Sunday, February 27, 2011

A new feature! "Eating on a Budget"

We're all stretched these days. Paychecks are thin, where they even exist at all. I have a job, thank God, and a second job because the first job's salary isn't enough to live on, which gets me to barely where I need to be to break even. I have no extra money and little time because I am working so much. I'll share some tips about eating on a budget. I'm good at it.

I am single and a vegetarian. I don't eat red meat, white meat, or seafood. This is because of cost, access to freshness, and personal taste. Admittedly, not buying these items helps a lot in cutting the budget. But it isn't good to eat a lot of red meat in the first place, and a much of meat and seafood simply isn't healthy, given the animals' living condition. And what about the Gulf of Mexico? All that oil. Last, given costs, it is likely you have already cut down on these items anyway.

The main things are to [1] prepare a budget & stick to it, and [2] plan when you cook your meals. There is one thing you cannot plan for, and that is what you will cook. That is because of important item [3] -- buy only what is on sale and make your meals from those items. There is some advance planning you can do with that if you get the grocery store's sale flyer and circle what you are going to buy ahead of time. Because my time is limited I just veer over to whatever is marked "Manager's Special", ".99 cents" or "On sale." I figure out later what to do with the items.

I'll give more details in the weekly posts to come. This week I made Salmon-potato patties, cantaloupe-grape fruit salad, Penne with tomato sauce, Green bean Casserole, and steamed potato and butternut squash. The salmon was from the can- not the good salmon but the kind that you have to pick out the bones. The potatoes were the Dollar Store's version of instant potato flakes. This dish is like Hamburger Helper. The potato flakes stretch the salmon meat. I sauteed half an onion, and mixed it with the salmon meat, the cooked instant mashed potato, salt, pepper and a few crushed Dollar Store style Ritz Crackers. I formed them into patties and fried them in a bare amount of oil. It made nine patties. I will use them atop a romaine salad or in sandwiches, (good with tomato slices! Sliced paper thin of course). These will be my lunches and dinners most of the week.

The cantaloupe was shrink-wrapped and marked 99 cents because it was slightly pocked. There was no mold on it so I bought it. The thing about almost gone-over fruit is that when you buy it, you are making a commitment to eating it quickly. So to that end, I scooped the seeds out and sliced it all into a big bowl. That way when I am on the go or really hungry, I have a ready snack. This will be my dessert from my lunches this week, with either cottage cheese added or other fruit, for variety.

I made green bean casserole because cans of green beans were on sale for 33 cents, along with cream of mushroom soup for 65 cents. Crushed Ritz-style crackers made the topping.

I am not embarrassed at going to the Dollar Store for my food. Canned goods, irradiated packaged goods like chicken broth, cereals, spaghetti, all are much less expensive. I forego the brand names. Sure, I prefer Barilla pasta over Dollar General's, but that's the way it is. The people living through the Great Depression in the 1930s ate what was in front of them, period. So do I. Moreover, the small mom & pop grocery store and the dollar store are 8 miles from my house. The larger grocery store is twice as far, using more gas and more time to get there. It is more expensive, too. And because the chain store is bigger, it has more variety which only means increased temptation to buy more, anyway.

I have figured that with my $30/week fresh grocery budget and $15-$20 Dollar Store budget that most of my meals are under $1.50 each. More specifics next time. Just remember, budget, plan, and forgo the big stores like Whole Checkbook Foods, Publix, and Ingles. Buon Appetito!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday mundanity is wonderful to me

I stayed home from school Friday. It was my first absence this year. I hated to do it, but I needed it though. The sinus infection I've been struggling with is now bronchitis, and that is one disease that just wears a person out.

Anyway, today is the usual Saturday domestic bustling that must be accomplished on this day and this day alone. (I'm serious about Sunday being a day dedicated to the Lord). I straightened up, but failed so far to vacuum, something that I have to do without fail every week. I have two cats, enough said. But I did clean the kitchen, do the dishes, and complete the errands.

I really enjoy our local grocery store. I can easily stick to my weekly budget of $30 and still get protein, fresh fruit, and a treat once in a while. The Dollar store is next door so that takes care of that. It is a blessing not to have to drive to the two places, and I would not give up the Dollar Store for anything. It is just too expensive to try and buy hard goods anywhere else.

I'm looking forward to the fruit salad I'm going to make: cantaloupe, grapes, mango. I plan a menu based on what was for sale, and make several items on Sundays for lunches during the week. This week I'll have tofu jerky, salmon-potato patties on bed of romaine, and sides of baked squash and green bean casserole. I'll also make some kind of soup, maybe some of the squash will go into a thick squash bisque...

It is less expensive to make items and store them ready to eat so no temptation to go out and pick something up. I work two jobs for 11 hours a day, so advance planning is crucial.

