Sunday, March 24, 2019

Don't be afraid of Ugli Fruit

By Elizabeth Prata

Our grocery store has a section where clerks place produce in a net bag and sell it for 99 cents. Normally, the fruit or vegetables are still good. For example, a tray of cherry tomatoes might have one lone moldy or squashed tomato in the entire tray, but they reduce it from $3.99 to .99. I buy it, throw out the inedible tomato, and eat the rest.

The other day there were two ugli fruits in the bag. I have never eaten them before. One advantage of my strictness with the net bag program is if there is anything on the reduced shelf even remotely palatable, I try it, even if I'm unfamiliar with the item. That way, I expand my palate and learn to eat new things. Otherwise I'd simply be eating scrambled eggs, blueberries, oatmeal, or soup every day and only those things.

I looked up on Youtube how to peel and eat an Ugli fruit. These fruits are in the family of grapefruit and tangerine. They are apparently juicy but not sour like the grapefruit, more sweet like the tangerine. Oh, ok, good to know. I never was able to get past looking at the ugly wrinkled thick skin to think of the fruit inside. Wikipedia explains this way
The Jamaican tangelo, also known by proprietary names ugli fruit, or uniq fruit, is a Jamaican form of tangelo, a citrus fruit that arose through the natural hybridization of a tangerine or orange with a grapefruit (or pomelo).
Above, two eggs getting ready to be poached and eyeing the ugli fruit for cutting

Very easy to peel. Cut off the pointy top and peel with hands
The woman describing the process in her video said that the membrane of the fruit is tough to chew and bitter, unlike a grapefruit, so I dispensed with it. Without testing it for myself I could see she was right, it was hard to pierce with a knife to open the membrane and extract the juicy fruit inside.

Break in half and tear off pith

I poked the individual segments and sliced the membrane open, extracting
the fruit inside. Half an ugli fruti was enough for me, one serving
So my breakfast Saturday was two poached eggs on gluten free toast, home fries, and half an ugli fruit. If you see an ugli fruit in the store, don't pass it up. It's juicy and tasty, and only requires a bit of work. Preparing an ugli fruit is a lot less work than an orange or a pineapple. The fruit should be without mold or dark spots, orange-ish in color at peak ripeness, or light green at just underripe. Enjoy!


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Backyard Spring 2019

By Elizabeth Prata

For some reason this week seemed to chew me up and spit me out. I had no particular issues and nothing untoward happened. It was just a busy, hectic, long week that took a toll on my body and mind.

I did write two major discernment articles this week on my other blog, one about Lori Loughlin and the College Admissions Scandal, and one about Francis Chan who seems to be sliding toward apostasy before our eyes. Those kind of articles take a toll on me.

Nevertheless, this morning is sunny, crisp, bright, and filled with birdsong. A new day to admire creation and be thankful to our Lord for the ability to go forward in joy.

I took a walk around the yard this morning, to see the flowers and hear the birds. There are many mature trees in our yard and along the quiet one-way street. There are pastures too. The birds love to fly through the yard and over the fields, alighting from tree to tree. The grass in the yard is also filled with wild flowers. As I walk I'm stepping on a springy cushion of verdant grass dotted with purple violets. I feel like a queen, being able to tread on such richness.

Here are some pictures from my short amble around the grass and bushes.

I don't know what this flower is, but I am fascinated with its perching and blooming at the very end of a long twig from the bush it's attached to-


Irises I think. There is a bush at the front of the house facing the street-




The birds like to perch on the top of the mailbox post, and anywhere else on the post, lol.


I wish I'd noticed when I took the picture that the auto focus was on the branch of the tall tree and not on the moon. The moon was slightly pink, reflecting the rising sun's pink-



Fiery start to the day. The sky was ablaze-


Nothing says weekend to me, an educator, than buses at rest. This is of the school across the street-


The sun had just peeked over the horizon and made the trees across the pasture glow-


The violets in the grass. I love them-



Have a wonderful day everyone!

Friday, March 08, 2019

Cat on a roof and broken vacuum

By Elizabeth Prata

Who dat?

On a warmish and finally a non-rainy day, I pulled in to my driveway at end of day and parked the car in the garage. Breathing a sigh of relief because the day was done, I turned from sliding the garage door down and heard the cacophony of birds in the 100 foot magnolia. The leafy foliage on the tree is too dense for me to see the birds, but I sure heard them.

