Thursday, June 30, 2011

Peaches everywhere!

Last week a semi truck arrived from Georgia full of boxes of peaches for central Ohio.  They were not that expensive being $30 for a 1/2 bushel box.  So I got two for myself and one for a friend.  One box went into the refrigerator to not ripen just yet, while I left one out to be used soon.  Three days later they were soft, ripe and juicy.
So what have I done with all those peaches?  So far I've passed on some to friends and we've eaten some straight out of the box.  Normally I stick with making peach jam because that's what I know how to make well but this year I'm trying to broaden my horizons.

Peach pie filling while it was thickening on the stove . .

and packaged up for the freezer.

 Peach chips made in the dehydrator.

The peach chips taste so, so good, with a crispier crunch when you bite them but also having that amazing peach flavor.  

Tomorrow I'll hopefully get the rest of the first box made into jam.  I meant to do that today but a nap felt like the better thing to do at that moment.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cooking like a boss!

I had intended to post this yesterday, but yesterday was lost in a haze of cleaning for the babysitter.  The night out will also get a mention in a post that will hopefully take shape for tomorrow or Friday.  Hopefully.
Anyway, I’ve been talking about freezer cooking, and I tried a few recipes from Once A Month Mom.  We’ve had a lot of success, and a few glitches, but I thought I’d share the results!  Because I’m home to do most of the cooking, and because our family is so small, one meal with 6-8 servings is usually enough to make two meals for us.  Also, because our apartment freezer is rather small, I try to make meals that can freeze in a bag, and I don’t make several of one meal.  2 of each type of meal is plenty for us, but do what works for your family.
I made the homemade refried beans, shredded beef, chicken salad, sesame chicken, and French toast sticks.  All were unanimous successes, and I am under instructions to make them all again.  The shredded beef was declared to be as good as City Barbecue’s, which I thought was fantastically high praise, since I could eat City Barbecue every other day (alternated with Chipotle, of course) and not get tired of it.
With the exception of me overcooking the sauce for the sesame chicken (still tasted awesome, just darker in color), the recipes for the beans, beef, and sesame chicken were perfect as-is.  On the chicken salad, Big Dude and I both thought that it was a bit bland.  I added a bit more garlic salt, just a couple of shakes.  BD suggested a bit of relish, so I added around a tablespoon, maybe a bit more.  After that, it was just a fuller flavor.  We ate it on salad, with some rye bread toast, watermelon, and corn on the cob that I had baked.  Perfect summertime meal!
The French toast sticks were the ones that seemed the most problematic for me.  It called for 30 slices of bread, which I used, and had a ton left over after I ran out of the egg mixture.  I used regular sandwich bread, and I think I’d rather thicker sliced bread, like Texas toast.  I also had to knock down the baking time from 30 minutes to 20-22.  That may vary based on your oven.  However, they tasted great, and the little dude had no problem making them disappear at breakfast!  I also had enough to give a bag to B. for her boys to try, and I hope to hear their thoughts on it soon!
Since I’m still fairly new at this idea of cooking to save money, I’m always on the lookout for good recipes and websites!  Tell me where you like to go for food inspiration.  Give me a good recipe-I’ll even try it out and feature the results in a future blog!

Monday, June 27, 2011

We all cheer for the yellow soccer team!

First off, I hope you all had a great weekend!  We took the little dude to COSI on Friday night, he was thrilled by it all.  Saturday we helped my sister, bro-in-law, and 4 nieces sort boxes for their upcoming move in a month.  And Sunday…well, that was a rare treat for myself and B.-a Columbus Crew game, totally child free!
If you haven’t been to a Crew game, I cannot emphasize how much fun they are.  We’ve been season ticket holders for a few years (B. and I share a seat, and take turns going), and I’ve never felt it’s been a waste of money.  It manages to be both family-friendly and party-friendly.  And, since we were childless, we partied.  There were margaritas and nachos, and lots of cheering and chanting with the supporters’ groups-Hudson Street Hooligans (our group of choice), Crew Union, and La Turbina Amarilla.  The Crew won with a spectacular 4-1, and there were fireworks after the game.  We couldn’t resist a detour on the way home to Sonic.  I had to get my vanilla coke on!
But let’s say you want to take the kids.  What’s there for a family to do at the games?  There’s a large playground, a bounce house, lots of areas for an impromptu soccer game, and different activities from game to game.  I’ve seen physical fitness challenges, bands, face painting, and free food from local restaurants.  If you have a very active toddler who just won’t sit still, you have my sympathy, because mine won’t sit through a game.  You also have the party deck!  It’s a large stage area on the field, fenced in with its own food stand and restrooms, and it’s perfect to let an active kid run around while mom and dad keep an eye on the game.  We’re down there so often, the security guards and concessions workers know our son by name.
There’s also various ticket deals throughout the season, as advertised on The Crew’s website.  There was recently one that included a soda, hot dog, and chips with your ticket, at a great price.  Check out The Crew, and come see the hardest working team in America!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Vacation

