Saturday, June 28, 2014

Shower curtain rings

I'm not a big fan of gear. I don't like paraphernalia, stuff, or anything complicated. That goes for curtains.

Shower curtains are always a pain. The rings are hard to snap open and shut. You have to either each way up or you have to stand on a slippery tub edge to get them open. (I'm short). Recently I found a few open type rings in the bottom of my junk drawer and so I got rid of a few of the snap-closed rings but I still had some, and that meant every time I wanted to wash the liner I had to struggle to get these opened.

But then at the Dollar Store I found a wonderful invention. It's about time! It is an open ring with a hook on both sides! I can hang the outer sheer outside the tub and the liner inside, on the same ring. I can put the liner on and remove it easily when I want to wash it. The shower ring looks like the logo from That Girl (a 1960s television show), except the ring is clear and not black

As a bonus, it turns out that these particular rings slide very easily! It is a pleasure when the things that are supposed to enhance your life (no matter how small) actually enhance your life.

I'm tickled at the unexpected pleasure of a small thing working well.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Incompetence in the kitchen doesn't daunt me

I made a casserole this morning. Here was the original recipe:

Zucchini Onion Pie Recipe
3 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 cups sliced zucchini
1 cup biscuit/baking mix
1 small onion, chopped

In a large bowl, whisk the first seven ingredients. Stir in the zucchini, baking mix and onion. Pour into a greased 9-in. deep-dish pie plate. Bake at 350° for 25-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Yield: 6 servings.

I didn't have zucchini but I had yellow squash to use up.

I didn't have 3 cups of squash though, so I substituted broccoli to make up the difference.

I didn't have garlic.

I didn't have parsley.

I didn't have canola oil, but I did have vegetable oil.

I had parmesan cheese but not quite 1 cup. I added pimento-cheddar cheese I needed to use up to make the difference.

I didn't have biscuit/baking mix but I had pancake mix ("Just add water!") so I used that.

I forgot the eggs.

I made so many substantive changes that I don't think I can quite call what came out as "Zucchini Onion Pie," but it sure was tasty!

Original recipe pie
Massively Changed Pie

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The art of humming tunelessly

You know I like the quiet. After all, the name of this entire blog is 'The Quiet Life' lol. After a noisy day at school there is nothing I enjoy more than to return to my haven, my Fortress of Solitude, and lower the Cone of Silence over it, and just bask in the peace.

Summers are even better, because School's Out for Summer and I can regulate the noise input to my own standards. This is not an empty pursuit. I believe quietude is important.

A recent headline at Huffington Post caught my eye this week.

7 Skills Your Grandparents Had That You Don't
My grandmother was a pro at sitting and sipping a cup of coffee and looking out the window at the garden without any distractions or boredom. A skill I could really use...
We grew up in a 100 year old farmhouse. We moved into it sometime around 1962 or so. The farmhouse must have been built around 1860s. It was a small Cape Cod style house, with small rooms downstairs, two bedrooms upstairs, and a front porch. Each downstairs room had a fireplace in it, and the one in the living room also had a fireplace bread oven next to it. My father had hung two antique rifles over two of the fireplaces, the family room and the living room. We used the fireplaces a lot. It was New England, and it was a drafty house.

My English grandmother used to sit at the rocking chair in front of the roaring fire, gazing, thinking, and humming. She'd drum her fingers on the rocking chair arm and hum tunelessly and quietly. Even at my tender age, I'd marvel at her ability to just...sit and look and think.

When I read the sentence in the HuffPo article above, I remembered my grandmother.

A popular thing to do in Maine is sit in a lattice beach chair at the edge of the garage with the door open and just watch the street and goings by.