I decided to sit under the tree at the picnic table for a while with my camera to see what I could shoot. The birds turned out to be a "murder of crows". Not so sweet or gentle, but they were active and the leaves were rustling as though a 20 knot breeze was blowing through. The birds make the yard so dynamic. Always something to see or hear.

Soon I noticed I was not the only observer of all this activity. A neighborhood cat had climbed on the roof and was just dying to get to the birds, who were staying just out of claw's length.


I watched for a while longer, enjoying the warm sun and cool air. No humidity. No stress. A clean and inviting apartment awaiting. There's something restorative about being outside, listening to the birds, being surprised by a cat on a roof (it wasn't hot tin, though). Foiled, he eventually departed when the crows did. The cat slithered away like smoke and the crows flew over the pasture to the next set of trees in the neighbor's yard.

This afternoon, I did my grocery shopping and I'm settled down in comfy clothes right now. I bought some salmon trimmings, a stuffed crab, two salmon patties, and some tofu for a stir fry as my proteins/main meals. Also got a lot of salad stuff. My vacuum died and my new one ordered from Amazon is due tomorrow, so I have that to look forward to this weekend, sigh. Not so glamorous. With a broken vacuum I could at least NOT vacuum guilt free for a few days, right?

For now though, my pot of black tea in a Noritake Chatham china cup is all I need. Plus the snoozing cats. I feel an early bedtime coming on.


Saturday, March 02, 2019

With the car seat warmer AND the air conditioning on...decadent!

By Elizabeth Prata

I was crazy tired but went for some retail therapy Friday afternoon anyway. There was no rain for the moment and the skies were lightening and pretty. It's a gorgeous ride in this bucolic area, so I decided to go for it. It was a busy week at school that finished with Book Character Day. Phew.

I have a seat warmer in the driver's side seat of my car and it feels so good on my back after 8 hours of walking on concrete floors. It was 68 degrees and humid, so I turned on the air conditioner too. With the gospel radio channel on, I was starting to feel luxuriously relaxed.

The owner at the shop happened to be there and moving things around to make the back room (furniture) look like a showroom. I heard before that she was taking more of a hands-on interest because she loves the shop and wanted to spend more time here. She and a friend were hard at work making the place organized, clean, and attractive. The place is usually a jumble. Sadly she did not have any step ladders, the item I went there for. The two they have they use in the shop. She said she would email me if she found one at the estate sale they were buying at this weekend.

I bought a pad of vintage paper for school, it's 5X8 and lightly colored in pastel colors and some crayons. The kids will love drawing on these blank sheets. And a throw pillow for $3, it's very pretty. I have been watching Dr Lori Verderame, a famous and knowledgeable appraiser on her own site and on Youtube, learning a lot and enjoying her videos.

She said what my mother taught me these many years ago, you collect good furniture, precious metals including jewelry, and fine art. I love fine art. At the shop I saw a wonderful oil painting still life of flowers. Wowsers. Their prices at The Special Store on art are excellent. Last summer I bought an original watercolor that I personally believe is pretty old. I can tell it's special, whoever the painter was. I have been thinking to have Dr Lori do an online appraisal of it for $59, the next time I have a spare $59 lol.

Anyway, this one was by an artist named Campos. As I looked closer at the price tag, it was listed from the estate sale they bought it from for $325, and Owner Daphne said she'd sell it for $125. Aw, man, out of my league. Back to the pillow.

I had a nice chat with the clerk that's always there, Sherry. She offered me some tea and pound cake but alas, I had to go before my fast diminishing energy drained away completely. She gave me a couple of free range chicken eggs as a parting gift. That shop is part museum, part shop, and part safe zone to just relax. I love it there.



I drove the beautiful route to the next destination, the grand opening of Family Dollar. I watch Kathryn (a Christian lady, married with family) and her DIY thrift videos called Do It On A Dime. She always goes to the Dollar Tree and comes out with interesting ideas to use the things she buys on sale. So I was interested to see what Family Dollar would have. It was not a lot different from Dollar General but it was organized and clean and the aisles were wide, unlike the mess that the Dollar G I usually frequent is in. Their prices were almost the same as Dollar General so I decided not to go out of my way to this store since there is a Dollar General located half a mile from my school or another one an eighth of a mile from my house.

