesterday, when talking to her about said wonderful purchase, she informed me that we're not supposed to have a compost pile that isn't contained and covered. Oops. We live within the village and we do have some critters roaming around. I know there is a wild cat that lives around here with her kittens as well as a couple raccoons that live in the woods behind my house. We have a couple different kinds of large rodents roaming around as well. (From what I can tell there are moles and a very large woodchuck who has made his home in a giant hole under our garage. We need to get rid of him.) So I guess it makes sense they would require that. I'm just glad no one turned me in before!

On to the freebies.

I subscribe to the daily deals at WiseBread and recently received an email with info on free samples of mineral makeup. I've been looking to convert to mineral makeup for a while now, but just couldn't get myself to shell out the cash. But Everyday Minerals has a wonderful package for people like me. You can get three different foundation colors, a concealer and a blush and all you pay for is shipping. These are sample sizes, and they're kinda small, but will last quite a while and they're free! I also got two eye shadows to try and a brush. The brush is amazing, I love it. The eye colors aren't my favorite though. They're very sparkly and by the end of the day there's a crease on my eye lid. I didn't get anything to tell you about this, so it isn't an advertisement or anything, I just wanted to share. I'm pretty sure I will be buying a full set in the near future though!

Another great thing was the packaging. These samples came stacked and they were wrapped next to the brush in the paper and closed with a sticker. That's it. This was sent in a small padded envelope. The envelope was plastic, but I was still impressed with the packaging. Thank you Everyday Minerals!

Saturday, February 21, 2009


While shopping at Sam's Club today, I found a wonderful surprise, this:

A beautiful compost bin! This was on sale for $39.99! I looked it up on a few other websites and it ranges from 65-99.995! Woohoo!

Kira and I put it together tonight in the kitchen...and it almost fit through the outside door :) Oops.

I've been collecting scraps in a pile outside for a while now, and hopefully this will be warmer and it will start to break down a little earlier in the year. For now, I'm just collecting scraps and letting it pile up.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Center Cut Pork Chops with Creamy Dijon Sauce

Pork chops in creamy dijon sauce with asparagus and quinoa.

This is a really good recipe I found here when searching for a good pork chop recipe a while ago. I tried it, and I loved it! I've made it quite a few times, but brought it back last week after quite a few months without it. I almost couldn't find it again! I thought I had it bookmarked, but I guess I didn't, I nearly panicked! But I found it, and now I can share it all with you :)

For this recipe, I used bone-in pork chops this time, and the only problem I found was trying to fit them all in the pan. I ended up cooking in two batches! Also, this time I didn't have any white wine to cook with, which is unlike me, so just didn't use it. I found the sauce wasn't quite as good, but I made my veggie broth with white wine, so that's the broth I used. Like I said, not quite as good as the original, but still good.

24 ounce boneless pork chops
2 T butter
1/4 c diced onion
1 glove garlic, crushed
1/3 c dry white wine
1/2 c chicken stock
1 t dijon mustard
1/2 c cream
2 t sage
  1. Salt and pepper pork loins. Heat pan to medium, melt butter and add chops. it should sizzle, not smoke.

  2. cook 3-4 minutes each side or until brown and cooked through. Remove and set aside.

  3. Add onion and cook 1 minute, scraping pan.

  4. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Turn up heat and add wine. Cook until almost dry. Add stock and reduce by half.

  5. Add cream and mustard and cook until thickened. Stir in herbs and add chops back to the pan to warm.

For the asparagus, I just cut it up and put it in my small skillet with some olive oil and a seasoning blend. I think I've talked about this before. Heat on medium for about 12 minutes, it's perfect. This goes really well with the sauce from the pork chops.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Saving the Earth

By boss left this little book on my desk yesterday. She wants me to go through it and use some of it's wonderful insights to create a green column in our newsletter, which I am currently working on. Great, I'd love to! But does anyone see what's wrong with this picture?

If you guess hypocrisy, you guessed right! The book entitled "100 Ways to Save the Planet Without Leaving Work" comes in an excessive paper envelope. At least its heavy paper and can be recycled. And it's printed in China. Yea, let's save the planet one backwards step at a time folks! Sometimes the world just makes my head hurt.

On a much happier and lighter note, Craigslist provided me with a wonderful gift yesterday. I purchased 3 boxes of various sized canning jars with lids and a canner for $25. Wonderful. Now I can finally store my beans in something and buy them in bulk! I can also start moving away from all my plastic containers. I will still try to pick a bunch up at garage sales, but this should tide me over for now :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Seeds have been ordered!