Here is a blog writer musing about the art of lawn chair garage sitting
It is people sitting in their lawn chairs in their garages or outside their houses somewhere, watching the world go by and contemplating their navels. I can name four neighbors who do this. It really tickles me because the folks who practice this form of relaxation and retirement never seem to have a book, newspaper, or even an adult beverage, or anything else to occupy them as they while away the time.
Speaking of sitting and relaxing in the silence, I am reminded of Robert J. Lurtsema. For nearly thirty years, he was a radio personality on the classical station out of Boston. He was known for a deep rolling voice and long, long pauses as he spoke. He was also known for opening his program (Morning Pro Musica) with several minutes of bird song. It was called the Dawn Chorus and it was relaxing to hear the birds and the pauses and the quiet voice introducing beautiful music. In today's rush-rush, impatient world, dawn birdsong choruses and lawn chairs in garages and humming tunelessly whiling away the time are things gone by...goodbye

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Frugal Cooking

So here is another cooking post! I went to the grocery store today. Isn't life something in the US when one feels guilty going to get groceries more than once a month! Oh well, I'm not complaining, I haven't missed a meal and that's a lot more than a lot of other people.

But making the dollar stretch, it takes commitment and dedication!

I didn't need much. I do rely on my Bountiful Baskets produce for much of the basis of my meals. At the local mom & pop grocery store they often have things marked down. Today was a slow day in the store and a good day for a lot of items that were marked down. I got two containers of mushrooms for 99 cents each. A loaf of rye bread for $1.25. Oranges, four for 99 cents. OJ is too expensive now but I'll make slice the oranges to make orange-infused waters and that will be very good and enjoyable! Four green peppers for 50 cents each. A half dozen huge bananas for 99 cents, 4 were brown and 2 were still good.

I also bought milk and yogurt. The yogurt is intended to become the basis for smoothies, and those bananas are part of the reason.

Alfredo sauce was also on sale. Though I'd never had alfredo sauce, I bought it, because I knew at home I had a bag of really good broccoli from BB, and combined with the mushrooms on sale, which needed to be cooked right away, and egg noodles I had on hand, some cheddar cheese I needed to use up, it'd be a great casserole. And it is!

All I did was, cook the egg noodles and drain them. I put them in a large bowl. I chopped the broccoli and put it in a bowl in the microwave and cooked until al dente. I sauteed the mushrooms in a bit of butter and a ready-made spice mix and salt. I threw in the vegetables with the egg noodles and mixed. Then I poured the can of Alfredo sauce over it until everything was coated. I watched the proportion of noodles to broccoli, a failing of mine. I was glad I hadn't put ALL the noodles in, because there would have been too much noodle and not enough broccoli. I saved aside the noodles that didn't make it into the casserole for another day. I had also been careful with the sauce, using just enough to coat but not so much that it'd be soppy.

I put it in an ungreased casserole dish (only because I don't like to butter my dishes, too messy). I added a bit more sauce over the top, and sprinkled cheddar cheese over that. I baked at 350 degrees until the top was brown. That's it! It took only about ten minutes to put together.

While it was baking I looked up recipes for how to use over-ripe bananas. Buying marked down food means you're making a commitment to use it right away, and not waste it.

I found a recipe that, lo and behold, didn't use too many ingredients, take too long to make, was too complicated, and called for ingredients I had on hand. You might get the idea that though I enjoy being frugal and using the food I've bought appropriately and healthily, I do NOT like to spend my afternoons on the kitchen. I enjoy the product but not the process. I am The Lazy Cook

It was oatmeal-banana cookies, that relied on raisins for sweetness. No flour (again, too messy) and used only less than a tsp of sugar (yay!) and Cinnamon and walnuts. I didn't have walnuts but I mashed up some almonds and threw them in. They are chewy and filling. It used two bananas, and made 12 cookies. They are kind of a cross between a cookie and a chewy bar.

Two other bananas I chopped and put in baggies in the freezer, next to the mangoes I'd done the same with. Along with yogurt, the frozen fruit will become smoothies on the next hot day.

Two other bananas went into the fruit bowl on the counter, they're not over-ripe.

I haven't decided what to do with the four green peppers, but one of my favorite dishes is eggs N peppers so that will take care of at least one pepper. Turkey was on sale so that takes care of the bread I'd bought. I keep the bread in the fridge to keep it fresh longer.