I wound up at Kroger to get groceries. I've been trying Friday nights after school instead of Sunday after church, but the place is crazy busy then so I think I'll abandon that. Not many deals, but I found a few, some for the pantry at school and one or two for me. My meals this week will be veggie soup for lunches, and black bean patties and quinoa bites for dinners. I had planned to use the two free range eggs poached atop gluten free bread this morning, but I forgot to buy the bread! I was so tired by then and the clouds and thunder were rolling in that I just quit and checked out. I was in bed by 9:00.

We are supposed to get wicked storms this weekend, heavy rain and thunder, so I'm happy to be home and ready to clean and then attend to my Bible stuff.

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend everyone.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Story of a Frugal Dinner

By Elizabeth Prata

I scored this week on the Free Friday Download.

Kroger grocery store has a program where they have one item for free every Friday. Usually it's a small bag of candy, or chips or other snack food. Occasionally it's real food like yogurt, or this week: Queso Fresco, fresh cheese.
Queso blanco, with similar cheeses including queso fresco, is a creamy, soft, and mild unaged white cheese, commonly used in the Iberian Peninsula, several Latin American countries including Mexico, and many parts of the United States. The name queso blanco is Spanish for "white cheese", but similar cheeses are used and known throughout the world. ... It is similar to (if slightly more acidic than) pot cheese and farmer cheese.
Queso blanco is considered one of the easier cheeses to make, as it requires no careful handling and does not call for rennet or a bacterial culture. Wikipedia
Hmmm, what can I do with fresh cheese? Googling this query brought me to a recipe for cheesy enchiladas.

Being gluten free, I've tried corn tortillas before but they always taste so bad to me. Then a few weeks ago having dinner at a friend's house, corn tortillas were part of a make-your-own taco bar. I added really juicy tomatoes to my plate and when the juice mixed with the corn tortilla, it was transformed.

Seeing the recipe for enchiladas, the explanation section called for heating the tortillas, which I always did, and then giving the tortilla an oil bath or dredging it in enchilada sauce! Remembering the tonato sauce transformation, I thought Bingo! Let's do this!

I followed the recipe and added enchilada sauce to the bottom of my baking dish while my tortillas were heating on the griddle. I dredged both sides in additional enchilada sauce, and added the now crumbled fresh cheese. I placed these babies seam side down, and added chopped onion to the top, then the rest of the cheese, topping with the remaining enchilada sauce.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or so. You can top with avocado and sour cream, both ingredients I had on hand. A gluten free, inexpensive dinner! Win-win!

The take-away: I started with the free ingredient and made it the main ingredient. I built the dish around the cheese. Then looked for recipes featuring that ingredient where I also had most of the other indgredients on hand. The avocado, sour cream and onion were in my pantry and fridge. I only had to buy the enchilada sauce. It took a minimum of effort and time toput it together. I did it on a school night. It took 20 minutes to assemble and 25 minutes to heat through in the oven.

Cost:

Fresh Cheese: $0.

Tortillas: A packet of 30 of them is $1.50, so 6 tortillas would cost 3 cents each, or for the 6 I cooked, 18 cents.

Enchilada sauce, $1.50. I used the whole can.

Onions: negligible. I  used a bit of one large onion. Shavings, really.

Avocado: on sale for .77 cents each. I used half of one with my meal.

Sour cream: on sale for 99 cents.

My serving was three enchiladas. So the cost for this meal was roughly $1.50. You can add Mexican rice to the meal as a side dish, but I figured the tortillas with the cheese and avocado were rich enough, and I had a pot of tea going on the side, so, I cut it off there. For Friday night's meal of the remaining three enchiladas, I might add rice to the festivities, but for now, it's time to eat (frugally)--

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Errands are fun when you have scenery like this

By Elizabeth Prata

I am no fan of errands. When I finish work or school, which are the only regularly scheduled activities that draw me away from my home, I like to scuttle back ASAP. But being alive means you have to sustain yourself, and that means an occasional trip to the bank, mechanic's, hairdresser's, Dollar Store, grocery store and so on.

It's been raining non-stop here for a good few weeks. And cold. A cold rain with temps in the forties is just chilling. But I see that the rain is helping the blossoms grow. We have forsythia and dogwood and some fruit trees blooming already. We also have greened-up grass and some buds on the trees.