The kids are on summer vacation from school.  There have been some really good moments with them, like when the older one passed level three in his swimming lessons.  He did this yesterday and I can't describe just how happy he was with himself.  I was thrilled too because this was the fifth time he had taken level three over the past year.  But there has been something different between him and the swimming pool so far this summer.  All of the sudden he has the drive to not just swim but to excel at it.  It makes me happy to see him be so driven about an activity.

On the flip side are some of the bad moments.  It seems like I have fought with both kids more to get them to listen.  They are intent on bothering each other until screaming happens.  I feel as if I am always disciplining someone.  It's gotten so bad that the younger one asked to go live with one of my friends because she is a nice mom unlike me.  How many days until school is back in session?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Day I Learned to Love My Machine...

Way back in 8th grade, many years ago (24 years, to be precise, and it won’t be discussed further, thanks) I took a Home Economics class.  I learned many skills that I still use, such as how to make a mean French toast, how to cross stitch a sampler, and how to starch and iron a dress shirt.  However, I totally failed to grasp using a sewing machine.  I tried to make a simple, straight skirt, and ended up sewing it together.  Next, we made stuffed animals.  I sewed my hair to my teddy bear.  I was bad enough that my home ec teacher, bless her, tried to console me by telling me that “not everyone is cut out for it”.  I’ve been scared to try since.

Fast forward those 24 years that I still don’t want to think about too much, and I am now the owner of a sewing machine.  Big Dude’s aunt gave it to me about 2 years ago, and it has sat and gathered dust until today.  I have friends who are divine costumers, and while I have envied their abilities many times, I have never tried to learn.  But today, I hauled it out to try hemming up some baby wipes.
My darling 2 year old, Little Dude, has been having some chronic diaper rash, and we finally linked it to commercial baby wipes.  We decided to try homemade wipes for him, and I am pleased to say that the rash has cleared up nicely since we started.  However, the flannel wipes tend to fray, and I was getting sick of picking bits of flannel lint off of our clothes, floor, and LD’s backside.  Since the idea of hand sewing 48 wipes wasn’t appealing, I hauled out the machine.

It took me longer than I care to admit to figure out the very basics-how to get power flowing, how to get a stitch started, etc.  But I did figure it out, and I sewed probably 4 or 5 wipes before I realized that there must be some way to regulate how the fabric feeds through.  So I whipped out the manual, which conveniently comes in both English and French, and began to flip through.  I saw that there was something called a presser foot, but couldn’t figure out how to lower it.  So I soldiered on, sewing a few more, until I caught sight of a lever on the other side of the machine.  Behold, the presser foot was down!  My loopy and irregular zig-zag stitches took on a more uniform appearance!  I sewed happily until I ran out of thread on the bobbin, and managed to finish all but 4 wipes.  It’s probably a good thing I ran out of thread, because I now want to sew EVERYTHING.

In case this inspires you to want to sew everything, making your own wipes and solution is easy as pie!  All you’ll need to start is a half-yard of flannel, and a pair of scissors.  Simply fold and cut your flannel in halves until you have a decent stack of wipes sized pieces.  Once you have your stack, whip out your trusty sewing machine.  Choose a nice stitch to go around the edges of your wipes.  A chain stitch would work, or something similar.  It’s a little time consuming, but very cheap and easy.  If you really want to skip all the cutting and sewing, inexpensive baby washcloths will also do the trick.  I bought the flannel almost solely because of the cute monkey and soccer ball pattern.

