Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Frugal organizing

I often write about ways to save money and time in grocery shopping and cooking. Being frugal in these tight economic times suits many people from all socio-economic levels.

There is a kind of frugality to the way we use space, too. I live in a 350 sf apartment. I like that, it is economical to heat, light, and clean. It's frugal to not use or pay for more space than we need, and we really need less than we think.

But a small living space, even with just one person living in it, can become cluttered too if we don't watch out. Add to that, there is always some unused space that can be used, if we think creatively.

In frugal living in a small space, the less cluttered you can be, the better. That means clear and clean surfaces. I don't leave lots of books and magazines and junk on top of the coffee table, dining table, or bookcase tops. The eye likes to stop when it's roaming around the room. The less it has to stop it, the more of a clean sweep the eye can do, the bigger the room will seem. For example, I use a clear cutting board so that it doesn't clutter the small kitchen counter top and make the eye stop. I keep the surfaces clean, as I mentioned, I put the books spines together evenly so that the clean lines on the bookcase look neater. Think of giving your bangs a trim. They always looks neater afterward don't they? Even a small trim.

There are spaces around your home, apartment, trailer, studio etc that you can use. Recently my one closet got pretty packed. I knew where all the things in it were, but they were hard to get to. Having things you're unable to freely and easily use is just the same as not having them at all.

I decided to empty it, sell what I haven't used lately, and re-organize the rest.

I don't have a lot of shoes, but the few I do have I don't want in a pile on the floor. I hate searching for the mate through a dark closet at the last second before I have to leave for work. I decided to get a behind-the-door shoe organizer. It was $8.00. I put my scarves in the empty pockets. They had kept falling to the floor. I continually forgot the ones I had. This way they are out in the light and I can see what I've got. The behind-the-door pocket hanging organizers are useful for the space that is out of sight but filling a previously unused spot. One caveat, make sure that you buy one whose hooks that go over the door can allow the door to close. The hooks for this one are strong enough to hold a full organizer but slim enough to allow the door to close.

There is another behind-the-door spot in my bedroom besides the bedroom closet. It's the bedroom door. I never shut it because I am the only one who lives here, lol. I bought a larger pocketed organizer for that space and use it to put in my hats, canvas bags, and purses. The hooks on this organizer ($7) are the plastic ones on the left side of the top of the door. They don't allow the door to close. So I use this organizer for the door that does not need closing. These items used to be
on the top shelf of the closet. The black bag hanging at the bottom contains other smaller canvas bags. It's light. It needed to be accessible because I use a lot of canvas bags, so I hung it by hanging in as another level to the pockets of the organizer, and I can still use the bottom pocket to hold things.

There is space between the stove and the counter in the kitchen. Hmmm, what can I do with it? It's out of sight to my eye when I look into the kitchen so using the space won't clutter up my small cooking area. I know! I'll use a strong magnet to hold a canvas bag to store my dishtowels in! I only have two drawers, and one is broken. The other holds all my knives. This is a great solution for items I use constantly in making them accessible yet hidden.

Look around your home and look for spots that if used, won't clutter the space or stop the eye from roaming.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Good Humor Man

At a Second Hand store I recently found a new book containing all the best Little Golden Books of the time past. The large book has in it my favorite story growing up, The Poky Little Puppy. I also loved The Lion's Paw, and I Can Fly. I brought the book to school and I read a story a day from it to my kindergarten group. They LOVE it. I noticed that the language is richer than many of today's stories, and the illustrations are beautiful, and being from the 1960s, so retro!

On Friday I read to them The Good Humor Man. This is a story about the ice cream truck that trundled around neighborhoods, ringing the bell or playing the happy tune, and the kids playing outside in all the yards would run to the truck and buy ice cream.

When I was growing up in the 1960-70, age 0-10, we used to visit my grandparents at their beach house on Narragansett Bay. They spent their summers at what we called The Beach House (as opposed to their regular domicile in the city of Providence). The Beach House was 3 miles from where my mother and father and sister and brother and I lived all the time. All the cousins would come for the summer with the aunts and uncles to stay the summer. My great aunt and uncle owned the house next door, and other great-aunts and uncles owned summer houses nearby. There were always cousins and second cousins and relatives around.

The beach neighborhood was filled with lots of other kids too. We were at the end of a long peninsula and there was not a lot of traffic. We would play outside all day on the water or in the water, and in the afternoon and evening on the lawn or riding our bikes all around. In those days as a kid you could roam around the neighborhood unsupervised all day long!!