As I was driving home yesterday after school, I had to stop at the Bank. Although the day was a bit gray, the scenes around weren't. I love my little town and the county I'm living in. Here are a few charming scenes. I got a huge kick out of the no trespassing signs. Looks like they mean it!












Friday, February 22, 2019

Frugal Cooking: Cherry Tomatoes, the Tightwad Gazette style

By Elizabeth Prata

I've mentioned before that Kroger has a policy where they reduce some produce items and put them in a special spot for sale. Anything in the red mesh bag will be 99 cents. These items might be a bunch of oranges that are a tiny bit soft, brownish bananas, eggplants with one wrinkle, or a sealed pint of cherry tomatoes with one cherry tomato gone moldy. Normally the items are still at near-fresh capacity. Or at least they seem good enough to me. If I can buy a $4 cauliflower for 99 cents by shaving away one pinpoint of brown spot, you better believe I'm going to do it.

I learned about thrifting in the 1990s. I'd bought into the 1980s culture of 'more is better' and 'greed is good' rhetoric. Well maybe not the greed part but the prevailing position of Americans that upward mobility is a given and that accumulating more is always better.

One thing that attitude did for me was instill a hard work ethic and a savings mentality. My husband and I bought a house with 18% down, at age 24. In those days putting 20% down was expected, none of these loans with no percent down. We filled our brand new three-bedroom raised ranch with furniture, stereo equipment, large screen TV, and golf clubs, and two cars in the garage of course, one new and one used, and felt we were living the American Dream. And that was the dream, then.

The husband left a few years later, seeking another, better, American Dream, as Ecclesiastes says we vainly do. I was left paying the mortgage in a beginning teacher's salary.

Uh-oh.

It was a struggle. A life that had seemed shiny and new and appropriate was now a millstone, a burden, and a terror. The first of the month with the mortgage payment was enough to give nightmares. I took on a second job, then a third, then a roommate. A mini-economic downturn happened and the real estate crashed. I was stuck with a house that wouldn't sell, tired of working 7 days a week, and wondering if this was what life was all about.

Eventually I sold the house for what I'd bought for it, barely, and decided to pursue another mind-set. Frugality. I'd tracked on the American Dream of husband, house, career with no thought, because that is what you did, after college. Now I was older and wiser and decided to make more thoughtful decisions about my lifestyle, sans pressure from society.

That's where frugality entered.

From 1990 to 1996 A Maine woman named Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced like decision) wrote and published a little newsletter called The Tightwad Gazette. The sub-hed to the newsletter was: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle.

This was news to me. You mean accumulating stuff was not part of an upwardly mobile lifestyle? Buying - or not buying - into the spendthrift economy was a choice? Living with what you have, and making do was a real thing?

Her newsletter was revolutionary, literally. I was living in Maine and so was she and her family, the proximity made me curious, the useful tips hooked me.

Being thrifty was good. Being frugal left me open to spending what I wanted to spend on, not having to spend on a credit card debt and not paying a mortgage, but travel, books, and this new thing called the internet.

Here is the Amazon link to Amy Dacyczyn's Gazette and she also wrote three other books.

So anyway, what a long introduction to my dish about tomatoes!

I look for marked down produce and the other day I found these pints of tomatoes. Normally $4, $3 if on sale, these were marked down to 50 cents each!




The commitment one makes if buying these items, is to actually use them (thus NOT denying another person their opportunity for a favored fresh vegetable) and to use them right away so they don't go bad. So I halved all of them.


I was going to roast them which would have been great, but I didn't feel like turning on the oven. I use it for storing cookie sheets, muffin tins, griddle, huge saute pan, and three baking dishes, and I just didn't feel like hauling them all out of the oven. I chose to grab a large stock pot and do the cherry tomatoes on top of the stove instead.


Vegetable oil, salt, and pepper and we are good to go. I let them cook, covered, for a while till the tomatoes were soft and there was a lot of juice. I added some mushrooms I had on hand, also a frugal buy.