Half the trip was to the Dollar Store, where I purchased TP, paper towels, canned black beans for quinoa and black bean patties in a few days, penne (garden tomatoes are coming in, so I'm anticipating) deodorant, trash bags and a few other things. Some items you CANNOT do without! Even for a minute! No matter how frugal you are! Dairy is really going through the roof, but I still bought milk, yogurt, cheese, and creamer. Between fresh groceries and hard goods, the entire trip was still $47. Sigh.

Anyway, that was my foray into the wilds of the small town and the mom & pop store. I very much enjoyed it. The day is cooler and fresh after last night's storms. It isn't too hot and searching for good quality goods on a budget is like a scavenger hunt. I emerged with some great items. I supported the local store. I have transformed the items into comfort food and there's something to be said for that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sticks and stones...

Today has been a quiet day. For the first time, I didn't go anywhere. Yesterday I attended a wake with friends for other friends whose father had passed away. Sunday of course was church. Saturday I picked up my Bountiful Basket. Friday I needed to make a run to the store to get printer paper and a few other necessities. And so on.

Today was nice. It was supposed to the the hottest day in a while and it felt like it, the AC struggling to keep up. I just closed the windows and doors and the front door curtain and I read and wrote and researched and listened to sermons all day. A nap figured in there, too.

I cooked my kale I'd gotten at the BB pick-up Saturday. I made the famous and beloved kale chips. Simply tear the hard stems off, toss leaves in olive oil and salt, lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake at 300 until delectably crisp. I defy you to stop eating them all.

I did, I ate them all. Oh my goodness, they were sooo good.

I changed my vignette next to the front door today. I've had cut flowers in it, I've had rocks with wildflowers in it, I've had just wildflowers in it, and now that the landlord has mowed and there are no wildflowers to pick, I put sticks in it and laid the rocks around.

This evening I'll continue reading my Charles Spurgeon biography and maybe watch a PBS show called History Detectives. Life is good!

Saturday, June 07, 2014


At a yard sale long ago, I saw one of those 1960s chunky octagon barrel end tables. Ugly. But it was topped with a circular piece of pink marble. Lovely. The cost was $5. Perfect. Upon inspection, I saw that the marble was not affixed to the wood bottom, but only resting there. I bought it and when I returned home I dumped the ugly end table and kept the marble. I wanted it to be a table, but how that would come about, I had no idea. I knew that someday I'd figure out how to use it.

The next summer I was at another yard sale and there displayed was a folding set of table legs with suction cups on the top...just waiting for something to be placed there to make the table complete. Well, I had the perfect thing: a polished piece of pink marble.

The table is to the right of my front door. I usually use it for functional purposes. When I return home with groceries of bags of some kind, I set them there while I get out the key and unlock the door.

This summer I decided to have fun making a different kind of display each day. For a few days I had flowers out there. The tiger lilies are blooming, and they make a pretty display in the vase. But I always feel bad because they die right away. So the display of the lilies in the yard is better left to enjoy, because they last longer. They line the border of the yard by the street and they look pretty there. Other days I had the cut flowers out there which my friends at work had given me at the end of school. They looked pretty also.

I have some spectacular rocks I'd gathered at Machiasport Maine's Jasper beach. They are smooth, round, egg like, and sparkle in water. So I got them out, filled the vase, added water, picked a few dandelions, and placed a leaf behind, for a charming little display. The crocheted coasters are sprinkled around for color (and to dry out from constant use by placing a mason jar full of drinking water on them.) The dandelions die pretty quickly when plucked but I don't care because they are a weed and there are always more of them to see in the yard! They are not a noble flower deserving to remain in the ground where they bloom, lol.

There are only a few flowers left in the bunch that my friends at school bought me, but as the flowers dwindle, I simply use a smaller vase to display them in.

I really love flowers. I think they are luxurious. Combined with a nice piece of marble, it makes a luxurious little display, outside where the real luxury is: birds, grass, and fresh air.