In the afternoons the ice cream truck wold roll by. Our ears that could not hear our parents from three feet next to us shouting to come in and eat lunch suddenly turned dog-sensitive and we could hear the truck's bell from 2 miles away.

The moment we hear the bell and ice cream jingle song we would go instantly mad. It only cost a dime in those days to buy an ice cream.We turned into unreasoning, clambering, hysterical creatures rushing to the house begging for dimes. We thought we would absolutely die if we didn't get an ice cream. The pull of the ice cream truck was total.

We gathered at the truck knowing what we wanted to buy. The Guardian UK
Though I liked Ice Cream Sandwiches a lot I usually bought an Italian Ice. I was never a huge ice cream fan until in my 50s and even now I rarely eat it. I loved Italian ice. This a frozen not too sweet dessert made of frozen water, bits of fruit and fruit syrup. It can in a covered little cup where you peeled off the top and ate the ice with a wooden flat spoon. it was hard to eat. It was so frozen solid the best you could do is use the side of the wooden spoon to scrape the ice up. After a while it had melted a bit and you could dig the spoon into it to unearth small chunks. I loved the lemon flavor.

How wonderful we had a childhood where we roamed, played with cousins, and could run up to the ice cream man and buy a snack for a dime. My kids at school listened attentively to the story and their eyes were agleam just as if I was telling a story about a frog prince and a magic wizard from a faraway land. But to me, it was real and I lived it. Just another bit of history passing away and only known through books, and memories of old people...

Me at the club pool still not liking ice cream & choosing a Popsicle instead
Further Reading

The History of the Ice Cream Truck

Del's Frozen Lemonade

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Trip to the Sunflower Farm

My long awaited and eagerly anticipated day out at Washington Farms occurred today. I went with a friend to the famous farm which features corn maze, pig races, hayrides, kids' activities, and on the other side of the entry gate, a sunflower farm and pumpkin patch. This is the non-kids' side and it is the part we went through.

The Sunflower Farm and pumpkin patch, and shed containing jellies, honey and relishes, offers free admittance. There fields of yellow after yellow, and also colorful peonies, is a draw for many photographers. My friend likes to take photos too, and so we left early so as to arrive at their opening time and also while the sun was a bit lower.

We were fortunately spared any effects from Hurricane Andrew, thankfully, so it wasn't rainy. It was a bit breezy which was great because the day was saturated with bright sun and a hot temperature! I thought by October 8, the second week the Farm is open in the fall, that it'd be cooler. But it was OK, we only spent an hour poking around the flowers and took shots of all we wanted.

The parking lot filled up within minutes of the 10am opening but our time in the sunflowers was free from crowd and loud, as the families with children went on into the Farm area itself to enjoy the many activities that were offered over there.

The Farm had posted a short note last week advising that the traditionally lush fields of flowers was quite diminished this year, due to the drought. I'd noticed driving home on Friday that as I passed the yard on the way to my driveway that the bushes were severely drooping sadly. The drought effects are really becoming noticeable now. It was the same with the sunflowers, though many individual flowers were still available to photo (or cut if we wanted to pay $1 per stem). The ground was indeed hard and dusty and the flowers were pretty droopy.

We were happy, though, because there were still areas which were beautiful in which to poke around and bask in the beauty.

Afterward we stopped and got a couple of tacos and yakked for about an hour, then did a very few errands, and headed home. It was relaxing and perfect! A nice day out which was followed by a nap, completing my assignments for two classes I'm taking, and then playing with photos!

Here are just a few of the 75 shots I took today.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Frugal cooking: Herring

Herring is a fish. An overlooked fish in the shadow of its more glamorous neighbor, salmon, or its more utilitarian chicken of the sea neighbor, tuna.

Tuna has gotten so gross and mercury laden I decided to look for a lower mercury laden fish and lo and behold, on the bottom shelf under the tuna are herring and anchovies and kippers (which are herring anyway). I decided to try a few and though some are unappetizing, the herring in hot sauce seemed to be a happy compromise price and taste wise. Now, how to use them?

I rinse my hot sauce-soaked herring in a strainer. This removes the sauce and hotness but leaves a little tang behind. It also gets rid of the saltiness that comes with many canned items. I mix it with cream cheese and either cukes or apple. Today it was apple. Season to taste. The canned fish I'd mentioned such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, and kippers are a good alternative to tuna and are cost effective, while offering some fiber and protein.

You can use the mixture as a dip with crackers but today I used it as a spread on lightly fried bread. The local store had marked down a loaf which expired the day I bought it, and since I didn't use the bread for another two days, sometimes frying or toasting stale bread is a good way to give it new life.