I officially ordered seeds yesterday. My planting list is as follows:

Since I am coordinating my efforts with my neighbor, there are items I am growing and she isn't and visa versa. For instance, she is in charge of basil and cucumbers because the ones she planted last year went crazy and I killed my basil :)

I'm reading up now on the best way to plant these. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pork Loin Roast

This recipe is simple and quick. It's more of just a recipe for a rub, rather than the pork loin itself.

1/2 c brown sugar
2T chili powder
2T cumin

Mix these three ingredients together and rub on all sides of the roast.

I like to put mine in a crockpot with potatoes and carrots. Cover veggies (just) with chicken or veggie stock and put roast on top. Cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 3-4. This makes a great roast to eat, but it's even better shredded for sandwiches!

Since the camera is dead, I didn't really get a pic, sorry.

PS, hi Nena!!

Menu Monday

It's been a few days since I posted, sorry. It was another busy weekend, and the batteries in my camera were dead so, no pictures and no time! I did get a wonderful bonus at work Friday. Most of it went to debt payment and savings, along with our tax return, but Hubby and I did go shopping Saturday. And I got a carpet cleaner (Woohoo!! More on that later), and supplies to put a clothesline up in our bathtub upstairs. I also used a little to get some household supplies I had been putting off, so it was used wisely. I will post a financial update this week tool

As usual, last week's menu got a little mixed up, but worked wonderfully for the most part. The pork loin lasted longer than I anticipated so we at the rest of that Sunday for dinner instead of spaghetti. Yesterday I got more pizza dough made. This time I used a new recipe that utilized the yellow corn flower that I got. We'll see how that works out. I also made a batch of smoked sausage soup and some yummy chocolate pudding.

The last loaf of frozen bread was pulled from the freezer Friday and cut into Sunday. I toasted a few pieces to make some open-faced sandwiches with the pork roast. I warmed the roast, shredded it and then cleaned out the last bits of barbecue sauce from the bottle with some chicken stock and stirred it all up. I was delicious!!! I promised recipes for the pork chops ad pork loin, and I will get them up, I promise.

Now for the menu:

Monday - spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic toast
Tuesday - pork chops in a creamy dijon sauce with quinoa and asparagus
Wednesday - Panko chicken (at Hubby's request) and noodles
Thursday - Potato soup (and Chili in crockpot for lunch)
Friday - Pot Roast with potatoes and carrots
Saturday - we will be out all day. Basketball in the morning, a birthday party at lunch and another birthday party for dinner. No cooking, no cleaning, nothing constructive :(
Sunday - pizza

And finally, I will be ordering seeds today! When I'm done, I'll get a list up here. Then some real discussion :) I will also be starting to read the book "Let It Rot", so I'm sure that will gain me some valuable insight to share with the world.

Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A battle rages

For all my frugality and loving of the planet, I do have some major downfalls. As a designer, I naturally love color and texture and design. I like it when things match and coordinate, and things that don't bother me greatly.

Before I was in the real world, I was known to have changed my underwear to coordinate with my workout clothes if what I wore the rest of the day was different. I have since moved on from that part of my life and I'm now lucky if what I wear to workout in is even clean, that is if I get to workout at all.

The reason I bring this up is that I have a dilemma: my coffee pot

My coffee pot was not used much until recently. As a move to be more natural and more frugal, my husband and I decided he would stop drinking a Monster (or two) a day and switch to homemade coffee in his wonderful stainless steel thermos. This has saved us about $35/month and I'm sure it is much better for him as well.

Consequently, the coffee pot that used to hide in the cupboard most of the time until weekends or sometimes when we had guests, now practically lives on the counter. This poses two problems. One: I don't really have room for it to live there permanently, I just don't. And two: IT'S WHITE!! I have all stainless steel and black appliances with stone and wood floor and cabinets and a black marble-looking laminate countertop. With a white coffee pot. Even my coffee grinder is stainless. The only other white appliances I have are the electric can opener (which I never use, only Hubby and only occasionally) and my KitchenAid (which at least has a stainless bowl).

Stainless frig, grinder, blender, etc. with the
coffee pot that sticks out like a sore thumb!

We even have a stainless microwave!

My stainless steel stove and range hood.