Friday, June 06, 2014


I don't like curtains. I don't like shopping for them, too bewildering. I don't like installing them, too difficult. I don't like their objective: to block out all light, light I seek and cling to. To block out all views of the greenery outside, greenery I moved here to enjoy.

Though if truth be told I didn't like curtains even when I lived where it was white most of the time. I like windows, I like the wood around the windows, and I like the views out the windows. I don't want to block that.

However I know that privacy is important, so I try to live in places where I don't have to have curtains and the privacy isn't an issue, lol.

I don't mind sheers. They let the light in, I can still see out, and the cats can too. But shopping for them, ugh! I can't stand shopping. So...I use what I have. Let's start at the front door.

The curtain here was an already-installed but never used shower curtain. I thought it was too heavy for the small bathroom. I took it down and installed a shower curtain I already had. But then I thought that this one would be a good way to offer some privacy at the front door and also to block out the heat during the high points of the day. The curtain is usually open except for between 9-10:30 when the summer light streams in, heating up the apartment unbearably. I just use a piece of brown twine and loop it around the door hinge.

When I moved here, a friend gave me 6 sheers. Some were long, Some were half sheers. It worked out that all of them had a place to go in this apartment. In the living room, I use one of the sheers. (You notice one at the front door as well.) Here is one that fits perfectly at the living room window.

As you can see, the light shines in brightly but the sheer softens the view of the underside of the metal awning. The awning provides a privacy screen, it come down halfway of the entire window. See:
You can't really see in, even from jsut 30 feet away. The necessity for a heavier curtain doesn't exist.

The awnings make the apartment a bit dark but not excessively so. It provides a reason not to have to have heavier curtains, but as you can see, I do anyway. This one is long and white and all the way on the right side of the window, tied back with a ribbon.

You can see the actual curtain better in this photo, on the right. In order to tie back the sheer, if I want a clear view outside or more of a breeze to come in, I tie it back with a lace ribbon.

This bedroom window also has a real curtain on it. It is tied back on the right. It's long and satin and beige. I don't think I've ever closed it. The sheer is the other shower curtain I'd had. The one I put up as an actual shower sheer came in a package as a pair. I hung this second one of the pair by using the shower curtain hooks. They slide to the right and I hook the sheer around the bed post when I want to open it completely. This is what it looked like at my other apartment:

As for this other bedroom window, it is covered by a sheer given to me, but the only problem was that I wanted the cats to be able to look out. Problem solved with a pair of scissors. I cut it in half and tied each side into pigtails with a ribbon.

You see another white curtain tied back on the right side of the window. I've never closed this window off either. It is where the cats sit on the bed and look out all day.

This last one posed a bit of a problem but I solved it. It's the bathroom window.

I had a sheer, one that was given to me, and it was a perfect size, too! However, that wasn't enough. This is one place you really do need privacy. A sheer was not going to cut it. I looked and looked and I found a piece of tapestry fabric in my bottom drawer. It was the perfect size, but how to hang it? I hate curtain gear and didn't want to go to lengths to buy or install rods etc. I used two thumbtacks.

Now the problem was, how to lift it when I didn't need the privacy but needed the air circulation and the light? I thought and I thought. I used what I had: another thumbtack and a large clip. I clipped the clip to the bottom, and when I lift the curtain I simply place it on the thumbtack. Voila.

This last one is admittedly more clumsy looking than the other 'use what I have' fixes. But in the five years I've lived here only one person has used my bathroom once. As long as the fix tickles me, no one else has to see it. I'm good with it being less conventional than other curtain arrangements.

The black rectangle you see out my bathroom window is the neighbor on the other side of the house's kitchen window and the underside of her awning. So you see I really do need a curtain at this spot.

Here is the kitchen-

The sheer is pretty there and a curtain rod is just the right size. But the neighbor is directly across, and moreover, the patio is just outside the window. The former neighbors bbq'd a lot, and sat out there each night. We'd literally be practically in each other's laps. So I needed something more than a sheer. I found a light colored scarf that let in the light but blocked the view from people seeing in. I sewed a loop on and put it thru a curtain rod. I use magnets to hold up the bottom of the sheer and the scarf. That's what you see on the rods. The magnets are attracted to the metal in the rods so they stay put and the magnets each have a little hook on them. Again, I had the magnets on hand. All it takes is creativity and a willingness to be unconventional.