By the way, I always buy any red sticker item. If it's marked down, I buy it. On Friday I emerged with three heavy bags of groceries of all dairy, fruit, and vegetables, for $16. The bread I mentioned, (it can be toasted), the mushrooms will go into a quiche, the apples were fine, the oranges will be cut up and used to infuse water, the potatoes were fine, the bananas will be made into muffins, the tomatoes were fine except for one that was a bit soft so I cooked it for dinner, and so on. With only one exception the marked down produce I buy either at the local store or Kroger has been perfectly fine, especially if I eat it or cook it within a day. The sole exception was a cellophane box of kiwis that were actually brown skinned water balloons. Oh, well, they were only $1. Take a chance, people. We mark down or throw away more good food than many poverty-stricken people see in a lifetime.

Back to herring spread on bread. I put enough oil on the bottom of the pan just to coat the pan. I used olive oil this time but any oil will suffice, depending on your own taste preferences.

It won't take long and when one side is done I flip and wait until they are golden brown.

Oops, it seems my coil has a hot spot. That, or my pan wasn't centered, as one of the slices is a lot more brown than it should be! It will still be good. Spread the herring spread on the toast and even though there is apple in the mixture I added a couple slices on the top. The cool apple contrasted with the hot sauce still lurking in the herring, and it was good.

Not wanting to waste, since this is frugal cooking after all, I sliced the rest of my small apple and used it for garnish on the side. Not all that pretty, but functional. Perish the thought I'd be garnish-less.

A hot cup of Rooibos on the side and I was good to go. I had a healthy, protein laden lunch that used a frugally priced bread in a way that didn't cost a lot, didn't take long to prepare, and was pretty tasty.

Don't be afraid to try some of those weird canned fishes you see on the store shelves. They're reasonably priced so if you don't like them or can't eat them, you won't be wasting a bunch of money. If you do like them, then bonus, you've added a protein to the rotation of recipes and saved yourself from mercury madness to boot.

Seafood selector

Tinned fish recipes

Kippers are back in favor

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Arthur Alexander and his lost legacy, the forgotten Anders J. Smedsvik

A musician i knew nothing of until I watched the documentary about Muscle Shoals, is Arthur Alexander. He had a small discography but loomed large in the music industry in the middle of the last century. Wikipedia says,
Arthur Alexander (May 10, 1940 – June 9, 1993) was an American country songwriter and soul singer. Jason Ankeny, music critic for Allmusic, said Alexander was a "country-soul pioneer" and that, though largely unknown, "his music is the stuff of genius, a poignant and deeply intimate body of work on par with the best of his contemporaries." Alexander wrote songs publicized by such stars as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Tina Turner and Jerry Lee Lewis. Alexander is the only songwriter whose songs have been covered on studio albums by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan (who recorded "Sally Sue Brown" on his 1988 LP Down in the Groove). "Go Home Girl" was also recorded by Ry Cooder on his 1979 album Bop Till You Drop.
Here is his most famous song, You Better Move On, and its cover by Knopfler and Jackson. He is a man who made a huge impact but his legacy has been lost.

Mark Knopfler and Chuck Jackson, tribute to Arthur Alexander

Dagbladet, a Norwegian journal, wrote a long biography of a man named Anders J. Smedsvik, a sailor and eccentric. I found his story extremely interesting. It's written in English.

The Final Journey of Anders J. Smedsvik
For three weeks in 1972 and then again in 1974, the sea captain, communist, farmer, prisoner of war, adventurer, local politician and peace activist Anders Jenius Smedsvik was a household name in south-west Norway. Then he disappeared and has been forgotten ever since. This is the first time his story has been told in full.

Excursion to the sunflower patch soon

It's been a warm week. You would never know that the season of autumn had passed its looming threshold into hard reality, not with the exceedingly warm temperatures still holding on. It's been over 90 degrees almost every day for the last 100+ days. My gas company wanted to turn on the gas October 4 but I pushed that back to October 11. I might regret that. We'll see.

A friend and I are heading to the pumpkin/sunflower/corn maze patch on October 8th. We are going to walk the sunflower and pumpkin side. It's free to enter and you can pick the sunflowers and pay for only what you pick. Same with the pumpkins. I want tot take lots of photos on a sunny refreshing day, sip cider and a munch on a muffin.

A number of years ago I'd helped a friend in her garden, which had a row of sunflowers. I love sunflowers. I love all flowers actually, I mean, really love, love, love them. I took a few photos of the sunflower row and I've been working with those few pics ever since. I'm ready to take new photos of sunflowers.