On my driving here and there I saw a wonderful 2 nailed on a rusty trailer, a black crow standing in front of red clay hill that reminded me of the cliffs of Dover, and coming round the curve, this unfortunate hay roll that escaped off an overloaded truck. Actually in passing the hay bale I saw that two had fallen off. I was glad no one was hurt and the driver as getting out of his car and making a cell phone call as I passed. Must have just happened.

I'm having a mug of green tea and preparing to put together the weekly prophecy newsletter. It will be a relaxing and restful Saturday, just what I need.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow, winter, and spring

The above is a screen shot from the WCSH-6 tower cam. There is a howling snowstorm in Portland Maine right now, my old stomping grounds (actually 17 miles to the city's north.) It is not fit for man nor beast out there. And by the looks of the empty streets, not for cars, either.

Chicago is expected to have had the snowiest February on record as their storm and this month closes out. "Wednesday's slushy snowfall at O'Hare International Airport sent the February 2011 snowfall total there to 27.0 inches putting it within 0.8" of the city's all-time February snowfall total of 27.8" established 116 years ago back in 1896.  With significant snow expected to arrive in the city tonight that record should easily fall by the wayside, elevating February 2011 to the month's snowfall leader."

I hate snow. I really, really hate it. I suppose that comes from a lifetime of living in it, and trying to make a living in it. It was the years of running the newspaper that did me in on snow. No matter what, the paper had to be gotten to the printer by a certain time even if it was howling snow outside. It had to be delivered even if the sane people were all hunkered down. I didn't mind it so much as a teacher, of course, because we were allowed to stay home when it got too bad. But doing the paper forced me to ignore all weather and keep trucking along irrespective of the cold, poor visibility, danger, or personal choice.

I moved to Georgia and with only a couple of exceptions have been free of dealing with snow for the four and a half years I've been here. I enjoy spring, not dread it because another storm is coming. The dogwoods are blooming now. The crocuses are coming up and the tiger lilies and daffodils are hurtling above ground at breakneck speeds. Next up will be the pear tree blossoms.

It is not always possible to move to where the weather suits your clothes, as the song said. So I admire the stalwart perseverance of those who literally plow through it year after year. I applaud those who stay positive in the face of dark storms one after another. And in the end the sun will shine on a warm spring day...sometime. That is always something to look forward to.

Here is some prettiness to keep the northern friends anticipating their own bounty.

From my backyard last March
Pear blossoms

The driveway has a row of tiger lilies

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Judy Holliday: actresses we love

Having Turner Classic Movies means that at any old time I may stumble on a gem. Saturday I was clicking the remote around the stations and got to TCM. There was an old black and white movie on and the memorable voice I'd heard once before wafted out of the speakers. It is the ditziest voice, the dumbest blond articuclation one can imagine. The woman in the move had hired a tutor so she could be smarter and more sophisticated for her beefy gangster boyfriend. So she was a moll. But an innocent one. As these things go, she did get smarter and realized the the boyfriend was just a two-bit lackey in the Mob, going nowhere. She fell in love with her erudite tutor.

It was Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday." I Love Judy Holliday. I first saw her in a wonderful film called The Solid Gold Cadillac. She has enormous presence, a voice to remember, great looks (and how narrow is that waist?) and acting chops Meryl Streep would kill for. Unfortunately she died of breast cancer after making only a few movies, but she lives on over at TCM.

In researching more about her, I learned one important thing: though she has a high pitched blonde bombshell ditzy voice, she certainly was no dummy. Her IQ was tested at 172. Long live Judy Holliday.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No food for you: Seattle-Area Restaurant Refuses To Serve TSA Agents

Fed up with what he views as crappy treatment from the TSA, the owner of a restaurant near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has decided to put all TSA agents on his No-Eat List. "We have posted signs on our doors basically saying that they aren't allowed to come into our business," one employee tells travel journalist Christopher Elliott. "We have the right to refuse service to anyone." She says that whenever a TSA agent attempts to dine at the restaurant, "we turn our backs and completely ignore them, and tell them to leave... Their kind aren't welcomed in our establishment." The restaurant claims that 90% of its patrons are in agreement with their stance and that the local police have actually helped escort TSA workers of the premises. "Until TSA agents start treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve, then things will change for them in the private sector," says the employee. source


I call this "Moody Chimney"... in hopes that a pedestrian photo will become enlivened by a clever title. No? I don't think it worked either. Or maybe the title isn't at all clever. Either way...

However, titling the photo in a pithy or humorous of poignant way does add to the evocative quality. I always admired Evan Leavitt's ability to add a title to his wonderful photos that made me smile. Check out this one.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I have decided...