At the end I threw in some fresh basil, also a frugal buy, and now I have a large stock pot of tomatoes and mushrooms in sauce. If I ate pasta, I'd have boiled some penne and used it for a sauce. Also can toast a baguette hard and put some on top with a bit of cheese. But instead gluten-free me made some quinoa and used the tomatoes as a side dish. Can also add rice, or any other grain you like. Or simply have with a bit of cheese for a side dish sans grain, veggie only.

Were there any bad tomatoes in the 4 pints I bought? Yes. But only 1 or so in each pint. This was the waste:


Not a bad deal at all! I've eaten this dish every day this week. I had it with fish, with shrimp, with cheese, and with quinoa. And all for $1.98. Thanks, Amy Dacyczyn!


Monday, February 18, 2019

Tree bones

By Elizabeth Prata

Don't you think that in winter, with the leaves fallen off and exposing the trunk and branches, that the skeleton frame of the tree is beautiful? The leaves and foliage are, too, of course, but it's not often we get a naked glimpse of the infrastructure of the majestic tree. Its bones, so to speak. So pretty! They make a starkly beautiful landscape against the sky. Here are a few from my yard:





Saturday, February 16, 2019

Three-Day Weekend

By Elizabeth Prata

How wonderful are the occasional three-day weekends! They come along every few months for the person working and living in a school-year calendar. I love it.

My plans today are to organize my computer folders, work with my photos to make two weeks' worth of Bible pictures and quotes. Tomorrow, to catch up on my systematic theology lessons and Bible reading plan, and Monday, to read some of my other books, (EM Forster's The Machine Stops) and craft. That's the plan, anyway.

Soup this week is going to be split pea with carrots and onions. I will also make some granola, smoothies with pineapple and apple juice, and some kind of casserole - I haven't decided yet. it's still early on this weekend-a-palooza.

vignette

The above is a vignette scene from a funky cafe-art gallery-store I took last summer.

Our weather is just as turbulent as it is for the rest of the country. Our version is predicted to be rain-rain-rain. Up to half a foot or more over the next week. It's raining already this morning, lightly. I'm longing for sun but the wet outside means I can stay inside doing crafts, reading, and cooking guilt free.

vignette 2
American Front Porch

Aside from attending church services Sunday, I don't have any plans to go out and do anything. There is plenty to do right here.

Currently my cat Murray is squealing and squeaking, vocalizing in his way. I call him Squeakers sometimes, because his vocalizations are so tiny like a mouse, and cute.

Here ae a few scenes of the wetness outside:

grass

plant

vignette 3

vignette 6

Have a good weekend, everyone!



Saturday, February 09, 2019

What happened to Mount Spinach?

By Elizabeth Prata

Saturday! Saturday! I love getting home on Fridays, putting the car in the garage, closing the door, and getting inside the apartment. I change into comfy clothes, make tea, and settle down for 30 hours of alone time. Friday night and Saturday is the time I use to recover, rest, and replenish. I am not open for business.

I had wanted to do some crafting. Today I decided to make 19 corner origami bookmarks for the kids at school, for their Valentine's packet. We still give them a paper bag, they decorate, and then on the day they go around and put a Valentine or a sweet into each bag. They have fun opening the cards, and they really read each card, lol. "Look! It says "Be mine!" they giggle and laugh.

Here are the bookmarks I made. They are of card stock because I know they will take  beating right away, and likely get unfolded immediately too. So I made something a bit hardy to withstand fumbling fingers and passing them around. While I made them I watched Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Its sad that in all my searching to find a "nice" TV show or movie to watch n an adult level, I could not. I finally went to the kids' section and tuned up the Wimpy Kid. Sometimes you just want an Up or a Princess Bride or a Big or Splash...hey wait a minute, I should look up movies starring Tom Hanks.

I made boy ones for the boys and girl ones for the girls.













Now I'm having some quiche with rice and spinach. I was so happy to buy the huge and I mean YUGE container of spinach because I love spinach and I want a lot of it. I dumped a large pile into the pan and enough to my heart's content, and thought, NOW I'll have a lot of spinach for my side dish!



Wait, wut?


I finished watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The movie was well done and seemed true to the book. However, never having read the book, I didn't know that the main character was a jerk. Wimpy is OK. Jerk is not.

I think Harriet the Spy (the book) is a better representation of kid-life.

I am going to cut up a fresh pineapple and have it for a snack, then settle in to finishing my book on Amy Carmichael. Have a good rest of the weekend!