Today has been slow because I'm tired and took an early nap after sleeping in late. I haven't gotten much done in the way of scripture pictures, which I do five per weekend to post for each weekday. Same with blog entries at The End Time. I write 5 or 6 essays on a theological topic and post them in the morning before heading to work. I only have 5 rough drafts and none are complete. Oh well, I can only do what I can do!

Instead I got entranced with Mandelbrot's interview in 2010 on TED, and followed up with studying fractals for a while on my own, including an interesting interview on big think. I love fractals even if I do not understand them. I remember the Smithsonian Magazine reporting on them in the early 1980s when they were first 'discovered' and expressed to the laymen. I have loved them ever since but can't really explain them. The TED talk by Mandelbrot himself helped enormously. Here is a photo of a nautilus fractal:

It's quiet here, I have not listened to music or even any sermons. I need a break from the noise of the week, which accumulates in my brain and reverberates long after the last school bell has rung and the last child has left the building. I'm glad my cats are quiet. I like cats for that.

My new John Grisham awaits. I'd found it at the second hand store I love for $1. "The Appeal." It began with a fabulous description of the last moments before the jury returns with a verdict and the few moments after the announcement they've reached one. He is such a good writer. I'll make some hot tea and open to chapter two and dwell in litigious Mississippi for a few hours. Have a good weekend everyone.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Week's worth of lunches

The woman blogger at Good, Cheap Eats is a homeschooling mom who loves Jesus and writes cookbooks. She had a recent blog post which caught my attention, titled

How to Make a Week of Lunches & Save Money

Well, I'm all for that. Aren't you? Her week of lunches is actually 4 work days, because extending prepared lunches to a fifth day violates her 4-day leftover rule. Her husband eats lunch with his son on that day anyway. As for me, I also do not stress about Friday By then I'm so tired of thinking about what to make or pack or tore or prepare...that I just toss in whatever I can grab first. I'm just grateful I've made it to Friday, to be hones. Sometimes, lol, I wind up with lunches on Friday like raw zucchini (I forgot the knife) a handful of homemade granola, and a brown banana.

Today I made granola, a broccoli and cheese quiche, roasted broccoli (the remainder that didn't fit in the quiche, baked teriyaki tofu, and baked potato. I wash the potatoes, and then rub a teaspoon of olive oil on the damp skin, then wrap in tin foil. They come out pillow soft. As for the tofu, it's half a brick that I haven't used from the recipe from last weekend, pad thai. I simply cut them into one inch thin slabs, spread teriyaki sauce on the bottom of a baking pan, laid the slabs on top and poured more sauce over them. Then bake.

I will make humus tomorrow and also a fruit salad. Here are the photos of the goodies from today.

You want the veggie to get that golden crust. This is accomplished by thoroughly dredging in oil. I toss mine around in a ziploc. Then dump into the baking dish.

I add a slight amount of bread crumbs on top of the quiche to make a crunchy crust. Parmesan also works.

Tofu. What can you do with tofu. Not much except cover it in something that tastes better.

It's still hot here, in the 90s. I couldn't wait for fall so I jump started the season by making chamomile tea with honey to sip this afternoon. I can pretend it's leaves and pumpkin season, can't I?

Do check out Jessica's tips. Have a good Sunday everyone.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Sunflowers are enchanting

A few years ago, a friend invited me to her garden. I was to help her pick and she would share whatever I desired to take away from our joint labor. I'm from the north, ME and RI originally, and I was at that time recently relocated here. I was unfamiliar with the long growing season and the variety of goods one can coax from the Georgia ground. Even though sunflowers can be grown in ME, I had never seen them.

The surprise of her garden, to me, were the sunflowers. I loved seeing the tall giants and bright petals. I took some photos, but later regretted I had not taken enough. I wanted to bask among them while I was there but also wanted to view photos of them from every angle later.

Sunflowers entranced Van Gogh too. Wikipedia records this,
Van Gogh began painting in late summer 1888 and continued into the following year. One went to decorate his friend Paul Gauguin's bedroom. The paintings show sunflowers in all stages of life, from full bloom to withering. The paintings were considered innovative for their use of the yellow spectrum, partly because newly invented pigments made new colours possible.
Van Gogh wanted to paint "big flowers" He said,
The peony is Jeannin's, the hollyhock belongs to Quost, but the sunflower is somewhat my own.

van gogh

I understand the attraction. They are majestic flowers, and the yellow is bright and happy. Here are a few photos of that day in the garden.

sunflower 1sunflower3


I'm excited to have planned a trip with a friend to a sunflower farm in early October! I plan to take LOTS of photos! From the Farm's website photos of the sunflower garden, it seem they have a species that's a bit shorter than these 16 foot mountainous blooms I'd visited some years ago, so it will be a fun day exploring a new type of sunflower.