...that for the rest of the day I am going to MAKE STUFF. Here is an example of previous stuff I made:

Altered book
Altered photography
I  don't know what will emerge from this burst of creative impulse today, but if anything is, I better quit blogging about wanting to make something and actually go make something.

Springtime for Gaddafi

It's just a regular day around here,  sunny, warm, quiet, waiting for the latest dictator to flee his country...

With the unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa, I glimpse news spots of arm waving, flag bearing, fist pumping anger and crowds being herded back by tanks or other military. It reminds me of the late 1960s, with the Democratic convention riots, Watts riots, Vietnam War protests. Every night it seemed, there were new assassinations, new violence, new changes brought about by force. I was five to eight years old then but as my parents watched the nightly news, I saw these things on the television as I walked by. They were indelible images entering my brain, images with no context or ability to cognitively understand, given my youth. I only saw. It seemed to my young mind was that everything was going wrong and tumbling down.

That's how it seems now except this time I do have a context and an ability to understand. My generation has seen the most cultural change of any generation, I believe. From my earliest youth, the hippies, the drug culture, the gay culture, the war culture has all changed, and fast. And now the Middle East is undergoing rapid change and it is happening even even faster than within a generation. I can't conceive of what it must be like to live under a dictator all your life but then see the back of him as he flees on a jet to another country. All we can do on this side of the world is watch.

I'll go back to thoughts of my own sphere, the nice weather, what I will decide to do today on my day off, what to eat for lunch. I may go in to Athens and see the late matinee of The King's Speech. I love British period pieces, and even better when they are based on the real thing. I may throw in a trip to the thrift store and pick up some short sleeved shirts since the nice weather is soon to stay. All I know is, I'm happy to live in the USA where the riots and unrest of 1968 fomented change but wasn't long-lastingly violent, and happy that I do not live under a brutal dictator who oppresses me at every turn. Today, all I have to decide to do is what to eat and where to shop, not whether to move out of the way of the tank and live, or stay put and die for my principles.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What is it about writing?

I have lots to say. I have nothing to say. I can put out 6000 words a week on The End Time about the end time, and more words on Facebook, but why have I been stuck lately on The Quiet Life? Maybe because I wrote 12,000 words a month for nearly six years running a newspaper, plus the Editorial, and I just got tired of having to have an opinion on everything from the proposed sewer line to graffiti at the schools to the reunion of the lost dog and his family... Or maybe it's because I write 10,000 words on my weekly Christian newsletter to subscribers, full of news and encouragement and biblical interpretation, and I get tired. Or maybe it's that I chose to have a quiet, private life after being a famous and infamous firebrand person in my previous phase of life in Maine, and now I like bland. [Pleasant in manner; smooth: a bland smile. b. Not irritating; soothing] Bland has a lot going for it. I don't have to be witty, and I don't have to hold up my end of the conversation. I don't have to dazzle anyone with my intellect and I don't have to "stay fresh". I can just talk about soup.

This week I made corn chowder which is currently my new favorite soup. It is so easy to make and filling, tasty, and is fun to say down south. "Chowdah" never fails to amuse y'all.

I'm planning a day out with a friend on Monday, school break. Winter break actually, but I find that totally amusing because today was 72 degrees and I had the windows open all day and had to refill the bird feeder so many chirpers came to visit. But nevertheless, its accurate title is Winter Break and I have Monday and Tuesday off. So into Athens we will go, to lunch, shop, and watch a movie. It's good to occasionally do the lady thing to remind myself that indeed, I am a lady. A Lady Who Lunches. I am all for seeing The King's Speech. The New England gal is still there, loving a good British Period Piece now and again since Masterpiece Theater isn't what it used to be.

The dogwoods are about to bloom. In every romantic movie when the happy ending comes and the man and the woman hug and suddenly a gentle breeze blows blossoms all over them and the blossoms swirl in the air and the camera swoops upward to eventually display the credits...that is spring in Georgia, and the petals are dogwood.
Tomorrow is church. I belong to a good church and we sing and we love and we learn. It's good. I've been asked to lead a small group faith group once per month on Sunday evenings and though I am a very good teacher of children I am less confident about teaching adults. Not because of my skill level. Because of my patience. Children are so much easier to be patient with than grownups. 

I hope the figs come this year. Two years ago I got a bumper crop that lasted months. Last year I got 24. Yes, I counted them.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Sinus infection, matey

I have a sinus infection. It's par for the course when I teach little kids. The green monster is impossible to avoid despite hand washing, glove wearing and sanitizer using. Thus, my home is now divided into zones: We have the Pharmacy Zone (not pictured, tissues)

And we have the Comfort Zone complete with lemon muffins. Also, tea. Notice the cup is empty and one muffin is already gone. (The lemon cake will be frozen for later in case we need sinus infection-busting backup).

And last we have the Rest Area, but I see I am going to have to make a reservation to use it.