This bothers me to no end. I hate looking at it. Problem is it works just fine. It's no thrills: put coffee and water in, plug in and turn on, pour coffee, unplug and turn off. Simple, easy. No clock, no timer, nothing. I love it for it's functionality. But I hate that it's white.

The frugal and eco part of me is preventing me from replacing it with something that will match my decor. But the designer part of me is dying slowly inside. I try and clean it up and put it away every night, just to pull it out the next morning, but seriously folks, that's hard to do. I don't need a new one, it works fine. I shouldn't buy something made on the other side of the world with non-recycleable plastic parts and get rid of the same. I shouldn't and I won't, but it hurts.

For now, I'm getting by with treating it not so nicely - secretly hoping it will die on us soon. Oh the struggles of my life :)

PS, for anyone who feels pity, my birthday is early April and I promise to freecycle any still-working appliance I replace :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Making use of my "kid-free" time

To those who are now wondering, no, I am not pregnant. I just came across an interesting post from Shannon at Nourishing Days that touched on the time before kids. She talked about wishing she would have used the time more wisely. Her list included:

Here is a list of things to learn and do that I wish I had done myself:

  • knitting
  • sewing
  • gardening
  • preparing nourishing food
  • nourishing our marriage
  • reading
  • praying
  • composting
  • learning about homemade cleaners including laundry detergent
  • learn to make your own bread, yogurt, butter and anything else that you would buy from the grocery store
  • learn to make homemade soap
  • learn to make homemade candles
  • learn to use herbs and natural remedies for healing
I think this is a very useful list. I may be using this as a stepping off point for my own list of things I want to do before we enter into that portion of our lives. Some items, like bread and laundry soap, I've got covered and others I am working on. For now, I am enjoying my alone time and time with my husband and hope to learn many new skills while doing it!

More on dishwashing

I've continued my crusade into the world of washing dishes to gather more information. Last night's discussion with my husband as well as this that I got in my inbox today prompted me to post about it again.

Last night, I got home about 7pm, made dinner and sat down to work on my laptop in the kitchen. Hubby had basketball practice from 6-9pm, so didn't get home until almost 10pm. He called on his way home and I let him know he was the winner of the wonderful opportunity to do the dishes, yeah!! I was tired, cold and busy working. He didn't argue, which was nice. But I guess I get what I ask for.

He did the dishes alright. He filled the sink almost to the brim with water and then turned on the faucet to rinse EVERY SINGLE ITEM. I am not a rinser. We use Seventh Generation dish soap that is non-toxic and not overly bubbly like most standard dish soaps, so I'm not worried about us ingesting the occasional bubble. Our drying rack sits over our second sink, so when I'm all done, I take the sprayer and rinse the whole mess quickly. I also only fill the sink half way, if that. And then he stopped and let all the water out with the pan and skillet left from dinner unwashed. There's no more room in the dish-drainer. He's done. Which means I had to run another sink of water to finish those and a few others that were left undone. I also washed what I dirtied for breakfast, the crockpot and lunches, but would have left those for tonight otherwise. More wasting of water.

Here's some of the article:

Though it doesn't much resemble what's in my own sink, the face-off was based on washing eight six-piece place settings and six serving dishes. If you put all that in your dishwasher, you'd wash the whole kit and caboodle with an average of just six gallons of water. Four if you have an Energy Star machine. That's how efficient dishwashers are, and since it's hot water that's a lot of energy and CO2 emissions saved, too.

The typical faucet, on the other hand, flows at about two gallons per minute, which doesn't give you much time to rinse those 54 items and still beat your dishwasher. In fact, you'd have just 4.4 seconds of running water to rinse each piece (and that assumes you're washing with a soapy sponge instead of a basin of sudsy water). Which means that unless you can be pathologically miserly with your tap water, a dishwasher is the way to go.

In my world, I think I actually use less water to wash than a dishwasher would, especially since we would have a hard time filling it up most days, and I'd still need my pots and pans cleaned daily. I have to believe this, or it will eat me up inside. I'll venture to guess I don't put more than two gallons in the sink to do dishes. Add any rinsing I may do before or after washing, and I think I'd be pushing to use 4 gallons of water. Do I wash 54 items? Probably not, but like I said, I don't think I'd fill the washing machine up completely either.

But what do I do about my man who likes to leave the water practically running while he does the dishes, and by the way, gets it EVERYWHERE!?