Fall is a great time of year in Georgia. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunflower patch ahead, but presently, a hard week for some friends

This is one of my favorite photos of Bert. He's nine years old.

He is a good boy. Steady, loving, calm. He is vocal and talks a lot sometimes, and when he does he sounds like a grumpy old man, lol. I call him my lovable gray lump.

This was a good week at school and at home. The weather is holding steady with no rain and drought conditions. And the heat has kept up too, above 90 degrees most days. I'm longing for night temperatures below 70 degrees. I hope that happens soon. Overall, noting to disrupt the cycle of sleep, work, minister, worship, relax...repeat.

In October I'm headed to the Sunflower Patch with a friend where I plan to take photos of the flowers and maybe pick some and also buy a pumpkin. Mmm, autumn is great in Georgia. The last social time I'd scheduled was 10 months ago in December, a photography day trip around the county. Social outings 10 months apart is just the kind of schedule I like. Two times a year is plenty for me. ;)

Though it was a good week, it was also sort of a sort of hard week with prayers and empathy going up for some friends who are experiencing the trauma of a child who'd had a devastating accident and another dealing with a sudden family death. I take comfort in my routine, my home, my job; but we know that ultimately the eternal comfort comes with knowing Jesus. Thankfully those two families do. I pray He ministers to them with His abounding loving care, and I praise him that as of now, for the moment, my time to experience such things is not yet.

Onward with the weekend.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What can you do with hard cooking pears?

When I moved to the south and go to the apartment I'm in now, I was excited to see there were many fruit-bearing trees and vines in the yard. Fig, apple, pecan, scuppernong, and pear trees abounded. The first time I picked a pear and bit into it, I just about broke my teeth. I waited and waited for the pears to get ripe, but they never softened.

That is because they are windfall pears. I do no know why they are called windfall pears, other than the fact that "they are so hard to eat that they stay on the tree until the wind makes them fall, and even then, the squirrels won't eat them." That's my definition.

But us frugal people hate to see a lovely looking fruit go to waste. There must be something one can do with them? Isn't there?

After my first year here trying to freeze them, cook them, poach them ... I gave up. I do not enjoy making jam or jelly or dealing with sterilizing jars, so that seemed to be that.

But the other day a friend gave me a bag of hard pears, and so here I go again. This time, I decided, I won't give up.

The thing is, I don't like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That's why I do all my cooking on Sunday for the week ahead. When you live alone, every single thing that has to be done in my life, has to be done by me. So the more things I can collapse into a convenient bundle, the better.

I also don't like coring or seeding fruit. I don't like being sticky. I know, I know, I'm persnickety about a lot of things.

I decided to boil the 12 pears I had been given with skins on and pare them when they cooled. That way, I wouldn't have to deal with seeds and cores. Ha, HA, take that, cores! I washed them, took the stems off, and simply popped them into a large pot with water. What I didn't do is add something to the water for flavor, such as cinnamon or lemon or other spices. I forgot. That would have been good to do.

I brought the water to a boil then turned it to simmer until the pears were soft. I don't know how long it took, because I was happy not to have to babysit the pears and I went off to do other things. It was a good while though, about 45 minutes.

Bring to a boil,

Then simmer

They were done when a knife went through them easily. I cooled them on a clean towel.

When they were cool enough to handle, I cut them up with skins on. There is a lot of flavor in the skins. Plus, easier. The dozen pears even after having been boiled, yielded a lot of meat.

On the left in the small pot, a simple sugar. Also, I finally dragged out the lemon juice from the fridge. I added both to the chopped pears and simmered again. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the pears further along, but I knew I wanted them soft, really soft. I used 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water. I used two caps full of lemon juice. I also added ginger.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Actually, no trouble. It's a mainly hands free process. The only time I really had to handle them was cutting up the softened pears. The rest of the time, it did its thing on its own!

I simmered until the liquid was gone. I cooled it and popped it in the fridge. I now have a mound of soft, tasty pears. Today for lunch I put a few spoons of the pear compote into my fruit salad. I will also use it in oatmeal, on cottage cheese, and in yogurt. You can also add raisins, craisins, almonds, or walnuts. Add to ice cream, top pound cake, or just plop some whipped cream on a mound of pear compote for a yummy dessert. What other ways can you think of to use a pear compote like this?

Anyway, that is my easy-peasy method of using up windfall pears!