So that's my curtain story and now it's curtains for this blog entry!

Monday, June 02, 2014

Cooking frenzy

This morning has been cool. Overnight the low was in the upper 50s and at 10:30 temps are still only in the low 70s. I'm taking advantage of the weather to get some cooking and baking done.

That's part of adopting a frugal mindset. In trying to keep my AC off for as long as possible, I take advantage of the weather for various things. Wash the heavy blankets on a hot day and hang them outside to dry. When it's cool, cook and bake.

Being the first weekday of my summer break, I'd much prefer to stay in bed, read, and generally do nothing. But the cool temperatures call.

Part of budgeting also means that I look ahead to the month and see that as the monthly paycheck gets thin, to take advantage of the food I have now; cook it, freeze it, have it later. That way, no food is wasted and I have prepared ahead like the ants do for the financial winter that is the last 10 days of my monthly paycheck.

Here is what I made:

Spaghetti squash soup. I've never made this before. The Bountiful Basket Co-Op basket had the largest spaghetti squash I'd ever seen. I cooked it a day or so ago and the amount of squash that came out of the thing filled four Corning ware dishes. I'd never eat it all before it went bad. So I kept one Corning dish of squash so I could eat the squash like I like it: topped with butter, Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. As for the rest, what else are you going to do when you have a truckload of something, but either make a casserole or a soup? In this case I preferred soup.

The recipe I found called for celery and carrots, both of which I had on hand, and away I went. I used one Corning ware dish of roasted squash as-is, for texture and bulk. I sauteed the celery and carrots, and mixed that with the squash. I boiled some bouillon cubes for the broth. I put the main part of the squash into the blender with some broth to make a thick stock and added that back into the soup. Let simmer for half an hour and you're good to go!

It's hard to tell here, but the soup has a
golden yellowy butter color to it

Roasted red pepper quiche. At the last BB we received a huge amount of red peppers and green chile peppers. I roasted them right away (lol). I've used some in scrambled eggs, or sandwiches, but I still had a lot left. What to do? Make quiche. Why? Because on the last day of school a friend who keeps chickens gave me 2 dozen eggs, and I had eggs to spare. I found a recipe that didn't use flour and away I went.

Roasted red & green peppers, and mushroom & onion quiches.
Just need to top with the whisked eggs and some cheese, then bake.
Mushroom-Onion quiche. The local grocery store often has mushrooms for $.99 on sale. But they are either a little brown or about to go brown. That's why they're on sale. When they're on sale it means they need to be used right away. Hence the quiche, with the same reasoning as above RE the eggs. Another reason for making two quiches besides having lots of eggs to use, is that we should never turn on the oven for only one item. The most expensive things in the house to run (after the AC) are the dryer and the oven. I also planned to make an apple crisp. I planned to put the oven to good use on a cool day.

Done! That was easy!

Apple crisp: Once again BB came through and I had a bag of green apples. I used some in chicken salad sandwiches, or just to eat, but a bag (plus the extras on the side that also came in the BB) made for a lot of apples for one gal to eat. But I like having a lot of fruit and vegetables around. This is because I like to make recipes that use a lot of the item yet don't exhaust my larder. I can make 2 quiches and still have eggs left over. BB makes me feel like I don't have to "ration out" my items. I can use them mindfully but not impecuniously. So I had apples several different ways this week. I like to make crisp because I don't have to peel or core the apples. I am not a fan of labor-intensive cooking or baking.

Nom nom nom...I'll heat and top with cold vanilla yogurt when the time comes

On the last day of school another friend at work was cleaning out her shelves and found a box of raisins. She asked me if I wanted them. (The frugal woman always answers "yes", unless she knows she truly can't use something. In that case, it would be wasteful to accept something.). I added the raisins to the apple crisp to make up for the little amount of oatmeal I had. I know it's not a taste substitution. It was a bulk substitution. And also raisins and apple crisp are a good combo, even though the particular recipe I was following didn't call for raisins.