I made a couple comments to him while he was washing last night, and probably got him mad, but it needs to be addressed. He said he doesn't care about the earth and tree-hugging and that garbage and doesn't like tasting soap with his food. I'm pretty sure he's making up the part about tasting soap...I never have and don't think there's even much of an opportunity to do so. I kindly reminded him that we also pay for our water, both what we use and what we put in the sewer, so it wasting money as well as water. No response.

What's a woman to do? Never ask for help with the dishes? Try and change a man who doesn't share some of the same beliefs? I've managed to get him to turn the water off while he's brushing his teeth most of the time. I guess it's a step. But this issue just bothers me so much!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Showing my green: garbage (and ferret poo)

Yesterday was garbage day. After going through the house and collecting everything, including emptying the vacuum, we had two half-full bags of garbage. One is from the kitchen and had other cans collected into it (bathrooms, etc) and the other if from the ferrets room. The bags are Seventh Generation and made of recycled materials. For the little cans I use either plastic grocery bags (though I don't have many any more) or biobags. Most of our "trash" is recycled.

Many people would say two half-full bags of garbage isn't bad for two people over a week's time. I know when I head to work on Mondays, I see a lot more garbage piled up outside of the other houses. I make a conscious effort to purchase items with minimal or recyclable packaging, and we don't use disposable items for the most part (though I still haven't found a viable replacement for freezer bags :( I'm okay with one bag of garbage.

However, that second bag bothers me. We throw away a bag of newspaper, recycled newspaper "litter", unbleached paper towels and ferret "droppings" for the most part. The occasional pop can from Hubby or food bag will enter in, but for the most part it's entirely compostable if I wanted it to be.

So added to my list of things I want to do is composting the ferrets poo. I found such a beast here, but I don't want to pay $100 for something I can make myself. I was already considering a worm compost bin for the basement for the winter months, but maybe I'll have two, or just the poo compost bin inside and continue to trudge outside for the veggies.

In my research on the subject, I've learned that it's important to keep the two compost materials separate, as the poo can contaminate the veggies. I don't understand it all, but I trust my sources and will be adhering to this rule. Ferrets are carnivores, even more so than dogs or cats, so their poo has absolutely no veggie content. The poo of herbivores like rabbits, guinea pigs and the like can usually be composted without the assistance of worms or anything, it's basically already compost itself! But meaty poo or that of an omnivore may need some help. I don't think I could convince Hubby* of just keeping a pile of ferret poo around all the time waiting for it to compost. But if I worked on keeping it contained and promised the worms would work quickly, I think I may be able to get away with it.

*For some insight into the tango Hubby and I are in regarding our lifestyle, I will explain a little. I am a get down and dirty kind of girl. I don't mind dirt, and love getting things done. My mom loves to tell how I once mucked out a chicken coop in July barefoot. Seriously though, those boots are completely stifling and there was no way I was going to do it with them on. Feet are easy to clean too! Bottom line, I don't mind getting dirty and doing what it takes to get things done. Hubby, on the other hand, for all his grunting, bearded manliness, likes things clean. He thinks dirt is gross, and poo even more so (I just can't wait until he has to change diapers!). He makes faces and whiny noises when he has to clean ferret poo, or if he has to clean gunk out of the pond. If something isn't straight-forward and easy, he gets easily frustrated and doesn't even want to bother (especially if it wasn't his idea) so I have to pick my battles sometimes. Which is hard for me since I'm the type to always want to do something, tackle a project and find a better way to make things happen.

I'm a problem solver, even if there isn't an obvious problem, and Hubby prefers the status quo. When we were house shopping, I wanted an old farmhouse that needed work and with some land. Something we could make our own and where we'd have room to be. I came to learn that although he said he was okay with that, he was not. When we walked into the house we now own, he wanted to make an offer after only seeing the laundry room and the kitchen. It was finished, mostly redone, move-in condition, on less than a quarter acre, and all completely landscaped to within an centimeter of its life. He loved it. We bought it. Now he says he wants to die there, never to move again. It's our first house, I'm 26 and he's 30, we have no children, and he's convinced we'll stay in the 1300 square foot house in Swanton forever.

I'm doing my best to make it what I want...but it's definitely not what I had in mind. At least it gives me a problem to solve :)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Menu Monday

As usual, last weeks plan wasn't followed to the letter, but having it there always helps! This week will be more of the same stuff. We don't always have a lot of variety, especially during the winter.