Once you have your wipes down, make your solution!  I use 1.5 cups of water, 2 T of baby wash, and 2T of baby oil.  Putting the oil into the water before you put in the soap seems to keep the bubbles down to a minimum.  Put it in a spray bottle, and either spray directly onto baby, or onto the wipe.  If you prefer a pre-moistened cloth, simply cut the solution recipe in half, stack your wipes into a Tupperware container or wipes tub, and pour directly onto the wipes.  Let it sit about 10 or 15 minutes, then flip the stack over.  Whenever you use a wipe, make sure you squeeze out the excess back into the box.  If your wipes seem to be drying out, just add another batch of the solution.  I store my used wipes in a large Ziploc bag, and machine wash them in hot water. 

These make a really cute (and frugal) baby shower gift!  Find an appropriate fabric, wrap the finished wipes up with a cute ribbon, and put a matching ribbon on the spray bottle.

If you don’t know anyone who could use baby wipes, but you still have the urge to sew rectangles, you could make homemade fabric softener sheets the same way!  Only difference is, you’ll definitely need a plastic tub to store them in.  For the fabric softener solution, use 3-4 c. water, 1 c. white vinegar, and 1 c. hair conditioner (cheap is fine to use!).  Mix them in an empty, clean plastic jug, give it a good shake, and pour some over your stack of sheets.  Whenever you go to use a dryer sheet, flip the stack first, take the top one and wring it out, and toss it in with your clothes.  The vinegar smell doesn’t linger, don’t worry.  When you go to use the next one, flip the stack again before getting one.  Just add more solution as needed!  This can also work with a Downy ball, but you’ll need to thin it out a bit more first.  You can use either water or vinegar to thin it.

There you go-easy, cheap, and green ways to both clean your baby’s bottom and soften your clothes, and an embarrassing story about me, too!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Gratitude and frozen food

This was originally meant to be a post about my first attempts at once a month cooking, but is turning into an impromptu tribute to B, who is saving my hide yet again.  Last night, the Big Dude and I went to see The Two Towers at our local theater, met with some friends, had a good time.  After the movie ended, I walked down to the ATM to get cash for the sitter, and then went home.  I took our sitter home, then went to the store for a late-night grocery run to allow me to do some bulk recipes today.  Imagine my surprise when I went to get my card out to pay, only to find that I didn’t have it??  So no getting groceries, or getting money for laundry (I live in an apartment without a washer and dryer).  Fast forward to today, when B. not only offers up money for laundry, but also offers to bring it to me since I am also currently carless.  This has absolutely not been my week at all.  And I felt/still feel like a total heel for finally accepting her offer, but I can’t take staring at the mountain of laundry any more!  So thank you, B., for bailing me out without a moment’s hesitation.  Hugs

Now, to get to the other reason for the post-once a month cooking!  I’m familiar with it, having helped others prepare food for it, but I’ve never felt the need to do it for myself.  But after having stocked up a bunch of meat, I’d really like to get some order to my freezer.  I found a great site, called Once A Month Mom.  I like it because they have recipes up for gluten free, whole food, and diet menus.  I’ve already tried a couple of recipes, like the shredded beef and the homemade refried beans, and they were wonderful!  I don’t plan to follow the menus to the letter, but I am going through and picking out recipes based on what I need to use up.  Did I also mention that you can find recipes based on a key ingredient?  It’s so easy to use!  They offer printable grocery lists, labels, and just about anything else you could need.  And it’s all free! 

If it helps, get a friend to cook and split the results with you.  B. and I are planning to do the French toast sticks together at some point, and I’ll probably be making a bunch of lunch and dinner meals with my sister soon.  She and her husband have four kids, they both work full time, and she works second shift.  If anyone needs a plan like this, it’s her!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is it summer?

I am loving the weather we've been having.  Mid to upper 70's daily is perfect for me temperature wise.  But it isn't so great for the kids.  They have started swim team and lessons but it's way too cold to be in the pool for so long in the morning.  So when I hear that the weather is going to get up into the 90's, I can't help but be a little happy that the pool is going to warm up.  Plus it's been awful odd to be fixing them hot chocolate after swimming to warm them up again.  It's June, not February.