Never be afraid to monkey around with a recipe (unless it's a chemically delicate dish like souffle or fragile macaroons or something). Never discount an entire recipe just because you don't have one ingredient on hand. Say 'Yes, thank you' when offered something and figure out how to use it later, (like the raisins, a food I use frequently) and next, use what you have (as in, never run to the store for one item).

Green bean pate. This is also called mock chopped liver. I don't know why because it is nothing like chopped liver. Anyway, a while ago, another friend gave me green beans from her garden that she had blanched and frozen. A lot of green beans. So what to do with a bulk amount of an item? If you're not going to make a casserole or a soup, then grind it up, lol.

It's greener in real life. This actually looks like Baba Ganouj...

This is a recipe I'd had several times before. Always in my quest to make sure I eat enough vegetables, I look for unique ways to serve them. This is essentially a green bean dip held together by hard boiled eggs. I mentioned above that my friend gave me a lot of eggs, and I immediately thought of the green beans I had in the freezer. I knew right away that I had a large amount of both of the main ingredients to make this dip. The only other main item in it is walnuts. They are too expensive for me so I got almonds at the Dollar Store when I was there for my regular shopping. Green Beans Almondine was a favorite dish of my mother's and I knew that green beans and almonds were OK together.

I say often "Use what you have" but also it's important to "Know what you have." Go through your cupboards and freezer often and eyeball what you've got in there. I know at the back of the bottom shelf on the left cupboard I have dried apricots, raisins, and cranberries. I know I've got canned carrots but not peas. I know I've got a can of black beans in the cupboard and quinoa in the freezer so if I wanted to make black bean patties at some point, I can. Like that. I hate it when I buy something at the store and I get home and realize I had it all along.

Keep track of your groceries in your mind. Doing this also helps when you get home and you're tired and if you know what you have you don't have to spend time mulling over, searching, or scrounging to put a dinner together. You can just grab the can of peas you know you have, and boil some eggs for an Egg N Pea salad and make a burger with the little bit of hamburger meat you have in the bottom drawer. Voila, dinner.

Hard boiled eggs. When I boiled the eggs for the green bean pate, in keeping with the motto 'never turn on an oven or a burner without doing more than one thing', I boiled four extra eggs to have on hand for snacks.

Water. I made lime-infused water and chamomile sun tea, also. Choosing not to buy soda, juices or other beverages means I have to plan ahead for when I want to get a chilled drink.

I used fewer lime slices this time. Last time it was pretty sour

Sun tea brewing

So that was my morning. I listened to a couple of sermons while I was making all my wonderful dishes, and listened to a movie while I cleaned up. Now I think I'll buy the next round of Bountiful Baskets, and then take a nap. It IS summer, after all.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

"Grandma's Shoes"

A young 22 year old friend at work came to my room near the last day of school, and said she had a pair of sneakers her grandmother had bought but hadn't worn. Would I like to have them? Sure! I said.

Then it hit me. How far away I am now from being 22 myself. I'm actually less than 22 years away from the end of life span (according to the bible, age 70) than I am to first starting out, like my friend is. And when I received the sneakers, I loved them. Oy, I'm grandma age now.

A day or so later I was driving down the road. I had on an oldies radio station, tagline "Music to Your Years." Ha ha, catchy pun. The 1968 song "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" by Dionne Warwick came on and I sang along. I remember lyrics from nearly 50 years ago but not what I had for breakfast yesterday. Anyway I was singing, and thinking, "Hmmm, this is a pretty decent song..." Then it hit me.

I made fun of that song when I was 8 years old I derided it in my mind, and wondered heavily how on earth my mother and father could like it. Why not some Beatles? The Fifth Dimension? Creedence Clearwater? That San Jose song is so old.

Now that I'm old the song seems young.

Time marches on. Boy does it ever...