  • M - Pork Chops in creamy mustard sauce with noodles and broccoli
  • T - Spicy Chicken Nuggets with oven fries (didn't get these made last week, forgot to marinate the chicken!)
  • W - Pork Loin Roast with veg in the crockpot
  • Th - Tortellini with tomato sauce
  • F - Dinner at Kira's
  • Sa - Valentine's Day! We will probably be going out for an early dinner.
  • Su - Spaghetti with meat sauce
Check back during the week for recipes for the pork chops, chicken nuggets and the pork loin roast!

Valentine's Day will be a little different for us this year. The Friday before, I am supposed to get both my profit-sharing bonus from work as well as our tax refund. Because of this happy event, we will be purchasing a carpet cleaner! Hubby and I have thought about this one quite a bit and decided it will definitely be a smart purchase, and we'll have the money then. So the plan for Saturday is to go out shopping, and I hope to stop for a lovely early dinner before heading back home. I have a coupon for Olive Garden, but we'll see where the day takes us! We haven't been out to eat in quite a while, and I think this will be nice for us. The rest of the money will be going towards paying off debt and building up our emergency fund.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I am not my hair

I have long hair. I have had long hair for most of my life. I don't use much product in it at all, and only use a hair dryer when it's below 20F and I need to keep it from freezing in the morning. Then I only use it to dry a little, as it takes a full 20-30 minutes to get my hair even remotely close to "dry". My thick, healthy, long hair has always been part of my identity.

Starting in college, however, I started chopping it off about once every sixteen months to donate it. When I say chop it off, I mean 10-12 inches, leaving my hair about shoulder length. The first time I cried. The last time I convinced a friend to do it with me!

This picture is after the last time, June '07. After this cut I also discovered that my hair can be curly if it isn't weighed down by many inches of hair.

Doing the math, it's now been 19 months since my last cut, and I'm feeling the itch. It's long, it's full of static and since it hasn't been over 30 degrees since like before Christmas, it's getting a little damaged. It NEEDS to be cut!

I usually donate to Wigs for Kids or Locks of Love, but this year my friend and I will be donating to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths. I stopped using Pantene regularly a couple of years ago, but I think they'll still take my hair. So if you want to join in, let us know! It takes 6 ponytails to make a wig, and you only have to donate 8" of hair to this one (others are 12" or 10").

Short hair is definitely greener and more frugal. It takes less water and shampoo/conditioner to take care of your hair when it's short. It also takes less time to dry. And, we'll be helping women who need it. This comes from Pantene's Beautiful Lengths website:

Hair loss can strike an especially crippling blow to women fighting cancer. In fact, a recent study revealed that nearly 60 percent of women consider hair loss the most dreaded side effect they face when undergoing chemotherapy. Eight percent of these women are at risk of avoiding potentially life-saving treatment. Real-hair wigs can cost as much as $1200 and are often only partially covered by health insurance.

Donating your hair is a heartfelt and life-changing act of women's cancer and breast cancer support.

Our plan is to get our hair cut mid-April this year. Almost 2 full years from the last time, but I will survive :) Probably by the time I get it cut, I will have to be running with my hair down like a horse because it's too heavy for a ponytail, but it won't be the first time. Who's with me?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Making My Own Veggie Stock

Yesterday I decided it would be a good day to make some veggie stock. I ran out of what I had in the cupboard (store bought) and decided to do it myself. Why? Two reasons really. 1) It's much cheaper. 2) I know what's in it, and as of yesterday Hubby has to watch his sodium intake*.

Cost Comparison:
Store bought: 2.00 (best sale I could get, on sale with a coupon) for a 1 quart carton.
Home made: 1.39 celery + 0.75 carrots + .01 onion = 2.16 for 6 quarts. Add in the cost of the water, olive oil, salt and pepper and gas to heat it all and we're looking at 2.50 at THE MOST. Awesome.

So how did I get an onion for a penny? I don't know. I went to the Asian grocery store last night to pic up veggies for this and some Panko since it's on my way home. The only veg that had for this was the onion, and they were out of Panko, but I did get some noodles my Hubby has been requesting. The noodles were marked 2.99. I handed they guy my noodles and the onion and my total was $3.01. He told me not to worry about the penny. I'm sure the noodles were discounted somehow, but since I didn't get a receipt and paid in cash, I'm assuming the onion was one penny :)

The recipe below calls for white wine, which I used only because I had an open bottle, but it isn't necessary. It adds to the cost, but it's still less than store bought (on sale and with a coupon).