Is your weather as crazy as ours?


Monday, June 20, 2011

Speaking of family fun...

I forgot to mention in my last post (this is K, by the way!), this Friday is COSI's Family Friday Night!  COSI will have extended hours on June 24th from 5pm to 9pm, at a reduced rate of $9 per person!  This gets you all of their permanent exhibits, plus a screening of Waking the T-Rex on their big screen in digital and 3D.  Admission plus one movie is normally $21.25 adults, and $16.25 kids, so this is a big savings!  Current members can get the movie at a discounted rate of $3, instead of the usual $5.50.  COSI is normally really expensive for a family trip, so this is a great way to explore the museum for a fraction of the cost!  Also, kids 24 months and under are free, and there's a great play area for little ones.  COSI offers this discounted rate on the last Friday of every month, and always includes a movie.

Making room in a frugal lifestyle

As someone who is still pretty new to the concept of living frugally, I’ve been challenged to find ways to save money and live simply, but still have wiggle room for fun.  We’re blessed to live in Columbus, Ohio, which offers a great variety of free or economical activities for families, and we definitely take advantage of them.  We hit up local parks, use the fantastic libraries, and take advantage of attractions with reasonably priced family passes-hello, Columbus Zoo!  While I do love being frugal (weird, I know), we have one area where we regularly splurge, and that is the North Market.

We go as a family every Sunday, have lunch together, and buy some groceries.  Even though it’s spending a bit more than at the grocery store, we really feel strongly that we’re doing what is best for ourselves by buying fresh and local produce, milk, and meat.  We have our weekly “steak Sunday” tradition, so we always buy a couple of fillets from Bluescreek Farms, along with the occasional batch of meatloaf, or pack of pepper bacon.  At The Greener Grocer, we get our weekly vegetables and fruit, as well as milk from Snowville Creamery.  And if you haven't tried Snowville, I promise you, you won't ever want to go back to the store brand!  We like personally knowing the people who provide us our food, and knowing the processes behind what they provide.  We think it all tastes better.  And we love knowing we are helping the local economy in our own small way. 

Another big attraction that the North Market holds for us are the merchants themselves.  We didn’t realize this until recently, but we are seen as regulars.  The wonderful Smith family who run the farm and the meat stand (hi, Cheryl and David!) have actually held back our regular order for us on Sundays, and have it wrapped and ready to go.  The employees at Pastaria and Heil's Deli know our preferences, and always make sure to tuck in extra napkins and flatware for the Little Dude’s benefit.  Other employees recognize us on sight, and make a point out of saying hello to our son, giving him stickers, and being as friendly as possible.  If we have guests from out of the area, the North Market is where we take them!

By being frugal in other areas of our lives, we have the ability to splurge on something meaningful to us, while having a bit left over to spare.  We’ve given up fast food, don’t buy soda unless we have guests who may want it, shop with coupons (and yes, I keep a SMALL stockpile), buy used, save for bigger purchases, etc., etc.  My point with this is that it is possible to be frugal, but to still have a life.  It’s just a matter of finding out what your priorities are.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A very belated introduction...

Hello!  It seems like just yesterday that we started the blog, and then we promptly ignored it in favor of everything else.  Sorry about that.

I’m K, one-half of our tipsy, pain free (but healthy eating) duo.  I’m mommy to a 2 year old boy (Little Dude), and partner to a very handsome geek (Big Dude).  When we started the blog, I was working part-time outside of the home, but since then, I have lost my job and am now a stay at home mom.  While the loss of my paycheck isn’t as dramatic as it would possibly be for others, it was enough to convince me that we needed to become pretty frugal.  We also made the choice to try to make our lives greener-I mean, we recycled before now, but there was a lot more we could have done differently.  So, by writing in this blog, I hope to share some of the things that we’re slowly learning to do.

My bestie/co-blogger and I have known each other for close to 20 years, and she’ll have tons to teach you, just like she’s taught me.  Even if you don’t listen to a word I say on here, listen to her, because a lot of what I have to say comes from things I’ve learned from her over the years.

Finally, since we’re both Columbus based, I hope to bring our readers news on local deals and family events, as well as any awesome finds we may scope on the internet.

Happy reading, and stay green!