However you look at it, it's much more cost effective and I know exactly what went into it. Also, the packages stock comes in from the store are very difficult to recycle, and most places, including my village, won't take them. So now I get to use my own containers, freeze whatever I want, and it's super cheap! Plus I have some wonderful veggies to add to my compost pile. I can't wait for spring to start working on it and make it into beautiful nutrients for my garden!

1 lb carrots
1 lb celery
1 lb onion
2 T olive oil
1 T salt
1 T black pepper
1 c white wine
6 quarts water

  • Chop veggies into about 1" pieces.
  • Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure all pieces are coated.
  • Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and heat oven to 400F
  • Roast veggies for about 1 hour.
  • Remove from onion and move from baking sheet to stock pot at medium heat.
  • When veggies start to sizzle, add white wine and let it soak in/reduce.
  • When it's fully reduced, add 6 quarts water and let simmer for 1-1.5 hours. Veggies should no longer have much of a taste when they're done. All of the goodness goes into the stock!
Chopping veggies.

Make sure oil, salt and pepper is coating everything.

Place in one layer on cookie sheet.
If you don't have a huge one like this, you can use two.

Yummy roasted veggies ready for the stock pot!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Natural Beauty Contest

A couple of years ago, I started to make the switch to more natural beauty products. Partly out of necessity (I have very weird skin) and partly out of a desire to lessen my footprint and my exposure to chemicals. The drawback is this can be a little more expensive than conventional products in most cases.

To help ease the economic burden of natural beauty products, Fig + Sage is having a contest to win some excellent prize packages:

Grand Prize #1:

One Valentines Day basket full of Fig+Sage approved pampering organic body careworth over $150. You'll receive the following full-size (except for the Suki Cleansing Bars) products: treats

(2) Suki Sensitive Cleansing Bars - Travel size ($5 retail/each)

(1) Dr. Hauschka Lemon Body Lotion ($26.95 retail)

(1) Dr. Hauschka Lavender Bath Oil ($29.95 retail)

(1) Dr. Hauschka Aromatherapy Bath Kit ($15.98 retail)

(1) Saaf Foot Balm ($44.95 retail)

(1) Pangea Organics Sage & Geranium Massage/Body oil ($24 retail)

A total value of $151.83!!!


Grand Prize #2:

One Valentines Day basket full of Fig+Sage approved, pampering organic skin care products worth over $150. You'll receive the following full-size (except the Suki Sensitive Cleansing bar) products:

(1) Suki Sensitive Cleansing Bar - Travel size ($5 retail)

(1) Pangea Organics Green Mandarin With Sweet Lime Toner ($22 retail)

(1) Pangea Organics Ylang Ylang Facial Cream ($30 retail)

(1) Pangea Organics Fennel, Grapefruit & Orange Lip Balm ($12 retail)

(1) Dr. Hauschka Aromatherapy Bath Kit ($15.98 retail)

(1) Martina Gebhardt Rose Facial Lotion ($42 retail)

(1) Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream ($23.95 retail)

A total value of $150.93!!!

Go check it out and register!

My personal favorite line is Burt's Bees. I know they've been bought by Clorox, and I'm trying to deal with that. I love their grapefruit shampoo and conditioner, the soap bark facial cleanser, their body wash, the apricot face scrub, the carrot daily moisturizer and lavender facial toner. Unfortunately, the toner has been discontinued due to Clorox changing everything, and I'm pretty sure the cleanser changed it formulation. I'm going to attempt to make my own soon.

I also love their face mask, lip balm, cuticle cream, res-q ointment, hand salve, sunscreen, and pretty much everything else. I've been hesitant to buy their makeup due to the cost and the fact that I haven't been able to find a place to try it before I buy it. I really like their products because they're natural, have recycled and recycleable packaging (for the most part) and very reasonably priced for natural beauty products.

They've also pioneered the Natural Standard and state exactly what percentage of their products are all natural. In most cases, it's over 95%.

For makeup, I have a confession to make: I use MaryKay. My sister sells it, so I get it at a really great price. Now, I don't wear a lot of makeup, but I have this thing where my nose gets flaky and red ALL the time. I look like Rudolph. Therefore, I like their concealer. It's an addiction I'm working on. I haven't bought any new in a while and I'm looking for a more natural alternative. I'd really like to try Bare Minerals too, but again, it's a little cost-prohibitive.

I have to say though, my favorite moisturizer is straight up almond oil (I use the Burts Bees combo of creme and toner after I get out of the shower, and the almond oil when I get ready in the morning and before bed). It's the only thing that keeps my dry, flaky nose in check. It's still red, but at least it's getting better. Sometimes I mix in some clary sage and rosemary oils, sometimes not.

Anyone else have natural remedies that work better than the expensive or conventional products?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Chili update: lunch

My lunch, a baked potato with chili. It's still a little "loose", not sure why that happened this time. Still yummy though!

Menu Monday

Last weeks menu wasn't followed all that closely. The pot roast lasted longer than I thought due to two days of me having lunch provided by others :) And I realized we were out of tortellini on Thursday (I swear I saw a bag last weekend in there) so I improvised with some Rotini and cheese on top. Also, our friends made so much on Friday night they invited us back over on Saturday for dinner again to help eat it up! So, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty good, but after that, forget it.

This week, Hubby has a game tonight, practice tomorrow, game Wednesday, and work on Thursday. So we won't be eating together much this week. Hopefully he can stick around for dinner tonight since his game isn't until 8. I'm bribing him with steaks :)

M - Steaks ($1 a piece manager's special!), oven-roasted potatoes and broccoli with cheese sauce (the only way I'll eat it)
T - potato soup
W - Spicy chicken nuggets with some kind of potato, not sure what yet.
Th - pork loin roast with veggies
F - Hubby's (in)famous stuffed chicken breast. Leave it to a man to stuff one meat with another. Since he doesn't work Friday, he volunteered to make dinner for the clan. Probably with mashed potatoes.
Sa - pizza
Su - white chicken chili

Sometime this week I plan on making more pizza dough and trying my hand at noodles. Sunday will probably also see some more sausage soup made for lunches next week and another kind of cookie, or maybe more of the same!

Working in my home

Another busy weekend, but this time it was productive!

Saturday (after basketball and concession stand working) I went with my friend to Sams Club and the Grocery store. I spent a little more than I had budgeted, but I had planned on doing that (does that make sense?). I knew exactly what I was going to buy and how much it would cost, except for the meat. And I got two huge roasts, some manager's special steaks, a huge package of chicken, 3 lbs of smoked sausage and 2 lbs of breakfast sausage. Quite a bit of meat which should last us the month. After marathon shopping and putting all that meat up in the freezer I was exhausted. Luckily my wonderful friend invited us over for the leftovers from the night before when we ate at their house! We spent the night planning with our seed catalogs. I will be nice to have planned together so we know who's got what. For instance, I know she's doing a bunch of hot peppers, so I won't be planting any! It's really nice to have such good friends so close by. Even though it was cold and snowy, we could still walk.

Sunday was a very good day for me. I made cookies (a very yummy peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip I will be sharing later), stock and chili. I always feel better about the week ahead when I know I've prepared for it. The bad news is I didn't have much time for cleaning this weekend, so that will have to be broken down during the week.

The cookies before they baked. They don't spread out much, but they are very good. (And don't tell my hubby, but I put some ground flax seed in too!) I feel a little less bad about eating them because I know they have protein and fiber and good stuff. And by using peanut butter in the dough, I could use wheat flour (which he calls poison) without him noticing.

The chicken stock during and after. I had a carcass frozen in the freezer and kept adding veggie ends, etc. to the container until I finally found time to make stock. Next I will be trolling the meat market for beef bones. I also plan on making a good veggie stock in the near future.

No one judge the plastic containers, please. I'm trying to switch to glass...I am. I just haven't found the right ones yet. I love these containers because I can plop a frozen block down into the soup pot and let it melt. If the jar has a narrow opening (like my honey jar in the photo) I can't trust that convenience and have to remember to pull one out ahead of time. The honey jar will be placed in the fridge and used up this week, but the rest are headed to the freezer.

And here is the chili in the works. I didn't get any after shots because it was too darn late at night before I finally got these put into containers tand I totally forgot. But, I did bring some for lunch with a baked potato, maybe I'll share (a photo, not the chili!).

And here is a lovely shot of my makeshift sewing room. I wanted to have one setup in the basement by now, but the wetness in the basement sort of put that on hold. So for now, I get to take over my kitchen one small project at a time. This one didn't turn out as good as I had hoped, but I will share the results later. It does force me to plan and complete things in a timely manner though!